Put any coach in front of a microphone and ask him if stars matter and he’ll probably say one or all of the following:

“We don’t look at that stuff.”
“We trust our own evaluations.”
“Give me a 5-star heart any day.”

College football coaches are a pathologically competitive lot and recruiting is the lifeblood of the sport, but they don’t care about recruiting rankings?

Look at it this way: You could build a pretty solid roster of NFL players taken in the fifth round or beyond, but you’d be nuts to take that roster over a roster of first-round picks.

Being a 5-star recruit in and of itself guarantees you nothing, but in the aggregate, a 5-star is much more likely to succeed at the college level than a 2-star.

Don’t ask me, ask the data.

CFB Data Lab, the same folks who brought us the exhaustive study identifying the most talent-rich high schools in America, analyzed a decade’s worth of recruiting classes to find that, yes, 5-star recruits make NFL rosters far more often than 2-stars.

(Note: The 100-to-95 grouping translates to a 5-star rating, 94-to-90 to a 4-star, and so on.)

A total of 41 percent of 5-stars who sign with Power 5 schools don an NFL helmet at least once in their life, compared with 10 percent of 2-stars.

If we’re willing to look beyond the simple percentages: holy cow is the SEC lapping the field on signing day. The ACC boasts the best percentage of rostered 5-star recruits at a whopping 50 percent, but the SEC blows everyone else out of the water in gross tonnage. The SEC put 130 5-stars on NFL rosters over the past decade, compared to 68 from the ACC and just 32 from the Big 12.

Yes, there will always be 5-star busts and 2-star All-Americans in college football. But no matter what your favorite coach tells the cameras next time he’s asked, don’t kid yourself: he’d rather have the 5-star.

National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.