Today’s announcement by the Miami Dolphins that it has agreed to terms with Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long is likely just the beginning of recent participants from Florida Citrus Sports’ bowl games, the Capital One Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl, being selected early and often in the annual NFL Draft.
It is no secret that the bowl matchups featuring schools from the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and Southeastern conferences bring the best of the best when it comes to college football. But prognosticators of this year’s National Football League Draft, which begins this Saturday at 3:00 p.m., appear to believe that the Orlando bowls’ superior talent will be verified come draft day.
Long, the second tackle to have participated in the Capital One Bowl and be selected in the draft’s top three the last two years (Joe Thomas of Wisconsin was selected by the Browns third overall in 2007), will become the first player selected first overall in the NFL Draft in Miami Dolphins team history when things get started this weekend. And according to draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN, he will be one of many chosen who played in Citrus Bowl Stadium.
According to Kiper’s latest mock draft, 10 of the 31 players selected in the first round this weekend will be players who participated in either the Capital One or Champs Sports bowls in the last few years. Memorable names on the list include Long, Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, Boston College QB Matt Ryan and Michigan State WR Devin Thomas to name a few. Each are widely-regarded as the top players at their respective position in this year’s draft.
In addition to the 10 players Kiper believes will be drafted in round one, a total of 19 players from schools affiliated with the two Orlando bowls are on the list (i.e. nine more players who play in the ACC, Big Ten or SEC but did not play here during their careers). If the draft pans out as Kiper suggests, that would mean 61 percent of the players drafted in round one are from conferences tied to Orlando’s bowl games.
The trend this year is no aberration. In the 2007 draft, six of the top eight selections played in one of the two bowl games. The top four picks of the entire draft (QB JaMarcus Russell, WR Calvin Johnson, OT Joe Thomas and DE Gaines Adams) had each played in Orlando. All told, 22 of the 32 players (69 percent) selected in 2007 played for a school affiliated with the Capital One Bowl or Champs Sports Bowl.
Florida Citrus Sports announced that this year’s Champs Sports Bowl will be played on December 27 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN), while the New Year’s Day tradition — the Capital One Bowl — will once again take place at 1:00 p.m. on January 1 (ABC).