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Blue chip college football recruits really do get drafted way higher

Running the numbers for the entire 2015 NFL Draft confirms that while sleepers can break through, super-talented players remain super-talented players.

No. 1 pick Jameis Winston was once a No. 1 QB recruit.
No. 1 pick Jameis Winston was once a No. 1 QB recruit.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

We love underdogs. We love seeing teams like Boise State get fair chances to beat bigger programs in games that matter. We want to laugh at you while your team loses to Georgia Southern. And we celebrate non-blue chip recruits who go on to become NFL Draft first-rounders.

However, underdogs are underdogs for a reason. And when the draft's first round is about half blue chips (four- or five-stars) and half players who were a step short, that's just the way things work.

In the 2015 draft, 31 of 32 picks were rated three-stars or higher in the 247Sports Composite as recruits (UCF receiver Breshad Perriman was the exception). And 15 of those 32 were four- or five-stars, which might not be that impressive, until you remember how many thousands more non-blue chips there are than blue chips.

So while we live it up when a Central Michigan player goes No. 1 and everyone agrees this is an inexact science, tracking the numbers affirms stars matter, both on the player level and the team level.

1. Blue chips simply go higher

The average five-star draftee's position in 2015: 77.79.

The average among all four-stars and three-stars: 123.09.

Two-stars and unrated players? 164.3.

That's a 2015 difference of 87 picks, almost three full rounds, between the average five-star pick and two-star pick. That's similar to the difference between being a Thursday name and a Saturday name, between, say, $4.5 million in guaranteed money for the No. 32 pick and $962,000 for No. 119.

2. Blue chips are more likely to get drafted

In each recruiting class, about 30 players earn five-star Composite grades. That's about 1 percent of total FBS signees, assuming all 128 teams average 20 signees each, and far less than 1 percent of all college football signees.

Of course, the NFL Draft doesn't just pull from one recruiting class.

But for roughly every early entry player drafted, there's a fifth-year senior. Jameis Winston was a 2012 recruit, while Brandon Scherff signed in 2010. Both were top-five in 2015. So let's say things sort of average out.

It's telling that from a recruiting class-like thing including thousands of players, 24 draftees were five-star recruits. From a fluctuating pool of only about 30 or 40 five-stars, 24 became draft picks. Eight of those 24 were first-rounders.

Last year, Bud Elliott used the 2014 draft's similar breakdown to show blue chips are 10 times more likely than non-blue chips to be picked in the first round.

3. Hey, look at this

Here's the rolling 20-player average recruit rating as it progresses through the entire 2015 draft. You can see it trending downward overall. It nearly hits a four-star average in the beginning of the second round and nearly hits two toward the end of the fifth.