As a head coach and leader of a program, Jimbo Fisher has been nothing short of excellent in his tenure. With an overall record of 117-37, an 8-2 Bowl record, and a National Championship under his belt, he’s one of the most accomplished coaches in the last decade. After leaving Florida State, the program fell to shambles under Willie Taggert and is on the way back with Mike Norvell at the helm but it’s not close to the highs Jimbo had them at.
For devy and Campus2Canton leagues, drafters have faded Jimbo players for a handful of seasons now and push against the narrative that he is a quality producer of talent for the next level. Part of this lies in how infrequently he plays freshman. It’s a valid criticism. The other part is based on a perceived lack of success in getting players to the NFL. The second part of the criticism is not only wrong but lacks context.
Jimbo the Developer
Fisher has been coaching at the highest level of the sport for the last 22 years, notably as the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban and Les Miles, head coach in waiting at Florida State, head coach at Florida State, and then the NIL-God himself at Texas A&M. Although, everything has been above board…right?
In his tenure as head coach, he’s sent 19 skill position players to the NFL, ranking 4th since 2010, the same number as Dabo Swinney. For the purposes of this, we’re only including fantasy-relevant players (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends). Only Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Brian Kelly have sent more than Jimbo. Saban laps the pack, sending 30 offensive players since 2010, which is 30% more than Urban Meyer who ranks second here but in general, after Saban, Jimbo is putting guys in the NFL at as high a rate as anyone. Especially adjusted for the quality of the class.
Coaches with the Most Drafted NFL Skill Position Players Since 2010
Alabama has had the top-ranked class in nine of the last eleven years leading up to Texas A&M’s 2022 greatest class ever. In the same span, Ohio State has had a top-five class nine times and a top-three class six times. The best comparable on this list is Brian Kelly who was finished similarly to Jimbo Fisher’s classes over time. Ranking between 5 and 15 on a consistent basis. Jimbo’s classes have averaged a ~7th overall since 2010, his first year as head coach but have been fueled by defensive stalwarts and offensive line talent.
Blue Chips (Where Are They?)
Despite his ability to bring in top ten classes at a consistent rate, he has ultimately failed to live up to his contemporaries in blue-chip ratio. Comparatively, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have blue-chip ratios above 78%, meaning 78% of their offensive skill position recruits are four or five-star players. On the other hand, Fisher’s blue-chip ratio is 64.6%, nearly 15% under the two. (As an aside – Meyer developing as much talent as he did is impressive given most of his players were high-four stars and not in the five-star bucket.) I’ve chosen these two as close comparables both expectation-wise and results-wise.
Top Coaches’ Blue-Chip Ratio
|Coaches||Total Blue Chips (4 and 5 Stars)||Blue Chip Ratio|
In totality, this means despite his recruiting acumen, the skill position recruiting failed to catch up to the rest of the roster. Despite this, he still ranks fifth in our list of most players sent to the NFL over this time period. Interestingly, despite having near equal numbers of recruits in this time span, Saban and Fisher had the nearly identical amount of four stars. However, not all four-star players are created equal as the 247 Sports definition of a five-star only expands to 32 players (to mimic the NFL draft). A four-star ranked 35th and 300th in the same class have wildly different hit rates over time, thus needing to dive deeper.
Percentage of Top 200 Recruits by Position
|Position||Nick Saban||Urban Meyer||Jimbo Fisher|
If we expand our definition from purely star rankings, the change becomes more pronounced. Looking at top-200 players, only 35% of Fisher’s receivers were top-200 players, 33% of quarterbacks, and 25% of his tight ends. When we compare that across the board, The receivers stand out as his 35% is 40% lower than Saban’s and 19% lower than Meyer’s. Saban, the king of recruiting, has had elite marks at both running back and receiver, averaging 79% of his recruits as top-200 players. On average, top-200 players hit at a 20% rate, meaning the more top-200 recruits, the more hits (duh).
The final comparative look is at truly elite four-star players. The top 100 recruits in an average class, hit at a 29% rate, almost 10% higher than the top 200. Fisher’s share of these recruits is 20% lower than his counterparts. Only 27% of his players have been top-100 and only 19% top-50.
Top 100 Recruit Percentage
|Coach||Top 50||Top 100|
Despite elite classes, the offensive skill positions are lagging. This begs the question of whether recruiting is the major issue or not. Offensively, maybe recruiting was the issue as the elite programs are bringing in top recruits at upwards of 40-45% rate. Over time, those impacts are felt downstream with not putting players into the NFL, evidenced by Fisher’s lack of receiving talent entering the league. Over the last ten years, Fisher has only seen three receivers enter the league and only one of them was taken outside of Day 3 (Kelvin Benjamin).
Better than Average
As you’re reading this, you’re probably saying a few things. One, he only has three receivers drafted in ten years! Either he can’t develop talent on his roster, or he just ruins highly ranked receivers’ careers. Second, none of the players drafted outside of running back turned out to be major contributors. Both are fair in a vacuum, but again, lack context.
Jimbo Fisher’s Draft Rates Compared to Class Average
The chart above is the silver bullet. On average, for top 50 recruits, Jimbo Fisher is developing talent better than his counterparts by 23%. Over the last decade, Fisher has coached 60% of his top 50 players to being drafted, and 40% of those went day one or two. The average across the nation is only 36.6%. For someone who can’t develop that’ll play. Admittedly, the lack of high-end recruits has limited the raw total of his development, but looking at both four and five stars, he’s putting both into the league at a higher rate than his contemporaries.
What does this all mean? When Fisher has the talent and pedigree, he generally does an excellent job in getting those players drafted. However, because he hasn’t traditionally had that level of offensive skill position talent, the raw numbers have been underwhelming. His high-end recruits, Jameis Winston, Cam Akers, Dalvin Cook, etc. have all been valuable assets to a fantasy team.
Who Should it Have Been?
Given what we know about hit rates above, the question I pose to readers and detractors is “Who should have hit that didn’t?” Starting in 2015, here have been his top recruits at receiver, the position generally in question.
- 2015 George Campbell (247 Rank: 19th) The best recruit of Jimbo Fisher’s career at receiver had his career derailed before it could start. Suffering two season-ending injuries at Florida State resulted in only in being healthy for 7 games in three years and a foot injury that required a second surgery.
- 2015 Da’Vante Phillips (247 Rank: 100th) was a prized recruit in the 2015 class but like Campbell ended up playing little for the Seminoles. After starting 9 games as a sophomore, Phillips was arrested on five felony charges and eventually kicked off the team.
- 2018: Jalen Preston (247 Rank: 95th) was a top-100 recruit who won’t fire, but on average, receivers in that bucket are being drafted at a 22.5% rate anyway. So, on odds alone, he had a lower shot at hitting, to begin with. This is a legit miss.
- 2019: Dylan Wright (247 Rank: 70th) was similarly ranked to Preston but didn’t see the field in year one and transferred to Minnesota where he’s been underwhelming at best for a staff that allegedly knows how to develop receivers. The argument you can have here is that Fisher didn’t give him enough playing time.
- 2019: Kam Brown (247 Rank: 203rd) a top-250 ranked receiver transferred away as well after seeing limited reps as a freshman. Again, a low percentage dart throw from the start, is Brown a player Fisher deserves the blame for being outside the top 200, especially when you consider only 10% of those players are drafted day one or two?
- 2020: Demond Demas (247 Rank: 25th) is a headcase. With well-documented problems coming from high school he’s been nothing but a problem off the field. Between arrests for marijuana and a horrendous assault charge, Demas couldn’t stay out of his own way. A talented receiver who’s off the field issue should shoulder the blame.
The six receivers above have underwhelmed under Fisher for a handful of reasons each. Off-the-field problems have derailed the career of two, injuries another and there were two transfers in this group before the end of their sophomore seasons. The context behind each miss here is probably important when discussing the lack of draft picks.
Additionally, add in that we haven’t seen many high-end recruits at the receiver position over this timeframe and you have the perfect storm for fading players without context.
In a format like C2C with so much uncertainty, it’s not prudent to ignore potential successes without context. Likewise, it’s important to provide context to readers to understand why something may have happened.
The current class Fisher has put together at receiver is like nothing he’s done before. Two top 25 players and an elite option in Evan Stewart is new territory. He hasn’t had the horses to develop but now, we’ll see if there’s any truth to the common notion that he can’t develop.
The pushback we’ll hear is that the players that have been developed aren’t valuable. As discussed above, the high-end recruits have hit at a high rate, dismissing that notion, and even players developed under Fisher like EJ Manuel, Christian Ponder, and Kelvin Benjamin were first-rounders. In formats with a high miss rate, a first-round pick out of a player is an excellent outcome. It sustains value for a period of time where most plays become dead weight by the time the NFL draft happens. Being unhappy with a first-round pick as the outcome for a Fisher-drafted player is misunderstanding the risk involved in C2C and devy leagues.