No one has ever called the National Football League college player draft an exact science, or for that matter an unexact science. It's not really scientific at all.
The NFL draft is a lot like astronomy, though, in the sense that you know they're out there, but you really don't know for sure until you reach out and touch 'em.
The Big Eight Conference could hardly be called the breadbasket of this year's draft. Only 14 league players were picked. That's just 4.2 percent of the total of 331 draftees.
ACTUALLY, ONLY 15 Big Eight gridders were chosen last year. It's just that nobody noticed that low total because of all the high selections, like Barry Sanders and Hart Lee Dykes of Oklahoma State and Broderick Thomas of Nebraska.
This year, for the first time in 23 years, nary a Big Eight player went in the first round. I don't know, but I suspect that's probably because of the premium put on defensive players, and defense hasn't been the league's trademark for the last couple of years now.
Of those 14 Big Eighters chosen, only five are defenders Jeff Mills and Kent Wells of Nebraska, Kevin Thompson and Ken McMichael of Oklahoma and Maurice Henry of Kansas State. I think it's safe to say none of those five are household names, even in the plains.
It's also noteworthy that 11 of those 14 picks came on the second day of the draft. That's grab-bag day. Most coaches and personnel directors figure if they can pick up one or two back-up or special teams players out of the last seven rounds they're fortunate.
I THOUGHT the Big Eight had some pretty impressive senior quarterbacks last season. Iowa State's Bret Oberg led the league in total offense, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy became the conference's all-time passing leader, Nebraska's Gerry Gdowski had the second best total offense numbers in school history and Kansas' Kelly Donohoe finished as the fourth-best passer in Big Eight history.
Yet only one of those QBs was drafted Gdwoski by the New Orleans Saints in the eighth round and his selection was a stunner even in the Cornhusker State.
"We had never even mentioned him in our pre-draft stories," Mike Babcock of the Lincoln Journal told me. "That was a real shock."
Not surprisingly, Nebraska led the Big Eight in draftees with five, two more than Oklahoma, even though Jake Young and Doug Glaser spent two long days waiting for the phone to ring.
YOUNG, A 6-4, 270-pound center, and Glaser, a 6-7, 295-pound offensive tackle, made the All-Big Eight team, but were ignored by the 28 NFL teams.
"At one point the talk was that Glaser would be the first (Nebraska) guy drafted," Babcock said. "He thought he was going to be drafted. I don't know what the deal was."
Another All-Big Eight offensive lineman overlooked was Darrin Muilenberg, Colorado's 6-3, 280-pound tackle. Too short? Maybe. But who knows?
When the smoke cleared, only two linemen from Big Eight schools had received a call Iowa State center-guard Keith Sims, the first league player chosen, and Nebraska defensive tackle Kent Wells.
WHY SO few linemen from the Big Eight? One theory is that rigid conference-wide steroid testing has something to do with it. But that might be more of an excuse than a reason.
For the third straight year, no Kansas player was chosen and, if I were betting, I wouldn't hold my breath next April. KU coach Glen Mason can count the number of seniors on his roster with the fingers of both hands, and none of them are sure-fire NFL material.