College football recruiting is and has been big business for years. It’s what has made Rivals.com and Scout.com household names for the college football fan. There are fans that get more hyped up over a 4-star commitment than they do over a big win.
When I was a college scouting director I subscribed to the recruiting sites because I wanted to know what the players we were interested in the draft were thought of when they came out of high school. I started doing this in 2002 and what I came up with at that time was the star system in recruiting was bogus. Sure, there were players who were 4 or 5-star recruits who became legitimate NFL prospects, but there were just as many if not more 2 and 3-star players who ended up being drafted in the premium rounds of the draft (rounds 1 and 2).
I have to admit in the last two drafts the ratings of the players have gotten a little better but still half of this year’s first round were players who were rated less than 4 stars out of high school by the recruiting services. Let’s take a look.
The interesting fact about this year’s draft was that 3 of the top 4 picks and 6 of the top 11 picks were offensive linemen. That has never happened before. When you look at how these players were rated in high school it also becomes an even more interesting conversation.
This year’s top pick, Eric Fisher from Central Michigan, was rated as a 2-star recruit and had no major school offers. Luke Joeckel was a legitimate 4-star but fourth pick Lane Johnson from Oklahoma wasn’t even a lineman in high school. He played quarterback and wasn’t recruited. He went to a junior college for a year then transferred to Oklahoma where he first played tight end and then defensive end before moving to tackle.
Fifth pick DE Ziggy Answah from BYU never played high school football and enrolled at BYU on an academic scholarship. It wasn’t until 2010 that he “tried” football. Third pick Dion Jordan was rated as a 4-star tight end but moved to linebacker when he got to Oregon. So of the first five picks in this year’s draft only two were legitimate recruits out of high school.
Looking at the other three offensive linemen taken in the first 11 picks, D.J. Fluker from Alabama was a 5-star recruit. Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack were 3-star recruits. Three other offensive linemen were taken in the first round. Justin Pugh from Syracuse was only a 2-star player and Travis Frederick was a 3-star. The interesting pick was Bears selection Kyle Long from Oregon. Coming out of high school, Long was a 5-star recruit and was recruited by the top programs in the country but chose to play baseball instead of football. He has only played three years of college football and two of those years were at a junior college.
When we look at the rest of the first round, many were highly sought-after prospects. At the linebacker position, Barkevious Mingo was a 4-star player as was Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogeltree. The rest of the defensive linemen were also highly talented in high school. Sheldon Richardson, the Jets selection, was originally a 5-star player but didn’t qualify academically. He went to a junior college before transferring to Missouri. He was rated as a 4-star in junior college. Shariff Floyd was also a 5-star player. Green Bay’s selection, Datone Jones from UCLA, was a 4-star. Björn Werner was a 3-star and both Star Lotelelei and Sylvester Williams were junior college transfers who were rated as 3-star prospects coming from the JC ranks.
The top defensive back in this draft was Dee Milliner from Alabama. That didn’t change from high school, where he was rated as a 5-star. The other corners selected in the first round were Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant and D.J. Hayden. Rhodes was a 3-star player as was Trufant while Hayden was unranked out of high school but was rated as a 3-star coming out of junior college.
The safety position also had one 5-star player and that was Matt Elam, who was the last pick in the first round by Super Bowl champ Baltimore. Kenny Vaccaro from Texas (New Orleans) and Eric Reid from LSU (San Francisco) were 4-star players.
The first round saw only one tight end taken and that was Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, whom Cincinnati chose. While in high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana the recruiting gurus gave him a 3-star rating.
Just like the tight end position, there was only one quarterback selected in the first round. The Bills chose E.J. Manuel from Florida State. He was a former 4-star recruit.
We had three wide receivers taken in this year’s first round. The Rams' Tavon Austin was a 4-star player as was DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson. Cordarelle Patterson was a junior college player who transferred to Tennessee. Coming out of junior college the services had him rated as a 4-star also.
For the first time in years no running back was taken in the opening round but five were selected in the second round. The highest rated in high school was Christine Michael, who was a 5-star. Giovanni Bernard, Montee Ball and Eddie Lacy were all rated as 4-star players. Michigan State’s LeVeon Bell was not a highly recruited player and was rated as only a 2-star prospect.
The interesting fact about the second round is that three players were unrated (corner Robert Alford from Southeast Louisiana, Margus Hunt from SMU and Menelik Watson from Florida State). Of those three only Alford was a hig school football player. Hunt is originally a track star from Latvia and Watson was a basketball player who originally enrolled at Siena on a basketball scholarship.
Another interesting fact about the second round is that besides LeVeon Bell, there were five other players who were rated as only 2-star players in high school. Those players were corner Darius Slay from Mississippi State (Detroit), safety Jonathan Cyprien from FIU (Jacksonville), tight end Gavin Escobar from San Diego State (Dallas), receiver Aaron Dobson from Marshall (New England) and tight end Vance McDonald from Rice, a 49ers selection.
Besides Christine Michael there were three other 5-star recruits taken in the second round. They were receiver Robert Woods from USC (Bills), linebacker Manti Teo from Notre Dame (Chargers) and linebacker Arthur Brown from Kansas State (Ravens).