Before they were stars

Every year, I go back to look at how the premium draft choices were rated when they were being recruited out of high school. As many of you know, I am not a believer in the recruiting star system. I feel it is flawed, because it is often based on what kids go to certain “recruiting camps” to get exposure and how well they do at these camps. These camps are often co-sponsored by the different recruiting sites as well as apparel manufacturers.

The people who believe in the ratings will argue that it’s based on mathematical percentages, and if a certain percentage of, say, four-star recruits make it to the NFL, they have a solid system. Having spent my whole adult life in the football player evaluation business, I know better. If an NFL scout is rated according to a percentage of the players he is right on, he wouldn’t last long in the NFL. He better be right or really close to right about 90% of the time, not 50% or 40%.

In my thinking, which is similar to most, if not all, NFL evaluators, if a two-star or three-star prospect gets drafted in the first round, the high school recruiting analysts missed on the player badly. Similarly, if a five- star or four-star player isn’t drafted in the premium rounds, the analysts missed. Will they ever admit to that? No, because they want you to keep paying for their service. That said, here is a look at what this year’s first and second round picks were rated when they were coming out of high school.

Five Stars

If the recruiting services were right, the first pick in the draft should always be a five-star player. Last year, Eric Fisher from Central Michigan was only a two star player, but this year, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney was a true five-star player and rated as one of the best high school players in the country.
The first round had four other players rated as five-star prospects. They were wide receiver Sammy Watkins, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and defensive tackle Dominique Easley. The second round also had four players who were five-star prospects. They were: safety Lemarcus Joyner, tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, and wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

Two Stars

On the other end of the spectrum, the first round also saw three players who were only rated as a two-star prospects in high school. They were the fifth overall pick, linebacker Kahlil Mack, corner Darqueze Dennard, and safety Jimmie Ward.

In the second round, six players had only a two-star rating. Those players were Joel Bitonio, center Weston Richburg, receiver Davante Adams, corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and tackle Justin Britt. That means nine of the first 64 players selected in the draft (14%) were rated as very average players just three to five years ago (depending on when they enrolled in college).

Three Stars

There are a lot of three star prospects that made it into these rounds. In the first round, there were eight three -star players, and in the second round, there were 12. That means almost a third of the premium round draftees were just average prospects a few years ago. 29 players or 45% of the first and second round players were considered less-than-elite prospects when they were coming out of high school.

The first quarterback drafted was three-star player Blake Bortles. Mike Evans was the second receiver selected, Eric Ebron was the first tight end picked and Aaron Donald was the first defensive tackle selected.
The remainder of the three star first rounder players were corner Kyle Fuller, safety Calvin Pryor, quarterback Johnny Manziel, defensive end/outside linebacker Dee Ford, corner Jason Verrett, defensive end Marcus Smith, safety Deone Bucannon, and corner Brad Roby.

The eight three-star players in the second round were some players who became very interesting prospects while in college. Quarterback Derek Carr was at the head of this group. The three-star receivers were Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, and Cody Latimer.

There were two-three combo players (defensive end/outside linebacker), and they were Demarcus Lawrence, Trent Murphy and Jeremiah Attaochu. Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, who many thought would go in the first round, was the 37th overall selection.

Four Stars

In the first two rounds of this year’s draft, five quarterbacks were selected. Only one of the five was rated a four-star, and that was Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was the last player picked in the first round.

The remaining 26 players who were chosen in the first two rounds were considered four-star prospects coming out of high school. That means the recruiting analysts were correct with their evaluations of 35 of the first 64 players drafted this year. That’s only 54.6%, not a very good hit percentage.

The position the recruiting guru’s hit on was offensive line. There were five offensive linemen drafted in the first round. All five were rated four stars. They were Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin and Ja’Wuan James.

The second round four-star offensive linemen were Xavier Su’a-Filo and Jack Mewhort. There were no first round four-star tight ends, but the three tight ends selected in the second round had four-star ratings. They were Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro and Troy Niklas. Niklas was rated as a defensive lineman coming out of high school.

The four-star receivers drafted in the first round were Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin and Brandin Cooks. The four-star receivers taken in the second round were Marqise Lee and Paul Richardson.
For the second year in a row, no running backs were drafted in the first round. All three second round running backs had a four star ranking. Those players were Bishop Sankey, Jeremy Hill and Carlos Hyde.
There were no four star defensive linemen drafted in the first round, but in the second round three were selected. They were Tim Jernigan, Ego Ferguson, and Kony Ealy. The linebackers in the first round with four-star ratings were Anthony Barr, C.J.Mosley, and Ryan Shazier. Barr earned his four stars as a running back in high school. The four-star linebacker in the second round was Kyle Van Noy.

The remaining four-star recruit drafted was Justin Gilbert, the corner form Oklahoma State, who was the eighth overall selection by Cleveland. No defensive backs taken in the second round had a four-star rating.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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