Scouting college football players is difficult enough, but scouting high school players is a whole different ballgame. When you grade college seniors heading into the Draft, their bodies are almost fully developed, and their skills are just beginning to receive polish. Ninety-nine percent are still rough around the edges, but you can see their potential a lot more. High school players, however, are a different story entirely.
The age of high school players is a factor in how difficult it can be to scout them. You are grading seventeen to eighteen year olds whose bodies are not fully developed. They need to add weight and muscle mass, and in some cases they haven’t reached their full height yet. Their maturity level is still rather low as they are technically still “kids”. It’s hard to predict someone’s full potential when they’re so young.
Players at the high school level are extremely rough around the edges. In most cases they do not have the best of coaches, and they develop plenty of bad habits. It then takes coaches like Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Urban Meyer to clean them up when they reach the college level. I can guarantee you a quarterback coming out of high school has not faced some of the best man coverages possible. The pass rushers have not faced some of the best college offensive linemen. It’s high school; the competition is a lower level of difficulty, thus the stats and play can look better than it really is. So let’s look, briefly, at how some high school rankings have gotten it wrong.
Marcus Mariota is first on my list. In 2011, Mariota was a 6’3”, 183 pound, 2-star recruit who only received five offers (from Oregon, Utah, Memphis, Hawaii, and Washington). Now he’s 6’4” and 222 lbs and was drafted second overall by the Tennessee Titans. He may not be the best example to use considering he has not proven himself in the pros yet, but he did an excellent job at the college level. He won a Heisman Trophy and he helped lead his team to multiple BCS Bowl wins. Not every QB coming out of college can say they have done that. Mariota handled the step up from high school to college well, and I’m interested to see how he handles the jump from college to pro.
Next on my list is running back Beanie Wells. In high school, Wells was a 5-star recruit at Garfield High School in Akron. Wells signed with Ohio State, had a very average career there, and was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. He had two good seasons in the pros, but he fought off injuries throughout his career, eventually having to retire after only three seasons. Anyone who scouted him in college would have likely said he would be a top NFL running back with a great future. Who would have thought a former 5-star recruit would be in retirement at such an early age?
Simply stated, don’t put too much stock in high school player rankings. It is just too early to try and give these guys accurate grades. It is also way too early to start projecting how well they will do at the professional level. You can’t predict how they will handle the transition from high school to college, the learning curve and the tougher competition, or how durable they will be in the long run.
Austin Morris is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org