For those who get breathless over would-be college recruits, consider some of the top picks in last week’s NFL draft…and how their stock has risen over their natioinal ranking as high school seniors.
Columbus - Now that the breathless furor over the NFL draft has subsided, we can move on to more important things, like the breathless furor over the early verbal commitments in college football recruiting.
Very soon, the top high school players in the country will embark on the summer camp circuit at various colleges and universities, each of whom will attempt to sway, strong-arm, cajole or convince them to issue an all-important — albeit, completely non-binding — promise to attend their school.
Every such successful promise will be trumpeted on the assorted recruiting sites that populate the Internet, sending the subliminal message to other recruits that they better get on board the national championship train about to leave the station with its full complement of scholarships to Old State U.
While it’s quaint to believe these 16- and 17-year-olds will select whatever bastion of academic achievement affords them the best education in their chosen major, the ugly truth is all will cast their lot where they perceive their path to the National Football League the shortest and surest.
You can discover this dirty little secret by glancing at the NFL Alumni sections in these academic bastions respective media guides, and comparing it to the shockingly-spartan coverage of the school’s chemistry department in that same publication.
Not to spit in anybody’s Kool-Aid, but before guzzling the wisdom recruiting sites visit upon their readership, it seems instructive to glance backward at the respective recruiting rankings of the Top Ten players taken last weekend in the NFL draft.
It probably won’t take more than few games this fall for the Indianapolis Colts’ folly to be exposed, given the choice of quarterback Andrew Luck No. 1 overall. Luck, after all, was only the No. 68 player overall in Rivals.com’s 2008 Top 250, and just the sixth-best quarterback.
Indy shouldn’t be too embarrassed, though, because it grabbed an absolute steal compared to Washington’s questionable selection of Robert Griffin III with the second overall choice.
Griffin didn’t show up at all among Rivals’ Top 250 players that year, which makes the Redskins’ decision to trade two No. 1s and a No. 2 pick for him the biggest boondoggle since the Louisiana Purchase.
I see you Cleveland Browns’ fans quaking in your respective doggie masks, but fret not. You grabbed the clear best player in this draft in Trent Richardson, who ranked No. 5 nationally on Rivals’ list and No. 2 at tailback coming out of high school.
Matt Kalil, who went No. 4 to Minnesota, was the next highest-ranked player on Rivals’ list at No. 11 overall.
Otherwise, it was a forgettable year for Rivals in forecasting the future success of the high school recruits it so raptly follows. Richardson and Kalil were the only five-star rated players in 2008 to go among the Top 10 in this year’s NFL draft. (Rivals should also get credit for Top 10 ratings given Julio Jones and A.J. Green, both of whom went Top 10 in the 2010 draft).
Luck, Griffin and Mark Barron (No. 7 to Tampa) merited four-star Rivals’ ratings as high school seniors. The rest of this year’s Top Ten NFL draftees earned only three-star ratings entering college.
Justin Blackmon (No. 5, Jacksonville), Morris Claiborne (No. 6, Dallas), Ryan Tannehill (No. 8, Miami) and Luke Kuechley (No. 9, Carolina) joined Griffin in not earning a spot among the Top 250 players in Rivals’ ratings.
This is not to bang solely on Rivals, because it’s quite likely every other competitor was similarly off base in its assessment.
The fail rate on forecasting future success for high school players is astronomical. Likewise, there are no guarantees in ranking recruiting classes.
Ohio State’s 2008 class stood among the Top 5 nationally, with 11 of its 20 signees landing in Rivals Top 250.
OSU had five players among the Top 33 and seven rated better prospects than Luck at No. 68. It’s an understatement to say Buckeye fans, looking backward, would have much rather had Luck as their QB than the overall No. 1 prospect in the nation – Terrelle Pryor.
It’s also safe to say Ohio State fans would have traded any one of those 11 Top 250 players (all of whom came in 174th or lower) on the Rivals list for the kid ranked No. 189, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.
Not a single one of those 11 OSU recruits from 2008 that Rivals ranked among its Top 250 players were taken in the first round of the NFL draft last weekend or last year.
But every one of them made the recruitniks salivate when they verbally committed.
Bruce Hooley is a former Troy Daily News sports editor and is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.” He hosts The Hooligans from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR, Cleveland.
Email Bruce firstname.lastname@example.org