College Football Recruiting Experts Hits and Misses

By Corey Long – @CoreyLong
Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Every recruiting class works out in a different fashion, and nobody is perfect. Below, are 10 recruits who turned out great and five who the experts missed.

Ones They Got Right

Ones They Got Right | Ones They Got Wrong

First, 10 players expected to go in Round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft who the recruiting rankings got right.

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State:
Bosa got on the recruiting radar very early thanks to his pedigree, but he was an absolute monster at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in his junior year and was near the top of everyone’s rankings in the Class of 2016. ESPN rated him the third-best prospect in the nation, and 24/7 had him eighth overall. Rivals had him at 21st. All three gave him five stars and agreed that he had star potential.

Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan:
In the recruiting world, you disagree on prospects about as much as you breathe. For every person who thinks the guy they are watching is the next big thing, someone will swear up and down that they will bust out in college. So it’s shocking to see the universal agreement on Gary. He was rated No. 1 by ESPN, 24/7 and Rivals. 24/7 even gave him the rare 1.0000 rating. If anything, the fact that there will be at least three defensive linemen going before Gary in the 2019 NFL Draft means that he fell short of expectations, but considering how many sure-fire recruits flame out, at least Gary will be a top pick in the draft. The recruiting pundits definitely got this one right.

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State:
Although Haskins was a top-100 prospect in the Class of 2016, he wasn’t projected to be the best player at the position. He was ranked behind Jacob Eason, who transferred from Georgia to Washington last year; Malik Henry,of Last Chance U fame; Brandon Peters, who is stuck behind Shea Patterson at Michigan; and K.J. Costello from Stanford. That’s not to say that some of these rankings can’t eventually turn out right. Costello might very well play his way into being a top quarterback in an upcoming draft. But it’s safe to say Haskins was probably a little undervalued compared to his peers.

Drew Lock, QB, Missouri:
All three sites agreed that Lock was a four-star prospect and around a top 5-6 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2015. Outside of Josh Rosen, who was rated at or around No. 1 at the position, the other quarterbacks ahead of Lock likely won’t sniff the NFL. Ricky Town, Blake Barnett and Brady White were all rated ahead and are all on their second programs – or fourth program in Barnett’s case. As a recruit the sites got Lock right, he was around a top-100 prospect nationally, they just overrated some quarterbacks ahead of him.

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington:
Rivals was much higher on Murphy than ESPN or 24/7. Murphy was 40th overall and just outside of being a five-star prospect on Rivals. 24/7 had Murphy at 146th overall, and ESPN had him at 187th overall. Even though Murphy was rated highest by Rivals and the fourth-highest rated cornerback in the Class of 2016, they still put three guys ahead of him who are still in school and likely won’t project at first-round picks next year. Some of the guys like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson of Florida, Saivion Smith of Alabama – formerly LSU -, and Trayvon Mullen of Clemson will get drafted this year, but none higher than Murphy.

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma:
ESPN had Murray rated 13th overall and the top quarterback in the Class of 2015. Rivals and 24/7 were also pretty high on Murray, with both groups ranking Murray in their top 50. It’s hard to say what their thoughts were on Murray’s NFL potential, because in 2015, the idea of a 5-10 quarterback being the first pick overall just wasn’t a thing, regardless of what Russell Wilson was at the time. Still, all three sites knew he was a player.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston:
Oiiver was a consensus five-star prospect and top-20 national prospect in the Class of 2016. ESPN had Oliver rated as the fourth-best player in the nation, while 24/7 had him as the seventh-best player in the nation. Rivals had Oliver at No. 19 overall, and at the time, they took some heat for that ranking because it was believed that he was being punished for sticking with his Houston commitment over a bigger program. Personally, I don’t believe that was the case. Bottom line is everyone believed that Oliver had a great chance to be in the position he’s in right now.

Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State:
Rivals and 24/7 were really high on Simmons; both had him as five-star prospects and inside of the top 20 nationally in the Class of 2016. They also had him as the No. 1 prospect at the strong-side defensive end position. ESPN wasn’t as high on Simmons, but still had him in their top 100 – 84th overall -, but 12th overall at defensive end. To ESPN’s credit, they had Nick Bosa as the No. 1 defensive end, but Simmons is probably better than the next 10 guys ahead of them, none of whom are likely to go in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.

Devin White, ILB, LSU:
Although all three ranking sites had White as a four-star prospect, they all were unsure of what position he was going to play in college. 24/7 had him as a running back; Rivals had him as a fullback; and ESPN just slotted him as an athlete and were the only site to give him a scouting report on offense and defense. They all agreed that White as a unique, special athlete in the Class of 2016. It’s probably a little surprising that he kept his weight down to play linebacker, because he was listed at 255-260 in high school.

Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama:
All three sites had Williams as a mid-range four-star prospect. Rivals was the highest on Williams, placing him just outside of their top 100 – 106th overall. All three sites had him within the top 250 prospects in the Class of 2016. That definitely puts him in range to be projected as a high-round pick, although probably not top five.

Ones They Got Wrong

Now, five players expected to go in Round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft who the recruiting rankings got wrong.

Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky:
If you have to point to the “stars don’t mean anything” argument, then Josh Allen is your guy. He was barely rated by 24/7 as a two-star prospect and unrated in ESPN. He was pretty undersized coming out of high school, as he moved from wide receiver to defensive end. Allen’s ascension to a likely top-five pick is a credit to his work ethic and development at a position he had to grow into. I wouldn’t necessarily compare his story to Khalil Mack because Mack was a basketball kid until he had an injury and started playing football as a senior. Mack probably would have gained a lot of steam had he played as a junior and went to a few prospect camps, because he passed every eye test you can imagine in high school but no one knew about him. Allen had been around the football field and just never really shot up the radar.

Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan:
Both ESPN and Rivals had Bush in their top 200 as a four-star prospect in the Class of 2016, but 24/7 was a little more concerned about his size – he measured anywhere from 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-11 depending on who was doing the measuring -, and they kept him outside their top 300 as a three-star prospect. The idea that Bush could make the NFL wasn’t out of the question, but I don’t think anyone saw him as a future first-rounder.

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa:
Not surprisingly, Hockenson didn’t get a lot of recruiting hype coming out of Chariton, Iowa. He was considered a top-five player in the state by Rivals and 24/7, but Iowa isn’t to be confused with a hotbed for recruiting. Both Rivals and 24/7 had Hockenson as a low-end three-star prospect in the Class of 2016. ESPN had him as a very low-end two-star prospect. No one had him as a future first-round pick. Tight ends can be a little tough to evaluate, but ones who go to Iowa seem to turn out very well. So, if Iowa is high on a tight end prospect, there’s a good chance he’ll be a player.

Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State:
Sweat has one of the most interesting stories. He was a low-rated tight end prospect in the class of 2014 and went to Michigan State. After a year, there he decided to go the JUCO route and ended up after Copiah-Lincoln. He moved to defensive end and was a mid-range, three-star prospect coming out of junior college. Because of his journey, Sweat was pretty much an afterthought after his time in junior college. He definitely was not expected to blow up the NFL Combine like he did and end up in the first round.

Jawaan Taylor, OT/G, Florida:
Taylor was considered your run-of-the-mill three-star prospect in the Class of 2016 by all three sites. Offensive linemen can be tough to evaluate in high school because you have to assume they are going fill out properly and some might have a late growth spurt, etc. Taylor was a big guard prospect; he weighed over 340 pounds out of high school, so there were some weight concerns. He also grew an inch or two and really developed his footwork to become a potential top-10 pick.

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