Just as a FYI, Sheldon Richardson was a 5 star coming out of high school, went to Juco and came out of Juco as a 4 star. Not that the distinction is important for the purposes of this article.
“Stars don’t matter,” one person will say.
“Of course they do,” another person will respond.
And away they go. It’s a common question in recruiting: how much do star rankings matter when it comes to recruiting? After all, we’ve see both 5-star recruits (Adrian Peterson) and 3-star prospects (Arian Foster) go on to shine in the NFL.
But if you look at the list of SEC players selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, you will see a group of highly-rated prospects before they entered college. Below is the list of 12 SEC players drafted on Thursday night with each player’s Rivals.com star-rating before they arrived in college.
OL Luke Joeckel – 4
LB Barkevious Mingo – 4
CB Dee Milliner – 5
OL Chance Warmack – 3
OL D.J. Fluker – 5
DT Sheldon Richardson – 4
LB Jarvis Jones – 4
S Eric Reid – 4
DT Sharrif Floyd – 5
WR Cordarrelle Patterson – 4
LB Alec Ogletree – 4
S Matt Elam – 5
Notice a trend. Of the 12 SEC players drafted by the NFL on Thursday, 11 of them had a 4- or 5-star ranking before entering college. The one player who didn’t receive such a distinction, Warmack, was the highest-ranked three-star guard in the nation (No. 20 overall) in the 2009 class.
How about some of the SEC players who were projected as borderline first-round picks but instead will likely slip to the second round on Friday? Wide receiver Justin Hunter, running back Eddie Lacy, linebacker Kevin Minter and defensive tackle Jesse Williams were all given four-star ratings by Rivals.
This still doesn’t mean that only 4- and 5-star players are worth the time of coaches in the SEC. Just look at Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was rated a 3-star prospect by Rivals.
This year’s No. 1 draft pick, offensive tackle Eric Fisher, was a 2-star prospect out of high school when he signed with Central Michigan. In fact, there were more players with a 3-star rating or worse (15) drafted last night than players with a 4-star rating (12).
But why is that? It’s simply a numbers thing. There are so many more prospects each year with a 3-star rating or below than there are players with a 4- or 5-star ranking.
The 2009 signing class had only 33 5-star prospects, according to Rivals. That’s 33 5-star players out of thousands of prospects around the nation. Other services, such as ESPN RecruitingNation, give out even less 5-star rankings each year.
While a lesser amount of 5-star players might be selected in the draft each year, there is a much higher percentage compared to every other star ranking.
Six of the 30 5-star prospects in the 2008 class were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. That’s 20 percent of the 5-star class, a ratio 3-star players and below will never come close to touching.
There’s a larger amount of 4-star players each year, but still not enough to go around for everyone.
That’s why evaluating correctly becomes critical for coaches in the SEC. Schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU will be loaded with 4- and 5-star prospects each year. It’s the addition of players like Warmack that can help make the difference in championship runs.
Richt knows the NFL matters
Coaches will talk to prospects about everything when it comes to recruiting.
Academics, playing time, offensive and defensive schemes all matter. But so does the NFL, at least to most prospects.
It’s a common subject among recruits, according to Georgia coach Mark Richt.
“I haven’t recruited many guys that didn’t think or weren’t at least dreaming about the NFL or hoping to be or expecting to be (drafted),” Richt told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Of course, not all highly-touted prospects make it to the NFL. It’s important for them to have a backup plan (education) if their pro aspirations don’t work out. But it’s also important for a coach, especially in the SEC, to be able to sell the idea of making it to the NFL from his school.
“I think it’s exciting for high school kids observing Georgia and trying to decide, ‘here, would this be a good place for me,” Richt told the AJC. “It’s a big part of the recruiting process and what we’re trying to get accomplished. But there’s a lot more to it than that here as well. We care about an awful lot of other things, too, than just going to the NFL. We care about school and how these guys grow as people.”
But with as many as 13 former Georgia players projected to be in NFL camps this fall, expect that to be a lead topic with recruits in the next few weeks. They’ll certainly want to hear about it.
Wildcats focused on Ohio
Kentucky received its third commitment for the 2014 class this week from running back Mikel Horton from Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio.
All three of Kentucky’s 2014 commitments – linebacker Dorian Hendrix and wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass being the others – are from the state of Ohio.
While it doesn’t possess the depth of talent as Georgia or Florida, Ohio is a state with a strong recruiting base. And Kentucky is close enough to recruit there with as much success as it might find somewhere down south.
It will also help for Kentucky to strengthen its relationships in Ohio. Horton told the Louisville Courier-Journal he is “very close” with Hendrix and Snodgrass.
Their commitments follow the signing of 2013 defensive backs Jaleel Hytchye and Marcus McWilson, two four-star prospects from Ohio.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has given Kentucky fans reason to believe he will recruit at a higher level in Lexington. Kentucky’s increase in season ticket sales is another indication their confidence has grown.
Stoops has made recruits believe as well.
“The fans are great and the atmosphere, and I feel what Coach Stoops is doing as far as rebuilding the program,” Horton said. “… I definitely believe in what they’re doing over there.”
The hash tag only seems appropriate considering Florida’s recent trend of tweeting different photoshopped images to grab the attention of recruits.
Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, who previously used a Heath Ledger screenshot from the movie “The Dark Knight,” had his latest idea from the PacMan video game.
— Joker Phillips (@jokerphillips) April 25, 2013
Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease joined the Photoshop fun this week with his quarterbacks/Harry Potter tweet.
What does it all mean? Who knows, really? But it does show Florida’s coaches are being active in social media and aggressive in the way they reach out to recruits.
It also doesn’t appear to be hurting anything. The Gators have nine commitments for the 2014 class, which ranks Florida No. 3 in the nation by Rivals.
So tweet away, coaches. (And remember to follow us on twitter: @MrSEC)