Brandon Graham and Ricky Dixon
A few years ago I took a look at the Rivals top 100 and attempted to evaluate the success or failure of the kids in it, ranking each player on a five point scale and coming up with an average. It was pretty interesting but an enormous pain in the butt and the vague desire to repeat that study for future classes paled in comparison to the mountain of tedious research it required.
But if ESPN is going to do the tedious research for me, I'm on board. What follows is a reprise of the earlier post's methodology. Players are rated on a five point scale:
- Total bust.
- Contributor but a marginal one, or a not-very-good starter.
- Average starter.
- All-Conference-ish player in a BCS league, likely NFL draftee.
- All-American-ish player, likely to be drafted in top two rounds.
These should roughly correspond with star rankings. Players on the borderline will be assinged a 3.5 or whatever. Players who don't make it for reasons other than talent—injury, grades or being a total knucklehead—are noted as such. It's a bit much to expect recruiting analysts to project who is going to rob a liquor store.
This post covers the ESPN top 50. The table below has rankings from the three major services and a brief explanation of what happened to them.
|Three year starter and second-team All ACC at FSU; left for Rhodes Scholarship before senior year. Sixth round pick of Titans, NFL backup.|
|All-purpose Florida ninja. First round pick of Vikings, offensive rookie of year.|
|50 catches for USC as soph, injured, buried on depth chart, transfer to Cinci, injured in first game at UC.|
|Three year starter left to be top ten pick after true junior season.|
|Instant starter at UGA, first pick in 2009 draft.|
|Part of backfield platoon for first three years; 1200 yards at 4.3 YPC as senior, two-time AB12, expected to be 2nd-3rd round pick|
|Three-time AB12, AA as senior, second round pick of Ravens, Butkus finalist|
|Brutal headhunter was four-time AA. Second round pick of 49ers.|
|Three year starter had some injury problems but was 1st team All SEC as junior; undrafted, practice squad type in NFL.|
|Transferred to Maryland after one year, worked way into starting lineup as junior, probably won't be drafted.|
|Monster sophomore season (12.5 sacks, Hendricks finalist) followed by minor legal trouble, disappointing junior year, early NFL draft entry. Went undrafted and is a practice squad guy.|
|Left after Las Cronicas Locas, transferred to USC, sat on bench, lost to ND in only start.|
|Beat out by Colt McCoy, transferred to Ole Miss. Mediocre two-year starter there. Idiotically entered NFL draft after 20-int junior year. Surprise: undrafted.|
|Member of USC diverse but mediocre backfield as soph/junior. Dropped 275 pounds on his throat before senior season. Entered draft anyway, made team, immediately destroyed ankle.|
|Is Tim Tebow.|
|Jai Eugene||LSU||16||17||#12 CB||2|
|Started nine games as a sophomore but was LSU's nickel guy after that; bacup safety as senior.|
|Contributor for four years, starter as senior. No college accolades but a fourth round NFL draft pick.|
|Problem-ridden LB suspended three times before transfer to JUCO, then Memphis. Was starting for Tigers before getting suspended again. http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/nov/05/porter-suspends-tiger-…|
|Four year starter surrounded by utter incompetence. Sixth round pick of Dallas|
|Brandon Warren||FSU||20||#7 TE||24||TKE|
|Contentious transfer after excellent freshman year; booted from Tennessee; at North Alabama.|
|Two-time AA was third pick of NFL draft.|
|Started as senior, contributed before that. Six sacks, one honorable-mention AB12. May go at the tail end of the draft.|
|Three year starter but not a notable one. No accolades, won't get drafted.|
|Three year starter and enormous human; projected to go in the fourth to sixth rounds of the upcoming draft.|
|Reshad Jones||UGA||25||#13 S||14||4|
|Two year starter was twice second-team All SEC; picked in fifth round.|
|Another member of USC's consistently mediocre backfield. Had bust-out senior year until sidelined by injury.|
|Markeith Summers||Miss||27||#81 WR||#38 WR||2|
|Mostly a backup; did start as a senior but finished fourth on the team in receptions.|
|Jim Barrie||UF||28||#58 OL||#15 OT||Inj|
|Career ended with ACL explosion.|
|Jermaine Cunningham||UF||29||#13 DE||#4 WDE||4|
|Three year starter was second team all SEC as a senior; second round NFL pick.|
|Human battering ram was brutally effective when healthy. First round pick.|
|The best player in the history of awful defenses, Graham was an AA in 2009 and a first round pick of the Eagles.|
|Richard Dickson||LSU||32||#13 TE||#6 TE||3.5|
|Three year starter had 30 catches as soph/junior. Dropped off a bit as a senior. Second team All SEC twice; undrafted but stuck with Lions.|
|JB Walton||PSU||33||#28 OL||72||Grades|
|Transferred to D-II school after academic issues.|
|Played in every game as a freshman, then succumbed to academic issues. Got drafted in seventh round and started 12 games as a rookie.|
|Damon McDaniel||FSU||35||#29 WR||69||1|
|Seven catches in two years; transferred to Hampton; didn’t do much there.|
|Vague contributor didn't do much until he was a senior and even then just 24 catches.|
|More mediocre USC tailbacks. Moody had about 400 yards each year he was at USC; he transferred to Florida and did little.|
|Started as junior but was unproductive; moved to TE; played a bit. Won't get drafted.|
|Jeremiha Hunter||Iowa||39||#19 LB||78||4|
|Three year starter was second team AB10 as senior. Probably will get drafted at tail end.|
|Byron Maxwell||Clem||40||#20 CB||#18 CB||3|
|Nickelback until his senior year, when he was a decent starter. May get drafted.|
|Terrence Austin||UCLA||41||81||#14 WR||3.5|
|Second team AP10 as kick returner; also a decent receiver. Seventh round pick who stuck with Redskins.|
|Dustin Earnest||Texas||42||83||#14 ILB||2|
|Career backup. Did contribute a decent number of tackles as an upperclassman.|
|Okay two-year starter was passed over by NFL.|
|Mediocre runner averaged under 4.0 YPC for career; moved to FB as senior.|
|Started off with a bang but production tailed off. Fourth round pick.|
|Transferred to Stanford, started as a senior in TE-mad Harbaugh offense. Won't get drafted.|
|Insanely explosive do-everything RB/KR/PR was a top ten pick.|
|Ricky Dixon||LSU||48||#46 WR||#23 WR||1|
|Two catches in two season; tranferred to Texas Southern.|
|JUCO, then three years at Georgia where he didn't do anything.|
|Prepped, went to Pitt, and was the Panthers offense for two years. Second round pick.|
So what does this say?
The 44 players who didn't bomb out for unrelated reasons averaged a 3.4. On average a player from ESPN's top 50 turned out to be a borderline All-Conference type. In buckets:
4 (and 4.5): 8
3 (and 3.5): 14
75% of ESPN top 50 players were at least average-ish starters on big time college football teams or Notre Dame. 43% of them were All-Conference types, and 25% were All-American types. That's a good strike rate at the very top.
It's not as good as it was when I looked a the 2002 class. That Rivals top 50 averaged 3.5 and only had 13 guys 3 or below. However, three guys were punted on and twelve more weren't rated for one reason or another. Only six dropped out here. Sites may be more careful these days about character/grade rumors.
Can't say yet until we get through the whole 150 and check out Rivals and Scout lists to see their embarrassing misses, but the above looks ugly for ESPN. There are four flat out busts on the above list. On two all three sites were fooled; on two they weren't. Those two were
- Ricky Dixon, an LSU receiver two did nothing and transferred. ESPN had him 48th. Scout had him a generic three-star; Rivals had him towards the tail end of their four stars.
- Damon McDaniel was 35th to ESPN; Scout had him 29th amongst WRs and Rivals had him 69th. All were somewhat wrong, but ESPN was more wrong.
There are seven meh guys, and on most ESPN was more wrong. Some of them are moderate differences that we'll probably see when we run across outliers in the Rivals and Scout top 50s, but on a few ESPN whiffed hard:
- #27 Markeith Summers was a generic three star to Scout and just hanging on to a fourth star at Rivals.
- #42 Dustin Earnest was 83rd on Scout and a generic three star ILB to Rivals.
Rivals was also considerably less wrong about Jai Eugene; both other sites got Clemson CB Byron Maxwell, LSU TE Richard Dickson, TX QB Jevan Snead, USC S Antwine Perez, MI DE Brandon Graham, OSU RB Chris Wells, and USC RB Emmanuel Moody better pegged than ESPN. There aren't many examples of the reverse, just small gaps in evaluations. We'll see if that holds up once the whole picture is tediously put into Excel.