The most irritating refrain I hear constantly on this board is that ESPN does horrible recruiting rankings. As I have maintained time and again, that just simply isn't the case. There are objective ways you can evaluate the accuracy of the various sites' player evaluations (all-conference, NFL draft position, etc.). Those analyses are useful but I think the most in-depth way I can look at rankings is to study, in retrospect, the evaluations of players with which I am very familiar. Under that theory, below I am going to provide data on the evaluation of Michigan players from the classes of 2009 and 2008. Why 2008 and 2009? In most cases enough time has passed that you can make a judgment about how good a player turned out to be. I think this data shows that ESPN does often zig when Rivals/Scout zag, but ESPN is hardly inferior to the other two.
I am going to present tables that show the rankings for the 2009 recruiting class broken down two ways.
First, star rating and position rating. With regard to "star rating": for Rivals, I am using the more detailed point system, and for ESPN the more detailed numerical rating. For positional ranking, note that Rivals breaks out players into more categories so sometimes their ranking will look lower as a number.
|2009||Rivals||Scout||ESPN||Rivals (pos)||Scout (pos)||ESPN (pos)|
Second, overall ranking (complication here is Rivals goes to 250, Scout to 300, and ESPN only to 150 -- so a guy that doesn't make ESPN's list could be #151...that is why I included the above data too):
|2009||Rivals 250||Scout 300||ESPN 150|
FYI: for that set I only included the guys who made the "top whatever" list for one of the three sites.
Takeaways from 2009
- ESPN - Will Campbell (he was a top 40 overall to the others, a good-not-great player to ESPN)
- ESPN - Justin Turner (same deal)
- Scout - Vlad Emilien (Rivals and ESPN thought he was a top 20-ish DB -- Scout was far more bearish)
- Scout - Isaiah Bell (had him a sane 46 at his position, rather than 26 (rivals) or 11 (ESPN))
Could also make an argument for: ESPN - Denard (101 overall vs. 159 and 188); Scout -J. Stokes (had him too high at 169 overall, but much better than Rivals (104) and ESPN (67); ESPN - Lewan (148 overall vs. 194 and 274); Scout - Q. Washington (had him 19 at his position, while the others overrated at 8 and 6).
- ESPN - Q. Washington (had him 81 overall - not a top 100 player)
- ESPN - I. Bell (had him 94 overall - way off)
- Scout - Fitz Toussaint (had him too low at #49 back -- jury is still out on whethe Rivals (#8) or ESPN (#28) had him pegged best, but as an optimist I would say it may be Rivals)
- Rivals - Mike Jones (had him #25 at his position -- other sites much better ranking him 49 and 54)
Could also make an argument for: ESPN - Stokes (had him #67 overall compared to #104 or #169 -- didn't include above only because position rankings are pretty close across the sites (14-17-8); Scout - LaLota (had him #116 overall which was less off-base than Rivals (#215) and ESPN (something above 150), but again positional rankings pretty close); Scout - Lewan (had him #274 when the other sites were much better at 194 (rivals) and 148 (ESPN).
There are many other conclusions you could draw from this data, and those conclusions will depend greatly on your opinion of a particular player. For example, Rivals was much higher on Gallon. But I'm not sure yet who was right or wrong -- depends what you think of Gallon.
But based on my own analysis ESPN and Scout did pretty well this year. Rivals not so much.
On to 2008...
|2008||Rivals||Scout||ESPN||Rivals (pos)||Scout (pos)||ESPN (pos)|
I have put emphasis on the obvious outliers above. Sadly, the way a site looked smart this year was to doubt one of our recruits.
Takeaways from 2008
- ESPN - Cissoko (others had him a top 5 CB...not so much)
- ESPN - Mike Shaw (hurts to say, but I think they were right)
- ESPN - Brandon Smith (elite to Rivals and Scout, ESPN had it right)
- Scout - Ricky Barnum (I love Barnum but Scout had a more realistic take on him)
- ESPN - Taylor Hill (see Smith, Cissoko)
(I am skipping McGuffie and Mealer because I think both ran into some horrible luck and may have turned out differently if that was not the case -- but based on an objective look at production ESPN had them right too)
- Scout - Brandon Moore (Still hoping Scout is proven wrong, but....looks they were right and Rivals and ESPN were wrong to call him a positional top 10)
- Rivals - Roy Roundtree (Finally Rivals gets one! They had Roundtree much higher than the others (#44 WR vs. 89 or 104)
- Rivals - Kurt Wermers (another case of Rivals getting it right; Scout's #11 positional ranking looks especially bad here)
- ESPN - Dann O'Neill (I am faulting ESPN here for pegging O'Neill as a super-duper star (#4 OT); the others thought he was good, but not that good)
- ESPN - Kevin Koger (he may not have produced like a #4 or #6 TE, but I think Scout and Rivals were much closer to the mark than ESPN who had him as the #113 DE)
- Rivals - Mike Shaw (talented guy, but not a #7 back)
ESPN has the biggest hits and misses here, but I think overall does the best in 2008. Scout comes in second. Rivals last again.
The track record from these two classes does not support the notion that ESPN is out to lunch or does not know what they're talking about. Personally? I think they're wrong about Pipkins. But I can't say that ESPN's track record shows I can discount their view.
By my count, here is the tally on major outlier picks that seem to have a definitive right/wrong result from 2008 and 2009:
ESPN: +6, -4 (net 2)
Scout: +4, -1 (net 3)
Rivals: +2, -2 (net 0)
Obviously my quantitative measures are subjective; I offer this as food for thought. Please discuss and improve on what I did here. But let's not dismiss sites out of hand. As the above shows, there is no basis for that. Certainly not with respect to ESPN.