Do High School Football Recruit Rankings Matter?

Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The recruiting process for high school athletes is a bonafide business now. Parents rave about what ranking their kid has that is decided by some website when he’s fourteen years old. Kids now have more experience at camps and showcases, making themselves a human business card, than actual competitive game action. Their dream is to line up hats along a table and in front of an anxious crowd, they can then put on the hat of their new college home and the crowd goes wild. It’s all one giant “What If Circus.”

Going through the recruiting process is exciting and can also be disappointing for many high school athletes and unfortunately parents too. Is it all really worth it though? Do any of the rankings matter? When looking at past profiles of NFL leaders for several categories, the simple answer is no. Take a look for yourself where these current stars came from, and maybe athletes, parents and everybody else can take one big, deep breath.

2014 Passing Yard Leaders

 With no surprise, Peyton Manning is one of the most heralded high school recruits in history. When he spurned his father Archie’s alma matter of Ole Miss for Tennessee to make his Rocky Top legacy, almost all of the recruiting circuit was shocked. If they had a star system back in 1994, he would have been a sure five star recruit, and the only one of the bunch. Not even his predecessor Andrew Luck could grab all five stars from the Rivals recruiting experts.

The biggest outlier of the bunch is Roethlisberger. In high school, the larger quarterback was seen by most as a tight end prospect and only received one Division I offer to continue playing quarterback. He stuck to his gut decision and wound up being a first-round draft pick after excelling for three years at the University of Miami, Ohio.

2014 Rushing Yard Leaders

The top five rushers in the NFL have came from zero five star recruits. Two out of the five weren’t even ranked as one of the top running backs in the nation by Rivals. It’s been clear this year with the likes of a CJ Anderson that jumping into a vacant spot and producing as a running back comes at a much faster rate than a quarterback, so it doesn’t come at much surprise that two of these backs had little recognition in high school.

2014 Receiving Yard Leaders

Hey! Our first five star recruit comes via the electrifying Julio Jones. We all remember how magnificent he was at Alabama and showed that skill last week with his 10 catch, 189 yard performance. Oh, how I love this group, though. Leading all receivers in yards so far this season, Antonio Brown wound up at Central Michigan after looking more like a track star at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds in high school than a football player. Two more two star recruits and a three star, round out this group with three out of the five being unranked with the top receiver recruits in the nation. We live in a Madden filled, passing league, but the top performers catching the ball were far from blue chip prospects.

2014 Tackle Leaders 

The first junior college prospects have arrived, with Paul Worrilow going unnoticed even after JC ball and winding up at Delaware, the land of Joe Flacco. Kuechly has been a tackling machine since coming into the league, but in high school he was seen as not athletic enough and just smart player. The only touted high school player was Lofton and even he couldn’t grab that magic fifth star.

2014 Sack Leaders

For all you players, parents, and recruiters, JJ Watt was a two star recruit! He wasn’t even ranked with any of the top weak side defensive ends, and is now perhaps the most polarizing and interruptive defensive player in the NFL since Lawrence Taylor. Connor Barwin also only had two stars… as a tight end. Mario Williams went on to be the No. 1 draft pick and though he was a four star recruit, he was only ranked as the No. 11 strong side defensive end in high school football. You may not be the next JJ Watt, because there have only been maybe a handful of them ever, but if you’re a two star recruit in high school, he is the man that should be your example and inspiration.

2014 Interception Leaders

The top two leaders in interceptions, Tashaun Gipson and Brent Grimes, both weren’t even ranked at their respective positions. Still, they are far from Rashad Johnson’s journey to the NFL. As you can see, Johnson doesn’t even have information for stars or position rankings. Well, that’s because he doesn’t even have a Rivals profile. I promise Johnson is a real football player, he just took the road way less taken as a walk-on safety for Alabama, and wound up being a third-round draft pick for the Arizona Cardinals.

All in all, the statistical leaders in the NFL should relieve a ton of young football players. The average stars for all of the 27 players (Manning, Brees, and Johnson are not included) combined that I looked at was only 2.8 stars. The same goes plenty of the time for the top college football players as well. Currently, the Heisman favorite is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was only a three star recruit and the No. 12 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2011. To all the young guys looking to be a part of these NFL leaders, beat the so-called experts and make your mark in front of the real experts, because if you don’t have that magic fifth star, you’re not alone.

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