By: Cam Smith, USA TODAY High School Sports | May 8, 2017
Think recruiting rankings end once National Signing Day passes? Think again.
In a recent recap of the draft, NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks — himself a former NFL kick returner — expressed a very sincere belief that it’s almost essential for NFL executives to pay close attention to high school recruiting rankings when the top prospects on those lists become draft eligible in either three or four years.
Apparently he’s not alone in that belief, either:
“We’ve been paying attention to the recruiting list for the past few years because it gives us a feel for which guys were supposed to be stars at the college level,” a former NFC pro personnel director told NFL.com. “At the end of the day, the stars in high school and college are the same ones who become stars at the NFL level.
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“I will cross check our draft board with old recruiting lists and assign one of the scouts to dig up information on the five-stars that didn’t make it on our board. Since they were highly regarded at one time, we just want to make sure that we don’t miss out on a player who has enough talent to play in our league. … With undrafted or street free agents, you’re hoping to find a player with a few redeeming qualities. It’s a longshot but there’s nothing wrong with taking a low-risk gamble on a player who was expected to be a dominant player in college.”
Want more proof? Consider this: 22 of the 32 picks in this year’s first round were four or five-star recruits in their respective classes. The exact same numbers were true in 2016 as well. That means that as great as the narratives behind the likes of new Cardinals pick Hasaan Reddick are, they’re far more the exception than the rule.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s a sign that talent evaluation never truly finishes. Being a four or five-star recruit is no guarantee that an athlete will end up on an NFL roster, but it does mean that they’ll get a second, or even third or fourth, look if their collegiate career doesn’t pan out the way they envisioned.