Lots of different topics in this week's mailbag:
From Duane in Tustin, Calif.: The Pro Bowl analysis got me thinking about how overrated recruiting rankings really are. I know you did a book about what really goes on during the evaluation process, but how closely do these staffs monitor the accuracy of the recruiting sites as well as do their own studies to learn if there is a smarter way to go about their recruiting pursuits?
Feldman: Many programs do conduct post-mortems and various studies like what you're talking about when it comes to recruiting because so much time and money are spent in the process and obviously jobs depend on it. Kent McLeod, Duke's director of football relations, is one of the brightest people I know. He had worked in Ole Miss' recruiting office for years, starting out under Tommy Tuberville and then staying through David Cutcliffe and Ed Orgeron. I probably picked McLeod's brain more than anyone's in all my time down in Mississippi. This week, he finished doing a project charting every player at the NFL combine that included what position they were supposedly projected at and their star ranking by the two major Internet recruiting sites, Rivals.com and Scout.com. The results of the spreadsheets are fascinating.
QB: There were 21 listed. Four didn't even receive one star. Fifteen received three stars or fewer. The average rating was 2.67 stars. The two top prospects, Georgia's Matt Stafford and USC's Mark Sanchez were two of the three five-stars. (Rhett Bomar was the other.)
RB: There were 31 listed. The average tailback star rating was 2.81. The average FB was 2.50. The only players who got any five-star ratings were Beanie Wells, LeSean McCoy and Mike Goodson. Fourteen of the backs had ratings of two or fewer stars, including UConn's Donald Brown, Boise State's Ian Johnson, Liberty's Rashad Jennings and Syracuse FB Tiny Fiammetta.
WR: There were 44 listed. Ten had ratings of fewer than two stars, including Rice's Jarrett Dillard, Penn State's Deon Butler and Cal Poly's Ramses Barden. Michael Crabtree was rated by one of the sites as a four-star and as a two-star by the other site. The average rating was 2.63.
TE: There were 21 listed. The physical growth was from an average high school weight of 222 to 250 for the Combine. The average rating was just 2.12, and McLeod points out that's probably partly because there is so much projection going on with this position. It's also curious to see that only one-third of these guys were actually projected by the recruiting sites to play tight end. Six were QBs; five were wide receivers. Two of the guys pro scouts tout as the top blockers -- NC State's Anthony Hill and Fresno State's Bear Pascoe -- were a defensive end and a QB/LB.
OT: There were 27 listed. Three were unanimous five-stars: Ohio State's Alex Boone, Alabama's Andre Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe. The guy many scouts project as the top OT, Baylor's Jason Smith, was a two-star, who has reportedly gone from being 225 pounds to 309. Average rating: 2.74.
OG: There were 19 listed. The average rating was 2.29. The biggest gainer was BYU's Travis Bright, who was listed at 210 from newspaper reports during high school and showed up at the combine at 321.
C: There were 13 listed. The group's size went from an average of 272 in high school to an average combine weight of 302. Stanford's Alex Fletcher boosted the star ratings, as he was a four- and five-star guy. The three top-rated guys according to most scouts now were all two-star guys: Oregon's Max Unger, Cal's Alex Mack and Louisville's Eric Wood. Average rating: 2.38 stars.
DT: There were 23 listed. Only Texas' Roy Miller got five stars. He was a four-star on the other site. SJ State's Jarron Gilbert, the guy who became a YouTube phenom for his jumping-out-of-the-pool stunt, was a 240-pound no-star recruit who is now a 288-pounder.
B.J. Raji from BC, the consensus top DT, was just a two-star. In looking at this bunch, most of the top college performers weren't considering big guys. Georgia Tech's Vance Walker, now 304, was a 255-pound two-star; Sen'Derrick Marks from Auburn, now 306, was a 265-pound two-star; Ole Miss' Peria Jerry, now 299, was a 280-pound two-/three-star and Mizzou's Ziggy Hood, now 300, was a 230-pound two-/three-star DE recruit. Average rating: 2.76.
DE: There were 30 listed. The average weight has jumped from 237 to 268. There were no five-stars. Some of the top-rated pro prospects came in as the lightest: Texas' Brian Orakpo, then a 213-pound three-/four-star, now 263; Penn State's Aaron Maybin, then a 211-pound four-star, now 249; and Tennessee's Robert Ayers, then a 230-pound four-star LB, now 270. Average rating: 2.25.
LB: There were 27 linebackers. The ILBs panned out better than the outside guys. The ILBs had a 3.11 rating, while the OLBs were 2.50. The fastest riser has been Wake's Aaron Curry, who went from being a 210-pound two-star to a 254-pound possible top overall pick.
S: There were 24 listed. There were two guys who came in as four-stars: Mississippi State's Derek Pegues and Oklahoma's Lendy Holmes; neither was touted as a safety initially. Pegues had been a QB/CB, and Holmes was a WR. Average rating: 2.56.
CB: There were 35 listed. Average star rating is 2.23.
McLeod says he searched for documented weights because those would be the weights colleges would have on their recruiting boards unless the recruits came to their camps. He adds that this should serve as a reminder to staffs that might be tempted to dismiss some players in the recruiting process who might seem too light.
It also shows that schools that take projects, like Jason Smith at Baylor or Aaron Curry at Wake, where you have players who can run but don't possess the bulk in high school, often get rewarded because in time they can develop past those hyped-up bigger guys who might not move as well.
Source: espn's Bruce Feldman Blog