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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The NFL Draft functions as the starting gun for a wide array of "where are they now" pieces from the lofty heights of ESPN to the dregs of the blogosphere. The Feldman piece linked previously is a recap of the '02 Army All-American game and provides hilarious insight into the deeply twisted mind of Tom Lemming, who put college fooball legends Jake Carney, Marcus Freeman, and Scott Raridon -- Irish recruits all -- in the game. There were no fewer than twelve Irish recruits in the game, including three tight ends! Of course, Notre Dame's legendary 2002 recruiting class would proceed to extend Notre Dame's streak without a bowl win to 58 years and leave their indelible mark on us all.

While Feldman's piece clearly illuminates the downside of college football recruiting, there is a case to be made for the enteprise other than "yay money." Do recruiting rankings matter? I tend to think yes, but it's fairly common to see people declare rankings to be useless (Braylon Edwards, AJ Hawk) or outstanding based on anecdotal evidence. Anecdotes substituting for actual numbers is a major pet peeve of mine, especially when it's something fairly easy to compile and track. Enclosed herein is an attempt to rate the Rivals ratings.

Ratings criteria:

Rivals' goal is to project high school players to college, not to the NFL. Someone like Kai Parham was a very productive college player and All-ACC, which matters more than the fact that he just went undrafted. Draft position does matter somewhat, but some players just don't translate to the NFL -- Rivals shouldn't be punished for that.

Rivals does not employ a battery of psychologists and thus can't possibly figure out which players are going to pull their piece at a McDonald's or flunk out or have several vertebrae explode. Players who had their careers derailed due to legal incidents, terminal inability to attend class, or a jumpy pancreas won't be held against Rivals. Players who can't hack it and transfer to podunk schools will, however. When a player has been around long enough so that a talent judgement can be rendered (say, Ahmad Brooks), a rating will be given despite knucklehead factors.

A five point scale is used to rate the performance of the player in college.

  1. Total bust.
  2. Mediocre player who contributed in some way.
  3. Average starter.
  4. Above-average starter. Starts for three or more years or garners all-conference recognition.
  5. Star. All-American, award-winning type or just one of the team's best players.
These are ballpark figures. Anyone more familiar with non-Midwestern players who disagree with the assessments below are welcome to disagree.

A few players are still unknown, primarily guys who go on Mormon missions or get stuck behind extremely strong starters. This list punts on them.

The schools, draft positions and some hints on the fates of the more obscure members of the list were provided by a post from Rivals poster NYGator($). 2002's top 50 are below. Expect the next fifty in about a week.

#PlayerSchoolDraftedCareer NotesVerdict
1Vince YoungTexasRd 1, #3is Vince Young.
Bingo. 5/5.
Haloti NgataOregon
Rd 1, #12Starter by his fifth game. Injured and missed all of '03 but a first team All-American in '05.
Bingo. 5/5.
Lorenzo Booker
FSU2007Still in school. Has split time with fellow high-profile recruit Leon Washington. Impressive in his time on the field but severely limited by Jeff Bowden's disdain for gaining yards.
Fairly accurate. Limited more my circumstance than lack of talent. 4/5.
Ben OlsonUCLA2009
UCLA's presumptive starter going into the fall. Career delayed for two years by Mormon mission.
Reggie McNealTexas A&M
Rd 6, #193NFL stock depressed since he can't play QB as a pro. A three-year starter at A&M with a shaky arm but dynamic feet.
Not a superstar, but one of A&M's best players over his tenure. 4/5
Chris DavisFSU2007May be the antichrist: FSU's leading reciever with 55 catches for 666 yards in '05 after catching 24 and 13 as an underclassman.
Ryan MooreMiami
44 catches as a redshirt freshman but injury erased sophomore season and junior season was a step back with only 24 catches.
2/5. Verging on bust.
Marcus VickVirginia TechNot draftedLegendary punk-ass bitch. Still regarded as best quarterback in the history of football by Ron Gilmore. Kicked out of school after a long stretch of arrests, but did manage to start for a year.
Rivals is granted a total knucklehead exemption.
Leon WashingtonFSURd 4, #117Like Booker, hard to evaluate because of Jeff Bowden's legendary incompetence. Played immediately and ranks 10th on FSU's all-time rushers list with 2,071 yards.
10Ciatrick FaisonFloridaRd 4, #112 (2005)
Early entry after more than 1500 total yards as a junior. Also had around 700 total yards as a sophomore.
11Kai ParhamVirginiaNot draftedRedshirted then started for three years. All-ACC as a junior with nine sacks. Ian says he was way better than overhyped Ahmad Brooks. Jumped early but was not drafted.
5/5 on college production alone.
12Gerald Riggs, Jr.TennesseeNot draftedEarned the starting job as a junior and merrily crushed SEC linebackers en route to 1,107 yards. Injuries limited Riggs to only a few games in Tennessee's dismal 2005 season.
13Rodrique WrightTexasRd 7, #226A four-year starter at DT and a second-team All-American as a junior. Somewhat indifferent senior year caused slide down draft boards, but still a mainstay of the MNCs.
Draft slide didn't hurt Texas any: 5/5.
14Michael Johnson
Virginia2007First real who-dat of the list. Stuck behind Wali Lundy so far. Biggest year has 63 carries, most of them in garbage time against tomato cans. One year left sans Lundy.
15Justin BlalockTexas2007Entering his fourth year as a starter at RT. Third-team All-American and All Big 12 a year ago.
16DiShon PlattFSUN/A
Never played due to academics.
17Ricardo HurleySouth CarolinaNot draftedStarted at MLB for two years with mediocre results.
18Nathan RhodesWashingtonN/AOL who never played a down for Washington due to a "congential back problem."
Injury exemption.
19Brandon JeffriesTennesseeN/AFlunked out, transfered to a CC, attempted to transfer to NC State, but never got there.
20Trent EdwardsStanford2007Going into his third full year as the starter; completed 63% of his passes last year with 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
5/5. Pretty much the only thing keeping Stanford competitive.
21Deljuan RobinsonMiss. State2007Going into his second year as a starter at DT but hasn't made a major impact. Open heart surgery as a freshman and some tragic car accidents may have something to do with that.
22Jerious NorwoodMiss. StateRd 3, #79Though SMQB has a serious distaste for his game, Norwood did rack up over 3,000 career rushing yards for the generally moribund Mississippi State program, and it's hard to blame him for underperforming against vicious SEC defenses when his offensive line was no doubt overwhelmed on a regular basis.
23Marquis JohnsonTexas2007Academics forced him to JUCO, from there he transferred to Texas Tech and had 13 catches in '05, though none over the last six games. One more year left to play.
1/5. Bust.
24Derek MorrisNC State
Not drafted
Academics forced a transfer from OSU to NC State; "undisclosed issues" forced him to sit out another four games. Once eligible, Morris was an instant starter for the Wolfpack, playing right tackle for three years before entering the draft early... smooth move.
3/5. Long-term starter but not a notable one.
25Darren WilliamsMiss. State
2007Booted from MSU for unspecified violation of team rules and transfered to I-AA Jacksonville State. Before the problems he started for most of his freshman and junior years.
Tentative TKE, but on talent alone Williams appears to be a strike.
26Pat Watkins
FSURd 5, #183Starter at FS his final two years on a bad-ass defense. Honorable mention all-ACC as a senior and an NFL draft pick.
27Ahmad BrooksVirginiaSupplemental PendingStarter from the moment he stepped on UVA's campus. A first-team All-American and Butkus finalist as a sophomore... and then things went to hell. Missed six games with injuries as a junior, failed a drug test, and got booted off the team.
5/5, TKE factors aside.
Devin HesterMiamiRd 2, #57Little bastard has his photo on the wall of every special teams coach in the country. The caption reads "Do not kick to this man." Couldn't find a non-KR position, bouncing between WR and CB, but that didn't stop him from being drafted in the second round.
Tough player to judge, but he was the proverbial game-changer. 4/5
29Mike D'AndreaOSU2007Injury-plagued and stuck behind guys like Hawk and Carpenter, D'Andrea has played sparingly. Will get a chance to start this year.
James BanksTennesseeN/AIncorrigible problem child who got kicked off a football team run by Phil Fulmer -- yow.
31Zach LatimerOklahoma2007
Played sparingly in his first three years but won the MLB job as a junior and was productive: 84 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 PBUs and honorable mention All Big 12.
4/5, assuming slightly better production as a senior.
32Ben ObomanuAuburn
Rd 7, #249Consistently mediocre production. Catches by year: 17, 22, 24, 33 (which led the team).
33Gabe WatsonMichigan
Rd 4, #107Planet-sized DT had obvious physical talent but applied it infrequently, earning a benching for portions of his senior year. Was still nigh-immovable in the middle and was named All Big Ten for two consecutive years.
34Jonathan MapuTennessee2009Mormon mission.
35Edorian McCulloughTexasNot drafted.
Looked like a rising star during his freshman year at Texas but flunked out, transferred to a JUCO, tried to get in at Oregon State, couldn't hack it, and evaporated. Just signed a UDFA contract with Jacksonville.
36Marcedes LewisUCLARd 1, #29Ginormous tight end ended up a three-year starter and first-round draft pick. Led UCLA with 58 receptions for 741 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. All-American and Mackey award winner.
37Maurice ClarettOSURd 3, Maurice Clarett.
The very definition of the TKE.
38Bryan PickrylTexasN/AInjury-forced retirement.
Injury exemption.
39Lonnie DavisFSUN/AAcademic washout who ended up at Elizabeth City State U.
40Justin ZwickOSU2007
Hilariously inept when pressed into service and lost his job to Troy Smith, preventing mass suicides across the state of Ohio. Busterrific.
41AJ Nicholson
FSURd 5, #157Two-year starter at linebacker and taser target. Second team All-ACC and a Butkus semifinalist.
42Rhema McKnightNotre Dame
2007Blew out a knee last year and applied for a fifth year of eligibility. Notre Dame's leading receiver the two years before that with 40-some catches each year.
4/5. Not a great player but a good one.
Julian JenkinsStanfordRd 5, #156Starter at DE for final two years and honorable mention All Pac Ten both times.
Marvin ByrdsongMiss. State
Not drafted
Started for MSU as a junior, then left when Croom came in, inserted freshmen in front of him, and wanted to play him at DE. Landed at Northwestern State and killed persons at the I-AA level.
Marcus JacksonGeorgiaN/A
Retired due to a blood clot in his brain.
Injury exemption.
Kyle WilliamsUSC2007Hasn't started a single game yet since he was stuck behind Winston Justice, but will get a crack this year.
47DaBryan BlantonTexasN/AAll-American... in track. Gave up football after his freshman year.
Er... track exemption?
DeShawn WynnFlorida2007Called steaming pile of crap by head coach Urban Meyer earlier this spring; still probably going to start for Florida in the fall. Career to date has been full of hijinks and two-yard gains.
Kedrick GolstonUGARd 6, #196Started on and off for all four years save when a bevy of unrelated injuries slowed him down. All-SEC third team as a junior. Crappy stats but is a DT, known for crappy stats.
Justin VincentLSU2007Bizarre career featuring 1,000 yards and a national title as a freshman. Since then he's been buried behind Joseph Addai and Alley Broussard.
3/5? Clearly talented but with Broussard back probably going to end his career an afterthought.


Are these any good?

I think they're outstanding. If you remove the 15 players who busted out for reasons other than "no talent," you have a 63 percent chance of getting a player who is an above-average starter. The average rating across all players is 3.5. NFL teams would kill for that strike rate for the top 50 picks in the NFL draft. Even if you throw in the guys Rivals couldn't forsee would have star-crossed lives, the hit rate is still 44 percent for good players and above 50 for average starters. Hell, even some of the TKEs made contributions: Clarett, Vick, and Darren Williams.

Anyway: this is sort of pain in the ass, but I do plan on finishing this within the week.