Breaking Down the Rankings (ESPN, Rivals, Scout)

Breaking Down the 2012 Recruit Rankings

Ranking high school recruits is not an exact science. Well, if you compare ranking high school recruits to how NFL players are scrutinized, it isn’t very scientific. On the morning of April 27th 2012, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay would have helped determine the fate of the first 32 picks of the NFL Draft. Similarly, the likes of ESPN, and compile rankings and analysis of high school recruits. The particular ranking of a recruit can significantly improve or reduce that player’s stock and be the difference between Division I, DII, DIII or less.

According to CBS Sports, there are 750 total 2012 NFL Draft prospects. Roughly 200 players will be drafted onto NFL teams this April. In comparison, ESPN lists 18,924 prep football recruits in the class of 2012, while there are a total of 249 DI & DI-AA collegiate programs.

As of today (2/16/2012), according to, there have been 6,322 high school football recruits that have signed a National Letter of Intent to play at the NCAA DI & DI-AA levels. Please note: I don’t use the terms FBS and/or FCS regularly.

Think how difficult a task NFL scouts and analysts such as Kiper and McShay face each season trying to rank over 700 draft prospects. On the flipside, imagine the difficulty in ranking nearly 19,000 high school football recruits in the class of 2012 using a 1-5 star rating system.

CLA sorted through the class of 2012 football recruit rankings (ESPN, Rivals & Scout) from eight U.S. States, including: California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Louisiana and New York. One immediate observation was the fact that ESPN’s football recruit database more than doubled that of

Also noticeable was that ESPN handed out only five “5-star” rankings to the class of 2012 football recruits. Conversely, and passed out 21 and 29 top “5-star” recruit rankings, respectively.

The most poignant observation was that there is a huge discrepancy in the total number of football recruits ranked 3-stars and above when comparing California, Florida and Texas preps. The average total number of California high school football recruits identified as 3-star recruits and above, according to ESPN, and, is 145.

On the other hand, Texas averaged 243 recruits rated 3-stars or higher based on the rankings of ESPN, Rivals and Scout. Florida also topped California in 3-star recruits, with an average of 213 players ranked above this level.

Although Kiper and McShay have provided accurate assessments of NFL talent throughout their respective careers, they routinely fumble in their predictions of where NFL Draft prospects will land come draft day. That being said, it’s easy to recognize the fact that high school football players with hopes of playing in the NCAA will nevertheless be affected by the arbitrary ranking system used by various recruiting websites. I hope all student-athletes and parents take these rankings with a grain of salt.

At the end of the day, these rankings don’t mean much once the shoulder pads are strapped on and the cleats are laced up. In other words, buckle your chinstraps recruits! Let your pads do the talking from now on, and leave the rankings for the experts.