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April 11, 2018

Top 10: 2018’s Highest Rated NCAA Division 1 Men’s Football Recruits

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Though there have been – and still are – other websites and organizations that rank high school football recruits heading into their freshman year at their respective colleges, 247 Sports has become the go-to source for this information. Cited by ESPN, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, SB Nation, and a host of other highly respected organizations, 247 Sports has an algorithm they use to come up with a composite rating for each recruit. As a side note, they even have a separate algorithm they use to predict the percentage each recruit has to sign with a school they’ve shown interest in. They employe a host of football professionals and researchers who are clearly qualified to assess each player in the way a scout or coach for an NCAA Division 1 Men’s Football program would, which is why the likes of ESPN and Sports Illustrated look to their composite ratings in particular. While their top recruits list can change on a daily basis for many different reasons, significant bumps or drops aren’t common for the highest rated recruits and especially those in the Top 10. Additionally, the composite ratings are created at the beginning of each recruiting year, which means a player can have a lower composite rating than another player he’s currently ranked above. With that in mind, we wanted to share the Top 10 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Football recruits heading into the 2018 season using 247 Sports’ composite ratings and most recent football recruit ratings as a benchmark. Though their focus is on assessing each player’s talent and ability to perform in NCAA Division 1 college football, we’ll also share additional information about each recruit on 247 Sports’ current Top 10 list.

#10: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Wide Receiver (0.9948 Composite Rating) – USC Trojans, Signed

Pegged by Bleacher Report as “The Most Interesting Man in the 2018 Recruiting Class”, Amon-Ra St. Brown is a wide receiver from Anaheim, CA. After having narrowed down his list of potential schools to Notre Dame, Stanford, and USC, Amon-Ra St. Brown ultimately signed with the in-state USC Trojans (Travis Haney, Bleacher Report). At the time of his recruitment, St. Brown was just under 6 feet tall and weighed 191 pounds. The wide receiver position is somewhat unique in that your size isn’t a problem or a limitation; you can use it to your advantage to shape the way you play the position. For example, Calvin Johnson, a top NFL wide receiver who is 6’5 and weighs 236 pounds; he’s known for being a physical receiver who can muscle around defensive backs. Conversely, Odell Beckham Jr. is also a top NFL wide receiver. Beckham Jr. is 5’11 and weighs 198 pounds, he’s known for his speed, agility, ability to make defenders miss, and infrequent dropped passes. When St. Brown was practicing a couple days before the Army Bowl, an Adidas official noticed the similarities between him and Beckham Jr. He praised his quickness, football IQ, very infrequent dropped passes, and work ethic. While watching St. Brown, at one point the Adidas official blurted out “Jesus, he’s good. He’s so good” (Travis Haney, Bleacher Report). St. Brown has two older brothers, who are similarly successful football athletes. His older brother, Equanimeous, is a wide receiver preparing for the 2018 NFL Draft after leading Notre Dame in receptions the past New Jersey, where he was instrumental in leading the school to state championships in 2015 and 2017. His athletic prowess was unmatched at South Brunswick, thus he spent time playing a variety of positions including wide receiver, running back, quarterback, kick returner, and safety (Tyler Donohue, Land of 10). Despite being in an offensive system that was dominated by running plays, not at all uncommon for high school football, Shorter really excelled as a receiver. Shorter’s size combined with his quickness (in April 2017 he ran an official 4.50-second 40-yard dash) and gifted route running ability makes him a quarterback’s dream. Four-star recruit Quarterback Devin Leary from New Jersey, who committed to N.C. State said Shorter “Justin is the type of receiver who can get open no matter what. It seems as if wherever you throw the ball – even if it’s behind him or a little above his head – he’s going to come down with it. As a quarterback, a guy like him makes your job 10 times easier. I think he’s going to be a huge factor for Penn State, probably as soon as he gets to campus” (Tyler Donohue, Land of 10).

#9: Nicholas Petit-Frere, Offensive Tackle (0.9963 Composite Rating) – Ohio State Buckeyes, Signed

Nicholas Petit-Frere, the top-rated offensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class, kept everyone in suspense until he read his decision on National Signing Day. After an initial verbal commitment to Clemson, Petit-Frere revealed Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney misled him by casting doubt on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s longevity at the school (Chris Johnson, Sports Illustrated). According to 247 Sports recruiting analyst Luke Stampini, Petit-Frere “is the most athletic lineman in the 2018 class and he is just now scratching the surface of his potential”. At 6’6 and weighing 272 pounds, Petit-Frere will need to put on a little weight to be a top-notch offensive tackle in Division 1 Men’s Football. But with the Buckeyes losing two starting offensive lineman to the 2018 NFL Draft, he’s expected to have an opportunity to make an immediate positive impact there.

#8: Jamaree Salyer, Offensive Guard (0.9956 Composite Rating) – Georgia Bulldogs, Signed

Jamaree Salyer, the highest rated offensive guard in country for the 2018 recruiting class, didn’t surprise many when he signed with the in-state Georgia Bulldogs. Salyer is from Atlanta, GA and heads to the elite SEC powerhouse in Athens at 6’4 weighing 342 pounds. The offensive guard position generally requires heavier and stronger players to defend against defensive tackles, while offensive tackles need to have more agility as they block defensive ends. From watching tapes of Salyer’s games, football analysts can’t help but marvel at his colossal power and “initial punch” (Richard Johnson, SB Nation). He’ll need to convert some of his weight from fat to added muscle, but with Georgia’s large and dedicated football coaching staff that shouldn’t be a problem. After a largely successful 2017 season that ended in a heartbreaking loss in the National Championship Game to SEC rival Alabama in overtime, the Bulldogs picking up the best offensive guard in this year’s recruiting class should keep them in national title conversation for years to come.

#7: Justin Shorter, Wide Receiver (0.9962 Composite Rating) – Penn State Nittany Lions, Signed

Having received other offers from Miami, Michigan, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin, Justin Shorter made a quick decision in signing with the Penn State Nittany Lions just prior to his junior season in high school (Tyler Donohue, Land of 10). The 6’4, 220-pound wide receiver attended South Brunswick High School.

 

#6: JT Daniels, Quarterback (0.9919 Composite Rating) – USC Trojans, Signed

JT Daniels was the No. 1 QB for the 2019 recruiting class, but he stunned college football fans and coaches as he announced he would forgo his senior year in high school and “reclassify” to join the USC Trojans in 2018. Daniels, who apparently had enough credits to graduate early, has outstanding stats from his years at Santa Ana Mater Dei High School in California. During his time there, he threw for over 12,000 yards with 154 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions (Bud Elliot, SB Nation). This move couldn’t have come at a better time for the Trojans, as they are losing their star QB Sam Darnold to the 2018 NFL Draft and were yet to sign a suitable replacement for 2018. Prior to his junior year in high school, Daniels was already 6’2 and weighed 200 pounds. He’s expected to continue to develop physically, but coming into USC at such an opportune time will give Daniels a legitimate chance to start for the Trojans as a true freshman.

#5: Micah Parsons, Defensive End (0.9982 Composite Rating) – Penn State Nittany Lions, Enrolled

While Micah Parsons was recruited as a defensive end, he’s already enrolled at Penn State where head coach James Franklin says Parsons will start his career at linebacker for the Nittany Lions (Stephen Pianovich, Land of 10). Parsons’ recruitment drew national attention, mostly for all the wrong reasons. Parsons, who may be best suited for the linebacker position at 6’3 and weighing 245 pounds, drew national attention during his recruitment for all the wrong reasons. After having verbally committed to Penn State, Parsons withdrew his commitment and began touring the country as he received offers from Oregon, Nebraska, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and many more. He seemed to revel in the attention, whether it was positive or negative, often making intentionally provocative statements on his Twitter account (Chris Hummer, 247 Sports). At one point, Parsons seemed to be leaning heavily towards Ohio State, especially after having taken a second visit there, but he ultimately decided to commit to the Nittany Lions and this time it was for good. Franklin’s patience and understanding of how hard it can be for a young high school student suddenly in the national spotlight ultimately helped him land Parsons. When Parsons informed Franklin of his initial withdrawal from his commitment to Penn State he asked, “If I decommit, is my scholarship still on the table?” to which Franklin simply replied, “Yes” (Chris Hummer, 247 Sports).

#4: Xavier Thomas, Defensive End (0.9988 Composite Rating) – Clemson Tigers, Enrolled

At 6’3 and weighing 255 pounds, Xavier Thomas heads to the 2017 national champion Clemson Tigers ready to make an immediate impact. The defensive end impressed NCAA coaches with his combination of speed and strength, especially for someone of his size. Thomas is especially unique for a defensive end because he excels in pass rushing ability, which is typical for top defensive ends, but he’s also bulky and can line up in the middle at the defensive tackle position when necessary (Alex Kirshner, SB Nation). When he spoke to SB Nation, he was asked if he thought his game could ultimately develop into any particular current NFL player and Thomas said Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons star defensive end and former Clemson Tiger. Thomas explained, “Just the fact that his speed off the edge, he’s an edge rusher, and I watched him at Clemson. I really relate my game to him” (Alex Kirshner, SB Nation). It’s not an outrageous comparison by any means. Having taken advantage of early enrollment at Clemson, football fans are already talking about Thomas’ future NFL potential.

#3: Eyabi Anoma, Defensive End (0.9987 Composite Rating) – Alabama Crimson Tide, Signed

Eyabi Anoma is somewhat of the antithesis to Micah Parsons; he comes off as a soft-spoken and quiet professional. Anoma wasn’t on any top football recruiting lists and received no national interest until his 2016 high school season at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, where Anoma registered 24 sacks and 60 tackles (Josh Barnett, USA Today). Following a slew of national interest, Anoma narrowed down his interests to Alabama, Michigan, Penn State and Georgia. It really came down to Alabama and Michigan and after careful consideration, Anoma chose the Crimson Tide (Mike Chiari, Bleacher Report). There’s arguably no school in the country more renowned for their defense than Alabama, a likely reason the star defensive end ultimately committed there. Already 6’5 and weighing 230 pounds, Anoma takes particular pride in his work ethic, which is sure to go over well with the elite Alabama coaching staff. When speaking about his strengths to Josh Barnett of USA Today, Anoma said “I play all my games with the same intensity with urgency. I don’t take downs for granted. Even if the ball is away from me, I’m still running to the ball trying to make a play. Against IMG, the film shows I had a couple of tackles from the back. Had I been running half speed or taking a loaf, I wouldn’t have made the play but because I was running full speed, I was able to make the play”. Having also been a standout basketball player at St. Frances Academy, Anoma has a great opportunity to become one of the best defensive ends in the nation.

#2: Justin Fields, Quarterback (0.9998 Composite Rating) – Georgia Bulldogs, Enrolled

Justin Fields is still considered by many to be the nation’s top recruit for the 2018 class. As you can tell from his composite rating, there are plenty of reasons why many have touted him so highly. Considered a dual-threat quarterback, meaning he’s a great rushing QB but can also throw the ball well, Fields was heavily recruited by just about every major NCAA D1 Men’s Football program (Gerry Hamilton, ESPN). At a height of 6’3 and weighing 223 pounds, Fields is as close to the true definition of a complete package quarterback as you’ll see – at least at the college football level. He ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at The Opening – which Fields wasn’t happy with – and he leaves high school with a 3.9 GPA (Mirin Fader, Bleacher Report). Though the Georgia Bulldogs are an incredibly well-established college football program and Fields is from a suburb just outside of Atlanta, Fields’ decision came as a surprise to many. The Bulldogs already have a star QB in true freshman Jake Fromm, who led them to an SEC championship and national title game appearance. The other schools in serious contention for fields – Florida, Florida State, and Texas A&M – all had serious immediate quarterback needs. Even Barton Simmons, director of scouting for 247 Sports didn’t see it coming saying, “It’s shocking. It’s shocking because Fields could have had a much better chance of starting from day one at Florida under Dan Mullen, Texas A&M under Jimbo Fisher or even Florida State under Willie Taggart. For him to turn all that down is as confident, and I guess I’d say maybe as gutsy, of a decision as I remember seeing at the QB position” (Mirin Fader, Bleacher Report). Time will tell if Fields made the right decision for his football career, but confidence is definitely included with the other positive attributes Fields displayed throughout his high school career.

#1: Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback (0.9999 Composite Rating) – Clemson Tigers, Enrolled

The top-rated high school recruit in the 2018 college football recruiting class is Trevor Lawrence, a 6’6 quarterback from Cartersville High School in Georgia. Having made up his mind early, Lawrence committed to the Clemson Tigers just before their 2017 national championship game victory against Alabama (Alex Kirshner, SB Nation). Lawrence is considered a pro-style quarterback with immense talent and potential; he’s one of the highest rated quarterbacks of 247 Sports’ composite ratings era. When asked why football scouts were so impressed with his game, Lawrence replied “I think part of it is just my instincts as a quarterback. I think that’s one of my best attributes, you’d say, is my instincts, and just my accuracy is one thing too. So I guess those things. I’m not really sure why they do, so it’s up to them” (Alex Kirshner, SB Nation). Lawrence is widely expected to give Clemson’s current starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant, a battle to retain the starting QB role for the national title contending Tigers. Bryant is heading into his senior year at Clemson, so even if Lawrence winds up as a backup this year, it’s very likely he will be starting for the Tigers the following year.  

 

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Image courtesy of DawgNation

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