College Football: Remembering the Top 25 NFL Prospects as Recruits

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIFebruary 8, 2013

College Football: Remembering the Top 25 NFL Prospects as Recruits

0 of 25

    National signing day is behind us, and the NFL draft is looming in April. Now is the perfect time to take a look at the top NFL draft prospects and revisit what was expected of them as they left high school or junior college.

    What position were they supposed to play? Did they meet, exceed or fall short of expectations during their stints in college?

    Here is a trip down memory lane as we remember the best of the best back when they were still unsure about which college to attend.

    Note: The list was determined by the players' average rankings among ESPN.comNFL.com and CBSSports.com. Each NFL position rank is from CBSSports.com.

25. John Jenkins, Georgia Bulldogs

1 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Position Rank: N/A (JUCO)

    After joining Georgia from junior college, John Jenkins built himself into a late first-round or early second-round pick for the NFL draft.

    Jenkins may not be the most recognizable Georgia player in the draft, but he could turn into the steal of the second round.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive tackle

    Position Rank: No. 6

24. Lane Johnson, Oklahoma Sooners

2 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: N/A

    Position: Tight End

    Position Rank: N/A

    Lane Johnson was a tight end coming out of high school who was moved to offensive tackle due to a combination of injury and attrition on the Oklahoma offensive line.

    While he is less experienced than many others at his position, he has gone from unranked as a recruit to a sure first-round talent heading into the NFL due to his upside.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL position: Offensive tackle

    Position Rank: No. 3

T-22. Sylvester Williams, UNC Tar Heels

3 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Position Rank: N/A (JUCO)

    Sylvester Williams came to UNC from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, and he immediately lived up to his 4-star rating.

    Williams' story is unique. He played just one year of high school football, then walked on at his community college simply because he thought it was something he could do.

    Now he's a potential first-round pick in this April's draft.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive tackle

    Position Rank: No. 9

T-22. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State Buckeyes

4 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 3-star

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Position Rank: No. 48

    Johnathan Hankins is one of the most-improved players on this list. He made a 43-spot jump at his position through college.

    When teams recruit 3-star kids, it's either because they see something in them that others didn't see, or they simply are the best available player left at the position the school needs.

    Hankins took advantage of the opportunity Ohio State handed him, and he rose from unsung potential contributor to probable first-round draft pick.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive tackle

    Position Rank: No. 5

21. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee Volunteers

5 of 25

    Class: 2011

    Rating: 5-star

    Position: Wide Receiver

    Position Rank: N/A (JUCO)

    Cordarrelle Patterson rolled into Tennessee like many other recruits: with high hopes for the future. Patterson could have benefited from another year in college, but not too much.

    He's projected in the first round, and you can't go any higher than the first round. Sure, there are pay differences among the first-round draftees, but they are all looking at seven-figure contracts.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Wide Receiver

    Position Rank: No. 2

20. Sam Montgomery, LSU Tigers

6 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: No. 7

    Sam Montgomery went to LSU as a high school kid weighing in at 240, and he's leaving the Tigers as a 260-pound monster of a first-round pick.

    He dropped off a bit during the 2012 season, but he was still a contributor to the nation's 12th-ranked scoring defense.

    Montgomery is heading for the NFL in the first or second round, and he will have the opportunity to do the same thing he did at LSU: earn playing time on a team that needs him.

    Montgomery transformed himself from a 4-star recruit to a potential first-round pick by listening to his coaches in Baton Rouge. If he does the same in the NFL, he will be a solid pick.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: No. 8

T-18. Dion Jordan, Oregon Ducks

7 of 25

    Class: 2008

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Tight End

    Position Rank: No. 10

    Dion Jordan made one of the more notable moves of any player on this list while he was in college. As a recruit he was a top-10 tight end, and he moved all the way over to defensive end before his college days were over.

    It was clearly the right move, because he's ranked higher at his current position than he was at tight end coming out of high school.

    Jordan is one of those rare excellent defenders that largely goes unnoticed at Oregon, due to the high-flying offense that puts up ridiculous statistics in almost every game it plays.

    Jordan likely had no idea what the future held for him when he joined the Ducks as a tight end, but it held a lucrative opportunity in the NFL regardless of what changes he needed to make along the way.

    He would be projected even higher in the draft if not for an aggravated injury in the twilight of the 2012 season.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: No. 7

T-18. Sharrif Floyd, Florida Gators

8 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 5-star

    Position: Defensive Tackle

    Position Rank: No. 1

    Sharrif Floyd made the switch from offense to defense during his tenure with the Florida Gators, and he proved himself on one of the best defensive lines in the nation in 2012.

    Florida allowed a paltry 94.54 rushing yards per game during the 2012 season, and that put the Gators at No. 4 nationally in that category.

    Floyd will head off to the NFL in April, and he will go through a similar transition as the one from high school to college. He may end up back on an offensive line before his NFL career is over.

    No matter where he ends up, he will be a solid addition to any pro squad that happens to pick him up.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive Tackle

    Position Rank: No. 3

17. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU Cougars

9 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: N/A

    Position: Defensive Lineman

    Position Rank: N/A

    Ezekiel Ansah showed up at BYU with nothing but potential. He doesn't have a football recruiting profile, because he originally tried out for the basketball team at BYU.

    He failed to make the squad, and turned to the track team. After dabbling in track, he went over to the football team. That's the sport that rung true for him.

    Ansah began playing for the Cougars as a sophomore, and he quickly parlayed that playing time into a first-round ranking for the 2013 draft.

    You don't remember him as a recruit, because he simply wasn't one at the time he was heading for college.

    Here are his oldest-available and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: No. 4

16. Alec Ogletree, Georgia Bulldogs

10 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 5-star

    Position: Safety

    Position Rank: No. 3

    Alec Ogletree joined the Georgia ranks as a 5-star safety brimming with talent and athleticism. According to his Scout.com profile, he "has the body...of a linebacker, but the skills to play safety."

    Georgia quickly figured that out and turned him into the NFL's second-best prospect at the outside linebacker position.

    Ogletree will be at least a solid pro player, but he has the raw talent to be great. If a great coaching staff gets a hold of him, then he could show up on the linebacking corps or in the secondary.

    Either way, this kid has come a long way since high school.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Outside Linebacker

    Position Rank: No. 2

15. Geno Smith, West Virginia Mountaineers

11 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Quarterback

    Position Rank: No. 12

    Geno Smith entered the college ranks as the 12th-best quarterback of the 2009 class. He did not take a redshirt in his freshman season, and he had his breakout season in 2011.

    While he was on the radar for West Virginia fans long before he hit the national stage, his 70-33 victory over then-ACC champion Clemson in the Orange Bowl at the end of his junior season put him in the spotlight.

    Smith went from high school to the Big East, then from the Big East to the Big 12 while he was in college. 

    The Mountaineers struggled in his senior season, be he accumulated a 40-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He still came away as the best quarterback entering the draft after performing far below his true potential.

    Even in the first round, he could turn out to be a steal.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Quarterback

    Position Rank: No. 1

14. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas Longhorns

12 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Safety

    Position Rank: No. 18

    Kenny Vaccaro was a 4-star recruit out of Texas' own back yard (Brownwood, Texas). Vaccaro quickly moved from being a potential solid contributor to a star at the college level.

    This past season, he logged 92 tackles for the Longhorns en route to a comeback Alamo Bowl win over the Oregon State Beavers.

    Texas may have ended the 2012 season with four losses, but Vaccaro is the type of player that Texas needs to shoot for in the future. 

    Vaccaro made the most of his opportunity at Texas, and he went from a 4-star ball of potential to the top pro prospect at his position while playing for the Longhorns.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Free Safety

    Position Rank: No. 1

13. Keenan Allen, California Golden Bears

13 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 5-star

    Position: Safety

    Position Rank: No. 1

    Keenan Allen is yet another player on this list to come out of high school projected at a different position from the one he's expected to play in the NFL.

    Cal signed him with every intention of using him as a wide receiver, so his position switch should not have come as a surprise to him. However, it's still nice to see a player enter and exit college ranked No. 1 at his position, especially when those rankings come at two different positions.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Wide Receiver

    Position Rank: No. 1

12. Manti Te'o, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 5-star

    Position: Linebacker

    Position Rank: No. 1

    Notre Dame picked up a gigantic recruit back in 2009 who would go on to lead the Irish to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

    While his stock would slip a bit due to his performance in that title game, Manti Te'o did plenty during his tenure at Notre Dame.

    He proved himself over and over during the 12-0 regular-season run through the 2012 schedule, and he finished second in the Heisman voting behind quarterback Johnny Manziel.

    Te'o was a stellar recruit, and he backed that 5-star rating up with excellent play throughout his career. Te'o enters the NFL draft as the second-best player at his position.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Inside Linebacker

    Position Rank: No. 2

11. Jonathan Cooper, UNC Tar Heels

15 of 25

    Class: 2008

    Rating: 3-star

    Position: Offensive Guard

    Position Rank: No. 42

    Jonathan Cooper arrived as an above-average recruit, but he wasn't much above average. He's one of only two players on this list to hail from the class of 2008.

    Cooper entered the college level as a mediocre offensive guard with the potential to work his way to greatness. After rising 40 spots at his position through college, it's clear that he worked his tail off to get where he is.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Offensive Guard

    Position Rank: No. 2

10. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri Tigers

16 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 5-star

    Position: Defensive Tackle

    Position Rank: No. 4

    Sheldon Richardson was a highly touted defensive tackle coming out of high school, and he is still highly ranked coming out of college.

    While Missouri may have had a down season in 2012, a lot of that can be attributed to the injuries it faced while playing in the SEC for the first time.

    Richardson went from high school to junior college before finally making his final transition to FBS football with Missouri. The Tigers will surely miss his presence next season against Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, just to name a few.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive Tackle

    Position Rank: No. 2

9. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan Chippewas

17 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 2-star

    Position: Offensive Tackle

    Position Rank: N/A

    Eric Fisher gets the "lowest star rating award" for his inclusion on this list. His 2-star rating proves that even professional scouts can incorrectly evaluate talent.

    Fisher built his skill set through college to rank second at his position entering the April draft. He is the only player on this list not to come from a BCS-AQ conference or a Division I-A Independent school.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Offensive Tackle

    Position Rank: No. 2

T-7. Barkevious Mingo, LSU Tigers

18 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Linebacker

    Position Rank: No. 6

    Barkevious Mingo joined the LSU Tigers with the 2009 signing class, and he immediately began to command the respect of his SEC opponents.

    Mingo may as well play a new position in football: pass -usher. Sure, he's a great linebacker, but he started applying pressure to quarterbacks as soon as he stepped onto the collegiate field.

    Mingo improved his status as a linebacker consistently throughout his days at LSU, and even a little drop-off in his final season couldn't push him out of the first round of projected draft picks.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: No. 3

T-7. Dee Milliner, Alabama Crimson Tide

19 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 5-star

    Position: Cornerback/Wide Receiver

    Position Rank: No. 1 (cornerback)

    Dee Milliner was a heavily recruited 5-star athlete that could play on either side of the ball back when he was exiting high school.

    After signing with Alabama, he went on to have an illustrious career that kept him as the No. 1 cornerback of his class.

    Milliner departs Tuscaloosa with two national championship rings, and he was no small part of the teams that earned those rings in 2011 and 2012.

    Milliner will be an instant contributor in the NFL, especially if he can impress the scouts over the next couple of months leading to the draft.

    He already impressed one set of scouts as he was entering college, and he will likely do it again before April.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Cornerback

    Position Rank: No. 1

6. Jarvis Jones, Georgia Bulldogs

20 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Linebacker

    Position Rank: No. 3

    Jarvis Jones initially chose to play football for USC when he left high school, but he hurt his neck while playing for the Trojans.

    When doctors didn't want to clear him to play after the injury, Georgia stepped in and rescued him from a life without football.

    Looking back on both his and the Trojans' performances after the injury, USC has to be kicking itself for letting him go.

    The Georgia Bulldogs came through for him, and he is now a top-notch linebacker heading into the April draft.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Outside Linebacker

    Position Rank: No. 1

5. Star Lotulelei, Utah Utes

21 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 3-star

    Position: Defensive Tackle

    Position Rank: N/A (JUCO)

    Star Lotulelei didn't qualify to play for the BYU Cougars back when he was being recruited, so he went to Snow Junior College.

    After he upped his grades there, Utah snagged the 3-star diamond in the rough and put him on the field as a defensive tackle.

    Lotulelei stayed one year beyond his initial draft eligibility and earned his college degree at Utah. He will be selected in the first round of the draft.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive Tackle

    Position Rank: No. 1

4. Bjoern Werner, Florida State Seminoles

22 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: N/A (Post-Grad)

    Bjoern Werner became a household name during Florida State's two-loss rampage through the 2012 season, but many don't realize that he started all the way across the pond before he came to the States to pursue a potential football career.

    Werner's story is the polar opposite of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel's. Werner did not start playing with footballs at the age of two, and he did not grow up with a lifelong dream of playing American football.

    Somewhere along the way, his dream became American football. For a guy who got such a relatively late start in the game of football, he's certainly established himself as a force on the defensive side of the ball.

    Werner may have missed out on a national championship, but his NFL contract will soothe the burn quite well.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: No. 1

3. Chance Warmack, Alabama Crimson Tide

23 of 25

    Class: 2009

    Rating: 3-star

    Position: Offensive Guard

    Position Rank: No. 45

    Despite Chance Warmack's relatively low ranking at his position coming out of high school, Alabama's Nick Saban saw something that escaped the scouts.

    Whatever that tip-off was, it put Warmack on the Alabama football field playing as a true freshman. He began his career as a starter the following season, and he has three national championship rings to take with him as mementos of his time with the Tide.

    Warmack is also one of the most improved players on this list. He listened to his coaches and turned himself into a first-round pick after earning just three stars in the high school recruiting process.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Offensive Guard

    Position Rank: No. 1

2. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M Aggies

24 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 3-star

    Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: No. 66

    Damontre Moore is the most improved player on the list who actually received a ranking coming out of high school. He rose from 66th at his position, not overall, to be an almost-guaranteed top-five pick in the 2013 draft.

    Moore is a classic example of what can happen to you if you listen to the people around you that want to help. Even a 3-star recruit can become a first-round pick.

    Moore anchored a defensive line that didn't just produce results, it eventually went on to dominate a first-year SEC schedule in 2012.

    If the Aggies had caught a couple of lucky breaks, they could have been national champions instead of Alabama.

    Moore is certainly not going to risk his entire career by returning for his senior season to see if that can happen, though. Matt Barkley, Montee Ball and many others before him have made it clear that a player should jump if it makes sense.

    Being a potential top-five pick is certainly a great reason to pack up and leave college. He can always afford to come back on his own and get his degree if something happens to him in the NFL.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Defensive End

    Position Rank: No. 2

1. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M Aggies

25 of 25

    Class: 2010

    Rating: 4-star

    Position: Offensive Tackle

    Position Rank: No. 15

    Luke Joeckel may have been ranked No. 15 at his position in the 2010 recruiting class, but it's clear that was not an accurate evaluation of his true talent.

    Joeckel anchored an offensive line that did many great things. The most notable, of course, was helping Johnny Manziel become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

    With Joeckel in at tackle, Manziel became must-watch television on many occasions throughout the 2012 season. The most impressive victory came over the eventual national champion.

    Joeckel and the Aggies bested the Tide in Tuscaloosa in A&M's first SEC season.

    The featured picture tells the complete story. You can't look at that face and see the beast that lay within. You can certainly look at results, though.

    Here are his recruiting and NFL draft profiles.

    Projected NFL Position: Offensive Tackle

    Position Rank: No. 1