Johnny Manziel and Football Recruits That Were Underrated Heading into College

Andrew Kulha@@AKonSportsSenior Analyst IIIApril 3, 2013

Johnny Manziel and Football Recruits That Were Underrated Heading into College

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    We don't always get it right as recruiting evaluators and star rankings aren't necessarily always an indicator of a recruit's potential.


    That's right folks, sometimes the recruiting rankings can be wrong.

    Let's give credit where it's due, recruiting experts and scouts spend hours and hours evaluating players and breaking down film, and more often than not—they get a pretty good idea of what a recruit will be able to do at the college level.

    Every now and then though, a recruit will far exceed expectations. It's not an exact science, but more so a very educated guess.

    Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is one of those recruits who played far above his star ranking heading into college as a recruit. He's now one of the best players in college football, but at the time, the rankings didn't indicate that potential.

    It happens, and when it does, it's worth noting. 

    Here's a list of other college stars, along with Manziel, that were underrated in the recruiting process.

A.J. Hawk, 3-Star OLB

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    Before A.J. Hawk was running around the field for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL, he was dominating on defense for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

    Before Ohio State, he was ranked as a 3-star outside linebacker by

    According to ESPN, Hawk notched 152 tackles, 11 sacks, 1 forced fumble and three interceptions in 2004 and 2005 combined. 

    He was a two time All-American at Ohio State and came in sixth in Heisman voting in 2005 (

    Those are accomplishments and stats that the former 3-star recruit should be proud of.

Matt Ryan, 3-Star QB

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    Matt Ryan is highly considered to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now and he was taken No. 3 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft.

    He wouldn't be where he is right now though without a stellar career at Boston College, but when he committed to BC, he was actually only a 3-star quarterback recruit according to

    He was the No. 25 ranked quarterback in the 2003 class according to Rivals.

    Ryan went on to throw for 9,319 yards and 56 touchdowns in four seasons for Boston College. 

Patrick Willis, 3-Star ILB

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    Patrick Willis is one of the best linebackers in the NFL today and he also had a great college career at Ole Miss.

    He was an All-American in 2006 and he notched 177 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, six sacks, one interception and four forced fumbles in 2005 and 2006 combined according to

    Entering college in 2003, Willis checked in at 6'2'', 200 pounds and 4.6 40 according to For some reason though, Rivals only ranked him as a 3-star inside linebacker. 

    When you hear Willis mentioned you think elite linebacker, not 3-star recruit. 

    Either way, he proved his ranking wrong.

Justin Blackmon, 3-Star WR

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    Justin Blackmon notched 252 receptions, 3,564 yards and 40 touchdowns in three seasons with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

    He was easily one of the most physically imposing receivers in college football and he could do everything at the position. He was a legitimate deep threat, he could take a quick slant 90 yards for the score and he could be a possession receiver.

    Blackmon was drafted No. 5 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    When Blackmon was recruited by the Cowboys in the 2008 class, he was a 3-star receiver according to Rivals and was ranked No. 91 at the position. also ranked him as a 3-star wideout.

Morris Claiborne, 3-Star ATH

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    Morris Claiborne was one of the best cover corners in college football during his time at LSU, and he ended up getting drafted No. 6 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2012 NFL Draft. 

    For as good as he was for LSU, the expectations coming out of high school weren't as grand. Claiborne was only ranked as a 3-star athlete by, and he was the No. 58 athlete in the 2009 class at that (Rivals).

    Claiborne left LSU with 95 total tackles, 11 interceptions and one defensive touchdown. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2011.

    Needless to say, the rankings were a bit off with Claiborne.

Mike Hart, 3-Star RB

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    Running back Mike Hart is considered to be one of the better players in Michigan football history, and that's saying something.

    He's certainly one of the best backs Michigan has seen, and he totaled 5,040 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns for the Wolverines in four seasons.

    He was fifth in Heisman voting back in 2005 (

    For as good as he was at Michigan and for as legendary he'll be in Wolverines' history, Hart came into the program ranked as a 3-star all-purpose back according to

Sam Bradford, 3-Star QB

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    You may now know Sam Bradford as the quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, but there was a time when he was just another 3-star quarterback that was committed to Oklahoma. listed Bradford as a 3-star, and needless to say, he exceeded those expectations.

    On top of winning the Heisman Trophy in 2008, Bradford threw for 8,403 yards, 88 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions at Oklahoma. That's also considering that he had to have season-ending shoulder surgery in 2009 and only played in three games.

    Bradford was selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 NFL draft by the Rams.

    Not bad for a 3-star.

Jake Long, 4-Star OT

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    Being ranked as a 4-star offensive tackle is not too shabby in today's day and age of college football recruiting, but a 4-star ranking doesn't even come close to doing Jake Long justice.

    He's one of the best offensive lineman college football has seen in the 21st century and he was a beast at the line of scrimmage for the Michigan Wolverines.

    Long was a two-time All-American and was taken No. 1 overall in the 2008 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins. had him ranked as a 4-star coming into Michigan's 2003 class.

Mark Ingram, 3-Star RB

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    Mark Ingram was ranked as a 3-star running back by and a 4-star running back by Rivals. had him listed as the No. 58 running back in the country and Rivals had him as the No. 17 athlete at 5'10'', 195 pounds. 

    When he was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he weighed 215 pounds ( and just came off a college career that saw him rush for 3,261 yards and 42 touchdowns. He notched 60 receptions for 670 yards and four touchdowns.

    Oh, Ingram also won the Heisman trophy in 2009.

Johnny Manziel, 3-Star Dual-Threat QB

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    Johnny Manziel, or "Johnny Football" as you probably know him, is arguably the most exciting and dynamic player in college football right now.

    He won the Heisman trophy in his freshman season, and there's a good chance that he'll continue to get better as both the quarterback and leader of the Texas A&M Aggies. Manziel could end up being one of the greatest when all is said and done, and he's already established his legend.

    Although he has displayed 5-star talent, he was only ranked as a 3-star quarterback by most of the recruiting services coming out of Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas. The only service to rank him above 3-star was 247Sports, who ranked him as a 4-star dual-threat. 

    He was ranked as the No. 13 dual-threat quarterback in the 2011 class according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.

    Ranked ahead of him was 5-star Jeff Driskel (Florida), 5-star Braxton Miller (Ohio State), 4-star Kiehl Frazier (Auburn), 4-star Brett Hundley (UCLA), 4-star Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), 4-star Bubba Starling, 4-star J.W. Walsh (Oklahoma State), 4-star Jerrard Randall (LSU), 4-star Marquise Williams (North Carolina), 3-star Michael Eubank (Arizona State), 3-star Vad Lee (Georgia Tech) and 3-star Lafonte Thourogood (Vanderbilt).

    Would you take any of these quarterbacks ahead of Manziel right now?

    I certainly wouldn't.

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