Hits and Misses of First ESPN Top 150 for 2014 College Football Recruiting Class
ESPN has unveiled their first edition of the ESPN Top 150 for the 2014 college football class, and it certainly will provide some talking points for the recruiting world.
The scouts at ESPN definitely didn't conform to the rest of the recruiting world, and they made some bold choices and rankings. While some are spot on, other recruits weren't ranked highly enough—in the opinion of this humble recruiting writer, of course.
Let's take a look at the first ESPN 150 for 2014 and breakdown some hits and misses.
Hit: Leonard Fournette Ranked No. 1 Overall
For most of the recruiting world, 5-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand was the No. 1 overall recruit.
Not according to ESPN.
The shocking news coming out of the ESPN 150 release is that Hand isn't the No. 1 recruit, as that honor went to 5-star running back Leonard Fournette.
Frankly, Fournette deserves the top spot. He has superstar potential that we haven't seen for quite a while coming out of the running back position.
Fournette checks in at 6'1'', 232 pounds, according to ESPN. They don't have a 40 down for him, but believe me, he's extremely fast. He has the size and power to run between the tackles and over would-be tacklers, but he also has the speed and vision to bounce the ball outside, get the edge and outrun defenders to the end zone.
Even at the college level, Fournette projects to be impossible to take down by just one defender.
He has that transcendent ability that you look for in a superstar running back, so ESPN made the right call by ranking him No. 1 overall.
Miss: Ranking Da'Shawn Hand No. 4 Overall
This is too big of a "fall from grace" for 5-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand.
He may not be a transcendent defensive end like Jadeveon Clowney was or have the upside of Robert Nkemdiche, but Hand still projects to be a great defensive end at the college level. I can see him being No. 2, or even No. 3, considering the talent level of this class, but ranking him No. 4 is just too low in my book.
Hand checks in at 6'4'', 245 pounds, according to ESPN, and runs a 4.81 40 (4.60 according to 247Sports).
No matter which time you choose to believe, it's undeniable that Hand possesses incredible quickness and agility for a defensive end. He has great length, very good size and he should be a top-notch pass-rusher at the college level. He really impresses me with his fundamentals and especially with the way he uses his hands to disengage blockers.
Perhaps I see something different than ESPN does, but he's far too good to be ranked No. 4, and that's saying something.
Fournette deserves No. 1, but Hand deserves better than No. 4.
Hit: 5-Star Ranking for ATH/WR Speedy Noil
Noil is 6'0'', 176 pounds and he runs a 4.45 40, according to ESPN. He projects to be a great playmaker at the college level, especially as a receiver, in my estimation.
He has decent size and great speed, but he also has top-notch footwork, athleticism and length. He can make plays that other receivers simply can't, and I really like what he might be able to do as a slot receiver against slower safeties and linebackers.
Noil was a bit underrated by Rivals, which only ranked him as a 4-star, but it appears as if ESPN agrees with my assessment and has ranked him as a 5-star athlete.
Miss: Raekwon McMillan Only Ranked as a 4-Star ILB
ESPN has Raekwon McMillan ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker, but he's not a 5-star recruit in their estimation. That is a miss, in my opinion.
McMillian has great size at 6'2'', 249 pounds, and 247Sports has him down for running a 4.65 40—which is quick for his size. He actually plays running back on the offensive side of the ball.
As a linebacker, he plays extremely tough at the point of attack. He's not afraid to scream up and be physical in the gap, and he'll put a good solid hit on the ball-carrier. He has good instincts and is very aggressive, but he's also very fundamental. He drives through tackles and make a lot of plays in the backfield.
He's also quick enough to be an effective blitz linebacker, either on the inside or on the edges, and he can diagnose, scrape over a block, run the alley and make a play against the run going either right or left.
McMillian deserves a 5-star ranking.
Hit: Ranking 5-Star Jabrill Peppers as No. 1 CB
Jabrill Peppers could be easily ranked as an athlete recruit, but I like the fact that ESPN ranked him as a cornerback, and best in the group at that.
He's actually ranked as the No. 2 overall player, which is a huge vote of confidence for him, and I agree with ESPN. He has star potential.
Peppers checks in 6'1'', 205 pounds, and he could probably be a very good running back at the college level. 247Sports has him down for running a 4.50 40, and much like Fournette earlier, he's big and powerful enough to run defenders over, but he can also be good in open space.
He could be a good running back, but he projects to be an even better cornerback.
At his size, he can compete with the best receivers in the nation. He'll be able to jam them at the line and throw them off their routes, but he's also quick and athletic enough to flip his hips, turn, run and make a play on the ball. He'll also be strong enough to set the edge against the run, and he's a sure tackler.
Peppers has the potential to be a shutdown cornerback, and he deserves the lofty rankings ESPN gave him.
Miss: RB Jalen Hurd Is Severely Underrated
I completely disagree with how low Hurd is in these rankings. He's a huge running back at 6'3'', 223 pounds, but he has the agility and speed of a much smaller and quicker back.
He'll have the ability to run strong between the tackles and he could pass for a power runner with his pad level and downhill style. Also, he has quick feet, he's elusive and he can beat defenders to the edge.
In fact, Hurd is versatile and athletic enough to line up in the slot as a receiver and be a legitimate deep-threat option at the college level, so I'm not quite sure how he's ranked so low according to ESPN.
ESPN's scouts really did a tremendous job overall, but ranking Hurd No. 41 was a huge miss.