The Last 10 No. 1 National Recruits: Where Are They Now?
The LSU Tigers must be feeling confident with their 2014 recruiting class after landing the commitment of the No. 1 overall prospect, running back Leonard Fournette.
But does the No. 1 ranking generally translate to success on the field?
For the answers, Bleacher Report took a look at the top-ranked recruit in each of the past 10 seasons. From Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson in 2004 to Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche just last year, the results we found are certainly interesting.
All six of the eligible players on this list made it to the NFL. But some had more success than others.
Follow along as B/R takes a closer look at each of these highly touted former recruits.
Author's note: The position listed for each player is the one that they were recruited as.
SDE Robert Nkemdiche
College Stats: One season (11 games), 34 tackles (8.0 for loss), 2.0 sacks
NFL Stats: TBD
Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was the toast of head coach Hugh Freeze’s first full recruiting class in 2013.
The Loganville, Ga., native’s size and talent had everyone wanting him. He received 14 offers from schools such as LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and USC, among others.
As expected, scouts had high praise for Nkemdiche, via ESPN Recruiting's Craig Haubert (subscription required):
The importance of having difference-makers on the defensive line can't be overstated, and Nkemdiche has the ability to be one up front. He possesses outstanding size for a high school prospect, with a thick, muscular build and physically should be able to transition to the college game well. In addition to excellent size and strength, he also possesses great snap anticipation and first-step quickness and has the physical tools to wreak havoc when he wants to.
Although Nkemdiche got off to a slow start—he didn’t record a single sack until Week 12—the former 5-star recruit finished strong. He tallied both his sacks during the Rebels’ final three regular-season games.
He even made an impact offensively, rushing for 32 yards on five carries.
The future certainly looks bright for Nkemdiche.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham
College Stats: Two seasons (25 games), 87 REC, 1,278 YDS, 17 TD
NFL Stats: TBD
It’s not typical for a wide receiver to reign supreme during recruiting season.
But that’s just what the Missouri Tigers’ Dorial Green-Beckham did in 2012.
After a solid freshman campaign, the Springfield, Mo., native exploded last year as a sophomore, helping Missouri to a 12-2 record and the SEC East crown. He had team highs in receptions (59) and touchdowns (12) while finishing second in receiving yards (883).
With L’Damian Washington set to graduate, Green-Beckham should emerge as the Tigers’ go-to-guy in the passing attack this upcoming season.
Unfortunately, the offseason hasn't gotten off to a great start, as he was arrested along with two friends at a traffic stop earlier this month, via The Standard’s Nicolette Martin. However, Green-Beckham has yet to be charged.
WDE Jadeveon Clowney
College Stats: Three seasons (36 games), 130 tackles (47 for loss), 24.0 sacks, 9 fumbles forced, 1 fumble recovered
NFL Stats: TBD
Although he may have had his fair share of ups and downs, there’s no doubt that former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was one of the most polarizing figures in college football throughout his collegiate career.
And don’t expect that hype to die down in the pros, as he is widely projected to be a top-five pick in the NFL draft in May.
After a breakout freshman campaign, Clowney had a sophomore season to remember in 2012. The Rock Hills, S.C., native recorded 54 tackles (23.5 for loss), 13.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. That was all capped off by a bone-crushing hit he laid out during the Gamecocks’ Outback Bowl victory against Michigan, 33-28.
But behind all the charades, Clowney is a very talented player and certainly deserving of his distinction as the No. 1 overall recruit.
But according to Clowney, that's not the only No. 1 he wants to have on his resume, via GoGamecocks.com's Josh Kendall:
“It’s because I want to be the No. 1 pick, not the money,” Clowney said in an exclusive interview. “I want to be No. 1.
That’s the reason Clowney plans to buck the trend of elite prospects skipping most of the workouts at February’s NFL Combine. Clowney will participate in every drill, he said.
“I am ready. I am upfront. I am not going to hold anything back. I am going to do everything,” he said. “The numbers I am going to put up are going to be amazing.”
It's hard to bet against the talented Clowney.
WDE Ronald Powell
College Stats: Three seasons (36 games), 83 tackles (18.5 for loss), 11.0 sacks, 1 fumble forced
NFL Stats: TBD
Florida linebacker Ronald Powell joined teammates Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson in declaring early for the NFL draft earlier this month.
It’s a decision that came as quite a shock to many.
The Moreno Valley, Calif., native appeared to meet his high expectations during his sophomore season in 2011, recording 32 tackles (nine for loss), six sacks and one forced fumble. However, things took a turn for the worse when he suffered an ACL tear that caused him to miss the entire 2012 season.
Given a subpar 2013 campaign, it’s surprising that Powell has chosen to forego his senior season. Then again, with a history of knee injuries, it might be in his best interest to make the jump.
Powell is listed as the No. 15-ranked player at his position and his projected to go in the fifth round via NFLdraftscout.com.
QB Matt Barkley
College Stats: Four seasons (47 games), 64.1 CMP%, 12,327 YDS, 116 TD, 48 INT, 148.7 RAT
NFL Stats: One season (3 games), 61.2 CMP%, 300 YDS, 0 TD, 4 INT, 44.6 RAT
Quarterback Matt Barkley had quite the career with USC.
In four seasons, the Newport Beach, Calif., native led the school to a 34-17 record. He also broke 20 school records and various conference milestones.
Barkley’s high point came in 2011, when he threw for a whopping 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 69.1 percent passing. Behind his play, Barkley led the Trojans to an 10-2 record and helped the team open the 2012 season at No. 1 in the AP Poll.
With a decorated and successful collegiate career in the books, Barkley hoped to continue that success in the NFL. He was taken in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2013 draft.
Although he didn’t play much, Barkley did get significant playing time in two games last season. Unfortunately, he was largely unimpressive, throwing for just 287 yards combined and four interceptions.
One scout actually had a pretty accurate prediction before that year's NFL draft, via The Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer:
He's got a very good understanding of the game, and he's a great leader. Physically, he's very average. When he's throwing it across the field on a deep out, the ball sort of hangs in the air. He doesn't have that ability to just drive it. In the NFL, with the corners, they break so much quicker. They see it quicker, they close. A lot of those balls are going the other direction at the next level.
Regardless, the jury is still out on whether or not Barkley can surpass those expectations.
SDE Da'Quan Bowers
College Stats: Three seasons (38 games), 150 tackles (43.5 for loss), 19.0 sacks, 2 fumbles forced, 1 fumble returned, 1 interception
NFL Stats: Three seasons (39 games), 44 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 fumble return
After two solid seasons with Clemson, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers broke out during his junior season in 2010.
In 13 games, the Bamberg, S.C., native proved impossible to guard. He recorded 66 tackles (25.0 for loss), 15.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Furthermore, Bowers led the nation in sacks and finished second in tackles for loss.
His junior success led him to be chosen in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, in three seasons, we’ve yet to see much from him.
Thus far, Bowers’ career highs in tackles is just 25 and he only has 5.5 career sacks.
Is he waiting to break out like he did in college or is he just not NFL material?
RB Joe McKnight
College Stats: Three seasons (36 games), 347 CAR, 2,213 YDS, 13 TD; 66 REC, 542 YDS, 2 TD
NFL Stats: Three seasons (39 games), 112 CAR, 502 YDS, 0 TD; 17 REC, 177 YDS, 0 TD
During three seasons at USC, running back Joe McKnight continued the school’s long-standing tradition of producing high-quality rushers.
That became especially evident during his junior season. McKnight rushed for a team-high 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns on 164 carries.
But it was his versatility—he could catch and return kicks—that made McKnight stand out.
The New York Jets were one of the NFL teams most interested in the Kenner, La., native. So much so, that the franchise selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.
In three seasons with New York, McKnight failed to do much. Other than success returning kicks, his career high in rushing yards was just 189 and he failed to record a single offensive touchdown.
As a result, the Jets released him prior to the 2013 season.
OG Andre Smith
College Stats: Three seasons (39 games)
NFL Stats: Three seasons (59 games)
Offensive tackle Andre Smith had an illustrious playing career at Alabama.
The Birmingham, Ala., native started all 13 games in 2006, becoming just the fourth offensive lineman to start as a true freshman in school history. He led the Crimson Tide in pancake blocks (62) while even scoring a touchdown on a lateral.
Smith continued his success throughout his three-year career with Alabama, winning numerous awards and honors.
However, after a poor performance at the combine, his stock decreased. Smith would eventually be taken at sixth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
After two seasons of looking like a bust, Smith came alive in 2011, winning the starting job. He followed that up with an even more impressive 2012 campaign that landed him a three-year, $18-million extension.
To this day, Smith is considered one of the elite tackles in the NFL.
OT Eugene Monroe
College Stats: Four seasons (47 games)
NFL Stats: Five seasons (73 games)
Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe had quite the career at Virginia.
After two solid seasons, the Plainfield, N.J., native broke out. In 11 games, Monroe thrived, recording 20 knockdown blocks and didn’t allow a single sack during the regular season. He was named honorable All-ACC for his efforts.
But it was his senior season in 2008 where Monroe earned his stripes. He tallied a school-record 105 knockdowns on his way to earning All-ACC First Team honors.
Drafted eighth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009, Monroe had a solid but quiet career with the team. He was eventually traded to the Baltimore Ravens last season.
Monroe must be doing something right since the Ravens are working hard to re-sign the free agent.
RB Adrian Peterson
College Stats: Three seasons (31 games), 747 CAR, 4,041 YDS, 41 TD; 24 REC, 198 YDS, 1 TD
NFL Stats: Seven seasons (103 games), 2,033 CAR, 10,115 YDS, 86 TD; 206 REC, 1,697 YDS, 5 TD
Running back Adrian Peterson quickly made a name for himself at Oklahoma.
In just his freshman season, the Palestine, Texas, native rushed for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a result, he finished runner-up in the 2004 Heisman Trophy voting and helped lead the Sooners to the BCS title game.
Injuries prevented Peterson from duplicating that success in his next two collegiate seasons, but it didn’t stop him from being selected seventh overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2007 NFL draft.
Since then, Peterson has had a very successful career in the pros. In seven seasons, he’s topped 1,000 yards rushing six times. That includes coming within nine yards of setting the NFL single-season record for most rushing yards in 2012, finishing with 2,097.
Still, Peterson’s performance helped him win the NFL’s MVP award that year.
There’s no doubt that Peterson is arguably the most successful former No. 1-recruit in NFL history.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of pro-football-reference.com.
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