Don't believe the articles and pundits who contest that star rankings and recruiting hype are poor indicators that an athlete will end up as an All-American or a high draft pick.
On a pure percentage basis, many more five- and four-star kids make the All-American rolls and are taken higher on draft day than the bevy of three-star talent across the country. It makes a fine human interest piece, but it doesn't hold statistical weight.
With that in mind, I'd like to look at 10 players who are destined for a high pick in the 2013 NFL draft (the earliest draft they can enter) based on their talents entering college.
They fit the mold and have the intangibles scouts love at their position. What's more, they have the luxury of spending their college years honing the talents and refining the skills they already possess, rather than proving the doubters wrong.
Here are 10 outstanding players from the 2010 recruiting class that could see a high selection in 2013.
I'd be fooling myself and everyone else if I tried to argue that Seantrel Henderson won't be the top overall pick once he decides to come out.
Offensive linemen with this much hype entering college have boundless potential. All Henderson needs to do is hold serve at the collegiate level to capture the No. 1 overall spot in whatever draft he enters.
He has the physical tools and a grasp of the fundamentals that make rookie NFL scouts sell their souls.
Deciding, as he likely will, between Ohio State and USC only makes his trajectory more exciting.
Ohio State's offensive line, though serviceable, hasn't had a bedrock player since the days of Orlando Pace (who, I might add, started as a freshman), yet they've still been a consistently sound unit. Their position coaches can coach up Henderson's talent and help him reach his full potential.
And USC—well, they've sent some people to the draft in recent years.
The sky's the limit for this kid.
Over his more highly-touted counterpart Johnathon Dowling, who is also headed to Florida, I chose Demar Dorsey because of the direction the NFL is headed right now for safeties.
The Troy Polamalu effect changed expectations for a strong safety: The player must hybridize his coverage knowledge with the ability to bruise and force fumbles in run support.
Dorsey can do both, and with Dowling and Baylor's Ahmad Dixon getting a little less physical hype, my money's on Dorsey to be 2013's Eric Berry.
Over Alabama's Phillip Sims, who's too short, and USC's Jesse Scroggins, who probably won't get enough starts, I like Oklahoma's Blake Bell to be the top quarterback from this class.
Despite the prolific numbers, Oklahoma's quarterbacks routinely avoid the "system" tag that kills the draft stock of QBs in similar attacks. Within that context, I think the 6'6" Bell could arguably be another Bradford: tall, stout, intelligent, with good feet and an amazingly accurate arm.
He'll need to win the starting job over Landry Jones, and he's only just switched from wide receiver to QB, but his potential and upside are off the charts, according to scouts.
The pass rusher with the biggest upside in this class is DE Jackson Jeffcoat.
He's the son of a defensive line coach (which has clearly upped his football intelligence), and possesses the initial burst and impressive wingspan to be a terror on the outside.
He'll need to add a bit of bulk without losing that speed, but it shouldn't be too much of a hindrance.
He remains undecided, but will almost surely be involved in third-down pass-rush packages as a freshman and should break out as a sophomore or junior and face a difficult early entry decision as long as he remains healthy in his collegiate career.
Hicks is deciding between Ohio State, Florida, and Texas (most signs point to Texas), and whomever receives him gets an outstanding true OLB in the 4-3 mold.
Not physically imposing (yet), Hicks has incredible burst and downhill pursuit. He could be remade in the mold of a DE/OLB, Sergio Kindle-type if UT's coaches want to bulk him up, or add just a few pounds and be a great sideline-to-sideline run-stopping LB who disguises coverages and plays the draw.
He'll be the first OLB taken by a 4-3 defense, as long as they're still around in three years.
I like Alabama's DeMarcus Milliner over Florida State's LaMarcus Joyner by a few inches, literally.
Milliner is slightly taller, which NFL scouts will prefer over Joyner's speed and acceleration. He also has good change-of-direction quickness and will just need to work on his technique.
In Alabama, Milliner is has the best defensive secondary coaching staff in the country. Nick Saban will have Milliner's technique looking impeccable, and he'll be shedding blocks and driving through tackles by the time he declares for the pros.
A lot will come down to whether Milliner ever makes it to the defensive backfield—he's also a great prospect on offense, and the influx of secondary talent in Bama's current and previous classes could preclude him ever developing as a CB. Time will tell.
The comparisons to Roy Williams are inevitable, but it really has been that long since Texas has fielded a prototypically indomitable wide receiver like Williams was and like Darius White could be.
White, who committed at the Under Armour All-American Game over offers from every major school, gets the nod over WRs Da'Rick Rogers and Kyle Prater because of his innate speed.
His elite size isn't a hindrance like it is to those other receivers, and though his route-running is a stretch, no receivers are running perfect routes out of high school.
Texas' coaches can apply their outstanding positional knowledge and still take advantage of his explosive second gear.
I'm predicting he lands at Williams' spot—No. 7 overall—and hopefully, has a little more consistent production.
The scouts are a little divided on Powell. He lacks the elite speed to be a great pass rusher, but makes up for that with an outstanding ability to shed blocks and pursue the play while riding a blocker.
I'm taking a risk here, I know, but I'm betting that his pass-rush skills will improve. He's not a flyer, it's just that the higher DE selections in the draft usually go to strong-side ends like Mario Williams and Chris Long that can create an immediate pass-rush rather than weak-side ends who improve run-stopping and gap-soundness.
Though a smaller prospect than Henderson, Florida's Ian Silberman loses nothing in terms of athleticism.
He's a great run-blocking tackle who gets to the second level smoothly and picks up blitzes well. NFL teams are always hemorrhaging good tackles, and Florida's offense will prepare him well against elite defensive ends lined up in difficult fronts.
Even if he plugs in at right versus left tackle (the difference between a pass-protecting and a run-blocking tackle, predominantly), I still see him in the top 10.
Over smaller backs like Michael Dyer and Mack Brown, I like Marcus Lattimore's size to fit the prototypical mold of an NFL running back.
He combines durability with lateral quickness and speed. In college I picture him emerging on long, bursting runs like Ohio State's Beanie Wells minus the nagging ankle injuries.
He's down to four schools. I can see him being like Jonathan Stewart in Oregon's run-heavy spread, or Larry Johnson at Penn State.
Not sure if South Carolina is his best bet with Spurrier mucking things up, but it's apparently the team to beat at this point.
And if Auburn lands Lattimore, God help those SEC defenses who have to deal with a backfield featuring him, Cameron Newton, and Michael Dyer.