National Signing Day 2011: A Look Back at 10 Years of the "Rivals 100"

Russell ArchContributor IJanuary 29, 2011

National Signing Day 2011: A Look Back at 10 Years of the "Rivals 100"

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    With 2011 National Signing Day upon us, every college football fan is salivating over the rankings and "stars" for the recruits who commit to their favorite schools.  But just how trustworthy are these rankings?

    For the past 10 years, Rivals.com has been issuing the "The Rivals 100" which assigns value, in order, to the 100 best high school players in the nation.

    With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at their "top five" from each of the past 10 seasons to see who panned out, who flopped and who outperformed their assigned ranking.

    Let's start by going all the way back to 2002.

2002: The West Coast Rules!

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    In 2002, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Vince Young (QB), Houston, Texas: 6'5", 195 pounds (committed to Texas)

    2. Haloti Ngata (DT), Salt Lake City, Utah: 6'5", 310 pounds (committed to Oregon)

    3. Lorenzo Booker (RB), Ventura, CA: 5'11", 178 pounds (committed to Florida State)

    4. Ben Olson (QB), Thousand Oaks, CA: 6'5", 205 pounds (committed to BYU)

    5. Reggie McNeal (ATH), Lufkin, Texas: 6'2", 210 pounds (committed to Texas A&M)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    Overall, not too bad.  It's clear that Vince Young had a stellar college career, and Haloti Ngata has been a force in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens, but after that it gets a bit murky.

    Lorenzo Booker never gained a 1,000 yards in any of his three seasons at Florida State, and has since bounced around to various teams the NFL.

    Ben Olson signed with BYU and redshirted before leaving to take his two-year Mormon mission.  When he returned, he decided to sign with UCLA, and spent the next three seasons either injured, or playing subpar at the QB position.  He went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft - and hasn't been seen since.

    Reggie McNeal played four years at QB for Texas A&M, but never really excelled like a fifth overall prospect should.  He impressed at the 2006 NFL Combine and was picked in the sixth round by the Cincinnati Bengals, although he logged only one stat (an eight-yard run) in the NFL.  He currently plays in the Canadian Football League.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    28. Devin Hester (ATH): Chicago's "Do Everything" Man!

    37. Maurice Clarett (RB): One great season...followed by three to five in the big house.

    99. Kyle Williams (DT): Starting to come on in Buffalo.  Pro Bowl (2011) and 2nd Team All-Pro in 2010.

2003: It's Florida and California Baby!

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    In 2003, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Ernie Sims (LB), Tallahassee, FL: 6'0", 220 pounds (committed to Florida State)

    2. Reggie Bush (RB), San Diego, CA: 6'0", 180 pounds (committed to USC)

    3. Whitney Lewis (ATH), Ventura, CA: 6'1", 215 pounds (committed to USC)

    4. Andre Caldwell (WR), Tampa, FL: 6'2", 180 pounds (committed to Florida)

    5. Kyle Wright (QB), Danville, CA: 6'4", 200 pounds (committed to Miami FL)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    Decent, but not great.  Reggie Bush is the unquestioned "star" of this group.  Although he apparently went "pro" a few years early.

    Ernie Sims performed well in his three years at Florida State, but didn't dominate like some hoped he would.  He was drafted ninth overall to the Detroit Lions, but has since been traded to Philadelphia for a fifth round pick. Ouch.

    Whitney Lewis played sparingly in his one season at USC, then transferred to Northern Iowa...where all blue-chippers go?  He hasn't been seen since.

    Andre Caldwell played four seasons at Florida, and was eventually selected in the third round by the Cincinnatti Bengals.  His best NFL season was in 2009, when he caught 51 balls and three TD's.

    Kyle Wright had a decidedly mediocre career at Miami, FL and finished with 38 career TD's and 31 INT's.  He then went undrafted by the NFL in 2008, and eventually ended up in San Francisco, where he never played.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    10. Greg Olsen (TE): He's good for 50 catches a season in Chicago. That counts for something, right?

    30. Steve Smith (WR): The Giants one, not the Carolina one.  Still pretty good though.

    40. Antonio Cromartie (CB): Who cares if he can't remember his kid's names? He can cover!

    48. Vernon Davis (TE): The best thing to happen to the 49ers since...well, a LONG TIME!

    54. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB): Interesting fact: Added the "Jones" and the hyphen while in college.

    79. JaMarcus Russell (QB): Wow, 79th overall as a high school prospect, but #1 overall in the NFL Draft?  Hey, maybe these "Rival's" guys DO know something?!

2004: We're All Over the Map!

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    In 2004, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Adrian Peterson (RB), Palestine, TX: 6'2", 210 pounds (committed to Oklahoma)

    2. Ted Ginn, Jr. (DB), Cleveland, OH: 6'0", 170 pounds (committed to Ohio State)

    3. Early Doucet (WR), St. Martinville, LA: 6'1", 207 pounds (committed to LSU)

    4. Rhett Bomar (QB), Grand Prarie, TX: 6'4", 205 pounds (committed to Oklahoma)

    5. Keith Rivers (LB), Lake Mary, FL: 6'3", 215 pounds (committed to USC)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    Pretty well, if I might say so.  They're all in the NFL, with some barely hanging on though.  Adrian Peterson is the unquestioned star of the group and fits his No. 1 billing.

    Ted Ginn Jr. had a pretty stellar college career that was helped by his prowess as a return man.  He was drafted ninth overall to Miami, but was traded for a fifth round draft pick in 2010.  He now languishes with all the other players in San Francisco.

    Early Doucet had a good college career at LSU, and was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft.  He now averages a little less than 20 catches per season for the Arizona Cardinals.

    Rhett Bomar is known as the guy who started for Oklahoma BEFORE Sam Bradford.  He also had to leave the Sooners due to a scandal, and ended the 2010 NFL season as a third-stringer in Minnesota.

    Keith Rivers had a good career at USC, and was selected ninth overall by Cincinnati.  He's started 13 games each of the last two seasons, and averages about 74 tackles per season.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    13. Chad Henne (QB): He's was the starter for the Miami Dolphins in 2010... but also has 27 career TD's to 33 INT's.  That sounds about right.

    28. Marshawn Lynch (RB): Remember that run he had for the Seahawks a couple weeks ago?  No?

    33. Zach Miller (TE): One of the few bright spots (not on Al Davis' forehead) for the Raiders.

    37. Calvin Johnson (WR): The guy is solid, and will never touch a football to the ground again...ever!

2005: It's the Northeast's Turn To Shine!

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    In 2005, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Derrick Williams (ATH), Greenbelt, MD: 6'0", 189 pounds (committed to Penn State)

    2. Patrick Turner (WR), Nashville, TN: 6'5", 210 pounds (committed to USC)

    3. Eugene Monroe (OL), Plainfield, NJ: 6'6", 319 pounds (committed to Virginia)

    4. Melvin Alaeze (DE), Randallstown, MD: 6'2", 277 pounds (committed to Maryland)

    5. Rey Maualuga (LB), Eureka, CA: 6'2", 253 pounds (committed to USC)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    When your best player in the top five is a offensive lineman...it's not that good.  Let's make this quick:

    Derrick Williams played almost every position at Penn State. As an NFL WR, he has nine career catches.

    Patrick Turner had a so-so career at USC, went 87th in the 2009 NFL Draft, and has two career catches.

    Eugene Monroe made the 2008 All-ACC Team, went 8th overall to Jacksonville, and has started 28 of his 30 NFL games.

    Melvin Alaeze should have played football for Maryland. Instead he got convicted of attempted murder and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

    Rey Maualuga played for USC and was a three-time Pac-10 First Teamer.  He went 38th overall to the Bengals and has 138 tackles over his two seasons in the NFL.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    7. Mark Sanchez (QB): This dude is the BEST at getting one game away from the Super Bowl!

    18. DeSean Jackson (WR): I hear there's still some Giants' special teamers looking for this guy.

    23. Darren McFadden (RB): 4,500 yards in college?!  Enough said.

    48. Michael Oher (OL): His life story gave Sandra Bullock an Oscar she didn't deserve!

    51. Ndamukong Suh (DL): This DL should have won the Heisman...that's how good he is.

    53. Brian Cushing (LB): He shares the Rookie of the Year award with steroids, but is still a great NFL LB.

    90. Rashard Mendenhall (RB): Screw Big Ben...this is the guy who took the Steelers to the Super Bowl XLV.

2006: Now It's All East Coast!

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    In 2006, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Percy Harvin (WR), Virginia Beach, VA: 6'1", 188 pounds (committed to Florida)

    2. Andre Smith (OL), Birmingham, AL: 6'4", 325 pounds (committed to Alabama)

    3. Chris Wells (RB), Akron, OH: 6'1", 228 pounds (committed to Ohio State)

    4. Gerald McCoy (DT), Oklahoma City, OK: 6'4", 305 pounds (committed to Oklahoma)

    5. Sergio Kindle (LB), Dallas, TX: 6'4", 225 pounds (committed to Texas)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    Across the board, this is the best group yet.

    Percy Harvin played on two BCS National Championship Teams (2007, 2009) and was the Offensive Rookie of the Year for the Minnesota Vikings (22nd overall pick).  The only things that can slow him down are Brett Favre's interceptions and migraine headaches.

    Andre Smith was only the fourth freshman to ever start on the offensive line at Alabama, and won just about every award you can in 2008.  And even though he came into the NFL Combine out of shape, he was still selected sixth overall.  His short NFL career has been plagued with injuries, but he still has time to turn it around.

    Chris Wells had two dominating years at Ohio State, and gained 1,600+ yards as a junior.  He was drafted 31st overall by the Arizona Cardinals, and had a better rookie season than in 2010.

    Gerald McCoy was a two-time First Team All-American at Oklahoma, and was the third overall pick in 2010 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he started all 13 of his games last season.

    Sergio Kindle is the only second round NFL pick of this bunch (43rd overall) after his great career at Texas.  Unfortunately, he fell down a flight of stairs at his home in July 2010, and missed his entire rookie season because of it.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    6. Matthew Stafford (QB): He's known more for being the first overall pick, and that's not good.

    22. Tim Tebow (QB): He's known more for his college career and immense fan support in Denver.  Good?

    68. Jake Locker (QB): He's known more for Todd McShay being in love with his "talent."

    92. Josh Freeman (QB): And HERE'S the great quarterback of the bunch.

2007: They're All from the Southern US!

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    In 2007, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Jimmy Clausen (QB), Westlake Village, CA: 6'3", 200 pounds (committed to Notre Dame)

    2. Joe McKnight (RB), River Ridge, LA: 6'1", 193 pounds (committed to USC)

    3. Eric Berry (S), Fairburn, GA: 5'11", 194 pounds (committed to Tennessee)

    4. Ryan Mallett (QB), Texarkana, TX: 6'6", 235 pounds (committed to Michigan)

    5. Carlos Dunlap (DE), North Charleston, SC: 6'7", 260 pounds (committed to Florida)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    Again, pretty good.  However, they lose points for having Jimmy Clausen No. 1.

    It took Clausen three years at Notre Dame to have the breakout season everyone expected from him.  He went in the second round to Carolina, and proceeded to play like an undrafted free agent.

    Joe McKnight is another USC running back who had HUGE expectations, and ended up playing pretty good football in college.  He shared rushing duties with the Trojans and only went over 1,000 yards once because of it.  A fourth round selection of the New York Jets, he sat most of his rookie season in 2010.

    Eric Berry is the star of this group.  The guy started all three seasons for the Volunteers, and during his first two seasons (when teams foolishly threw the ball in his area) he intercepted 12 balls.  He went fifth overall to Kansas City and is a Pro Bowl player in his first season.  Enough said.

    Ryan Mallett just finished his college career in Arkansas, after transferring from Michigan.  He's got the size, the arm and all the other intangibles one needs as a QB.  But is he a "winner"?  Who knows?

    Carlos Dunlap had a solid three seasons at Florida, and was the 54th overall pick in the NFL Draft last year.  The dude had 9.5 sacks without starting an NFL game this season for Cincinnati.  Yet another reason why a coaching change is needed for the Bengals.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    28. Cam Newton (QB): He'll be drafted in a few months, but he's already the best pro player out of the bunch.

    35. Rolando McClain (LB): Eighth overall pick in 2010 for the Raiders.  Eighty-five tackles as a rookie.

    54. Dez Bryant (WR): This guy could be one of the best wide receivers ever when it's all said and done.

2008: They're All East of the Mississippi!

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    In 2008, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Terrelle Pryor (QB), Jeannette, PA: 6'6", 235 pounds (committed to Ohio State)

    2. DaQuan Bowers (DE), Bamberg, SC: 6'4", 267 pounds (committed to Clemson)

    3. Mike Adams (OL), Dublin, OH: 6'7", 308 pounds (committed to Ohio State)

    4. Julio Jones (WR), Foley, AL: 6'4", 215 pounds (committed to Alabama)

    5. Patrick Peterson (DB), Pompano Beach, FL: 6'1", 193 pounds (committed to LSU)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    Considering that the three guys who declared for the draft (DaQuan Bowers, Patrick Peterson and Julio Jones) are considered top 10 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, I'd say they did pretty well.

    Add in the fact that the other two (Terrelle Pryor and Mike Adams) BOTH got caught up in the illegal tattoo scandal at Ohio State, and therefore aren't going pro - and we potentially could have had four 1st rounders in this group.

    The odd part?  Pryor might have the bleakest NFL future out of all these guys.  He still hasn't shown the ability to be a consistent passer, and will have a harder time when those passing "windows" close at the next level.  My guess is that we're looking at a Marcedes Lewis-type tight end when all is said and done.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    9. A.J. Green (WR): He may get drafted ahead of Julio Jones, and can then sell as many jerseys as he wants.

    14. Blaine Gabbert (QB): Will he be the first QB taken?

    68. Andrew Luck (QB): Would have been No. 1 overall in 2011, and will now play without Harbaugh in Stanford.

2009: We're Spread Across the Country Yet Again!

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    In 2009, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Bryce Brown (RB), Wichita, KS: 6'0", 215 pounds (committed to Tennessee)

    2. Reuben Randle (WR), Bastrop, LA: 6'3", 195 pounds (committed to LSU)

    3. D.J. Fluker (OL), Foley, AL:6'7", 350 pounds (committed to Alabama)

    4. Sheldon Richardson (DT), St. Louis, MO: 6'4", 292 pounds (committed to Missouri)

    5. Matt Barkley (QB), Santa Ana, CA: 6'2", 226 pounds (committed to USC)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    Not so great.  Bryce Brown played sparingly as a freshman at Tennessee, then transferred to Kansas State and sat out 2010.

    Reuben Randle had 33 catches and 544 yards in 2010, but only three TD's.  Although he did have his biggest game against Alabama.

    D.J. Fluker came into Alabama and his third-string status forced a redshirt in 2009.  He also missed several games in 2010 due to injuries.  Hopefully he can put together a complete season in 2011.

    Sheldon Richardson has committed so many times to the Missouri Tigers, he feels like three different players by now.  He signed as a high school prospect, then didn't qualify.  Then promised to return after Junior College, only to say he'd sign with USC...and now he's back at Missouri.  Hopefully he'll play Division I ball soon.

    Matt Barkley is clearly the class of this group.  His two seasons at USC have seen two different head coaches, but still he shows the abilities that made him the No. 5 prospect.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    6. Trent Richardson (RB): Alabama's "hammer" will be a pro soon, but not too soon.

    9. Vontaze Burfict (LB): If he can control himself, he'll be one of the best at his position.

    41. Cliff Harris (DB): All-American punt returner, and almost the only player to pick Andrew Luck and Cam Newton twice in one game.

    99. Alshon Jeffrey (WR): Yet another outstanding SEC wide receiver.

2010: Three Guys from Up North!

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    In 2010, the top five in the Rivals 100 were:

    1. Ronald Powell (DE), Moreno Valley, CA: 6'4", 230 pounds (committed to Florida)

    2. Seantrel Henderson (OL), Saint Paul, MN: 6'8", 301 pounds (committed to Miami, FL)

    3. Kyle Prater (WR), Hillside, IL: 6'5", 205 pounds (committed to USC)

    4. Sharrif Floyd (DT), Philadelphia, PA: 6'3", 310 pounds (committed to Florida)

    5. Keenan Allen (DB), Greensboro, NC: 6'3", 195 pounds (committed to California)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    With only one year in a college football, this turns into a guessing game...but here goes:

    Both Ronald Powell and Sharrif Floyd saw action in all of Florida's games, albeit in backup roles.  They should see more action in 2011 with a few losses for the Gators up front.

    Seantrel Henderson originally said he would go to USC, but thought better of it when the stench of Lane Kiffin (and NCAA sanctions) wafted over the Southland.  He looks like the real deal though.  Allowing just two sacks, and being named Freshman All-American, will do that.

    Keenan Allen is another who didn't disappoint in his freshman season.  He caught 46 balls, rushed for 152 yards (in 18 carries) and even threw a TD pass.

    Kyle Prater is the lone "disappointment" in that he redshirted in 2010 due to injuries.  Along the way, he also got overshadowed by another freshman wide receiver (Robert Woods) for the Trojans.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    6. Robert Woods (WR): He should be switched with Prater as he played (and dominated) as a freshman.

    10. Marcus Lattimore (RB): Should have been top five, as his impact was felt immediately for the Gamecocks.

    11. Michael Dyer (RB): This kid looked like a senior in Auburn's National Championship win.

2011: Only One from the Deep South?

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    In 2011, the top five in the Rivals 100 are:

    1. Jadeveon Clowney (DE), Rock Hill, SC: 6'6", 247 pounds (uncommitted)

    2. Curtis Grant (LB), Richmond, VA: 6'3", 222 pounds (uncommitted)

    3. George Farmer (WR), Gardena, CA: 6'2", 192 pounds (committed to USC)

    4. Cyrus Kouandjio (OL), Hyattsville, MD: 6'6", 322 pounds (uncommitted)

    5. De'Anthony Thomas (ATH), Los Angeles, CA: 5'9", 160 pounds (committed to USC)

     

    So How'd They Do?

    This one's the biggest reach, in that these kids are eight months from seeing the field in college.  But I'll take a shot.

    First off, I know everyone is going nuts about Clowney's athleticism for his size.  But on a totally different note, I've read that he may milk his decision for a few weeks after Signing Day, which brings back memories of Bryce Brown and Terrelle Pryor.  He doesn't need any more time; he simply wants to prolong the spotlight, which doesn't show me that this kid may have more on his mind than simply getting to work.

    Curtis Grant should just pull the trigger for Ohio State.  These coaches know what they're doing, and getting the top tackler from the Army All-American game is a huge start.

    George Farmer is a confusing one to me.  The kid has all the abilities, but I hate when scouts make the observation that he has the tendency to "take plays off."  USC has too many stellar athletes at WR, and a smart QB will start avoiding a guy he can't count on.

    Cyrus Kuoandijo will be tested wherever he chooses to play college ball, and most are predicting Alabama.  His competition has been less than stellar in high school, and he's about to face top competition week after week.  I still think he'll flourish under Nick Saban, but it's not a sure thing by any stretch.

    De'Anthony Thomas would have been my pick for No. 1 on this board, and given the fact he's listed at 160 pounds, that's saying something.  His coverage abilities in the Army All-American Game were unbelievable, and nothing short of a foolish switch to offense (he's flirted the idea of playing running back) can stop him.

     

    Other Big Names in the 100?

    Now it's time for my predictions for standouts in this class:

    11. James Wilder Jr. (RB): Never bet against a kid who attacks the weight room like this guy does.  However, this comes with two conditions: No. 1. A move to defense where he can put on weight and be a dominating LB, and No. 2. It happening soon, so he doesn't flip flop like a lot of superior athletes can at the next level.

    26. Colt Lyerla (ATH): The sky is the limit for this kid. At 6'5" and 225, this kid has room to grow and could become a dominating edge rusher in college.  However, just like Wilder, some are suggesting a move to offense, which would minimize his ability to make a difference on each and every play.

    32. Jeff Driskel (QB): I loved what I saw from this kid in the Under Armor game.  Although he can make yards with his legs, he used them predominantly to keep plays alive with his eyes downfield on his receivers.

    41. Michael Bennett (DT): Yet another defensive tackle for Ohio State to groom, and then unleash on opposing backfields.

    80. Delvon Simmons (DT): This guy was an animal at the Army AA game, and only goes 265 (at 6'5").  If he puts 20+ pounds on that frame, and keeps his athleticism, watch out.

    And just for the heck of it, one kid (who's outside the Top 100) that I think we'll all be talking about in a few years:

    193. Michael Eubank (QB): I simply don't understand why there wasn't more hype around this kid.  He dominated at a top school in Southern California (Corona Centennial) as a senior.  He looked amazing at the NUC All World Gridiron Classic Game, and at 6'5" and 230 pounds, he's the spitting image of Cam Newton, with possibly a better arm to boot!  Here's video from his senior season.

Lists Are Great...But Players Still Have To Play

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    It's interesting to note some of the players who never made this "exclusive" Top 100 list, but still went on to have amazing careers in college and the pros.

    Heisman winner Mark Ingram was No. 189 in 2008.

    Heisman winner Sam Bradford was unranked (and just a 3-star) in 2005.

    Heisman winner Troy Smith was unranked (and a 4-star) in 2002.

    No. 1 overall draft pick Jake Long was unranked in 2003.

    All-Pro Darrelle Revis was unranked in 2004.

    All-Pro RB Arian Foster was unranked (and just a 3-star) in 2004.

    And All-Pro Clay Matthews wasn't even in the Rivals database in 2004...and walked-on at USC.

    It just goes to show that just because someone awards you "stars" and a ranking as a teenager, it doesn't mean anything once you step on the field again.  There's still work to be done, day after day, to maintain and improve as an athlete.