As the NFL lockout begins, the NFL draft countdown continues. As all football fans worry if there will be a season next year, they also worry about who their favorite teams will pick in this upcoming 2011 NFL draft.
Most fans know about these prospects due to their high-performance college play, but what about when they were high school recruits?
Here's a look at four of this year's top NFL draft offensive prospects when they were in high school.
All scouting credit goes to the Rivals.com and ESPN.com scouting pages.
Writer's note: This article is Part One of a two-part series. The second edition will feature four of the top defensive prospects in the 2011 NFL draft.
Cameron Newton (Westlake High School: Atlanta, GA)
At 6'4", 232 pounds, Newton was labeled a 5-star recruit and according to Rivals was the 28th overall recruit in the class of 2007. As a senior in high school Newton not only threw for 1,000 yards but also rushed for over 1,000 yards, showing his capability as a true dual-threat quarterback. The reports on Newton in high school were "a monster of an athlete, and huge pocket passer with speed and quickness."
After he signed with Florida, Newton found himself behind Tim Tebow, and after some legal trouble at Florida, he was removed from the college and transferred over to Blinn College (junior college) in Texas, where he led them to a JUCO national championship. After that, Newton went to Auburn University, and one Heisman Trophy and national championship later, he's projected as a top 10 pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Blaine Gabbert (Parkway West: Ballwin, Missouri)
At 6'5" and 226 pounds, Gabbert was labeled a 5-star recruit according to Rivals and was described as a "pro-style" quarterback, which may be the reason why he's projected as the first quarterback taken in this year's draft over one Cam Newton.
Gabbert didn't have a stellar high school career, as he only appeared in four games as a high school senior, but once he got to Missouri, he made the most of his opportunities. In three seasons for the Tigers, he threw for a combined 6,822 yards, 40 touchdowns and only 18 interceptions. He wasn't the most highlighted player in college, but Gabbert should make a meaningful impact at the pro level.
A.J. Green (Summerville: Summerville, South Carolina)
Standing at 6'4" and weighing 184 pounds, Green was recruited as the No. 2 wide receiver in the nation of the 2008 recruiting class. With potential to be the best wide receiver to come into the league since Calvin Johnson, ESPN described Green as a "go-up-and-get-it"-type receiver.
Green was an All-State high school player each of his four high school seasons and caught for 2,640 receiving yards combined in his junior and senior seasons. He also compiled 29 touchdowns in those two seasons. Although he was suspended for the first four games of the 2010-11 college season, Green is projected as the top wide receiver in this year's draft, although some would argue for Julio Jones from Alabama.
Mark Ingram (Southwestern Academy: Flint, Michigan)
This may come as a surprise to many, but Ingram may be looked at as a college "steal." That's because during his high school career Ingram was ranked as the No. 17 running back in the country. As his recruitment with Alabama took place, Ingram rushed for 1,700 yards as a high school senior and scored 24 touchdowns.
A Heisman Trophy winner in 2009 who also won a national championship in the same season, like Cam Newton did, Ingram is certain to be taken as the first running back in the 2011 NFL draft. With 572 carries in college, Ingram piled up 3,261 yards and 42 touchdowns.
Ingram isn't known as a speed runner but is a straight power runner and can be a forceful asset to the team that drafts him. Many mock drafts have him going to the Miami Dolphins.
Not every NFL draft prospect had the easy road to where he is headed, and as these top four offensive prospects begin their professional careers, they will also look back and remember that high school is when it all started.