BEAVERTON, Ore. — Being the nation's top-ranked wide receiver and the No. 6 player overall in the 2017 class is something Detroit's Donovan Peoples-Jones appreciates. But it doesn't motivate him. Rankings never have.
When Peoples-Jones is asked about his Top 10 national ranking and his 5-star rating, he rarely speaks of the subject with fanfare. He is well aware that he's a benchmark for other wide receivers and a target for defensive backs looking to prove themselves.
He also is a firm believer in actual performance over what's seen on paper.
That's what motivates him—transforming potential energy into kinetic energy and parlaying his efforts into something greater than him.
"It's a blessing and honor to be ranked so highly, but I have to realize that rankings are just temporary measurements," Peoples-Jones said. "Rankings don't matter unless you put in the work to solidify the ranking. I've got to keep working my hardest."
That's also what's frustrating him, at least for this week. A nagging hamstring injury has sidelined Peoples-Jones from much of The Opening activities thus far. He's hoping to be ready in time for seven-on-seven competition later this week.
The Cass Tech High School standout put rankings and ratings in perspective: If he truly is the No. 1 receiver in the 2017 class, he wants to be judged on what he does daily and not on what is said about him through evaluation.
Whether or not his actions will be temporarily on hold the rest of this week is still to be determined.
Find flaws, correct flaws
Peoples-Jones may be his own worst critic—and that's not a bad thing, as he expects perfection each time he steps on the field. As a junior, he caught 39 passes for 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns. That's an insane 25.9 yards-per-catch average.
He has 23 reported offers but announced a top 10 via Twitter of Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M and USC back in January. He said on Monday that those schools are still in play to ultimately land him.
Per Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country, Peoples-Jones is planning to take an official visit to Florida.
"The process is what you make of it," he said. "I've had a lot of people who have helped me out with the process. They told me to enjoy it while it lasts and to enjoy every minute of it."
Prior to the start of his junior season, Peoples-Jones made history at The Opening last year, becoming the first underclassman to win the Nike Football Ratings Championship. His ratings score of 149.49 was produced by impressive numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.42 seconds), the 20-yard shuttle (4.0 seconds), the power ball toss (42.4 feet) and the vertical jump (43.5 inches).
Even after earning his second consecutive invitation to The Opening in May, Peoples-Jones always has found ways to improve his game. And while it's his highlights that garner the majority of the attention, it's the flaws—and the heavy desire to correct them—that make him the elite athlete.
Correcting the errors from last year—or last month, or even last week—and then seeing the results from the tweaking holds more weight than any ranking to Peoples-Jones as a football player. Making plays to put his team in a position to win is something he enjoys doing.
Damon Griffin, one of the wide receivers coaches at The Opening, has watched the 6'2", 192-pound receiver emerge into a player who isn't afraid of growth. He remembers Peoples-Jones at last year's The Opening and sees a definite change in the athlete.
"He's a proven fact that you need technique. That was one of the reasons why I was excited to see him in comparison to last year," said Griffin, a two-time all-Pac 12 wide receiver selection at Oregon who played college ball from 1994-98 and spent four years in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and St. Louis Rams.
"You could tell there was some fear then, and everything was kind of big for him, especially the complex things going on that didn't allow him to be the type of player he can be. He had all the athletic tools, but he needed to be a lot more technically sound."
Griffin has never been one to mix words, particularly with athletes who he sees potential in. Peoples-Jones took the constructive criticism to heart and made himself one of the most respected, coveted recruits in the 2017 class. He is the top-ranked receiver nationally over studs like Joseph Lewis, Tyjon Lindsey, Trevon Grimes and Tennessee commit Tee Higgins.
Additionally, Peoples-Jones plays with more confidence. He describes himself in three words.
"Strong, big, athletic," he said. And when asked if there was a defensive back who could keep him in check, he simply answered, "No, sir, I don't think so."
Wins off the football field
Peoples-Jones receives plenty of love on the field, but it recently has been his off-the-field moves that've garnered the most attention. In April, shortly after the NCAA voted to ban satellite camps, he took to social media to voice his opinion on his displeasure with the decision. He stressed that he was a product of satellite camps and spoke highly of Sound Mind Sound Body, a camp he first began attending in middle school.
"I can't stress enough how much this camp has developed on and off the field," Peoples-Jones said in the message via Twitter. "This camp has taught me very essential life lessons that have helped solidify my foundation today."
Peoples-Jones' mother, Rozlyn Peoples, did her part in the manner by setting up an online petition to fight the NCAA's decision. The petition was just south of 15,000 supporters.
The NCAA's decision was on April 7. Three weeks later, the NCAA Board of Governors voted to overturn the decision on satellite camps. Peoples-Jones knows that it wasn't just his actions that forced the veto, but he also knows that his words didn't hurt the cause.
“We've taught a different discipline and work ethic and honor and humbleness, and it's done well for his character," his mother told 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong in October 2015.
Academics and a Christian-based faith also are a major part of his character. Peoples-Jones is an A student in the classroom, and he has an interest in the medical field upon graduating. As for his religious background, Peoples-Jones displayed what he called "God's work" on June 18.
"I'd just reached 10,000 followers [on Twitter], and I was just thinking of a way to spread positivity down my timeline," he said. "What better way to spread positivity than to have people tweet out Bible verses for a follow-back?"
He announced his proposition via Twitter, and the request received several responses. He even picked up a few new verses to use for motivation and spiritual gain.
"It was all about spreading the word," he said.
His favorite Bible verse is Luke 13:24, which can be paraphrased as living a good, prosperous life in the presence of Jesus Christ, as many will attempt to live and not be granted spiritual happiness.
Peoples-Jones is constantly focused on working to turn as many wrongs into rights as possible, and those words are perfect examples of the testimony he walks. Once he chooses a college to attend, that football program will see the kind of individual he is—as a wide receiver and as a person.
Currently, Michigan is the team to beat in Peoples-Jones' recruiting, according to prognosticators around the country. The Wolverines are trending in his 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions.
And what is Peoples-Jones looking for in a winning program?
"No. 1, it's about academics," he said. "I want to go to a school with a good medical program and study sports medicine. No. 2, I want to play with the best, whether that means the best coaches or the best players. No. 3, I want to be in a comfortable environment."
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles