National Signing Day 2019: Ranking Every 5-Star Recruit in the Class

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 1, 2019

National Signing Day 2019: Ranking Every 5-Star Recruit in the Class

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The 2019 recruiting cycle is coming to a close next week as national signing day looms on Wednesday. The early signing period had a major effect on recruits as many took full advantage of the ability to execute their letters of intent prior to the usual deadline.

    Only two of the 34 5-star recruits from 247Sports have yet to make their intentions known, meaning the blue-chipper pool has been nearly depleted. There will surely be lower-ranked prospects who emerge as stars and outperform their rankings, but these elite recruits have earned their standing to this point.

    After digging into the class and studying the players, we've compiled our own ranking of the 5-star recruits. Positional value, ability to make an early impact and perceived athletic upside all factored into these rankings.

    Whether their impact comes in 2019 or in future seasons, these 5-star prospects have done the work to separate themselves from the pack. The distinguished ranking doesn't come easily.

Nos. 34-31

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    34. Harry Miller, C, Ohio State

    Despite being chased by nearby Georgia, center Harry Miller stayed true to his early commitment to the Buckeyes. Miller's 6'3½", 305-pound frame gives him great power, but his movement ability projects even better than his strength. He has huge upside with his blend of technique, size and quickness.

              

    33. George Pickens, WR, Auburn

    A huge 6'3½" target for Auburn, George Pickens still must sign with the Tigers before concerns of his potentially flipping late are alleviated. Pickens developed a good relationship with fellow signee Bo Nix throughout offseason events, which bodes well for all parties. He's not an overly fast player for his size, but he's dominant at the catch point and should benefit from Gus Malzahn's offense.

              

    32. Clay Webb, C, Georgia

    An Alabama native and the No. 2 overall player in the state, center Clay Webb decided to attend Georgia, leaving the Crimson Tide stunned. Webb has the perfect frame for center at 6'3", 295 pounds and is ready to compete for playing time as soon as 2019. He was custom-made to fit the Bulldogs' outside zone attack.

              

    31. Bo Nix, QB, Auburn

    A creative dual-threat passer capable of hitting explosive passing plays, Bo Nix may finally be the answer Malzahn needs at the position. Nix is reminiscent of Shea Patterson with his smaller frame and ability to make plays outside the pocket. He'll have to continue developing his pocket passing to reach his full potential.

Nos. 30-26

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    30. John Emery Jr., RB, LSU

    Although LSU has built a strong pipeline of running backs over the years, there's room for 5-star freshman John Emery Jr. to make an immediate impact. Emery has ideal size and power for the Tigers at 5'11" and 206 pounds, which is attractive considering their other options on the roster are closer to rotational talents than stars. Emery's physical style and consistency impressed as he finished as the No. 3 back on our list.

             

    29. Owen Pappoe, LB, Auburn

    A smaller outside linebacker who possesses elite physical traits, Owen Pappoe fits the modern age. His range as a tackler is fantastic thanks to his speed and finishing ability. He may not earn a major role in his first year, but he can be a playmaker for Gus Malzahn in future seasons.

              

    28. Jordan Whittington, WR, Texas

    One of the more dominant athletes in the class is Jordan Whittington. He logged an incredible final high school performance to win a state title, including 377 total yards, six touchdowns, 11 tackles and both offensive and defensive MVP honors. His path to early playing time may not be easy considering the Longhorns' depth at receiver, but he appears ready-made as a returner if nothing else.

              

    27. Marcel Brooks, LB, LSU

    One of the biggest benefactors from a terrific All-American Bowl showing was LSU linebacker Marcel Brooks. Brooks drew rave reviews for his explosive movements, a difficult thing to find at the linebacker position. He'll have to add some weight to his 195-pound frame, and he'll be challenged for playing time early, but he could be one of the next great linebackers from LSU.

              

    26. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

    A quicker-than-fast receiver with good size, Garrett Wilson is expected to thrive in Ryan Day's explosive passing attack. The Buckeyes are again loaded at the position, though, so Wilson's playing time may be limited as a freshman. He should emerge as one of their primary playmakers in 2020 along with Chris Olave.

Nos. 25-21

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    25. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

    Another lightning-fast linebacker who can chase down ball-carriers from behind is Nakobe Dean. At 6'0", 220 pounds, Dean will hopefully blossom into the next Roquan Smith for the Bulldogs defense. His tackling efficiency stands out, though he'll have to prove he can win at the point of contact to become the dominant presence Smith was throughout his career.

             

    24. Travon Walker, DT, Georgia

    A 6'5", 285-pound defensive tackle who was quick to give his verbal commitment to his beloved Bulldogs last summer, Travon Walker has the talent and opportunity to make an impact in 2019. Georgia's talented defensive front must replace several players who graduated, meaning there are snaps to be taken. Walker's penetrating style can bolster this pass rush right away.

              

    23. Wanya Morris, OT, Tennessee

    The massive 6'6", 312-pound tackle named after R&B star Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men is one of the finest blockers in the nation. His length and impressive play strength will be assets whenever it's his turn to play. The Volunteers don't have a clear path for him to start right away, but Morris is the future bookend tackle for the program.

              

    22. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

    Though not as physically ready as some of his counterparts, Charles Cross has the type of athleticism and movement ability that will have NFL scouts visiting the Bulldogs often to see his progress. Cross is just 270 pounds entering Mississippi State but will undoubtedly pack on muscle to his 6'5" frame before he has to play. He could emerge as one of the best blockers in the country in a few years.

             

    21. Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

    The national champions were able to reload in their secondary with the addition of 5-star corner Andrew Booth. They'll need him sooner than later as Trayvon Mullen declared for the NFL and A.J. Terrell could do the same in 2020. Booth fits the mold of their recent corners: tall, competitive and slightly stiff but with enough speed to make up for it. He'll push for playing time as he cleans up his transitions.

Nos. 20-16

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    20. Christopher Hinton, DT, Michigan

    One of the longest-standing commitments in the country has been Christopher Hinton's allegiance to the Michigan Wolverines. Enthralled by the possibility of playing in a system that's produced quality NFL prospects, Hinton figures to be one of the faces of the next great Don Brown defense. There's a clear path to playing time for the 6'4", 280-pounder, who has a quick first step and penetrative abilities.

             

    19. Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

    The Penn State Nittany Lions have done extremely well on the recruiting trail in recent years, and 5-star linebacker Brandon Smith is yet another cornerstone piece. The 6'4", 228-pounder is ready to make an impact with ideal size, downhill speed and textbook tackling form. He and Micah Parsons will form one of the most explosive and fearsome linebacker duos in the country.

             

    18. DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

    A top defensive line prospect local to Texas A&M, DeMarvin Leal spurned other top programs to stay near home and play under Jimbo Fisher. Leal is a massive 6'4", 289 pounds, making him a potentially versatile piece depending on how the coaching staff envisions his future. Chiseling his frame could allow him to become a strong-side defensive end, or he could continue bulking up and become a terrifying interior presence. Either way, Leal has a pathway to playing time and the talent to help revamp this defense.

             

    17. Logan Brown, OT, Wisconsin

    Logan Brown is a long, athletic blocker who already knows how to use his frame to ward off defenders. His pathway to stardom with the Badgers won't take long. The 6'6", 305-pounder can continue to improve his leg churn and angles in the run game, but expect his new staff to clean up technical flaws by the time he sees the field.

               

    16. Kenyon Green, OT, Texas A&M

    Another Aggie with exciting potential, Kenyon Green edged out some other excellent tackles because of mind-blowing quickness for his size. He could play tackle or guard at 6'4½" and 322 pounds, giving him a chance to compete for playing time in 2019 if he's comfortable moving inside. The local product could become the next highly drafted Aggie lineman if his hand usage catches up to the rest of his game.

Nos. 15-11

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    15. Jerrion Ealy, RB, Undecided

    A superstar performance in the Under Armour All-America Game thrust Jerrion Ealy into the spotlight and vaulted him up our rankings. He was the best offensive playmaker in the game, showing elite quickness and home run speed. He decommitted from Ole Miss shortly afterward and is a prized free agent still on the market.

             

    14. Daxton Hill, S, Michigan

    After a bizarre flip-flop from Michigan to Alabama and back to Michigan, Daxton Hill will hope to be the next Jabrill Peppers for Don Brown's defense. Hill is an excellent athlete out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, posting a 4.30 40-yard dash, 4.13 20-yard shuttle and 43.6-inch vertical leap. His coverage skills will be tested early in his career as the Wolverines need help at both corner and safety.

             

    13. Darnell Wright, OT, Undecided

    The Volunteers may be adding another bookend tackle in the 2019 class. Landing Darnell Wright could give them a dominant blocking unit in the near future. The 6'6", 320-pound tackle had one of the strongest Under Armour All-America weeks of any prospect. He's patient in his drops and able to physically overwhelm the competition because of his size and mindset.

              

    12. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

    Spencer Rattler will have to wait his turn after Jalen Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, but he fits the mold that Lincoln Riley has found success with. He's a dynamic runner and passing threat on the move and boasts plus accuracy to all levels. He can benefit from Hurts' presence as he bulks up and learns from the veteran signal-caller.

              

    11. Zach Harrison, DE, Ohio State

    The Ohio State Buckeyes didn't produce a large class, but it was star-studded. Defensive end Zach Harrison has NFL-ready athleticism and size at 6'5", 253 pounds, boasting a 4.62 40-yard dash and nearly 38-inch vertical. Harrison is a big-time pass-rusher, making him a perfect fit across from Chase Young as Nick Bosa's replacement. He looks every bit the part of the next elite Buckeyes rusher.

Nos. 10-6

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    Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    10. Bru McCoy, WR, Texas

    After a bizarre saga that saw Bru McCoy start classes at USC and transfer to Texas within weeks, the 5-star receiver will now apply for a waiver so he can be eligible this season. Regardless of whether the waiver goes through, McCoy is a difference-making talent. The 6'2" playmaker has NFL attributes and great hands to go with his size. He should become the No. 1 receiver for the Longhorns in the coming years.

               

    9. Theo Wease, WR, Oklahoma

    A huge winner from the Under Armour All-America Game, Theo Wease was undoubtedly one of the best three players on the star-studded field. His catch radius goes beyond his 6'3" frame, and his body control for a young player was rare. Wease will thrive in the Sooners' wide-open scheme and benefit from their knack for developing route-runners at the position.

             

    8. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

    The top offensive lineman in the class is also the largest human among the 5-stars. Evan Neal is massive at 6'7½" and 360 pounds, bringing up comparisons to former Oklahoma great Orlando Brown. The Florida product uses his size and power to swallow defenders into his gigantic frame and erase them. Neal may not see the field right away due to the Tide's depth, but Nick Saban will want him to play sooner than later.

              

    7. Zacch Pickens, DL, South Carolina

    An incredible athlete at 6'5½" and 285 pounds, South Carolina's Mr. Football has a highlight reel that shows a dominant defender and ball-carrier. His ability to play both sides speaks to his natural acumen at the sport and upside as his body matures. Will Muschamp will get the most out of Pickens as a defensive lineman, which could mean All-American honors in the future.

             

    6. Trey Sanders, RB, Alabama

    A balanced back who has great power and solid speed, Trey Sanders earned the distinction of top running back on the field and through athletic testing. The Crimson Tide lost two backs to the NFL this past year, opening the opportunity for another committee approach with Sanders, Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. Sanders should take over as the dominant force in this backfield in 2020.

Nos. 5-1

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    Timothy J. Gonzalez/Associated Press

    5. Jadon Haselwood, WR, Oklahoma

    As impressive as Theo Wease is, Jadon Haselwood has a similar skill set but an even better physical profile. He has quick feet and supreme body control, allowing him to adjust to errant passes with ease. Haselwood should establish himself as a star alongside Wease as they terrorize the Big 12 for years to come.

             

    4. Antonio Alfano, DL, Alabama

    New Alabama defensive lineman Antonio Alfano already has the body and athleticism needed to be an NFL prospect at 6'4", 285 pounds and boasting a 36.6-inch vertical and 4.27 shuttle time. His quickness as an edge or interior lineman will overwhelm the majority of blockers he'll face. The Tide will integrate his talents in 2019 as they replace multiple veterans along the line.

             

    3. Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

    A premier cornerback prospect, Derek Stingley appears to be the next blue blood at LSU. Blessed with elite size (6'0½") and speed (4.3 40), Stingley plays fast and physical. He'll fit right into Greedy Williams' role as a shutdown playmaker. It wouldn't be surprising for him to start as a true freshman given his physical tools.

               

    2. Nolan Smith, DE, Georgia

    The Georgia Bulldogs landed a gem in Nolan Smith, an elite athlete as an edge defender. He doesn't have ideal size or length for the position, but his speed more than makes up for it. He'll be great as a rush linebacker because of his explosiveness. Expect Smith and other recent top Bulldogs defensive recruits to take over in 2019 as the team fully transitions to being Kirby Smart's roster.

              

    1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

    Kayvon Thibodeaux separated himself in the Under Armour All-America Game with a dominant performance. His length and play strength are better than most upperclassmen across the country. Thibodeaux's ability sets him on a path to make an instant impact while still growing into a potential All-American and top NFL draft pick.