Pro-Player Comparisons for the Top 10 2020 Recruits

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2019

Pro-Player Comparisons for the Top 10 2020 Recruits

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    Credit: Andrew Ivins, 247Sports

    A big part of college football recruiting is dreaming on what kind of player a teenage standout can one day become during his time on campus.

    We're going to take it one step further.

    Ahead, we've put together pro-player comparisons for each of the top 10 prospects in the 2020 recruiting class, according to the composite rankings at 247Sports.

    Which former Heisman Trophy winner did we compare to Alabama recruit Bryce Young? Which NFL standout reminds us of Ohio State-bound wide receiver Julian Fleming? What All-Pro defensive lineman could No. 1 recruit Bryce Bresee turn into?

    Let's get to it.

10. ATH Darnell Washington

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    Credit: Blair Angulo, 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'7½", 261 lbs

    School: Desert Pines HS (Las Vegas, NV)

    Status: Uncommitted

    Pro Comparison: Rob Gronkowski

    A legitimate prospect at defensive end as well, Darnell Washington is expected to line up at tight end when he begins his collegiate career.

    He has the size and high-point ability to be a dynamic red-zone target as well as the speed to run past linebackers over the middle of the field.

    Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer did a feature on him in May and shined some light on just how special he could be.

    "When college coaches have come in, they've told me this is the best-looking high school football player they've ever seen," Desert Pines head coach Tico Rodriguez told Kramer. "Physically, they believe he's an NBA player that happens to love and play football."

    Rob Gronkowski had a similarly massive 6'6", 268-pound frame, and he used it to become the best tight end in football for several years. Washington has that kind of upside.

9. TE Arik Gilbert

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    Credit: Andrew Ivins, 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 253 lbs

    School: Marietta HS (Marietta, GA)

    Status: Committed to LSU

    Pro Comparison: O.J. Howard

    Barton Simmons of 247Sports called Arik Gilbert the "best tight end prospect we've seen since O.J. Howard," and it's a fair comparison given his physical profile and offensive ability.

    With 4.73 speed, a 34.6-inch vertical and good hands, Gilbert is a dynamic athlete for someone his size, and he's a good enough route-runner to also line up as a wide receiver.

    Howard was a 5-star recruit and the No. 19 player in the 2013 recruiting class when he came to Alabama, and while he was a bit smaller (221 lbs) and faster (4.42) coming out of high school than Gilbert is, he now plays at 251 pounds in the NFL.

    Unlike Howard, who filled more of a supporting role as a freshman and sophomore, Gilbert figures to be an immediate contributor at LSU.

    Still, in terms of what to expect both physically and in usage, the present day version of Howard is a good blueprint for what Gilbert can be in 2020.

8. CB Kelee Ringo

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 205 lbs

    School: Saguaro HS (Scottsdale, AZ)

    Status: Uncommitted

    Pro Comparison: Stephon Gilmore

    Kelee Ringo ripped off a 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in June, and he's more than just a burner.

    There's still plenty of physical projection remaining in his lanky frame, and he already has the speed to stick with quick-twitch receivers and the size to cover bigger guys outside.

    New England Patriots standout Stephon Gilmore has a similar frame (6'1", 202 lbs), and one of his biggest strengths coming out of South Carolina was his straight-line speed.

    Gilmore was considerably smaller when he first arrived on campus, weighing in at 189 pounds as a 4-star recruit who checked in as the No. 34 prospect in the 2009 recruiting class.

    The Georgia Bulldogs are the heavy favorites to land the unsigned Ringo, and he has a chance to be an immediate starter, just like Gilmore was with the Gamecocks.

7. OT Paris Johnson Jr.

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'7", 290 lbs

    School: Princeton HS (Cincinnati, OH)

    Status: Committed to Ohio State

    Pro Comparison: Andrew Whitworth

    Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports is among the evaluators who have compared Paris Johnson Jr. to four-time Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth during the recruiting cycle, and it's an apt connection.

    An imposing figure on the left side of the offensive line with a 6'7", 290-pound frame, Johnson was ranked outside the top 100 prospects in the 2020 class in February 2018 before adding a few inches and tacking on some weight during his prep career.

    He will still need to add more strength to match the 6'7", 330-pound frame of Whitworth, who is protecting Jared Goff's blindside for the Los Angeles Rams in his 14th NFL season, but that's a reasonable future ceiling.

    With good footwork and the edge needed to succeed in the trenches, Johnson has the potential to develop into a franchise left tackle, and he could be one of the first players off the board in the 2023 NFL draft if all goes according to plan.

6. QB Bryce Young

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    Credit: Patrick Yew, 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 183 lbs

    School: Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, CA)

    Status: Committed to Alabama

    Pro Comparison: Kyler Murray

    The comparisons to Russell Wilson are inevitable for an undersized, dual-threat quarterback.

    However, it's easy to forget that Wilson was just a 3-star recruit who ranked as the No. 1,102 player in the 2007 recruiting class.

    On the other hand, the similarly undersized Kyler Murray was a 5-star recruit and one of the most dynamic players in high school football history.

    Young belongs in that conversation as well after starring at powerhouse Mater Dei High School where he threw for 4,528 yards and 58 touchdowns during his senior season while adding another 357 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

    Strong pocket presence and a high football IQ should help Young make a smooth transition to the collegiate level, where he will be facing lofty expectations as the presumptive future signal-caller for the Crimson Tide.

5. DE Jordan Burch

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    Credit: Hale McGranahan, 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 275 lbs

    School: Hammond School (Columbia, SC)

    Status: Uncommitted

    Pro Comparison: Joey Bosa

    A multi-sport standout who could also play basketball at the college level, Jordan Burch moves extremely well for a 275-pounder.

    Similar to former Ohio State standout Joey Bosa, he has excellent hands and supreme athleticism, a great first step and the ability to wreak havoc off the edge.

    He also figures to be a major factor in the run game, which is where Bosa excelled most during his time with the Buckeyes, racking up 51 tackles for loss during his three years on campus.

    Both players were close to finished products when they graduated the high school ranks, and there's a good chance Burch will make an impact right out of the gates, just like Bosa did when he tallied 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a freshman.

    While Clemson was once viewed as the favorites to sign him, there has been just one crystal ball prediction at 247Sports since June, and it went to the Georgia Bulldogs on Dec. 14.

4. ILB Justin Flowe

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    Credit: Gary Breedlove, 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 225 lbs

    School: Upland HS (Upland, CA)

    Status: Uncommitted

    Pro Comparison: Manti Te'o

    One of the best inside linebacker prospects in recent memory, Justin Flowe has the strength and relentless motor to be the heart of a team's defense.

    Former Notre Dame star Manti Te'o entered the college ranks with an identical 6'2", 225-pound frame and a similar profile as a hard-hitting run stuffer with the lateral speed to range from sideline to sideline.

    Since 247Sports began grading football recruits in 2000, just six inside linebackers rank among the top 100 prospects in site history, and both Flowe (t-No. 40) and Te'o (t-No. 88) are on that list.

    It's a good comparison in terms of initial hype and freshman profile, though Flowe might have a higher ceiling in terms of NFL potential.

    Te'o was a second-round pick after four years with the Fighting Irish and has been more of a role player at the NFL level, starting 47 games in seven seasons with the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints.

3. DE Myles Murphy

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 260 lbs

    School: Hillgrove HS (Powder Springs, GA)

    Status: Committed to Clemson

    Pro Comparison: Leonard Williams

    Leonard Williams came to USC as a 4-star recruit and the No. 51 player in the 2012 recruiting class.

    At the time, he was a 6'5", 265-pound strong-side defensive end, though it was initially unclear whether he would stay on the edge or move inside as a he grew into his body.

    He now tips the scales at 302 pounds and ranks as one of the better 3-4 defensive linemen in the NFL.

    Myles Murphy could follow a similar path once he begins his career at Clemson.

    Barton Simmons of 247Sports wrote of Murphy: "Raw as an edge pass-rusher and is more of a linear athlete that projects best as a 3-4 defensive end but could play in any system."

    All the pieces are there for him to develop into an impact player, and it's entirely possible that he could eclipse Williams in ultimate ceiling.

2. WR Julian Fleming

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    Credit: Andrew Ivins, 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 199 lbs

    School: Southern Columbia HS (Catawissa, PA)

    Status: Committed to Ohio State

    Pro Comparison: Michael Thomas

    It's always fun to compare an incoming recruit to a former great who wore the same college uniform.

    Michael Thomas was a two-year starter at Ohio State before going No. 47 overall in the 2016 NFL draft, hauling in 110 passes for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons.

    He has since emerged as one of the best receivers in football and leads the NFL in receptions (121) and receiving yards (1,424) in his fourth season with the New Orleans Saints.

    That's a lofty comparison for Julian Fleming, but it's one he's capable of delivering on.

    Thomas was a bit bigger coming out of high school at 6'4" and 200 pounds, and he was not nearly as touted as a 3-star recruit, but there are plenty of similarities in their respective games.

    Both players possesses elite ball skills and the ability to make tough catches in traffic, and Fleming has the football acumen to develop into a similarly crisp route-runner.

    While Thomas is a best-case scenario, there's no question Fleming will arrive on campus with that type of upside.

1. DT Bryan Bresee

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 290 lbs

    School: Damascus HS (Damascus, MD)

    Status: Committed to Clemson

    Pro Comparison: J.J. Watt

    More than a few people have labeled Bryan Bresee as the "next J.J. Watt" during his time at Damascus High School.

    "He models his game after J.J. Watt, as do, like, 96 percent of high school defensive linemen. But he’s the closest thing you’ll find to the real thing in a high school setting," wrote Alex Kirshner of SB Nation.

    With a massive 6'5", 290-pound frame that could be molded into a defensive tackle or sculpted into an edge rusher, Bresee checks all the boxes necessary to be an elite defensive lineman.

    Aside from their obvious physical similarities, Bresee and Watt also share a similar high school background. Bresee did not face elite competition at his Maryland high school, and the same was true of Watt during his time at Pewaukee High School in Wisconsin.

    Watt obviously began his college career with more to prove as a 2-star recruit, but Bresee will have some questions to answer as well when it comes to play every down against FBS talent.

    A few years from now, if the Watt comparisons are still appropriate, Bresee could be in the mix to go No. 1 overall in the 2023 draft.


    All rankings referenced in the article refer to the 247Sports composite rankings.