The recruiting process has become so accelerated over the past five years that if a coaching staff isn't currently evaluating the next class as it recruits the current class, it will be left behind in today's college football world. For that reason, we introduced our first-ever underclassmen ESPN Junior 300 for the 2015 class last July. The rankings were based primarily off sophomore film evaluation and that ranking was updated throughout this past year’s recruiting cycle while evaluating close to 1,000 underclassmen prospects.
As part of the underclassmen evaluation process, we produced more generalized prospect reports with strengths, areas of improvement and a bottom line. The reason was to lay a more general foundation as these prospects will be re-evaluated, broadened out and morphed into our upperclassmen format after the prospects' junior season, when we have more extensive video and resources to evaluate. There is more improvement and change in a prospect's ability level and production between his sophomore and junior seasons than between his junior and senior seasons. The early film evaluations are on 15-year-old prospects, which means there is a ton of physical, mental and competitive development to come.
RecruitingNation's scouts will now spend the next several months evaluating the 2015 class as upperclassmen based off extensive junior game and premium cut-ups video accessed through HUDL. These upperclassmen evaluations are a more strategic player evaluation based on a set of critical factors and traits specific to a certain position in a "template" format. This method also will allow us to mirror our college-to-NFL player evaluations done by Todd McShay and his staff so that when it comes time for a player to be draft-eligible, you will be able to access how we evaluated a particular player coming out of high school and how he is being evaluated coming out of college with similar or identical critical factors by position.
The phrases "critical factors" or "position-specific traits" are what we use as a template for what we are looking for in a player at a particular position. Each position has a set of critical factors that we will address in a template format that is divided into its own individual sections. We feel this will provide more clarity and also align better with our NFL draft reports.
Generally there can be as many as 8-10 critical factors per position, but we have tapered this down to the five we feel are most important. We as evaluators have the freedom to include more detail about other traits that we feel best serve the evaluation of that player and will add that to one of the five areas we feel it best fits.
Look for the first release of our upperclassmen 2015 ESPN 300 this spring and pay special attention to these five prospects that could see a change in stock:
Kyler Murray (Allen, Texas/Allen): Forget the measurables, just forget them. Study the production and you won’t care that Murray is 5-foot-11. When it is all said and done he could make the biggest jump of all prospects between now and next national signing day. He’s a dynamic playmaker that comes from one of the premier programs in the country and he’s used to having a high level of expectation placed upon him. He’s answered the bell at every turn and we expect that he could be the most coveted dual-threat QB in this class.
Adonis Thomas (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett): In the mold of this year’s Christian Miller as an OLB/DE, Thomas has one of the highest ceilings for development of any front-seven player in the class. He continues to gain steam due to his range, speed and athleticism. Coaches want length, you hear them use that term all the time. They can put on the weight when they get the kids to campus. Thomas is long and he can run, a coveted combination for a disruptive guy off the edge.
Daylon Charlot (Patterson, La./Patterson): He reminds us of a faster version of Jarvis Landry. Charlot catches everything thrown his way. What we love about this young man is his ability to play both on the inside and outside. He can do all the jet-sweep, bubble-screen stuff and make plays in space, or he can run right by you vertically with top-end speed. We love his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands and feel he is going to continue to emerge as a prospect.
Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek): He is already one of the most debated prospects among our staff for the 2015 class. He can be difficult to project as a pure RB at times because of his measurables and he could easily be a linebacker candidate at the next level. He is a very unique and gifted athlete, who at times in recent evaluations has intrigued us a bit more as a RB candidate, flashing better top-end speed which, coupled with his size, could make him a dangerous runner. He is a 2015 prospect who could easily see a change in stock upon further evaluation and will be debated frequently among our staff.
Jonathan Ledbetter (Tucker, Ga./Tucker): Sitting outside the ESPN Junior 300, Ledbetter is prospect who looks poised to be a 300 member in the future. He possesses good size, very good playing strength and can be a physical and disruptive presence in the trenches. In recent opportunities to further evaluate him, both on film as well as at the Under Armour All-America Combine, Ledbetter has impressed and certainly looks like a strong candidate for the ESPN 300.