Why linemen are tough to project

Comparing the recruiting ratings of recent NFL first-round picks

Updated: March 15, 2012, 8:42 AM ET
By Brad Edwards | ESPN Insider
Jerel WorthyIcon SMIJerel Worthy was a two-star recruit coming out of high school.

Each year, several high school football players are so lauded throughout the recruiting process that it feels like they are destined to become first-team All-Americans and first-round NFL draft picks.

Some of them live up to the hype. Others, by the end of their college careers, can't even measure up to a few guys who were afterthoughts on national signing day -- guys who weren't even believed to be talented enough to play for a top-25 college program, much less an NFL team.

That's the fun of the NFL draft. What a player did in high school no longer matters, and to a large degree what college he played for doesn't matter, either. A defensive tackle from Memphis can be a better prospect than someone who started for a couple of years at Alabama. Watch any NFL game and you'll see numerous players who you never heard of while they were in college. Over 20 percent of NFL rosters, in fact, are made of undrafted players. The league is built for out-of-nowhere players more than people realize.

College football is similar in that way. Let's face it: Recruiting is an inexact science, even more so than the draft. And we all know how frequently NFL teams strike out on their top picks.

All college programs, including the perennial recruiting powerhouses, miss on several prospects each year. Coaches and scouts might argue over which position is the most difficult to evaluate, but a look at the NFL draft shows that linemen have the greatest disparity between their scouting reports coming out of high school and their scouting reports leaving college. To those who understand the dynamics of recruiting, this is no surprise.


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