Signing Day Thought

I’ll have my breakdown of the top Heisman contenders from this class a little later but, in the meantime, I just want to make one point regarding recruiting rankings.

It’s in vogue to belittle recruiting rankings as worthless, since there are so many examples of non-rated or underrated players making it to the bigtime.  There are plenty of guys who will play in the Super Bowl who were not highly touted coming out of high school, for instance.

The natural instinct, then, is to dismiss recruiting rankings as meaningless.

Keep in mind, I do believe that most of the people who tout players are woefully unqualified to do so. 


In their defense, keep in mind that there are 120 FBS schools.  If you assume that each of those 120 schools will sign, on average, about 18 to 20 players today, then that means that approximately 2,200 players are signing letters of intent.

When you look at the rankings for ESPN, Rivals and Scout, we are talking about the top 250 or 300 players.  Even if you combine and consolidate all the lists of all the recruiting services, many of the same players would crossover in all the lists and I doubt you’d end up ranking more than 400 players.  So that means that the two or three star guy that you are overlooking and who you think is worthless is actually ranked in the top 15 or 20 percent nationally.  That’s pretty elite.  It also means that there are 1,700 or so players who aren’t ranked, most likely not out of any sort of incompetence, but rather because of the sheer numbers that must be reviewed, scouted and processed. 

Is it possible to accurately rank 2,200 players every year?  I doubt it.  If you wonder how some schools find success despite not having heralded recruiting classes, or why some recruits come from out of nowhere to become great players, it’s probably because they come from that bottom 80 percent.  But calling it a ‘bottom’ is a misnomer.  Most of these players are just victims of the numbers game.  The elite programs battle for what they perceive as the top 400 or so players, but it may be that the school that can find the gems from the remaining 1,700 available will find unexpected success.

So, remember, when that 2-star guy pans out, don’t belittle the recruiting gurus.  In reality, they did have him as one of the top players in the country (even if they don’t know it).  Being ranked 350th doesn’t sound elite but, in reality, it is.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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3 Responses to Signing Day Thought

  1. Dawgy February 4, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    I recently read that of the 93 college players that were named to various All American teams last year, 50 were rated 3 star or less when recruited.

    IMO these recruiting rankings by the big three miss as many as they hit.

  2. Keith February 4, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Think of recruiting rankings as more a chance at success. If there were 93 All-Americans last year, and 43 of them were four or five stars, that means that four and five star talents out of high school on average turned out much better than three star and below counterparts.

    If there are 30 five stars per year and ~220 four stars, that means there are ~2,000 players ranked three stars or less.

    43 All-Americans being four or five stars means that this small group is MUCH more likely to become a star.

    43/250 >>>>>> 50/2000

  3. Dawgy February 4, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Good point. BTW, there were 13 5 star and, 30 4 star recruits in that 93. And, this was BCS schools.