There really isn’t a whole lot the four major college football recruiting services (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN and Scout) can agree on. They all want you to pay them a monthly fee–ranging from $7.95 to $10.95–and they’d all like to remind you that the science isn’t exact.
They poke and prod thousands of high school football players across the country in an effort to prioritize their talents. Yet, in the past 10 seasons, the amount of times they’ve come to a consensus on the No. 1 overall player is just two.
In 2013, Robert Nkemdiche earned the No. 1 spot because of his unmatched physical stature at defensive end and because of the surprising athleticism he possessed for such staggering size. Two years prior, it was Jadeveon Clowney’s freakish measurables that made him the No. 1 player in the Class of 2011.
Ultimately, the two were compared at length because they were both defensive ends, and they were leaps and bounds ahead of every other prospect they were being evaluated against. In reality, the two were quite different stylistically with Clowney being a devastating presence off the edge and Nkemdiche showing his versatility by playing both inside and outside on Ole Miss’ defensive line.
Yet, the two will always be linked so long as they remain the only two consensus No. 1 players in the internet recruiting service era. Others may join them, though with each service seemingly desperate to differentiate themselves from one another, it’s become clear that you’ve got to be a truly transcendent talent to make it to No. 1 on all four boards.
In 2015, 247Sports, Rivals, ESPN and Scout basically agree on one thing in addition to you paying them money and the hit-or-miss nature of the business. They all have a defensive lineman rated at the best player in the country.
That’s become the trend as of late. With quarterbacks becoming glorified specialists, trained from birth to become JUGS-machine accurate while doubling as offensive coordinators on the field, applying pressure has become the most critical emphasis of every recruiting class.
Each and every year, we’re reminded of how critical having a dominant pass-rusher can be to a defense, and the rankings have reflected that. Over the course of the past 10 years with four different recruiting services, 10 defensive lineman can lay claim to being classified as the No. 1 player in the country. In the 247Sports Composite Rankings, which claims to be an industry average of all four major entities, five of the last eight players at No. 1 have been defensive linemen.
Unfortunately, this year the Big Four have three different defensive linemen listed as their No. 1, respectively.
The 247Sports Composite has Georgia defensive tackle commitment Trent Thompson at the top of their list. Rivals has uncommitted defensive end Byron Cowart at No. 1 on theirs, while ESPN agrees. Meanwhile, Scout.com has Tennessee defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie (the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, a UT alum) as their No. 1 player in the country.
All three players are undoubtedly excellent prospects with tremendous upside, although if history is any indicator, it’s likely at least one of the three won’t pan out.
Cowart is the unreasonably muscular for a high school senior caricature of the what the No. 1 player in the country looks like. Kahlil McKenzie is the big-bodied defensive tackle with NFL lineage who can eat space as a nose but still has the quickness to play as a three-tech, while Trent Thompson is the dynamic, compact and quick DT who eats guards alive.
All three are incredible prospects who have legitimate claims to No. 1, but none of the three have separated themselves from the others to the extent of earning a consensus No. 1 crown.
As we know, it takes a special talent to get these four to agree.
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