All-Decade: Ranking the No. 1 prospects from 2010-19
The decade is coming to an end and the years from 2010-2019 were loaded with talent. But how would we order the No. 1 players in the country from those recruiting rankings? Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell has the answer.
Note: This ranking is based on how special each prospect was coming out of high school, not how much success they had in college or the NFL.
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1. JADEVEON CLOWNEY, 2011
Clowney remains the best prospect I have ever seen out of high school. He played defensive end, defensive tackle and even running back for his high school team and his snap anticipation was the best I’ve ever seen. His performance at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas was amazing as he drew, if I remember correctly, about six holding calls and it probably should have been 10. He was a freak and generational talent. It’s no surprise he was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
2. TREVOR LAWRENCE, 2018
Lawrence is the best quarterback I’ve ever scouted and it’s not really that close. Many felt it was a battle between Lawrence and fellow quarterback Justin Fields for No. 1 but Lawrence was our guy bell-to-bell and that never came close to changing. Lawrence had the size, savvy, arm strength, vision, accuracy and mobility to be a great quarterback and he’s well on his way to showing that.
3. RASHAN GARY, 2016
Gary was in quite a battle for the No. 1 overall position throughout his rankings cycle but when he showed his ability to play defensive end as easily as defensive tackle in the Under Armour Game it clinched the deal over No. 2 Dexter Lawrence. Gary is the first defensive tackle to finish No. 1 overall in Rivals.com history and is the most athletic player I’ve ever seen at the position. He’s playing some stand-up linebacker in the NFL and that speaks to his amazing athleticism.
4. NAJEE HARRIS, 2017
Harris went bell-to-bell as our No. 1 and brought back thoughts of Adrian Peterson with his height, size and upright running style. He was also a very good pass catcher and had breakaway speed even as a bigger running back. Even with the slide of position importance at running back at the time, we felt there was no better choice. Harris is just starting to emerge as the player we saw.
5. ROBERT NKEMDICHE, 2013
Nkemdiche was mentioned by some as a challenge to Clowney as the best defensive end in recent years but for me it was never a debate. They were different kind of players and Nkemdiche was bigger and stronger but lacked the same closing speed and shoulder dip. Nkemdiche went bell-to-bell for us as well but I can remember in some meetings we weren’t completely sold on him but no one stepped up to take his ranking away. This was a huge defensive end who could win battles with strength and power or sneaky speed. He went on to become a first-rounder but the one knock against him, a less-than-stellar motor, has derailed his career.
6. DA'SHAWN HAND, 2014
Hand first arrived on my radar as a freshman and he was an amazing athlete. He played defensive end, defensive tackle and some running back and tight end as well in high school and was an amazing athlete for his size. His use of his hands was special and he was very coachable. We could see him as a pure defensive end or a hybrid defensive end/linebacker in college and beyond so it surprised us when Alabama bulked him up to play defensive tackle. His college career wasn’t spectacular at all and he had to wait his turn but now he’s doing well in the NFL as a mid-round pick.
7. DEREK STINGLEY, JR., 2019
Stingley Jr. remains the only cornerback to finish ranked No. 1 in Rivals.com history and there are many good reasons for that. Stingley Jr. was tall and long but also very filled out and strong. He played a physical brand of football and was excellent in run support and he loved being on an island. His ability on special teams also stood out. The 2019 class wasn’t a very strong one at the top overall but no one came and took his No. 1 spot away and he’s already being talked about as they best defensive player on an undefeated LSU team as a true freshman.
8. RONALD POWELL, 2010
Powell was a great athlete coming out of high school who could have played defensive end, linebacker or tight end. His performance at the U.S. Army Bowl where play dominated at defensive end and tight end pushed him to the top of the list. Injuries hurt his career and he never panned out as an elite college or NFL player but he was something to watch in high school.
9. BYRON COWART, 2015
Cowart finished No. 1 in one of the more interesting years in recruiting rankings. He was No. 1 heading into his senior season but lost that spot to quarterback Josh Rosen. Then Rosen skipped the Under Armour Game and Cowart simply dominated everyone there in practice and in the game itself. Cowart was an eccentric kid but work ethic and athleticism and power were never in question. He flopped at Auburn but played well at Maryland for a season and now he’s with the New England Patriots.
10. DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM, 2012
I really liked Green-Beckham’s size and straight-line speed and he did draw comparisons to Calvin Johnson because of that size and ability to dominate opponents. And he didn’t disappoint at the end when he caught a long touchdown pass in the U.S. Army Bowl. The question with Green-Beckham was his hands, which were a bit up and down, but beyond that he looked like a future star. He showed some of that brilliance at Missouri but his off field issues derailed him. He was still taken in the second round of the NFL Draft and showed flashes in the league but never put it all together.