Building The Roster: NFC West
In a new series, National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney has broken down the roster of every NFL team in terms of star ratings for players in high school, which conferences have the most players on each team and which states those players come from as well. Below is a breakdown of the NFC West as National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell offers his thoughts and memories on each roster.
There is a serious concentration of players from the Pac-12 (11) and SEC (9) on Arizona’s roster and there are four players who played at Washington in DBs Byron Murphy and Budda Baker, TE Darrell Daniels and LB Ezekiel Turner.
Something else that stands out after reviewing the roster is that the Cardinals have 17 players from non-Power Five schools, especially on the defensive line with four players in Rodney Gunter (Delaware State), Michael Dogbe (Temple), Clinton McDonald (Memphis) and Zach Kerr, who finished his career at Delaware. Three offensive linemen played outside the Power Five.
There are four five-stars on Arizona’s roster in Kirk, linebacker Jordan Hicks, offensive lineman D.J. Humphries and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard. It could also be argued that Murphy and Baker should have been five-stars but they both ended up one notch below in the four-star category.
Farrell’s take: Kirk was an interesting one to follow out of high school because his lack of height led to quite the debate among the analysts about whether he was a five-star talent. He’s certainly lived up to that fifth star he earned. Humphries was one of the most athletic lineman in recent years and looked like he could have played tight end out of high school. The large contingent of Pac-12 players is interesting and I loved Murphy out of high school despite a lack of great size.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The first thing that stands out about the Rams’ roster is that running back Malcolm Brown, wide receiver Robert Woods and defensive lineman Dante Fowler, Jr., are the three five-stars on the team - but there are at least two glaring omissions as QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley were both rated as four-star prospects.
The concentration of players from the Big Three states of Florida, Texas and California is also evident as one reviews the roster. There are 13 players from California, 10 from Texas and six from Florida.
The Big Ten is well-represented as four offensive linemen from that conference are on the Los Angeles roster in Brian Allen (Michigan State), Austin Blythe (Iowa) and David Edwards and Rob Havenstein from Wisconsin. There are also four non-Power Five wide receivers on the team in Cooper Kupp and Nsimba Webster, both from Eastern Washington, Mike Thomas (Southern Miss) and JoJo Natson (Utah State).
There are 13 players from the Pac-12 playing for the Rams, led by former Washington standouts OL Coleman Shelton, DL Greg Gaines, LB Cory Littleton and DBs Marcus Peters and Taylor Rapp. The Big 12 and Big Ten have seven players each on the team and there are only six players from the SEC and two from the ACC.
Farrell’s take: Gurley, as I’ve said many times, should have been a five-star and that’s on me. Goff was a kid I liked a lot out of high school but he was skinny and certainly not the polished passer he is now. Woods was a dynamic wide receiver out of California who panned out despite many busts from that state at the position. Fowler Jr. was the rare guy who earned a fifth star and lost it only to gain it back while Aaron Donald was only a three-star out of high school because he was a bit stubby — you read that right. Now he’s the best defender in the NFL.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
There is a major split in star rankings between San Francisco’s players on offense - where there is only one four-star skill player - and its roster on defense, especially on the defensive line where it’s filled with five- and four-star standouts.
On offense, the only four-star skill player is tight end Levine Toilolo as the 49ers have five former two-star skill players including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who played at Eastern Illinois, and three completely unranked skill guys. It also stands out that 13 players on offense went to non-Power Five schools including five offensive linemen.
On defense, it’s a completely different story. Former five-star and Ohio State standout Nick Bosa was the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. And there are five four-stars along the defensive line as well in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner from Oregon, Solomon Thomas from Stanford, Sheldon Day out of Notre Dame and D.J. Jones from Ole Miss.
Bosa and offensive tackle Sam Young are the two five-stars on San Francisco’s roster.
Farrell’s take: The defensive line is loaded and Bosa was an elite talent, better than his brother Joey at the same stage in high school. Thomas was very close to a fifth star as well and was a great get for Stanford out of Texas. Jimmy G and most of the offense were afterthoughts out of high school, so it’s fun to see them dominate and Richard Sherman, one of the best corners in the NFL, was another Stanford kid but was underrated as a three-star.
There are a few themes that stand out for the Seahawks but none more than just how many three-star prospects are on the roster. Out of all the star rankings, the three-stars lead by far as there are 26 of them playing for the Seahawks including six defensive backs, five linebackers and all four running backs.
Something else that stands out about Seattle’s roster is that there are more Big 12 players than any other Power Five conference, possibly a first for any team in the NFL. RB Chris Carson and DB Tre Flowers are from Oklahoma State; QB Geno Smith and WR Gary Jennings played at West Virginia; and OL Joey Hunt and DL L.J. Collier are from TCU.
Farrell’s take: The Big 12 is well represented here and there are so many players out of high school that weren’t heavily recruited it’s astonishing. Russell Wilson was a two-star afterthought who was too small to play quarterback and he has turned out to be a superstar. Clowney was the best player I’ve seen out of high school — period.