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How five-star WRs/TEs from past four recruiting cycles are performing

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

N'Keal Harry
N'Keal Harry (AP Images)

Mike Farrell and Adam Gorney take a look at the five-stars from the previous four recruiting cycles to see how they’ve performed so far. Today: WRs/TEs.

MORE: How five-star QBs are performing | RBs

Recruiting: Ridley committed to Alabama over Miami in a hard-fought recruiting battle for the South Florida prospect. In a surprise move, Ridley encouraged his younger brother, Riley, to attend Georgia rather than any other school.

Performance: A star at Alabama, Ridley finished his college career with 224 catches for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was a first-round NFL Draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons where he’s had an outstanding rookie season.

Farrell’s take: Ridley played like a five-star in college for sure and was simply dominant at times. It’s scary to think how good he would have been in the current Alabama passing offense. Out of high school he was a great route runner with explosive speed and great hands. Now he’s doing his thing in the NFL.

Recruiting: At the Under Armour All-America Game, Johnson committed to LSU over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. He transferred out of LSU and ended up in Stillwater.

Performance: This season at Oklahoma State, Johnson was second on the team with 46 receptions for 704 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged more than 15 yards per catch.

Farrell’s take: Johnson has started to emerge and show some of that five-star talent he has. LSU’s passing offense wasn’t conducive to his skills clearly but he’s a great fit at Oklahoma State. I remember how competitive Johnson was out of high school, never shying away from a challenge and he obviously had great speed.

Recruiting: Kirk committed to Texas A&M over a strong push from Arizona State, UCLA and Auburn were also under serious consideration in December of his senior season.

Performance: In three seasons with the Aggies, Kirk caught 234 passes for 2,856 yards and 26 touchdowns. He was a second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Farrell’s take: Kirk was outstanding in high school and earned his fifth star, despite his size, at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Chicago where he dominated. He had a very good career in college and lived up to that five-star ranking and now he’s having success in the NFL. He was so sudden he couldn’t be covered.

Recruiting: In May of his junior season, Cain committed to Clemson over a bunch of SEC schools including Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. Florida State was an early favorite but Cain ended up picking the Tigers.

Performance: In three seasons at Clemson, Cain finished with 130 catches for 2,040 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was a sixth-round NFL Draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts but he injured his knee in the first preseason game.

Farrell’s take: Cain was a quarterback in high school who projected as a wide receiver and had a successful career at Clemson. He convinced us of his five-star status at numerous camps where he showed great ball skills for a player learning the position. Did he live up to being a five-star? He probably fell a little bit short but was still dominant at times.

Recruiting: Early in his senior season, Campbell committed to Florida State over Florida and LSU. He had originally been committed to Michigan.

Performance: In three seasons with the Seminoles, Campbell has only 13 catches for 206 yards. He has not scored a touchdown at Florida State yet. Campbell has dealt with injuries during his college career.

Farrell’s take: Injuries were a problem for Campbell and I’ll admit that I was the one who pushed for his fifth star and I regret it. He always hand great physical skills but his hands were a question as was his desire. He earned his fifth star at Under Armour but hasn’t come close to that billing yet.

Recruiting: A few weeks before National Siging Day, Irwin chose Stanford over Arizona State and others in a surprise move since his high school quarterback, Brady White, had chosen the Sun Devils shortly before. White is now playing at Memphis.

Performance: In four seasons at Stanford, Irwin has totaled 152 catches for 1,738 yards but he’s only scored five touchdowns. This season, the former five-star has 60 catches for 685 yards and two scores.

Farrell’s take: Irwin had a solid career at Stanford and I believe he has a catch in every game he has played in, but he fell short of expectations. He was a dominant 7-on-7 presence in high school and couldn’t be covered in games and he was such a great route runner we thought he would do the same in college.

Recruiting: Late in his senior season, Harry committed to Arizona State over serious interest from Washington, Texas A&M and others. He is the only five-star from the state of Arizona to pick the Sun Devils.

Performance: In three seasons at Arizona State, Harry finished with 213 catches for 2,889 and 22 touchdowns. He opted not to play in the Sun Devils’ bowl game against Fresno State and he has declared for the NFL Draft.

Farrell’s take: Harry has been amazing at Arizona State and has lived up to the billing. I remember the first time I saw him I felt he was a five-star with his size, speed and body control and now he could be the top wide receiver taken in the NFL Draft. He was a home run when it comes to rankings.

Recruiting: Vaughns committed to USC in the summer before his senior season and the Trojans held on to his commitment even though Alabama, Georgia and others pursued him.

Performance: In his first two seasons playing at USC, the former five-star prospect has caught 116 passes for 1,483 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was second on the team in catches this season behind freshman Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Farrell’s take: Vaughns has been solid but people are still expecting more and a breakout season. He had size, was very shifty and had very good hands out of high school and couldn’t high point the ball with ease. He was heavily recruited for good reason because he had so many skills.

Recruiting: At the Army All-American Bowl, Nauta announced his commitment to Georgia over Alabama and Michigan. Upon being hired, Kirby Smart made Nauta a priority in Georgia’s recruiting class and the Bulldogs landed him.

Performance: Nauta has totaled 67 catches for 902 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons playing in Athens.

Farrell’s take: The only tight end to make this list, Nauta was clearly special out of high school. At one point he had gained too much weight and lost his speed but when he re-dedicated himself he became faster and better than ever. He was a downfield threat and continues to be one, although he’s not utilized as much as he should be.

Recruiting: Michigan won out for the services of Peoples-Jones over Florida, Florida State, Michigan State and Ohio State in December of his senior year. There were again rumors that Jim Harbaugh would leave the Wolverines for the NFL but that did not influence Peoples-Jones.

Performance: After not scoring a touchdown in his freshman season, Peoples-Jones has 39 catches for 541 yards and seven scores this season as the Wolverines prepare to play Florida in their bowl games. He’s also utilized on special teams.

Farrell’s take: Peoples-Jones had a breakout season this year and has been allowed to show off his rare skillset. Out of high school he had size, good speed, excellent hands and he was a solid route runner. His body control was exceptional as well and the fact that he’s involved with the return game speaks to his explosiveness. He should have a huge year next season.

Recruiting: On July 4, with fireworks included in his commitment video, Higgins committed to Clemson although he had previously named Tennessee his leader and had been committed to the Volunteers. Ole Miss, Florida State and Ohio State were also considered.

Performance: Higgins had a massive sophomore season with 52 receptions for 802 yards and 10 touchdowns as the Tigers prepare for the College Football Playoff. In total, Higgins has caught 69 passes for 1,147 yards and 12 TDs.

Farrell’s take: Higgins was a no-brainer as a five-star and reminded me of A.J. Green with his length and ability to adjust to the football. He is now one of the best wide receivers in the country and the NFL scouts are drooling. I expect next season to be bigger than this one and for him to emerge as a first-rounder with ease.

Recruiting: In the summer before his senior season, Jeudy continued the tradition of South Florida receivers going to Alabama by committing to the Crimson Tide over Miami, Florida, Florida State and Tennessee.

Performance: Jeudy had a huge sophomore season at Alabama with 59 receptions for 1,103 yards and 12 touchdowns. In two campaigns, he has 73 grabs for 1,367 yards and 14 scores averaging nearly 19 yards per catch in his two years at Alabama.

Farrell’s take: Jeudy was a dominant receiver out of high school who could turn it on anytime he wanted. He didn’t have great size but he always played bigger than he was and his speed was off the charts. He’s so good at getting in and out of his breaks that he’s nearly impossible to cover.

Recruiting: Ohio State was the front-runner since the early stages of Grimes’ commitment and he pledged to the Buckeyes in late August before his senior season. Miami, Florida, Florida State, Alabama and Georgia were other finalists.

Performance: Grimes left Ohio State to return home to the state of Florida to attend to family issues. There was some hope he would return to Columbus but that did not happen as Grimes transferred to Florida. This season, Grimes has 25 catches for 366 yards and two scores.

Farrell’s take: Grimes is one of the few five star wide receivers that transferred so he’s still catching up when it comes to living up to that status. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to put up huge numbers at Florida but he has the ability to do so. He was one of the most well rounded receivers I’ve seen at the high school level so it will be interesting how he plays next season and beyond.

Recruiting: With a brother who played at Notre Dame and another playing at Stanford, St. Brown decided to pursue his own route and he committed to USC over the Irish, the Cardinal and many others.

Performance: In his freshman season, St. Brown led the Trojans with 60 catches and he added 750 yards and three touchdowns.

Farrell’s take: St. Brown is just starting to show his abilities at the college level and he should have a massive career before all is said and done. He was powerful, fast and explosive out of high school and he battled for the football and bailed out his quarterback at times. He and JT Daniels are a great combination and have been for years.

Recruiting: On National Signing Day, Ross committed to Clemson over Alabama and Auburn. It was the first time since 2012 when Jameis Winston selected Florida State that the top-ranked player from the state of Alabama didn’t sign with the Crimson Tide.

Performance: Ross has had a big freshman season with 34 catches for 699 yards and six touchdowns averaging more than 20 yards per reception. Clemson is preparing to face Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff.

Farrell’s take: Ross has had a great freshman season and appears to have a great future ahead of him with his size and catch radius. He was a natural red zone threat coming out of high school and was physical and would block out defenders to make the catch. He’s another surefire first-rounder from Clemson in my opinion.

Recruiting: In the summer before his junior season, Shorter committed to Penn State. Michigan, Pitt and many others were involved in his recruitment but he decided to pick the Nittany Lions early on.

Performance: Playing in only three games this season, Shorter had one reception for three yards.

Farrell’s take: I’m stunned that Shorter didn’t hit the ground running his first year with his size and physical abilities but sometimes it can take some adjustment. He’s physically gifted and should be a big part of the Penn State offense next season and beyond. He earned his fifth star at the Under Armour Game where he was dominant all week.

Recruiting: Late in the early signing period, Marshall committed to LSU over Texas A&M and Florida State. He was the sixth-straight top-ranked player from the state of Louisiana to pick the Tigers.

Performance: Playing in 12 games this season, Marshall had only 12 catches for 192 yards averaging a team-high 16 yards per grab.

Farrell’s take: Marshall has a ton of skill and was a matchup nightmare coming out of high school. The LSU offense is a tough one to put up big numbers in so we will see how he progresses but he has the skill level to be dominant in college with the right quarterback.

Recruiting: In March of his junior year, Pope committed to Miami over Alabama, Florida and many others.

Performance: In eight games this season, Pope has only one catch for 11 yards.

Farrell’s take: Pope was expected to make a bigger splash his freshman year but should have a great year next season as a bigger part of the offense. He doesn’t have great size but he’s polished and was a very explosive route runner with good hands out of high school.

Recruiting: Kendrick committed to Dabo Swinney at Clemson following a junior day visit. At the time, he preferred playing cornerback over receiver, but the Tigers wanted him at receiver.

Performance: In 13 games so far this season, Kendrick has 15 receptions for 210 yards. He has also been utilized on kickoff returns.

Farrell’s take: With Higgins and Ross emerging, Kendrick has had to take a back seat but that shouldn’t last forever. He played quarterback in high school so the transition to wideout is a tougher one than most on this list. However, he showed us how special his ball skills and how great he is after the catch out of high school.

Recruiting: On National Signing Day, Waddle committed to Alabama over Texas A&M and many others. It was believed the Aggies held an edge because of Waddle’s relationship with new A&M coach Jimbo Fisher from his time at Florida State but the Crimson Tide won out.

Performance: Waddle is third on the Crimson Tide with 41 receptions for 803 yards and seven touchdowns so far this season and he’s averaging nearly 20 yards per catch, a team high.

Farrell’s take: Waddle, a late five-star add, has been amazing his freshman season at Alabama and looks like a future star. He showed us at the US Army Bowl that he could run any route and make any catch.