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NFL Top 100: Nos. 26-50 as high school recruits

Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford (USA Today Sports Images)

The NFL Network recently released its list of top 100 players for the 2022 season. We take a look at where those players were ranked coming out of high school with hits and misses along the way. Today we continue with Nos. 26-50.

THIS SERIES: Nos. 1-25

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26. Stefon Diggs

Florida, Ohio State and Auburn battled to the end but the five-star receiver from Olney (Md.) Good Counsel announced his decision in College Park and by then it was telling he’d go to Maryland. Diggs was a fifth-round NFL Draft pick which didn’t back up his five-star ranking but he’s been a Pro Bowler the last two seasons.

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27. Matthew Stafford

A five-star prospect and the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2006 class, the Dallas (Texas) Highland Park standout finished sixth overall nationally and picked Georgia, which had been his leader for a long time, over Texas and others. Stafford went on to be the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and eventually a Super Bowl champion.

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28. Quenton Nelson

A five-star offensive tackle from Red Bank (N.J.) Red Bank Catholic, Nelson was the third-best player at his position in the 2014 class behind Cameron Robinson and Damian Prince. Notre Dame emerged as the leader during a spring visit and the Irish beat out Boston College, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers for his pledge. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

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29. Bobby Wagner

A two-star out of Ontario (Calif.) Colony in the 2008 class, Wagner went to Utah State, which was his only offer, where he totaled more than 400 tackles. He then was a second-round NFL Draft pick and has had a heralded NFL career for a decade as a Super Bowl champ and six-time All-Pro.

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30. Joey Bosa

Ranked as the fourth-best defensive end in the 2013 class, Bosa had Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and Ohio State as his four front-runners and he committed to the Buckeyes in the spring before his senior season. He should’ve been a five-star, though, because he dominated in Columbus and then was the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

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31. Dalvin Cook

Rated as a five-star all-purpose back and No. 2 at the position behind only Joe Mixon, Cook was originally committed to Clemson but then flipped to Florida. It looked like he was going to stick with the Gators and acted that way during Under Armour week but then made his final decision and picked Florida State. He was a star for the Seminoles and then a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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32. Mark Andrews

A four-star wide receiver in the 2014 class, Andrews was adamant about playing and being ranked at that position but at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds it was pretty clear he would move to tight end once he got to Oklahoma. Ohio State, Texas A&M and others were involved with Andrews, who had a great career with the Sooners and was a third-round pick.

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33. Nick Chubb

Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb (USA Today Sports Images)

Considered for a five-star ranking in the 2014 class, Chubb, who rushed for more than 100 touchdowns in high school, was just left off that five-star list. That feels like a miss as Chubb starred at Georgia and then was an early second-round pick. He’s already been a three-time Pro Bowler.

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34. Kevin Byard

Kentucky was once the leader for Byard but the Lithonia (Ga.) Martin Luther King two-star prospect ended up at Middle Tennessee where he starred in that system. Byard was then a third-round NFL Draft pick of the Tennessee Titans where he still plays.

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35. Keenan Allen

Originally committed to Alabama where coach Nick Saban made him a top priority, Allen was ranked as a five-star safety coming out of high school. But Allen flipped to Cal to play with his brother and that’s where he shined as a wide receiver. Allen was then a third-round pick of the Los Angeles Chargers and he’s been to the Pro Bowl five times.

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36. Lamar Jackson

Louisville landed the four-star dual-threat quarterback but Florida made a late push and it seemed like the Boynton Beach, Fla., star was going to pick the Gators. As the No. 17 dual-threat QB in the 2015 class, looking back that was far too low considering Jackson won the Heisman Trophy with the Cardinals and then he was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens where he’s still the starter.

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37. DeAndre Hopkins

Clemson beat Tennessee, South Carolina and Wisconsin for Hopkins, a low four-star athlete out of Central (S.C.) D.W. Daniel in a class that was led by five-stars Robert Woods, Latwan Anderson and Spencer Ware. Hopkins moved strictly to receiver for the Tigers where he had a huge junior season and then became a first-round pick in the 2013 draft. He has more than 10,000 receiving yards and 68 TDs in the NFL so far in his career.

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38. Joe Mixon

The top-rated all-purpose back and No. 8 overall prospect in the 2014 class, Mixon was only behind Adoree’ Jackson in the California state rankings and one spot ahead of Juju Smith-Schuster. Oklahoma beat Wisconsin, UCLA and Cal at the Army All-American Bowl and then played two seasons for the Sooners before being a second-round draft pick.

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39. Chris Jones

Shortly after summer camp at Mississippi State, the Houston, Miss., standout committed to the Bulldogs and never looked back. Jones ended up as a five-star prospect and the second-best strong-side defensive end in the 2013 class behind only Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 overall player. Jones played three seasons in Starkville and then was an early second-round selection.

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40. Justin Herbert

A three-star from Eugene (Ore.) Sheldon who didn’t play his junior season because of injury, Herbert only had offers from Montana State, Northern Arizona and Portland State before Oregon got involved late. It was a dream to play for the Ducks and that happened as Herbert made the most of it, throwing for more than 10,000 yards and 95 touchdowns. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2020 draft.

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41. Tristan Wirfs

Tristan Wirfs
Tristan Wirfs (USA Today Sports Images)

A four-star prospect but under-ranked considering his success at Iowa and then being the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Wirfs picked Iowa over Iowa State and others. He was the fourth offensive tackle taken in that draft behind Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton.

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42. Cam Heyward

A four-star defensive tackle in a 2007 class that was led by Marvin Austin, Torrey Davis and others at the position, Heyward picked Ohio State over Florida and Georgia despite playing at Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge. Heyward was a star for the Buckeyes and then was a late first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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43. Derwin James

A five-star and the No. 1 safety in the 2015 class, James finished fifth overall and his recruitment did not have much drama as he committed to Florida State after his freshman season and stuck with the Seminoles. James left Tallahassee early to enter the NFL Draft where he was the No. 17 overall selection. He’s been a two-time Pro Bowler among other accolades.

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44. Dak Prescott

A three-star out of Haughton, La., Prescott earned his Mississippi State offer at summer camp and quickly picked the Bulldogs over Memphis, North Texas, McNeese State and Northwestern State. At Mississippi State, Prescott led the team to its first-ever No. 1 ranking and then he was a fourth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in a draft that saw Jared Goff and Carson Wentz as the first two selections.

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45. Jordan Poyer

A two-star from Astoria, Ore., in the 2009 class, Poyer played at Oregon State over offers from Eastern Washington, Idaho and Portland State and then was a seventh-round NFL Draft pick. In a pro career that’s spanned nearly a decade, Poyer has more than 640 tackles and 20 interceptions.

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46. Austin Ekeler

Ekeler is not even in the Rivals database as he played his college ball at Western Colorado and then was picked up by the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2017. Since that time he’s become one of the most valuable backs in the league.

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47. Fred Warner

The former four-star linebacker committed to BYU in the spring before his senior season but USC, Nebraska and Washington continued to pursue him. However, the Cougars won out, he had a big-time career in Provo and then was a third-round NFL Draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers where he still plays. Looking back, Warner should have even been higher than on the back end of the Rivals250.

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48. Robert Quinn

A four-star prospect outside the Rivals250, Quinn’s senior season at North Charleston (S.C.) Fort Dorchester was shortened because of brain surgery for a benign tumor. That was certainly an unsure time but then Quinn surprisingly picked North Carolina over Alabama and Auburn on signing day. It worked out well as Quinn had a great career in Chapel Hill before becoming the No. 14 overall pick in the 2011 draft.

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49. De’Vondre Campbell

A three-star prospect out of Hutchinson (Kan.) Hutchinson C.C., Campbell then transferred to Minnesota where he was an important piece of the Golden Gophers’ defense. Campbell was a fourth-round selection in the 2016 draft. He’s played for the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals and now the Green Bay Packers.

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50. Micah Hyde

Rated as a two-star quarterback out of Fostoria, Ohio, even though he also played defensive back there, Hyde picked Iowa over a bunch of MAC programs. Once in Iowa City made his impact known on the defensive side of the ball. Hyde ended up being a fifth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers and now he plays in Buffalo.