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Position By Position: Comparing the 2018 class to its predecessors

The final rankings of the 2018 class are in the books, and while time will tell how accurate they ultimately end up being, taking a look at how this year’s cast of prospects stacks up to classes of the last five years is something that can be compared immediately. To get an idea about where 2018 prospects stack up, here is a position-by-position look.

BY THE NUMBERS: Frenzy of activity expected as NSD nears

PRO-STYLE QUARTERBACK

Trevor Lawrence
Trevor Lawrence (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2017

2018 ranking: No. 2

The 2018 class is led by Trevor Lawrence, who went wire-to-wire as the top player in the country in the Rivals.com rankings. The 2017 class was highlighted with three five-star pro-style quarterbacks, led by Davis Mills, but the 2018 class finished with 35 players ranked at the position - the most in the last five years. JT Daniels’ decision to reclassify into the 2018 class also gave the position a lift in 2018 both in talent in the top and in overall depth.

DUAL-THREAT QUARTERBACK

Justin Fields
Justin Fields (Chad Simmons)

Best class in last five years: 2018 and 2016 (tie)

Justin Fields is considered by some to be the best quarterback in the country, and depending on who you ask, Lawrence’s decision to compete in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl may have strengthened that argument - even though Fields wasn’t able to compete in the Under Armour All-America Game. Regardless, the 2016 and 2018 classes were the only two in the last five years that had a five-star dual-threat QB and 30 ranked players at the position in the last five years.

RUNNING BACK/ALL-PURPOSE BACK

James Cook
James Cook (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2014

2018 ranking: No. 3

The running back debate in the span of time considered could be argued in favor of 2015, but 2014, led by Leonard Fournette and six other five-star prospects, takes home the title. The 2018 class produced a relatively light group with just two five-star players at running back, and one all-purpose back in James Cook. Cook’s older brother, Dalvin Cook, was a five-star back in 2014 as well. the class of 2016 was particularly dismal, with no five-stars and just 55 players ranked between both positions.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

Amon-Ra St. Brown
Amon-Ra St. Brown (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2018

Rivals.com has ranked 100 wide receivers each year for the last five seasons. Amon-Ra St. Brown finished as the top receiver this season, and led a group of six other receivers all ranked as five-star players. Five receivers finished with such rankings in 2014, led by Travis Rudolph and six did so the following year, led by Calvin Ridley. Still, 2018 takes home the position title with Justin Shorter and Jaylen Waddle breaking into five-star status in the final rankings. Only one tight end has been ranked as a five-star prospect in the last five seasons.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Jamaree Salyer
Jamaree Salyer (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2015

2018 ranking: No. 4

Five-star guards and centers aren’t exactly plentiful on an annual basis - in fact, only three guards have finished their high school careers ranked as such in the last five years - and no centers did so. Still, 2015 finished on the high end of total players ranked with 55 guards and 10 centers between the two positions. Maea Teuhema was the lone five-star that year, but Jamaree Salyer was one of the three total five-star players in that group and leads the 2018 class.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Nick Petit-Frere
Nick Petit-Frere (Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2017

2018 ranking: No. 3

The 2017 class was historically great at the position, with five prospects ranked as five-star talents. The player that finished atop the rankings at the position in 2018, Nicholas Petit-Frere, only finds himself there after an eye-popping week at the Under Armour All-America Game. Generally speaking, 2018 finished with about the average numbers for five-star players (3) and total number players ranked at the position (65) in the last five years, but in addition to all the five-star tackles in 2017, 85 total prospects were ranked.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Taron Vincent
Taron Vincent (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2015

2018 ranking: No. 4

While 2018 finished with a healthy number of total players ranked with 60, there was no five-star player at the position in this year’s class. The class in 2015 boasted four five-star players, led by Khalil McKenzie, and 55 players ranked. 2016 was nearly an equally strong year, with four five-stars of its own, but 50 players ranked. Taron Vincent was the highest-ranked defensive tackle in 2018, and finished at No. 40 overall in the Rivals100.

DEFENSIVE END

Xavier Thomas
Xavier Thomas (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2015

2018 ranking: No. 2

The 2018 class narrowly missed finishing as the class with the most potent combination of five-star prospects and total number of players ranked, but 2015 - led by Byron Cowart and Kiesean Lucier-South were too much. Xavier Thomas had been a known commodity, but Eyabi Anoma made an impressive charge up the rankings in the final update to land among the five-stars this year.

LINEBACKER

Micah Parsons
Micah Parsons (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2016

2018 ranking: No. 3

The linebacker crop in 2016 was historically strong. Between inside and outside linebacker positions, 2016 yielded 10 five-star prospects. The class of 2018 got a boost with Micah Parsons making a switch from defensive end to outside linebacker based on his projected role at Penn State, but still finished with the third strongest group behind 2017, which had four five-star players and 95 prospects ranked between both positions.

CORNERBACK

Patrick Surtain Jr.
Patrick Surtain Jr. (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2018

The scary thing about 2018 is that it could have been even stronger had Anthony Cook not struggled so severely throughout the week of practice leading up the Army All-American Bowl. Cook had been a five-star, but still left this year’s position group with five others, led by Patrick Surtain Jr. Eighty-five cornerbacks were ranked in 2018, which was also the highest such number in the last five classes.

SAFETY

Tyreke Johnson
Tyreke Johnson (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2018

Just chalk this year’s class up to a great one overall in the secondary. More players were ranked overall in 2017, but Tyreke Johnson led a trio of five-star players in this year’s class that was more than any other in the previous four. Five more players were ranked total in 2017, but the talent at the top in this year’s group wins out. Meanwhile, 2016 was the weakest year over that period, with no five-star prospects despite an average figure of 55 players.

ATHLETE

Devon Williams
Devon Williams (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Best class in last five years: 2016

2018 ranking: No. 5

Depending on the year, Rivals.com analysts have better ideas at times than others as to which positions athletes will eventually go on to play in college. That may have been the case this year, but for the past two seasons, the Rivals100 hasn’t featured a five-star athlete. The class in 2016 had two five-star players, the highest ranked of which was Demetrius Robertson.