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Position rankings: Breaking down the 2018 class

Trevor Lawrence

The first position rankings for the 2018 class were released this week and it is time to break down each group. We look at the headliners, the themes and the players to watch who have a chance to move higher in their respective lists over the next 18 months.

RELATED: Class of 2018 Rivals250 | Class of 2018 Position Rankings

PRO-STYLE QUARTERBACKS

COMPLETE PRO-STYLE QUARTERBACKS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Trevor Lawrence, Cartersville, Ga.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tanner McKee, Corona (Calif.) Centennial

COMMENTS: The No. 1 player in the country is a pro-style quarterback. In a year that looks to be exceptionally strong at the position, Lawrence leads not only this group, but the entire class in the first rankings. USC commit Matt Corral also starts off as a five-star and ranks second on this list, while prospects further down the list like McKee have the potential to rise in the coming months.

DUAL-THREAT QUARTERBACKS

COMPLETE DUAL-THREAT QUARTERBACKS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Emory Jones, Franklin (Ga.) Heard County

PLAYER TO WATCH: James Foster, Montgomery (Ala.) Sidney Lanier

COMMENTS: After a sensational off-season, Jones earns his fifth star and leads the dual-threat quarterback group. This group does not have as much talent at the top as the pro-style position, but eight four-stars join Jones to give the top 10 solid depth. Foster, a North Carolina commit, rounds out the top 10 and is one of several three stars who has a chance to earn that fourth star with a strong junior campaign.

ALL-PURPOSE BACKS

COMPLETE ALL-PURPOSE BACKS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Jaelen Gill, Westerville (Ohio) South

PLAYER TO WATCH: Trenton Charles, Baton Rouge (La.) Scotlandville

COMMENTS: The All-Purpose Back ranking starts off 10-deep and is bookended by a pair of Ohio prospects. Gill, the No. 28 overall player in the class, leads off the list, with Trotwood-Madison mini-might Raveion Hargrove rounding out the list. In between, there are several impressive prospects with intense recruitments on-going, including three more who join Gill in the Rivals100.

RUNNING BACKS

COMPLETE RUNNING BACKS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Zamir White, Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland County

PLAYER TO WATCH: Leddie Brown, Elkton (Del.) Eastern Christian Academy

COMMENTS: The value of the running back position in college football has decreased over the last couple decades, but the talent at the position remains strong. This and pro-style quarterback are the only two positions with multiple five-stars in the pre-junior season release. White is joined by Florida State commit James Cook in that elite category, while Florida native Lorenzo Lingard is knocking on the door and ranks No. 3 on this list.

WIDE RECEIVERS

COMPLETE WIDE RECEIVERS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Jalen Hall, Los Angeles (Calif.) Augustus Hawkins

PLAYER TO WATCH: Daquris Wiggins, Miami (Fla.) Southridge

COMMENTS: Hall is the only five-star, but six more from this list rank in the top 40 for the entire class. Always the deepest position group from a numbers standpoint, the 2018 group again brings great depth with a total of 48 prospects starting at four-stars or higher, 18 of whom rank in the Rivals100.

TIGHT END

COMPLETE TIGHT ENDS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Zach Kuntz, Camp Hill, Pa.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Anthony Lewis, Mobile (Ala.) Murphy

COMMENTS: This will be an interesting position group to watch over the next year and a half because there are several undersized prospects, like Lewis and Oklahoma native James Palmer, who both check in at 6-3, 210, as well as jumbo tight ends like Leonard Taylor and those prospects could end up changing positions. The top of the list is deep, with four qualifying for the initial Rivals100.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

COMPLETE OFFENSIVE TACKLES RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Cade Mays, Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic

PLAYER TO WATCH: Cole Blanton, Cypress (Tex.) Cy-Ranch

COMMENTS: Although there are no five-stars to start off the Rivals100, the offensive tackle position has several knocking on the door including Mays, a Tennessee commit, and Oklahoma commit Brey Walker. A large percentage of the prospects in the top 20 went head-to-head at the Underclassmen Challenge in Atlanta, including Reuben Unije, Dylan Wonnum, Nana Asiedu and Georgia commit Max Wray.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS

COMPLETE OFFENSIVE GUARDS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Jamaree Salyer, Atlanta (Ga.) Pace Academy

PLAYER TO WATCH: Wyatt Blake, Crystal Lake (Ill.) Central

COMMENTS: There is plenty of bulk highlighting the top of the offensive guard ranking, with five of the top six checking in at over 300 pounds – impressive considering these prospects have not entered their junior years of high school yet. The biggest is IMG Academy’s Curtis Dunlap at 6-foot-5 and 362 pounds. Others, though, are considerably smaller, especially 6-foot-3, 230-pound Avery Jones, who ranks No. 10.

WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE ENDS

COMPLETE WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE ENDS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Micah Parsons, Harrisburg (Pa.) Central Dauphin

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeremiah Martin, San Bernardino (Calif.) Cajon

COMMENTS: Parsons and North Carolina native K.J. Henry debut in the top two spots in this ranking, and both rank among the top 20 in the entire class. There is a wide variety of regions that make up the initial ranking, but the state of Georgia places the most prospects with three, including Justin Mascoll, who starts off at No. 3 on this list.

STRONGSIDE DEFENSIVE ENDS

COMPLETE STRONGSIDE DEFENSIVE ENDS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Xavier Thomas, Florence (S.C.) Wilson

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tahj Rice, Louisville (Ky.) Waggener

COMMENTS: Thomas, the No. 3 player in the class, leads off this ranking and is followed closely by Rivals250 Underclassmen Challenge defensive line MVP Greg Emerson of Tennessee at No. 2. The bulk of the list, though, is occupied by players with high ceilings, like Rice and 6-foot-6, 248-pound Ohio native Isaiah Mullens, who could see their stocks rise with positive development over the next year and a half.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

COMPLETE DEFENSIVE TACKLES RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Trevor Trout, St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tuli Letuligasenoa, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle

COMMENTS: There is a defensive tackle atop the Rivals100 in the 2017 class, but none start off as five-stars in the initial Rivals100 for 2018. Trout is No. 1 and ranks No. 22 overall in the class. Another four check in before the end of the Rivals100 and the depth is further down the list, where a total of 20 defensive tackles, including Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha teammates Austin Fontaine and Evan Gregory.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

COMPLETE INSIDE LINEBACKERS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Raymond Scott, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jack Sanborn, Lake Zurich, Ill.

COMMENTS: The inside linebacker position usually features prospects who are big-bodied gap-fillers, but the 2018 group is smaller and more athletic as a whole than years past, starting with the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Scott at No. 1. Not a single player of the 15 ranked is listed over 220 pounds. Scott and Dax Hollifield are the only inside linebackers in the top 100, but they rank Nos. 91 and 100, respectively.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

COMPLETE OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Palaie Gaoteote, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ovie Oghoufo, Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison

COMMENTS: The top-line talent at linebacker looks less than years past, highlighted by Gaoteote being the only inside or outside linebacker ranked in the top 100. Depth at the position is still solid, represented by the 25 prospects ranked at this position, including 14 which start off as four-stars. Oghoufo, a Notre Dame commit, represents a group at the top of the three-stars that have a chance to add a star after their junior seasons.

CORNERBACKS

COMPLETE CORNERBACKS RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Patrick Surtain, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kyler Gordon, Everett (Wash.) Archbishop Murray

COMMENTS: Cornerback appears to be one of the strongest positions in the 2018 class, and south Florida is the epicenter with Surtain and St. Thomas Aquinas teammates Asante Samuel and Al Blades ranking top four on this list and top 20 in the class. Depth is also impressive, with 35 prospects ranked at the position, including Rivals250 Underclassmen Challenge MVP Devin Haney out of Kansas City at No. 27.

SAFETIES

COMPLETE SAFETIES RANKINGS

HEADLINER: Tyreke Johnson, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian

PLAYER TO WATCH: Reggie Pearson, River Rouge, Mich.

COMMENTS: Combining the strong early returns at the safety position with the impressive talent we are seeing at cornerback in this class, the entire defensive backfield group is going to be one of the best in recent memory. Johnson, the No. 1 ranked player at safety, is the only five-star, but a total of six defensive backs hold down spots in the top 20, including Texas safety B.J. Foster, who is No. 2 in this ranking.

ATHLETES

COMPLETE ATHLETES RANKINGS

HEADLINER: L’Christian Smith, Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne

PLAYER TO WATCH: Alontae Taylor, Manchester (Tenn.) Coffee County Central

COMMENTS: The athlete position always sees high turnover as prospects’ careers develop and they settle into a specific position. With No. 1 ranked L’Christian “Blue” Smith, though, the attrition could be to another sport because the jumbo athlete is still considering hooping in college. Most in the ranking have the traditional receiver/cornerback option, but others, like Nebraska commit Cameron Jurgens, are jumbo athletes.