Ranking with the stars: Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has lived up to his No. 1 overall pick billing by leading his team to the Super Bowl just five years into his NFL career. Newton, one of the rare Rivals.com prospects to be named as a five-star out of high school and JUCO, was the No. 4 overall quarterback in the 2007 high school recruiting class. We thought it would be interesting to look at who was ranked ahead of him back in the day. We call it Ranking With The Stars.
1. Jimmy Clausen – Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian
The skinny: No. 1 overall, as a pro-style quarterback and in California, Clausen quickly became a Notre Dame lean which led to his commitment during a dramatic public announcement at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend. Clausen put together two very productive seasons at Notre Dame in 2008 and 2009 before declaring for the NFL Draft, where he was selected 48th overall in the second round by Carolina. After showing some potential as a rookie, the Panthers drafted Newton in 2011, which quickly became the beginning of the end for Clausen in Carolina. He made his way to Chicago as a free agent in 2014, where he spent the better part of two seasons before being waived by the Bears in late November. Soon after, he was claimed by Baltimore, where he made two starts, passing for 555 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Farrell’s take: Hindsight experts will point to Clausen underachieving when it comes to his ranking. He was the most highly touted pro-style quarterback in years and one QB coaching guru said he was the "LeBron James of football". The hype at Notre Dame wasn’t to the level of Beano Cook's prediction that Ron Powlus would win two Heismans, but it wasn't far off either. Clausen had all the tools coming out of high school, even if he was a bit older than your average senior (19 at the time of graduation) and he had a very good career at Notre Dame considering his offensive line was horrible and the Notre Dame defense didn't help much. But now if you had one prospect in this class to compare to LeBron James, it would certainly be Newton. Clausen’s NFL career has been a bit of a disaster with 14 career starts in six seasons.
2. Ryan Mallett – Texarkana, Tex.
The skinny: No. 4 overall, the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and the No. 1 recruit from Texas, Mallett was an early commitment to Michigan who never wavered. After spending one season with the Wolverines, the hiring of coach Rich Rodriguez, who is known for his spread option offense, led to his transfer to Arkansas. Mallett enjoyed two very successful seasons with the Razorbacks, passing for more than 7,400 yards and 62 touchdowns combined. Foregoing his senior season, Mallett was selected in the third round by New England, where he spent three seasons before being traded to Houston prior to the 2014 season. He battled for the starting job in 2015, but some lackluster play, plus some questionable off-the-field behavior, led to his release in October. Mallett joined Clausen in Baltimore in December after Joe Flacco's injury. Mallett had two starts, passing for a combined 566 yards and two touchdowns. He has eight career starts in five seasons.
Farrell’s take: Mallett had one of the strongest arms I've ever seen at the high school level and he was an amazing fit for Michigan's offense -- until RichRod came on board. This is another great example of how a prospect is ranked regardless of what school he chooses and then circumstances beyond his control, in this case a coaching hire, derail him a bit. But Mallett rebounded very well in the SEC and a third-round grade, while low for a No. 4 overall prospect, isn't so shabby, especially with the unpredictability of the quarterback position. Mallett’s NFL career hasn’t come close to that of Newton’s, despite his gifts.
3. Tyrod Taylor – Hampton, Va.
The skinny: No. 27 overall, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 1 recruit from Virginia in the Class of 2007, Taylor committed to Virginia Tech over Florida during the summer leading up to his senior season. He started 42 games during his four-year collegiate career in Blacksburg while helping lead the Hokies to three ACC championships. Despite his success at Virginia Tech, Taylor’s draft stock never flourished and he was selected in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. After spending four seasons in Baltimore as Flacco’s backup, Taylor signed a three-year contract with Buffalo after the 2014 season. Given his first opportunity to be a starter in the NFL, Taylor did so in 14 games, passing for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions while leading the team to an 8-6 record.
Farrell’s take: Taylor was ranked as a dual-threat quarterback because he could run and extend plays, but he could have easily been a pro-style as well because he hung in the pocket and was a throw-first guy. He threw a beautiful ball that came out quickly and clean and was very catchable and he was tough for a smaller quarterback, so he could take hits. Lack of size led to his drop in the NFL Draft, but he has endured and is now a successful starter in the NFL. He was athletic enough where some considered him as a wide receiver transition player out of high school, but we never had doubts about his ability to play under center.