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Rivals Rankings Review: Farrell reveals his decisions

The recent release of the Rivals250 for the class of 2021 was obviously impacted by the inability to evaluate as many prospects in person as usual during the spring after the COVID-19 shutdown.

In a new post-rankings feature dubbed the Rivals Rankings Review, recruiting director Mike Farrell takes a closer look at a handful of controversial ratings that arise from each new rankings release.

Today, he reviews six topics that were hotly debated following our last release and announces his decision on whether the rating stands as is, or will be changed.

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RELATED: Farrell needs another look | Five-star countdown | New five-stars | Farrell's thoughts

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022: Top 100

MORE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series

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1. The UNC Four

Drake Maye
Drake Maye (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

The situation: UNC commitments Power Echols, Keeshawn Silver, Raneiria Dillworth and Drake Maye are all outliers of sorts in the rankings industry. Echols, Silver and Dillworth are all high three-stars while Maye is No. 126 in the country, which is too low according to some critics. I’ve gone back and watched everything we have on each player and what I’ve decided will make UNC fans happy — but not all the way.

The decision: I really like Dillworth as a potentially special player in this class and I feel he is a Rivals100 talent, so I’m bumping him to a 5.9 four-star. With his versatility and athleticism at his size, he could be an Isaiah Simmons down the line. I could see him pushing up the rankings near the end as well.

Silver is also vastly underrated as a huge, athletic end who could grow into a defensive tackle. He reminds me a bit of Chris Jones, who was a standout at Mississippi State and is now in the NFL. I’m not sure Silver will grow into a 300-pound defensive tackle with pass-rushing ability like Jones, but his ceiling is high. I’m making him a 5.9 four-star as well.

Echols is a kid I’ve always liked on film as an instinctive tackling machine but there are questions about his length and speed in coverage. That being said, he’s a 5.8 four-star inside linebacker who could rise with another great season.

Finally, we have Maye ranked correctly. Yes, I know he threw for 50 touchdowns and only two picks last season and I respect the Charlotte level of competition, but as a 5.9 four-star and top 150 prospect, it’s not like we don’t like him. Maye has good downfield accuracy, but his ball can hang at times, his receivers have to adjust to the ball often and he tends to under-throw receivers at times. He does throw a nice back-shoulder ball but he can be short on his passes as well and his receivers do a really good job adjusting to off-target balls. He’s staying as a 5.9 four-star for now.

We will place these players in the Rivals250 numerically in our next update so we can meet as a team and see how they compare at their specific positions nationally.

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2. Big Ten Two

The situation: Two players committed to Big Ten schools are very interesting to me as Penn State ATH commitment Lonnie White Jr. and Wisconsin DT commit Michael Jarvis are both two-stars. These are not two-star players.

The decision: White Jr. was a baseball commitment before deciding to choose Penn State for football and a guy who blew up late due to impressive film. As an athlete he’s a 5.8 four-star to me as most of his impressive work is done running as a quarterback but there are some nice plays at receiver as well. He’s a long strider and can run away from people and his future is likely at wide receiver but he could easily be a defensive back with his length or a running quarterback.

As for Jarvis, he is a plugger at defensive tackle who can shoot the gap and chase the passer. However he’s not an overly athletic kid or long but he does deserve a bump as an active defensive tackle. I’m making him a 5.6 three-star.

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3. DT Leonard Taylor

Leonard Taylor
Leonard Taylor (Rivals.com)

The situation: We have Leonard Taylor ranked as the No. 116 player in the country, which is much lower than elsewhere. Do we have him ranked incorrectly?

The decision: Taylor is a very good prospect and we have him as a 5.9 four-star and top 150 player, so we like him quite a bit. We have him ranked properly right now as he is in that 100-125 range and I just don’t see a top-five player overall when I watch him. He’s good at getting off the snap and he does blow up some plays, but other plays he’s the second or third player in on the play and I don’t see elite pursuit skills.

He’s more of a drive-by tackler who hits or misses you. Of course I thought the same about Gervon Dexter early in the process last year and changed my mind on that one so time will tell. But I’m comfortable being the outlier here.

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4. The Minnesota Duo

The situation: OT Riley Mahlman (Wisconsin) and DE Devin Eastern (Minnesota) are two players that have been discussed from the state of Minnesota. Mahlman is a high three-star and Eastern is a low three-star.

The decision: Mahlman is a guy who was on the cusp of being a four-star based on film alone and after reviewing him, a 5.8 four-star is where he belongs. This is a tall, rangy and athletic kid with a great frame to fill out. He plays high sometimes but that’s expected from such a tall player. When you watch him block in space or run plays down on defense you can see how high his ceiling can be.

As for Eastern, a 5.5 three-star is a bit low but I’m not comfortable turning him into a four-star yet so I’m going to say 5.7 three-star. He’s a powerful kid who takes on contact well but he can make himself a big target out of his stance too often and he needs to get stronger for a bigger end. He’s raw, but to me he’s closer to a four-star than a two-star, so thus the bump.

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5. QB Kaidon Salter

Kaidon Salter
Kaidon Salter (Sam Spiegelman)

The situation: Kaidon Salter, a Tennessee commitment, is a 5.7 high three-star. Should he be a four-star? Vols fans, of course, think so.

The decision: This is a tough one because there are so many different views of Salter. He has a strong arm and he can run and he did a good job stepping up last season for his team. But Cedar Hill doesn’t run a very sophisticated offense and a lot of what he does is throw the ball downfield and let his receivers run under it.

But when you break him down even more his throwing mechanics are very solid, he’s great at extending the play and moving around the pocket with his eyes downfield and he has nice touch on some balls.

His intermediate passing game needs work as does his mid-field accuracy but his ceiling is high. I’m bumping him to a 5.8 four-star and like the rest he will be considered for the Rivals250 the next time we rank as a group.

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6. DT Anquin Barnes

Anquin Barnes
Anquin Barnes

The situation: Anquin Barnes, a massive DT prospect from Alabama, is a mid-level three-star despite being one of the top targets for the Tide and some other big programs. Some believe he should be a four-star.

The decision: Usually when Alabama is crazy about a player, it ends up being right. But the more I watch Barnes, the more I think we have his rating correct. Yes, he’s huge but he’s not an athletic chaser that many love these days at the DT position. He makes plays but the plays often come to him and that’s okay, but not what the elite tackles do even if they are huge. He’s a run-stuffer but not a gap shooter, so I’m comfortable with a 5.6 three-star right now.

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