Rivals Rankings Week: Analyst roundtable
We rolled out what likely will be the final ranking for the 2021 class this week – although with high school football in the spring in some states due to COVID-19, we might need one more. We asked our recruiting analysts about some of the toughest decisions in this update.
RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK
Monday: Five-Star Countdown | Making the Case for No. 1 | How things stand with the uncommitted players in the Rivals250 | The top five-star candidates
Tuesday: New Rivals250 released | Breaking down the new five-stars | Biggest movers in new ranking
Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released | Schools with the most R250 players
Thursday: Defensive position rankings released
Friday: State rankings released
1. Which prospect do you think we ranked too high?
Adam Friedman (East Coast): The pandemic made this evaluation cycle the most frustrating one I’ve been a part of because we didn’t get the opportunities to evaluate players nearly as many times as we usually due. That’s going to result in so many players with rankings that are too high or too low. One player from my region that ended up too high is Payton Page. The defensive tackle is a monster in the middle of the defense but there were a lot of questions about his game that we never got answered. Conditioning and consistency were two areas of concern with Page and No. 54 in the country is too high for a player that hasn’t proven himself in those areas.
Adam Gorney (West Coast/National): Corey Collier is a talented defensive back and it could be argued that his size makes him more versatile as either a big cornerback or an undersized safety who can cover ground but I'm worried he's kind of a tweener and doesn't exactly fit at either position. Over the rankings cycle, the Florida signee has slowly crept down but stayed within the five-star ranking which is a little aggressive. There's no doubt Collier is very talented and he could be a major contributor for the Gators but as a five-star we think he's a potential first-round NFL Draft pick and that's just a tad high for my taste.
Josh Helmholdt (Midwest): This is a tough year to make strong statements because I saw fewer players nationally than in most years, but Jake Briningstool feels too high to me at No. 70. He's a narrow-framed tight end who did not pop athletically when I saw him in-person, though that was more than a year ago.
Chad Simmons (Southeast): Bryce Foster is a large offensive guard in Texas, and he is one who will likely compete for early playing time at Texas A&M, but for his position and his skill-set, ranked at No. 14 seemed a little high for me. I had the chance to see him live three or four times, and he is extremely strong, he puts in the work, and I expect him to have success in College Station. But him being a five-star, that leads me to think potential NFL first-round draft pick, and I am not sure I see that down the line.
Sam Spiegelman (South Central): Corey Collier was an early five-star for Rivals and finished the cycle as the No. 30 overall player. However, prospects develop at different rates and other defensive backs nationally and within the talent-laden state of Florida caught up to -- and even surpassed him. James Williams and Jason Marshall are certainly guys in the conversation as the best defensive backs from the state.
2. Which prospect do you think we ranked too low?
Adam Friedman (East Coast): Another evaluation that was a victim of the limited scouting opportunities because of the pandemic, Zaire Patterson probably should have made it into the Rivals250. The edge defender has a ton of athleticism and has added significant mass, answering a big question about him from earlier in the process. Getting a better look at Patterson’s technique and overall development would have given us a clearer picture of how close he is to being able to contribute at Clemson.
Adam Gorney (West Coast/National): Billy Bowman is so dynamic on offense, defense and special teams that he should have received more consideration as a five-star prospect from the athlete position, plus he's just going to be awesome at Oklahoma. He closes so fast on defense, he makes incredible plays on offense and in the return game it doesn't matter if four defenders are around him, Bowman finds a way to sneak through and then outrun everybody. Coach Lincoln Riley is brilliant and so he's going to find ways to use Bowman all over the place.
Josh Helmholdt (Midwest): The question of how high to bring up a late-riser is always a difficult one to answer, but I'm not sure we moved Audric Estime high enough after his senior season. The running back position was light this year, and that helped Estime generate attention late, but he is an outstanding talent going to a good situation. We saw the success Kyren Williams had in that Notre Dame offense; Estime has the tools to duplicate that success.
Chad Simmons (Southeast): Georgia Tech signee Leo Blackburn is one that comes to mind quickly. Yes, he is a four-star, but outside the Rivals250 may be too low. He still has to develop as a route-runner and add strength, but he has a great frame, his catch-radius is one of the biggest in this class, he has great body control, and he will be an athlete the Yellow Jackets can move around to create mismatches on the Flats. Blackburn is a raw talent with so much potential and high upside.
Sam Spiegelman (South Central): Jaeden Roberts. The Alabama signee is a massive interior lineman at 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds. He's very raw from a technical angle, but possesses enormous brute power and was rock-solid as a senior for North Shore. Roberts has a long way to go to reach his potential, but has upside to be an elite offensive lineman in the SEC and beyond.
3. Who is the prospect you’re most confident will pan out?
Adam Friedman (East Coast): Maason Smith seems like a sure thing but I’m going to say Nolan Rucci. The massive offensive tackle with NFL bloodlines is headed to Wisconsin to team up with his brother. The Badgers do a great job developing players like Rucci and he’s got all the skills to be a success in Madison.
Adam Gorney (West Coast/National): I just cannot see a situation where JC Latham is not the next big-time offensive tackle at Alabama. So many have come before him and thrived under coach Nick Saban's tutelage and Latham is next on the assembly line. He's big, physical, he can move, he takes to coaching and he's been a dominant force at IMG Academy. The next step for Latham is to head to Tuscaloosa and not only learn from Saban but now a former NFL head coach in Doug Marrone will be his position coach.
Josh Helmholdt (Midwest): Our No. 1 overall player, Maason Smith. I am not saying my confidence is that he will prove to be the best prospect in this class – I think there are others with a higher ceiling – but Smith probably has the highest floor and lowest bust potential. He has the work ethic and the drive to capitalize on his talents with LSU.
Chad Simmons (Southeast): I could list many names here, but there is something about Terrion Arnold that has me confident in placing his name down. He is a natural athlete that puts in unlimited work to get better, and his self-motivation makes him different. On top of that, he is a versatile player with smarts, leadership and the ability to make plays all over the field.
Sam Spiegelman (South Central): It might be considered cheap to say Maason Smith, but there's a reason beyond his athletic skill-set that he was not only the No. 1 defensive lineman but the No. 1 prospect. Smith is undoubtedly the most gifted defensive lineman to emerge from Louisiana in recent memory, and that's a group that includes Rashard Lawrence, Jerry Tillery, Phidarian Mathis and Ishmael Sopsher among others. Beyond that, he has an incredible work ethic and a devotion to his craft that'll be equally as important.