football Edit

Rivals Rankings Week: Breaking down the 2025 athlete rankings

DJ Pickett
DJ Pickett (Nick Lucero/

With the updated 2025 Rivals250 being unveiled Tuesday, it's time to dive into the position rankings. The defensive position rankings are being released today and next up are the athletes:

NEW 2025 POSITION RANKINGS: Pro-Style QB | Dual-Threat QB | Running Back | All-Purpose Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Offensive Tackle | Offensive Guard | Center | Defensive Tackle | Weakside Defensive End | Strongside Defensive End | Inside Linebacker | Outside Linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Athlete



Sunday: Who should be No. 1?

Monday: Five-Star Countdown | Meet the new five-stars

Tuesday: New Rivals250 released | Gorney goes position-by-position | Biggest movers

Wednesday: New offensive position rankings | QB rankings breakdown | RB rankings breakdown | WR/TE breakdown | OL breakdown

Thursday: New defensive position rankings | DL rankings breakdown | LB rankings breakdown

Friday: New state rankings

Saturday: Rankings roundtable


CLASS OF 2024 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State

CLASS OF 2026 RANKINGS: Rivals100

TRANSFER PORTAL: Latest news | Transfer search | Transfer tracker/player ranking (football) | Transfer team ranking (football) | Transfer tracker/player ranking (basketball) | Transfer team ranking (basketball) | Rivals Portal Twitter



WHO'S NO. 1?

The Floridian remains a top-10 prospect in the updated Rivals250, but the position switch to athlete moves him from the top-ranked safety to the top-ranked athlete. Pickett has a claim to both posts, but when it comes to his college projection we’re running into more questions than answers at this time. It’s not a knock on the lengthy talent’s athleticism, it’s more of a nod to it. Some programs are courting him in the secondary, generally, while others have had the safety and/or cornerback discussion. Pickett, himself, prefers working at corner.

There is also a contingent of college coaches that see Pickett developing into a wide receiver come his college days. Either of the wrinkles away from the safety spot could have warranted the move to athlete on their own, so both being present forces our hand some. Either way, there is no doubting the five-star potential Pickett will bring to a college no matter what position he begins his career at.

A legitimate, fluid athlete at taller than 6-foot-3, Pickett also has requisite length and the ball skills to affect a given football game in a major way when it’s in the air. Of course, there aren’t many NFL cornerbacks at his height and length in the league right now, but it may not be out of the question for Pickett – he is that special of an athlete. Safer bets at safety or wide receiver would still see his star shine on Saturday’s and likely beyond. At this time, the junior has Georgia, Oregon, LSU, Miami, Clemson and Michigan among others high on his list.



Cameron Sparks
Cameron Sparks (

On the move: While Pickett occupies the new No. 1 spot having moved over from the safety rankings, many athlete projections in the Rivals250 made the opposite style move. Among the elites no longer listed as an athlete include Texas commitment Lance Jackson (moved to strongside defensive end), Jaylan Morgan (cornerback), Darrell Johnson (outside linebacker), Bryce Fitzgerald (safety), Nick Townsend (tight end) and Iowa commitment Thomas Mayer (tight end).

A New No. 2: Cameron Sparks was a top-50 prospect in the last update, but now the jumbo pass-catcher moves over to the athlete projection given how programs are courting him from various standpoints. Some like him as a big wideout, and others at tight end while at least two programs in his standing top group court him on defense at linebacker. Sparks is considering Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan and Tennessee.

Brown’s big rise: Another former wide receiver projection, Vernell Brown III moves over to athlete and surges up the overall and position rankings in the process, checking in at No. 58 nationally and the No. 3-ranked athlete to date. Brown was dominant, mostly on offense, in 2023 and early on in 2024 he has shined as a secondary player as well in helping South Florida Express win three 7-on-7 tournaments before the end of February. Brown is wide open in his recruitment at this time.



1. Oklahoma: Jaden Nickens is one of several in-state pledges for Brent Venables early in the cycle, jumping on board before his junior season. Tall and lean, he also has a strong basketball foundation in addition to working both sides of the ball come Friday nights. The frame makes most think of the future Sooner as a wide receiver and the bounce he brings on the hardwood makes it that much more intriguing as Nickens fills out even more.

2. Clemson: Marquise Henderson was an in-state win for Clemson in December and despite the Tigers' class sitting among the largest in the ACC, he is the only in-state skill position player on board for Dabo Swinney at this time. As for where Henderson may line up once in Death Valley for good, the goal may be just to get the football in his hands considering the 40 total touchdowns he registered as a junior. Henderson looks like he can work as a change-of-pace back, slot receiver and certainly in the return game before all is said and done.

3. Wisconsin: Jaimier Scott picked the Badgers in late January and he still sits as the highest ranked of the bunch. The Ohio native could also be considered the most versatile, too, with extensive experience at both cornerback and safety spots on Friday nights. Projecting him to the collegiate game may see the blend continue, though the pop Scott plays with is something that points the arrow to working inside more times than not.

4. Ole Miss: Darnell Williams is one of two blue-chip commitments on board early on for Ole Miss, and his talents have been tracked to the point that programs aren’t done trying to change his mind at this time. Williams is a rock solid prospect with the ball in his hands on offense, but he has a higher ceiling on defense, somewhere in the secondary. We could see him developing into a nickel type in the SEC one day, though USC is among the programs working to change his mind and have him end up in the new Big Ten country.

5. Virginia: Chris Spence is not the only the top athlete on the Cavalier commitment list, he is the crown jewel of Tony Elliott’s early 2025 haul and just jumped on board this week. A tall two-way standout on Friday night’s, most view the Maryland native as a secondary prospect, with cornerback as the position he has flashed most at. Spence is lengthy and plays the ball well at the apex, though he is plenty physical to support the run as well.