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Rivals Rankings Week: Who could unseat Jahkeem Stewart in the 2026 class?

Keenyi Pepe
Keenyi Pepe (Nick Lucero/

The 2026 rankings will be updated this week and there are plenty of prospects who have entered the national discussion since the last update in early December.

Jahkeem Stewart took over the No. 1 spot in the 2026 class when Julian Lewis reclassified to 2025. There are plenty of challengers hoping to dethrone Stewart but is his grip on the top spot too strong for any prospect to pry him loose? The national recruiting analysts - John Garcia Jr., Adam Friedman, Adam Gorney, Marshall Levenson and Greg Smith - give their takes on who they think is the most likely challenger to unseat Stewart.



Sunday: Who could unseat Jahkeem Stewart in the 2026 class?

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

Tuesday: Rivals250 released | Ten highest debuts | Gorney's thoughts

Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released

Thursday: Defensive position rankings released

Friday: State rankings released

Saturday: Roundtable on the 2026 rankings


FINAL 2023 TEAM RANKINGS: Comprehensive (overall) ranking | High school/JUCO ranking | Transfer portal ranking

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

CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State

TRANSFER PORTAL: Latest news | Transfer portal player ranking | Transfer portal team ranking | Transfer Tracker | Message board



FRIEDMAN’S VIEW: Jackson Cantwell

Stewart is truly elite and he could have been a five-star prospect in the 2025 class so it’ll be very difficult for anybody in the 2026 class to unseat him. That being said, I can’t remember a 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive tackle like Jackson Cantwell with former Olympians as parents. Cantwell plays a premium position with a skillset that has almost limitless upside. If he develops like an elite prospect should, Cantwell could challenge Stewart at the top of the Rivals250.


GARCIA’S VIEW: Keenyi Pepe

If the discussion is around who can possibly challenge a game-wrecking defensive lineman like Stewart, why not an offensive lineman who may see him at the prep and college level before all is said and done? Of course Pepe plays a priority position and will work at left tackle at IMG Academy as an upperclassman, where he has already excelled with his 6-foot-7 length and frame as a pass protector. Now up to 290 pounds, Pepe is beginning to fill out that dream frame, especially in the lower half, meaning he can work towards becoming a more ferocious and powerful run blocker to continue to balance out his game. There is of course a long way to go in the cycle, so seeing how these elite recruits develop both physically and technically will go a long way towards the race for No. 1 -- so why not a modern, pass-first blindside protector?


GORNEY’S VIEW: Brady Smigiel

It's going to be difficult to unseat Jahkeem Stewart as the top prospect in 2026 but if that were to happen I'm going to make an argument of position value more than anything. Offensive tackle Jackson Cantwell is an elite talent whose both parents were Olympians but the last time a player at his position was taken No. 1 overall it was 2013. Wide receiver Chris Henry Jr. is phenomenal and while we spurned history by making Jeremiah Smith No. 1 overall in the 2024 class, the last No. 1 overall receiver was Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.

This is where I look to quarterback as that is by far the predominant No. 1 pick and the best player at that position in this class so far is Newbury Park, Calif. standout Brady Smigiel. Stewart is an exceptional talent and has a phenomenal frame and game but if anybody could push for that No. 1 spot, I'm going quarterback and I'm going Smigiel.



Anytime it comes to debating the No. 1 prospect, I feel there’s only a few positions that can even start in the conversation, unless there is an otherworldly prospect at a non-premium position (e.g. Jeremiah Smith). But generally, I look at quarterbacks, tackles and defensive ends, which is essentially what you will see play out in the NFL Draft on a yearly basis. Jahkeem Stewart is by far the best prospect among these positions, which has put him as the early favorite to be No. 1 in the class for the long run.

Taking a look at the others in these position groups, offensive tackle Jackson Cantwell is the only one who compares from an NFL projection standpoint. IMG Academy’s Keenyi Pepe will continue to show he is elite at the offensive tackle position and worthy of five-stars, but No. 1 is not in the cards right now.

At quarterback, the current top prospects of Brady Smigiel, Ryder Lyons, Jared Curtis and Noah Grubbs will all receive their fair share of hype. I personally would side with Lyons to push for that No. 1 spot down the line, but he will have to be near perfect at every junction of his development and evaluations.


SMITH’S VIEW: Jackson Cantwell

The intangibles are off the charts for five-star offensive tackle Jackson Cantwell. Both his parents were Olympians so we know he’s good genes. He’s a good basketball player and he’s prolific in track as a thrower. Standing at 6-foot-7, 300-pounds, he looks like the prototypical left tackle. Cantwell is a tremendous prospect and the only knock against him is the competition he plays in high school. Seeing him on a national stage would go a long way to him being able to dethrone Jahkeem Stewart.