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Super Bowl LIII: Breaking down the former three-stars

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Earlier this week we showcased the five-stars set to play in Super Bowl LIII, but just like the rankings, there are plenty of three-stars set to make a major impact on the game as well. Today, we look at 10 impact three-stars playing in Sunday's game.

SUPER BOWL LIII: Where players ranked as prospects | From five-stars to the Super Bowl | Two-stars that slipped through the cracks




Before the NFL: Brown didn’t have any offers out of high school and instead elected to go the JUCO route, landing at Georgia Military Academy, where he played two years. As a JUCO recruit, his recruitment came down to Oklahoma, Florida and Arizona and after officially visiting all three schools he committed to the Gators following his sophomore JUCO season. At Florida, Brown played both tackle and guard, and was an important piece for the Gators during his two-year stint with the program. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.

In the pros: Brown worked his way into the lineup for the 49ers as a rookie, starting two games and appearing in five total. He took a nice step forward over the next two years, starting 26 consecutive games before going down with a season-ending injury in 2017. Following the season he was traded to New England, where he moved to left tackle and started all 16 games for the Patriots this season.

Farrell’s memories: Brown was a massive tackle who didn’t play football until his junior year of high school and had to go the JUCO route to find his home at Florida. He was extremely athletic for his size but very raw having learned the game so late. Brown has done an amazing job turning himself into an NFL player after such a late start.


Phillip Dorsett
Phillip Dorsett (AP Images)

Before the NFL: Dorsett had a national list of offers, including Ohio State and Notre Dame, but elected to stay home and play for Miami, committing during the summer prior to his senior year. Dorsett saw time as a reserve during his freshman season but really burst onto the scene his sophomore year, when he had a college career-high with 58 catches for 842 yards and four touchdowns. After an injury-riddled junior year, Dorsett finished strong with 871 yards and 10 touchdowns. He tested well at the combine, and went on to be a first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2015 NFL Draft.

In the pros: Dorsett’s career with the Colts didn’t get off to the start many expected and after two seasons with 51 catches for 753 yards, he was traded to New England prior to the start of the 2017 season. With the Patriots he has been a rotation player, catching 44 passes for 484 yards. Dorsett might never live up to his first-round billing, but he’s been an important player for the Patriots, especially after the loss of Josh Gordon.

Farrell’s memories: Dorsett was a four-star at one point but dropped to a three-star because he lacked size and wasn't taking full advantage of his amazing speed, at least in our opinion. Then he went and added 10 pounds of muscle immediately without losing any speed. Sure, he was highly-ranked overall as a top-40 national receiver and top-60 player in talent-laden Florida, but he developed quickly after our final ranking and ended up being a first-round pick.


Before the NFL: Flowers had just two Power Five offers and he committed to Arkansas over UAB prior to National Signing Day in 2011. Flowers quickly made the Arkansas coaches look smart for taking a chance on him, seeing quite a bit of playing time and even making a few starts his first year on campus. Flowers would be a fixture on the Arkansas defense for the next three seasons as well and he finished his career with 190 tackles, 47.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, one interception, 13 passes defended and four forced fumbles. He was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

In the pros: Injuries limited Flowers to just one game his rookie season but since then he has been an important piece of the Patriots' defense. This season he has established himself as a valuable pass-rusher and during the regular season he had a career-high 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Farrell’s memories: Flowers was a low three-star out of high school who didn’t have a ton of buzz because he was from a new school and had numerous head coaches in his career. He had solid size and good athleticism, playing some tight end as well as defensive end and defensive tackle in high school. Flowers had a very good career at Arkansas and has become an important part of the Patriots' defense.


Before the NFL: Another good evaluation by the Arkansas coaching staff, Wise had just three Power Five offers and committed to the Razorbacks prior to the start of his senior season. Wise spent five years in Fayetteville, redshirting his freshman year after suffering an injury early in the season. His best season with the Hogs came as a junior in 2015, when he had eight sacks and three forced fumbles. Wise was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

In the pros: Wise has been a rotational player in his first two years with the Patriots but he has made his presence felt in his opportunities on the field, recording 26 tackles and five sacks as a rookie in 2017 and 30 tackles and 4.5 sacks this season.

Farrell’s memories: Wise was a high three-star in the class behind Flowers in 2012 who didn’t have a ton of offers and was raw but with good speed and length. He rose to high three-star status late in our rankings that year as he started to be more consistent and use better technique. Now Wise is teaming up again with Flowers to help the Pats.


James White
James White (AP Images)

Before the NFL: Despite his three-star ranking, White was highly-coveted by Power Five programs and took official visits to Wisconsin, Clemson, Iowa, NC State and Michigan State before committing to the Badgers a month before National Signing Day in 2010. At Wisconsin he followed the traditional path of uber-productive Badger backs, rushing for 1,052 yards as a true freshman in 2010 and capping off his career with a 1,444-yard season as a senior. White also had 670 yards receiving over his four seasons, a harbinger of things to come once he reached the NFL. White was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

In the pros: After playing sparingly as a rookie, White has increased his production with the Patriots every year and is having the best season of his career in 2018. During the regular season he had career highs in rushing (451 yards) and receiving (751 yards) with 12 total touchdowns. White has also already set a career-high in postseason receiving yards, having caught 19 passes for 146 yards over New England’s two playoff games.

Farrell’s memories: White was a talented running back out of high school but was overshadowed a bit by teammate Giovanni Bernard. White and Bernard split carries at St. Thomas Aquinas for the most part but White did have a big senior year. It’s rare when the same high school team has two four-star running backs but in this case that’s how things should have been. He’s had a very good NFL career after a very good career at Wisconsin.



Before the NFL: Anderson didn’t receive any offers as a 5-foot-8, 180-pound defensive back out of high school, but after two years at JUCO he re-emerged as a 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back and saw his recruitment take off. He eventually committed to Cal over offers from Memphis, Washington State and New Mexico State. Anderson’s two years at Cal were solid but not spectacular as he rushed for 1,135 yards and 12 touchdowns over his two seasons combined. He went undrafted in the 2013 draft, but signed with the Denver Broncos shortly thereafter.

In the pros: Anderson made the Broncos' roster as a rookie in 2013 and was a regular contributor over the next five seasons, including in 2015 when he helped the Broncos reach the Super Bowl and had 100 yards of total offense in the team’s win over Carolina. He had his best season as a Bronco in 2017, rushing for 1,007 yards and catching 28 passes for 224 yards, but nevertheless he was released by the team following the season. He signed with Carolina, where he rarely saw the field as he sat behind Christian McCaffrey and then spent less than a week with the Oakland Raiders before signing with the Rams in December. An injury to Todd Gurley opened the door for Anderson and he rushed for 299 yards in two games for the team during the regular season. He’s been just as important in the playoffs, rushing for 167 more yards in the team’s two playoff games.

Farrell’s memories: Anderson was a mid-level three-star out of junior college with good size and who had very good hands for a running back. He wasn’t heavily recruited because of question marks about his speed but he has carved out a very nice career despite being more of a power back.


Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald (AP Images)

Before the NFL: Donald only had a handful of college offers and he made an early decision, committing to Pitt during the spring of his junior year and never wavering from that pick. Once on campus with the Panthers, Donald quickly put to bed any concerns about his size and stepped right into the lineup. During his four-year career he got better each season, going from All-Big East as a sophomore to unanimous All-American as a senior. He finished his college career with an incredible 66 tackles for loss, including 29.5 sacks. He was selected by the Rams in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

In the pros: Donald hit the ground running in the NFL and been one of the best overall defensive players in the league over his first five seasons. Donald has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of his first five seasons, while winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. This season, Donald led the league in sacks with 20.5, a career high.

Farrell’s memories: Donald was a talented kid coming out of high school but was a bit sawed off and not overly long which kept him from that four-star status. Obviously that was a huge mistake. He had a motor that wouldn’t stop and a knack for splitting double teams and getting into the backfield.


Before the NFL: Littleton committed to Washington over UCLA, Minnesota and several Group of Five offers following his senior season. Littleton was a consistent contributor for the Huskies during his career and finished his career with his best season in 2015, recording 63 tackles and six sacks. He went undrafted in the 2016 draft, but later signed with the Rams.

In the pros: After starting just five games in his first two seasons with the Rams, Littleton has been one of the Rams' best defensive players in 2018. He started all 16 regular season games and ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in tackles with 125. He also had four sacks and 13 pass deflections, showing the versatility that makes him an impact player.

Farrell’s memories: Littleton was a low three-star prospect out of high school with a good wingspan but he was undersized at defensive end. However, that length and his speed led to a solid career at Washington and now he’s a key tackler in the Rams' defense who can also cover. A lot of coaches are kicking themselves as he’s become one of the best defensive players in the NFL.


Before the NFL: Peters’ recruiting process came down to Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington State, with him picking the Huskies prior to National Signing Day in 2011. At Washington, Peters was a star on the field but ran into his issues off of it, including being dismissed from the team during his redshirt junior season in 2014. Nevertheless, he finished his time as a Husky with 129 total tackles, 35 pass deflections and 11 interceptions and was selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the pros: Peters' career got off to an amazing start as he tied for the league lead in interceptions as a rookie and won NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. He turned in another Pro Bowl season in 2016 and was once again among the league leaders in interceptions. But things went off the rails in 2017 as run-ins with the coaching staff led to Peters being suspended by the team for a game in December. Despite having a similar season statistically to his first two seasons, Peters was traded by the Chiefs to the Rams in the offseason. This year with Los Angeles, Peters started all 16 games but had career lows in tackles and interceptions.

Farrell’s memories: Peters was a cornerback with good size and instincts and had some nice offers coming out of high school but none from FBS powerhouses. Peters was five spots away from being a four-star, so we liked him quite a bit and even had him as one of the top performers at the Gridiron Kings national All-Star 7-on-7 heading into his senior year, but we didn't pull the trigger on elevating him to the four-star category because he was good at everything but great at nothing. That certainly changed in college and he’s been a very good pro.


Before the NFL: Reynolds had an offer from Oregon State as a high school prospect in 2013, but after that didn’t work out he ended up going the JUCO route instead. He spent one year at Tyler Junior College in Texas and received a trio of offers, electing to commit to Texas A&M over Boise State and TCU. Reynolds put up big numbers all three years in College Station, going from 842 yards his sophomore year to 907 yards his junior year and capping things off with 1,039 yards and 12 touchdowns a senior. He was drafted by the Rams in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

In the pros: Reynolds played primarily as a backup during his rookie season but saw his playing time increase in 2018 after Cooper Kupp suffered a season-ending injury. He finished the season with 29 catches for 402 yards and five touchdowns, and appears to have a bright future ahead of him.

Farrell’s memories: Reynolds had to take the JUCO route as a full qualifier just to get noticed by FBS teams and he still emerged late after his freshman season at Tyler J.C., despite scoring 11 touchdowns through the air for a run-heavy program. As a low three-star, we saw the height and frame and he was a deep threat, but he wasn’t a very good route runner nor possession receiver. That has changed as he’s developed in college and continues to develop in the NFL.


More three-stars in Super Bowl LIII: 

Los Angeles: DB Troy Hill (Oregon, 2010), DT Sebastian Joseph-Day (Rutgers, 2013), RB John Kelly (Tennessee, 2015), LB Micah Kiser (Virginia, 2013), TE John Mundt (Oregon, 2013) OL Joseph Noteboom (TCU, 2013), LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Oklahoma, 2013), OL Trevon Young (Louisville, 2014, JUCO)

New England: OC David Andrews (Georgia, 2011), OL Adam Butler (Vanderbilt, 2012), OL Marcus Cannon (TCU, 2006), OL James Ferentz (Iowa, 2008), DB Duron Harmon (Rutgers, 2009), QB Brian Hoyer (Michigan State, 2004), DB Jonathan Jones (Auburn, 2012), OL Ted Karras (Illinois, 2011), LB Brandon King (Auburn, 2013, JUCO), OL Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech, 2011), DE John Simon (Ohio State, 2009), Matthew Slater (UCLA, 2003), OL Joseph Thuney (NC State, 2011), OL LaAdrian Waddle (Texas Tech, 2009)