football

Three-Point Stance: Top-ranked prospects, bust factor, No. 99

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Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s Three-Point Stance is here with a look at how difficult it is becoming to identify the top prospect in each class, a rundown of potential five-star busts from the 2017 class and a reason to pay attention to the No. 99 prospect in the Rivals100.

MORE: Updated Rivals250 | Risers | Sliders | Updated position rankings

1. HARDER AND HARDER TO IDENTIFY NO. 1 PROSPECT

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Najee Harris

I remember the days of four or five ranking cycles per class and surefire No. 1 prospects that were never debated throughout the year. From Vince Young to Adrian Peterson to Percy Harvin to Terrelle Pryor, Jadeveon Clowney, Dorial Green-Beckham and Robert Nkemdiche, it was bell-to-bell without much worry.

But since 2014, the year we stuck with Da’Shawn Hand over Myles Garrett, the final debate for that No. 1 spot has been as hard as ever. That's the result of an over-evaluation factor. We see these kids so often and end up second guessing ourselves, and more ranking cycles (Rivals.com has eight per class now) leads to more debate.

So while Garrett is set to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft this April, Hand will be pushing to earn a starting job at Alabama. And as Josh Rosen tries to bounce back from injury to become the top quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, Byron Cowart might not even be a starter at Auburn next season. Last year we chose Rashan Gary over Dexter Lawrence and, while both will be great, Lawrence has had the bigger early impact.

This year, with the 2017 class, going with running back Najee Harris instead of a safer bet such as defensive tackle Marvin Wilson or running back Cam Akers, who has a clearer path to early playing time, is a tricky move. Harris could win a Heisman Trophy or transfer out after not winning a starting job. No one knows.

The only thing I know is this: Determining the No. 1 prospect in a class isn’t as easy as it used to be, and that makes the rankings that much more interesting.

2. FIVE-STAR BUST FACTOR

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Marvin Wilson

Five-star prospects, much like first-round draft picks, occasionally bust out. It happens. Factors like injury, attitude, impatience, coaching changes or simply not developing as expected make many five-stars end up looking overrated.

I’m here to rate the potential bust factor of each of our 34 five-stars in the 2017 class, something no one else will have the guts to do.

The BUST FACTOR ranges from MEDIUM to LOW. There is no HIGH, because we wouldn’t rank someone a five-star if we felt there was a good chance they would bust out. Finally, these are my personal opinions and do not reflect the opinion of the Rivals.com analyst team as a whole.

1. RB Najee Harris – MEDIUM – How can the No. 1 player in the country have a medium grade? Harris is headed across the country into a crowded backfield and might not have the patience to wait his turn as others have.

2. DT Marvin Wilson – LOW – Wilson’s motor makes him a low risk option. He will be successful not matter what barring injury.

3. RB Cam Akers – MEDIUM – Akers only issue is moving from quarterback, albeit a running quarterback, to running back, so some nuances of the position will need to be learned. I view him as having a lower bust factor than Harris, but Harris has the higher ceiling.

4. OT Alex Leatherwood – LOW – With his size and improved technique, he’s at worst a mauling guard and at best the next Cam Robinson.

5. DE Josh Kaindoh – LOW – Kaindoh needs to fill out and add strength, but his quickness and length keep his bust factor very low.

6. DE Jaelan Phillips – MEDIUM – Phillips is a freaky athlete who is really raw right now. If he learns to play with his hand in the ground, watch out.

7. OT Walker Little – LOW – Walker is technically sound, smart and has great size and length.

8. DE Chase Young – LOW – Young has a great motor, good length and a big frame to add size. His boundless energy and love for the game makes him low risk.

9. LB Baron Browning – LOW – Browning does remind me a bit of Ohio State bust Curtis Grant, so medium is tempting, but there is a better foundation for success at Ohio State now than when Grant arrived.

10. QB Davis Mills – MEDIUM – Quarterbacks are always medium even if Mills is a great fit at Stanford.

11. CB Lamont Wade – LOW – Wade can play corner, safety, nickel and special teams.

12. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones – LOW – A big receiver who can stretch the field will be a success.

13. CB AJ Terrell – MEDIUM – Tall corners have a high boom or bust factor and Terrell is still raw.

14. OL Foster Sarell – MEDIUM – Lack of competition in high school and difficulty handling speed at Army Bowl makes him medium.

15. WR Tee Higgins – LOW – The next A.J. Green? Could be.

16. S Jeffrey Okudah – LOW – A safety who can play corner, very little risk.

17. OL Isaiah Wilson – MEDIUM – A massive offensive lineman who could start off at guard and move to tackle.

18. QB Hunter Johnson – MEDIUM – Quarterbacks are tough to call and Johnson tends to turn the ball over, although that didn’t hurt the last Clemson signal caller.

19. WR Jerry Jeudy – LOW – Fast with great hands and can get separation easily, low risk.

20. QB Jake Fromm – MEDIUM – He’s going into the right offense for him, but will he beat out Jacob Eason, wait his turn or be impatient?

21. QB Kellen Mond – MEDIUM – Downfield accuracy is his issue but he has the “it” factor to me, similar to Deshaun Watson.

22. OL Wyatt Davis – LOW – Mauling guards his size with light feet usually do well.

23. RB Kahalan Laborn – MEDIUM – Competing with another five-star makes it tough and he isn’t a natural inside runner.

24. CB Shaun Wade – MEDIUM – High boom and bust factor equals medium grade.

25. OL Jedrick Wills – LOW – He’ll be a tackle or a guard and has amazing technique.

26. LB Jordan Anthony – LOW – Not long but his willingness to hit and motor makes him low risk.

27. CB Darnay Holmes – MEDIUM – Holmes ability in single coverage hasn’t improved as much as expected.

28. S JaCoby Stevens – LOW – One of the best pure athletes in this class. He will be a star at LSU.

29. LB Jacob Phillips – LOW – A big, physical inside linebacker will be effective barring injury.

30. DE A.J. Epenesa – MEDIUM – He’ll play early at Iowa, but I question whether he can dominate.

31. DT Aubrey Solomon – LOW – Gap-shooting athletic defensive tackles will always see the field.

32. LB Dylan Moses – MEDIUM – Is he a pure linebacker yet or just a great athlete? I still have my doubts.

33. WR Trevon Grimes – MEDIUM – Big with great hands but lacks the same downfield speed as a DPJ.

34. DT Tyler Shelvin – MEDIUM – Weight will be the factor here as he needs to trim down to be a three-down defensive tackle.

3. LUCKY NUMBER 99

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Isaiah Pola-Mao

The No. 99 prospect in the Rivals100 has had some success over the years with players such as Kyle Williams, Riley Cooper, Alshon Jeffrey and most recently Michael Jordan at Ohio State this past season. With that in mind, keep an eye on Arizona athlete Isaiah Pola-Mao in the coming years.

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