With Super Bowl 52 fast approaching, be prepared for the influx of social media posts explaining why recruiting rankings don’t matter.
“Patrick Chung was a 2-star recruit, who went to Oregon, became one of the best defenders in the nation and is now starting for the Patriots in the Super Bowl!”
“Jason Kelce wasn’t even ranked out of high school; now he’s the starting center for the Eagles!”
Both of those are unequivocally true. There are more unranked and 2-star recruits in the NFL than there are 5-star recruits. That, too, is a fact.
But here’s another fact: Recruiting rankings DO matter, and this Super Bowl proves exactly why.
First, let’s break this down by recent trends. For the sake of ease, we’re going with Rivals.com rankings — because its recruiting rankings are sortable by star-rating, whereas the 247Sports composite rankings are not. Rivals.com has also been ranking recruits since the 2001 recruiting class, which means it has actively ranked more of the older NFL players than 247Sports.
Percentage of star ratings by Rivals.com during past 5 years
Keep in mind that the above numbers do not factor in every recruit in the Rivals’ database. These are just players who are ranked — thousands more are unranked every year.
As the numbers show, about 10 percent of nearly 20,000 ranked players during the past five years get a 4- or 5-star rating. Ninety percent (almost 18,000 players) receive a rating of 2- or 3-stars.
Now let’s take a look at the recruiting rankings of the active rosters of the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. These are the active rosters as of Jan. 25; they do not include special teams players (kickers, punters, long snappers). It also does not include players who were recruits before Rivals began ranking players; hence, a player like Tom Brady is not included in the data.
|Team||5-stars||4-stars||3-stars||2-stars or lower||Total|
|New England Patriots||1||14||23||10||48|
As the table makes apparent, 4- and 5-star recruits make up 34-percent of the active rosters of the Eagles and Patriots. According to the recruiting rankings, however, 4- and 5-star recruits only make up 10 percent of the total ranked players.
What stands out even more is that every former 5-star recruit is projected to start Super Bowl 52. That would be defensive tackle Malcolm Brown for the Patriots; the Eagles will start wide receiver Nelson Agholor, defensive end Brandon Graham and linebacker Nigel Bradham.
This is where arguments that recruiting rankings do not matter go off the rails. What people get confused are recruiting rankings on a micro level vs. recruiting rankings on a macro level. On an individual (micro) level, any player can overcome a low recruiting ranking and make the NFL. It’s a numbers game, and there are WAY more 2- and 3-star recruits than blue-chip prospects. Inevitably, players will outperform their rankings.
But on a macro level, recruiting rankings do matter. As the Super Bowl teams show, 4- or 5-star recruits outperform their overall percentages to make the NFL, and by a large amount. There is no debating that a 4- or 5-star recruit has a better shot at making the NFL than a 2- or 3-star recruit, even if there are more 2- and 3-star recruits in the NFL.
Again, it’s a numbers game. So when you see social media posts leading up to the Super Bowl about why recruiting rankings don’t matter, just know this:
They do. And there’s no debating it.