Interpretations of this kind of project are in the eye of the beholder, but in my opinion, Fox Sports' review of the top 30 players of the class of 2004 is more evidence for the general strength of recruiting rankings, as opposed to the charlatanism of which the gurus are often accused.
Reviewing the five-star players of four years ago at the end of their careers (not only one of them, Brian Toal, is slated to be a fifth-year senior next fall [Corrected. See comments - ed.]), Scout reassessed its grades to fit the on-field reality:
|RB||Adrian Peterson||DT||DeMario Pressley|
|Ath||Ted Ginn||QB||Anthony Morelli|
|LB||Dan Connor||DE||Brandon Miller|
|LB||Keith Rivers||WR||Cameron Colvin|
|WR||Calvin Johnson||OL||Jeff Byers|
|DT||Glenn Dorsey||QB||Rhett Bomar|
|TE||Zach Miller||QB||Xavier Lee|
|QB||Chad Henne||RB||Charlie Jones|
|WR||Early Doucet||OL||Leon Hart|
|WR||Fred Davis||S||Drew Kelson|
|DE||Derrick Harvey||DE||Jeff Schweiger|
|OL||Alex Fletcher||LB||Willie Williams||No Stars|
|DT||Frank Okam||WR||Xavier Carter||No Stars|
|DE||Charles Johnson||OL||Greg Harrison||No Stars|
|LB||Brian Toal||DT||Eric McLendon||No Stars|
This is a very, very limited look, restricted to the top one percent or so of all I-A recruits in 2004, but it shows further a relatively good job of forecasting the best players by Scout: 13 of the top 30, five-star studs that year were four, four-and-a-half or five-star caliber players during their careers, and six of the remaining 17 players (Johnson, Toal, Pressley, Morelli, Miller and Colvin) were multi-year starters at major, successful programs; Johnson was arguably at least a four-star player at Georgia, having been picked on the first day of last year's draft. (Doucet, Davis and Harvey, despite falling just short of five-star careers in this assessment, are all projected first-rounders in April).
Bomar: Five-star talent, one-star grasp of NCAA rules.
- - -
Including Hart and Schweiger, the true busts - guys who actually made it to campus and demonstrated a lack of ability to secure a starting job for at least two years at a major school without injuries or other non-football-related plagues that never factored into their high projections. i.e., they "didn't cut it" - are Byers, Lee, Jones, Kelson and Harrison. I'll throw in Williams for good measure, since despite his well-publicized mishaps he played several seasons without making an impact at Miami or Louisville. Eight misses out of 30, or about half the rate of the obvious hits.
Disregarding the unpredicatable, mitigating factors that knock a lot of kids off track, a 50-50 track record among the top recruits doesn't seem outstanding, until you also ask what the rate of high level success is among the hundreds and hundreds of players graded as two, three and four-star prospects: what percentage of those groups had a four or five-star career? If it's anywhere near half, I'll find some way to eat my blog.