I normally use Rivals.com, ESPN or 247.com to check recruiting lists. This time, I am going to go way back to the 2002 recruiting class until modern times to see how their #1 rated player in the nation did in his college career and beyond.
2002: Vince Young – Texas: Great choice as the top pick. Texas easily signed the #1 class in the country and they won the national title in 2005. Vince Young redshirted during his freshman season while Chris Simms finished up as the Texas Quarterback. As a redshirt freshman, Vince Young split time with Chance Mock. He threw for 1,155 yards and 6 Touchdowns while running for 998 yards and 11 Touchdowns. As a sophomore, Young struggled early in the season but came on gang busters and threw for 1,849 yards and 12 Touchdowns and he ran for 1,079 and 14 Touchdowns. Young led the Longhorns past the the Michigan Wolverines in a classic Rose Bowl game that was one of the
best of all time. Young had improved greatly during the 2004 season, but took it to an entirely different level in 2005 when he led the Texas Longhorns to the national championship over the USC Trojans. Young threw for 3,036 yards and 26 Touchdowns. Again, he ran for over a thousand yards with 1,050 total and 12 Touchdowns. Young was picked with the 3rd pick of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. He was Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 and made 2 Pro Bowls before falling apart and being basically booted from the league.
2003: Ernie Sims – Florida State: The Tallahassee native beat out Reggie Bush Heisman winner for the top spot in 2003. Bush was the 2nd ranked recruit and signed with USC. Sims played at a small school in Tallahassee, but was so good that he started on the varsity as an 8th grader. Sims was recruited by the nation, but chose to stay home and play for the Seminoles of Florida State. Sims was on the field early and often as a freshman and played in every game. He took over as starter during his sophomore season and was second on the team in tackles behind fellow Linebacker AJ Nicholson. Before his junior season, Sims was arrested on charges of battery and assault on an officer. Sims was good as a junior and a preseason All American, but did not have the season people expected out of him. Sims declared for the NFL after his junior year. He measured in at 5-11, 231 and ran the 40 in an impressive 4.5 seconds. The Detroit Lions chose him with the 9th pick of the 1st round in the 2006 NFL Draft. Sims played for the Lions for 4 seasons before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. He played for the Eagles for a season and then Indianapolis and Dallas.
Sims’ father also attended Florida State and his mother was an All American sprinter at Florida State in the early 1980’s which explains Sims’ incredible speed for a Linebacker.
2004: Adrian Peterson – Oklahoma: Incredible Running Back out of Palestine, Texas much like some of the talent coming out of Texas from a few years back like Eric Dickerson. Peterson is a big Running Back at 6-1, 220, with great speed. When not injured, Peterson is still the top back around. Peterson signed with Oklahoma out of high school and promptly ran for 1,925 yards and 15
Touchdowns and helped the Sooners make it the national championship game to play USC. Peterson dealt with injuries during his next two seasons but still ran for 1,104 yards as a sophomore and 1,012 yards as a junior before making himself available for the NFL Draft.
In 8 years with the Vikings, Peterson ran for over 2,000 in the 2012 season and has over 10,000 yards already for his career in spite of missing this past season due to off field issues.
There’s no way you can make a case against Adrian Peterson being the top player in the 2004 recruiting class. The ironical thing about Peterson is that he grew up a Texas fan, but signed with Oklahoma stating that he wanted to play for national championships. Peterson burned Texas in 2004 on the field, but the Sooners were destroyed by the Trojans in the championship game. The following season, the Longhorns and Vince Young beat USC to win the title. Vince Young and Peterson in the same backfield would have been phenomenal.
2005: Derrick Williams – Penn State: Williams was a Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Defensive Back out of Greenbelt, Maryland and was widely considered the top player in this class. It’s much easier to sit on a couch and look at a list now than it was in 2005 to pick out the best guys, but this was pretty much a down year for recruits. DeSean Jackson was #18, Michael Oher was #48, Brian Cushing #53, Jamaal Charles #57 and a few other big names mixed in, but it was a pretty disappointing class over all.
Derrick Williams picked Penn State and did reasonably well there. Over a 4 year period, Williams caught 161 passes for 1,743 yards and 9 Touchdowns. He also had 8 Touchdowns rushing, mostly on reverses and he had 3 punt returns for scores and 2 Kickoff returns for Touchdowns. He did suffer a broken arm during his freshman season which did cut back on his statistics a bit.
Williams did not overly impress at the NFL Combine and was taken by the Detroit Lions in the 3rd
round. Williams did very little in 2 seasons in Detroit and went to Pittsburgh for a season and then the Canadian Football League.
2006: Percy Harvin – Florida: The burner from Virginia Beach, Virginia was much deserving of the top recruit standing. Harvin was and is a blue burner. For the Florida Gators, Harvin was a game changer from day one up until he declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season and helping the Gators win the national title. The Minnesota Viking took him with their 1st pick of the 2009 NFL Draft and he has been a factor in the NFL as well.
2007: Jimmy Clausen – Notre Dame: The younger brother of former Tennessee Quarterbacks Casey and Rick Clausen, Jimmy was much more high profile. Clausen played at Oaks Christian high school in Westlake Village, California. Jimmy Clausen showed up at Notre Dame in a stretch Hummer and committed to the Irish. As a freshman, Clausen threw for 1,254 yards as the Irish finished up their season at 3-9 under Charlie Weiss. Clausen threw for 3,172 yards and 25 Touchdowns in 2008 and the Irish improved to 7-6 on the season. In 2009, Clausen’s numbers improved to 3,722 yards and 28 Touchdowns. He also dropped his Interceptions from 17 in 2008, to 4 in 2009. Clausen left Notre Dame a year early in spite of talk of championships in college. He was picked in the 2nd round by the Carolina Panthers where he was primarily a back up for 4 seasons. He spent the 2014 season with the Chicago Bears.
2008: Terrelle Pryor – Ohio State: Obviously a guy like Pryor would be compared to Vince Young with his similar size. Pryor was supposedly 6-6, and about 240 pounds in high school, but in reality he was 6-4, and about 225. Pryor was probably a little more advanced than Young at this age as far as his passing game, but Young was a better runner. He played high school football at Jeannette,
Pennsylvania and was the first player in that state’s history to run for over 4,000 yards as well as pass for over 4,000 while leading Jeannette to it’s first ever state championship. Naturally, he was recruited by the entire nation and he decided on Ohio State. The Buckeyes brought Pryor along fairly slowly as a freshman and shared playing time with Todd Boeckman. Pryor threw for 1,311 yards as a true freshman and ran for 631 yards. As a sophomore, Pryor threw for over 2,000 yards and ran for 779 yards and again as a junior he improved with 2,772 yards through the air and ran for 754 yards. Pryor was all set for a huge senior season and a possible run at a national title, but as so often happens with these star players trouble came and interrupted things. Pryor and 5 teammates were suspended for selling memorabilia. Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel resigned as football coach and Pryor withdrew from school and made himself available for the NFL supplemental draft. Pryor ran a very impressive 4.38 40 yard dash for pro scouts and was picked by the Oakland Raiders. As an Oakland Raider, Pryor was less than impressive and stuck it out with the Raiders for 3 seasons. The Raiders traded him to the Seahawks in 2014, but was released. He signed with the Browns possibly to play Wide Receiver in 2015.
2009: Bryce Brown – Tennessee: The Bryce Brown situation was pretty ugly and I don’t want to write much about that. Top player in the country was almost a total bust in college running for 460 yards total and then declaring for the NFL Draft. At the Combine, he did run the 40 in the 4.3s which did draw some attention. He was picked in the 7th round by the Philadelphia Eagles. Brown had some success with the Eagles but was traded to the Bills. He has rushed for just over a 1,000 yards in the NFL.
2010: Ronald Powell – Florida: The Moreno Valley, California product traveled across the country to play for the Gators. Powell was a player for the Gators, but never quite lived up to the hype. Powell was taken with the 5th round pick by the New Orleans Saints. The 2010 recruiting class was a bust in general, but Powell was one of the very worst top players on this list.
2011: Jadeveon Clowney – South Carolina: Incredible athlete with all of the measurable attributes. Clowney was an instant impact player, but was really special during his sophomore season. His sophomore season he was a consensus All American with 13 Quarterback sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. He was best known for his incredible hit against Michigan which caused a fumble which won the game for the South Carolina Gamecocks. He was the top recruit in the country and after he
declared for the NFL Draft he was the top player picked by the Houston Texans. He ran a 4.53 in the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. Clowney had a disappointing rookie year due to being injured in his 4th game, but still has unlimited potential and could still team with JJ Watts to form an incredible set of Defensive Ends.
2012: Dorial Green-Beckham – Missouri: The 6-6, 237 Wide Receiver from Springfield, Missouri was an incredible prospect coming out of high school. At that size, he still had the speed to win the state championship in the 100 meters. The state of Missouri is not known for great speed, but that’s still an impressive feat for a guy that size. He had a pretty good true freshman season and an outstanding sophomore season before the troubles began. Eventually, Green-Beckham was booted from the Tiger football team. He wound up at Oklahoma with them somehow thinking he would stick around and play for the Sooners. Everyone else seemed to know he was going to declare for the NFL draft which he did. Why would anyone take a guy like this? An SEC team kicked him out, so you know there were major problems. The Tennessee Titans picked him with their second round pick and he clearly would have been a top 10 NFL Draft pick if he had a clue. He cost himself hundreds of thousands of dollars already and for what? The Titans either got a steal with this pick or another wasted one which is more likely for this bad franchise. Could be one of the great football players of all time if he doesn’t blow it. I feel like he will blow it.
2013: Robert Nkemdiche – Ole Miss: Nkemdiche has as much potential as anyone on this list but still hasn’t quite lived up to it. He’s been good, but hasn’t quite as good as we all thought. But, he’s going into his junior season and obviously his last in college and he has a shot to improve his draft standing this year.
2014: Da’Shawn Hand – Alabama: Hand played some as a true freshman and had a couple of Quarterback sacks. Looks like a future All American once he gets some upperclassmen out of the way.
2015: Byron Cowart – Auburn: No doubt the hiring of Will Muschamp as Auburn’s Defensive Coordinator will do wonders for Cowart. He has an opportunity to play early and to dominate for the Tigers. Clearly it’s way too early to determine anything on Cowart or Hand.