Blue-chip prospects (four- or five-star recruits) have a higher chance of success both at the college and professional levels. It’s not a perfect science, however — there are a lot more non-blue-chip prospects, and for one reason or another, some of those kids who might have been undervalued in high school end up being stars.
I’ve compiled every first-round draft selection since 2005 who was not a blue-chip prospect coming out of high school or junior college. The players include NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, among other notable names.
The whole map is here. Click on team logos for more on each player, with all ratings via the 247Sports Composite, which combines grades from all four major recruiting services. Some locations have been slightly adjusted to make all icons visible when zoomed out.
Also, some particular areas of note:
When people complain about recruiting ratings missing on some players, they often use the Badgers in general and Watt in particular as examples. And there could be something to it.
It’s also far from a sure thing that Mariota will be on the board by the time the fifth overall selection rolls around. While Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the popular pick to be the No. 1 selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and was the pick for King, the Sports Illustrated columnist noted that “Mariota is absolutely not out of the picture” for the first pick.
The blockbuster trade for Mariota wasn’t the only noteworthy projection by King, who also had Alabama’s Amari Cooper as the second wide receiver off the board. Instead, he slated the Oakland Raiders to take West Virginia’s Kevin White with the fourth pick and praised the receiver as the “latter-day version of Larry Fitzgerald.” Cooper fell two more picks before getting scooped up by the New York Jets.
Florida outside linebacker Dante Fowler also fared well in King’s mock, going just behind Winston with the No. 2 overall selection to the Titans.