Everyone knows that ranking high school football players in an attempt to predict what they'll do in college and beyond is a bit subjective. You have to be part scout and part fortune teller to get everyone right. But as always, the players we miss on tend to get more attention than the ones we got right.
Now that much of the class of 2002 has matriculated and some of the class of 2003 is off to the NFL early, we thought it would be interesting to look at a few big names we missed on in those two classes.
1. Alex Smith, La Mesa (Calif.) Helix, Class of 2002
Rivals.com star rating: Two stars Rivals.com rankings: Not ranked NFL Draft: No. 1 overall by the 49ers in the 2005 draft
How do we miss on the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in 2005? Easy, everyone did. Urban Meyer was the only non-relative to offer Smith a scholarship, but you can bet Meyer would have jumped on around 20 other quarterbacks had they been interested in Utah. Smith didn't throw a ton of passes in high school with a guy named Reggie Bush in the backfield at Helix High School. Colleges and recruiting analysts largely ignored him. Smith proved a lot of people wrong.
Rivals.com star rating: Four stars Rivals.com rankings: No. 11 Strongside DE, No. 3 prospect in N.C. NFL Draft: No. 1 overall by the Texans in the 2006 draft
OK, miss is a relative term. We did have Williams ranked as a four-star player back in 2003, and he was the No. 3 player in the state of North Carolina behind quarterback Chris Leak and wide receiver Mike Mason. But the freakish athlete became the surprise No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Back in high school, Williams was athletic and fast but still raw as a prospect. However, his 11.55-second 100 meter time at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds should have been an indicator of his potential.
Rivals.com star rating: Three stars Rivals.com rankings: No. 30 Outside linebacker NFL Draft: No. 5 overall by the Packers in the 2006 draft
We ranked Hawk as a three-star prospect and the No. 30 outside linebacker in the country in 2002. Of the four linebacker prospects taken by Ohio State that year, Hawk was ranked the lowest behind Mike D'Andrea, fellow first-rounder Bobby Carpenter and Stan White. D'Andrea was sidelined by injuries, and White was converted to fullback. Hawk went on to become the No. 5 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Rivals.com star rating: Two stars Rivals.com rankings: No. 71 Cornerback NFL Draft: No. 6 overall by the Titans in the 2005 draft
The cornerback out of Atlanta had two scholarship offers out of high school and chose West Virginia after an early commitment to Georgia Tech. Ranked as the No. 71 cornerback in the country in 2002 behind a slew of names no longer recognizable, Pacman emerged as a star at WVU and the No. 6 player taken in the 2005 NFL Draft. What was wrong with Jones that year? In hindsight, not much. He had the size and speed to play cornerback although many schools looked at him as a running back.
Rivals.com star rating: Three stars Rivals.com rankings: No. 29 Offensive guard NFL Draft: No. 4 overall by the Jets in the 2006 draft
Ferguson came out of New York as a 6-foot-5, 245-pounder and wasn't a national recruit. When he chose Virginia, he was the most likely candidate in the class to redshirt due to his lack of size. However, a hole at left tackle forced Al Groh to start Ferguson from day one. The rest is history. The No. 4 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft proved a lot of colleges and experts wrong by adding weight the right way and gaining valuable on-field experience early.