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Posted: Tuesday April 21, 2009 12:34PM; Updated: Tuesday April 21, 2009 3:14PM
Andy Staples Andy Staples >

Before, they were five-stars: How top draft picks graded out as preps

Story Highlights

Looking back at top NFL prospects to see how they rated as high school recruits

Recruiting is getting more accurate; projected first-rounders averaged 3.59 stars

Stafford and Sanchez were five-star recruits; Clay Matthews was the lone 0-star

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Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, the top two quarterbacks in the NFL draft, were five-star recruits coming out of high school.
Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, the top two quarterbacks in the NFL draft, were five-star recruits coming out of high school.
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The stars seem to be getting more accurate.

For the second consecutive year, we looked back at the top NFL draft prospects through the eyes of college football recruiting services.'s top-ranked quarterback (Matthew Stafford), top-ranked running back (Beanie Wells) and top-ranked player (Percy Harvin) from the class of 2006 are expected to be chosen in Saturday's first round, and so are the top-ranked quarterback (Mark Sanchez), linebacker (Rey Maualuga) and offensive tackle (Eugene Monroe) from 2005.

As recruits, last year's first-rounders averaged a star rating of 3.42 (out of five) and included five five-star prospects. This year, the players selected in the mock first round by NFL writer Don Banks boasted an average star rating of 3.59. The group included seven five-stars, four of whom are projected to go in the top six.

Even though the Rivals rankings should get more accurate as recruiting coverage becomes more refined, the recruiting gurus still will miss players such as Clay Matthews, who walked on at USC and blossomed into a star, but those misses will become more rare as the years pass.

Here's how this year's projected first round picks ranked coming out of high school:

1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
2006 Rivals ranking: Five-star (No. 1 quarterback, No. 6 overall recruit)

Though dual-threat wonder Tim Tebow outshined Stafford in his own conference, the latter always seemed to be the nation's best pro prospect. His freakish arm strength and ability to make throws no one else could was plenty evident even when he was the quarterback at Highland Park (Dallas, Texas) High.

2. Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
2004 Rivals ranking: Two-star

Almost everyone whiffed on the offensive guard from W.T. White (Dallas, Texas) High. Kansas and Minnesota also showed interest, but Smith stuck with Baylor, where he started eight games at tight end as a redshirt freshman. He moved to right tackle as a sophomore and left tackle as a junior.

3. Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
2005 Rivals ranking: Five-star (No. 1 offensive tackle, No. 3 overall)

Everyone wanted the 6-foot-6, 320-pounder from Plainfield, N.J. Monroe wound up deciding between Maryland and Virginia.

4. Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
2005 Rivals ranking: Five-star (No. 1 pro-style quarterback, No. 7 overall)

Sanchez already had committed to USC when he blew away the field at the 2004 Elite 11 camp. Fellow campers that year included Chase Daniel, Ryan Perrilloux and Jonathan Crompton.

5. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
2006 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 16 athlete)

Oklahoma and Texas A&M also wanted the football/basketball star from Skyline (Dallas, Texas) High. Unfortunately for the Sooners and Aggies, they couldn't compete against the one-two recruiting punch of Mike Leach and Bob Knight. Crabtree realized quickly his future was on the gridiron.

6. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
2006 Rivals ranking: Five-star (No. 1 offensive tackle, No. 2 overall)

Four days before National Signing Day, fans at Florida's O'Connell Center chanted the name of official visitor Smith, who also was considering Alabama, LSU and USC. The giant from Birmingham caused a lot of angst in his home state, but worry turned to joy when he slipped a houndstooth hat on his head on Signing Day.

7. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
2006 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 24 receiver)

Maclin called himself a "soft verbal" when he committed to Oklahoma in August 2005. The speedy receiver from St. Louis changed his mind a few months later, and his choice set the stage for Missouri's rise.

8. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
2004 Rivals ranking: Two-star

Curry, from Fayetteville, N.C., hoped for offers from other ACC schools, but they never came. So Curry went to Wake Forest, put on 35 pounds of muscle and turned into one of the nation's best linebackers.

9. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
2004 Rivals ranking: Two-star

Raji, from Washington Township, N.J., flew under the radar until his senior season because he didn't go to the usual combines and camps the previous summer. That was lucky for B.C. and Rutgers, which discovered him first and wound up being his finalists.

10. Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
2004 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 12 weakside defensive end)

A trip to a Nike camp in College Station in May 2003 put Orakpo on the recruiting map, but the Houston native held out for an offer from Texas. When he got it that June, he jumped on it.

11. Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
2004 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 10 inside linebacker)

Ayers, the No. 2-ranked player in South Carolina in 2004, knew he would play in the SEC, but he didn't decide where until the day before Signing Day. That's when he chose Tennessee over Florida and South Carolina.

12. Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
2004 Rivals ranking: Three-star (No. 14 strongside defensive end)

A late-January visit to Miami forced Jackson to rethink his commitment to LSU, but in the end, Jackson decided to head to Baton Rouge. The choice netted him a national-title ring.

13. Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
2005 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 7 offensive tackle)

Author Michael Lewis made quite a leap when he chose Oher as the focus of The Blind Side. Even at offensive tackle, it's tough to predict whether a high-schooler will become a first-rounder. Lewis nailed this one.

14. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
2005 Rivals ranking: Three-star (No. 61 cornerback)

Jenkins, from Piscataway, N.J., also received offers from Rutgers, Syracuse and Virginia Tech. The fact that the Hokies and Buckeyes wanted him should have been the tip-off that Jenkins was no three-star.

15. Brian Cushing, LB, USC
2005 Rivals ranking: Four-star (No. 5 outside linebacker)

It came down to USC, Boston College, Florida and Miami for the Bulldog of Bergen, N.J. Cushing chose Troy, where he would join Sanchez and Maualuga in the class of 2005.

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