A History of #1 Rated Recruits

A History of #1 Rated Recruits

February 8, 2016
Jadeveon Clowny 657x

Jadeveon Clowney was the #1 overall prospect in 2011

I’m going to be doing some giveaways/contests on the site to promote the Forum (LINK), so right now there’s a Pick the Score contest going for Wednesday’s basketball game against Minnesota (LINK).


In recent years, Michigan has received commitments from top-ranked running back Derrick Green and cornerback Jabrill Peppers. In response, I posted a look back at the #1 rated tailbacks (LINK) and cornerbacks (LINK). This year Michigan got a commitment from the #1 overall recruit, New Jersey’s Rashan Gary. So below you will find a rundown of #1 recruits going back to the year 2000, which is as far back as the 247 Composite rankings go.

Hit the jump for the #1 all-time recruits, including Adrian Peterson, Vince Young, Jadeveon Clowney, and Dorial Green-Beckham.

2000: D.J. Williams – LB – Concord (CA) De La Salle; Adam Taliaferro – ATH – Voorhees (NJ) Eastern (tie)
Williams picked the Miami Hurricanes, but with a logjam at linebacker in those days, he spent his first season playing fullback; that year he had 16 carries for 50 yards and 1 TD, along with 12 catches for 143 yards and 1 TD. He started at weakside linebacker as a sophomore in 2001, totaling 51 tackles and 4 TFLs. When he was a junior in 2002, he was a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award and finished the year with 108 tackles, 16 TFLs, and 8 PBUs. Once again a Butkus Award semi-finalist in 2003, he made 82 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 TDs – one on a 61-yard fake punt run, and another on a 78-yard fumble return. He was a 1st round pick (#17 overall) by the Denver Broncos in 2004 and spent eleven years in the NFL, the final two with the Chicago Bears. His final career stats included 899 tackles, 22.5 sacks, and 2 INTs. In Taliaferro’s case, his statistics are basically irrelevant. Tragically, in his freshman year against Ohio State, the Penn State cornerback broke his neck while making a tackle. After recovering from the injury, he was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly, helped write a book, does some motivational speaking, and runs a foundation for athletes who have suffered head and spinal injuries.

2001: Kevin Jones – RB – Springfield (PA) Cardinal O’Hara
Jones was a big part of Virginia Tech’s run of national relevance. As a freshman in 2000, he ran 175 times for 957 yards (5.5 yards/carry) and 5 TDs. Then in 2002 he ran 160 times for 871 yards (5.4 yards/carry) and 9 TDs. He followed that up by becoming a workhorse in 2003, running 281 times for 1,647 yards (5.9 yards/carry) and 21 TDs, earning First Team All-American status. He became a 1st round pick (#30 overall) by the Detroit Lions in 2004. He spent four years with the Lions and one year with the Chicago Bears before retiring from the NFL prior to the 2010 season. After a promising rookie season in Detroit when he rushed for over 1,000 yards on 4.7 yards/carry, his final NFL stats included 795 carries for 3,176 yards (4.0 yards/carry) and 24 TDs

2002: Vince Young – QB – Houston (TX) Madison
Young somewhat controversially split time with drop-back passer Chance Mock as a redshirt freshman in 2003. He finished that initial year completing 84/143 passes (58.7%) for 1,155 yards, 6 TDs, and 7 INTs; he also ran 135 times for 998 yards (7.4 yards/carry) and 11 TDs. Young became the full-time starter in 2004 and completed 148/250 passes (59.2%) for 1,849 yards, 12 TDs, and 11 INTs; he ran 167 times for 1,079 yards (6.5 yards/carry) and 14 TDs. That season ended with a win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. As a redshirt junior in 2005, he completed 212/325 passes (65.2%) for 3,036 yards, 26 TDs, and 10 INTs; he ran 155 times for 1,050 yards (6.8 yards/carry) and 12 TDs. Among other awards, he won the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Awards following the 2005 season. He was a 1st round pick (#3 overall) by the Tennessee Titans in 2006. He played five years for the Titans and one with the Philadelphia Eagles, but his career was plagued by off-the-field issues and was unable to resurrect his career, despite attempts with the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, and Cleveland Browns. His final career stats include 57.9% completions, 46 TDs, and 51 INTs; he also averaged 5.2 yards/carry and scored 12 rushing TDs during his career.

2003: Ernie Sims – LB – Tallahassee (FL) North Florida Christian
Sims, known for his speed, was a backup linebacker for Florida State as a freshman in 2003, making 42 tackles, 2 TFLs, and 2 PBUs. He was a starter by his sophomore year, notching 86 tackles, 9 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks. Then as a junior in 2005, he made 72 tackles, 10 TFLs, and 2 INTs. He became a 1st round pick (#9 overall) by the Detroit Lions in 2006 and played through 2013 with the Lions, Eagles, Colts, and Cowboys. His final career stats: 622 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 1 INT.

2004: Adrian Peterson – RB – Palestine (TX) Palestine
Peterson carried the ball an astounding 339 times as a freshman at Oklahoma. He gained 1,925 yards (for 5.7 yards/carry) and scored 15 TDs. As a sophomore in 2005, he ran 221 times for 1,104 yards (5.0 yards/carry) and 14 TDs. In an injury-shortened 2006, he ran 188 times for 1,012 yards (5.4 yards/carry) and 12 TDs. Never much of a factor in the passing game, he caught 24 passes for 198 yards and 1 TD in his career. He declared early for the NFL Draft and was picked in the 1st round (#7 overall) by the Minnesota Vikings. A seven-time Pro Bowler and one-time NFL MVP, he has played his entire career for the Vikings and is still going fairly strong in Minnesota. He has 11,675 career rushing yards on 4.9 yards/carry with 97 TDs; he has also caught 238 passes for 1,937 yards and 5 TDs.

2005: Eugene Monroe – OT – Plainfield (NJ) Plainfield
Monroe was a backup to D’Brickashaw Ferguson at Virginia as a true freshman in 2005. He started six games at left tackle in 2006 after Ferguson went to the NFL. He became a full-time starter at left tackle in 2007. Then as a senior in 2008, he was All-ACC and earned a spot as a 1st round pick (#8 overall) by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2009 NFL Draft. After playing four-plus seasons with the Jaguars, he was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, where he still plays.

2006: Andre Smith – OG – Birmingham (AL) Huffman
Smith attended Alabama, where he was a Freshman All-American left tackle in 2006, an All-SEC left tackle in 2007, and an All-American left tackle in 2008. He also won the Outland Trophy in 2008. A 1st round pick (#6 overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009, he spent a couple years as a backup before earning the starting right tackle job. He still plays for the Bengals.

2007: Joe McKnight – RB – New Orleans (LA) John Curtis
McKnight was thought to be the second coming of Reggie Bush at USC, but he was unable to match Bush’s production. As a freshman in 2007, he ran 94 times for 540 yards (5.7 yards/carry) and 3 TDs as a backup. A backup once again in 2008, he carried the ball 89 times for 659 yards (7.4 yards/carry) and 2 TDs. He stepped into a bigger role in 2009, finishing the year with 164 carries for 1,014 yards (6.2 yards/carry) and 8 TDs. In addition to his rushing, he also caught 66 passes throughout his career for 542 yards and 2 TDs. He was a 4th round pick (#112 overall) by the New York Jets in the 2010 NFL Draft. He spent three years playing for the Jets, was out of football in 2013, and played a few games for the Chiefs in 2014 before an Achilles injury seems to have ended his career. His final career stats include 113 carries for 505 yards (4.5 yards/carry) and 0 TDs; he did, however, catch 23 passes for 241 yards and 2 TDs.

2008: Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Bamberg (SC) Bamberg-Erhardt
A part-time starter in 2008, Bowers made 37 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 1 sack for Clemson. He became a starter in 2009 and made 46 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, and 3 sacks. His breakout year came as a junior in 2010 when he made 67 tackles, 26 TFLs, and 15.5 sacks. After that season he was a unanimous All-American and won the Hendricks and Nagurski trophies. Some questions about the health of his knee caused him to drop in the 2011 NFL Draft, going in the 2nd round (#51 overall) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Due to some injury issues and underperformance, he has made 69 tackles and 7 sacks in five seasons with the Buccaneers, with whom he signed a contract extension late last year.

2009: Matt Barkley – QB – Newport Beach (CA) Mater Dei
Barkley became a starter as a true freshman at USC and completed 211/352 passes (59.9%) for 2,735 yards, 15 TDs, and 14 INTs. Those stats improved to 236/377 passing (62.6%) for 2,791 yards, 26 TDs, and 12 INTs as a sophomore in 2010. USC went pass-crazy in 2011 when Barkley completed 308/446 passes (69.1%) for 3,528 yards, 39 TDs, and just 7 INTs. He flirted with the idea of leaving for the NFL, but he stuck around for a senior year in which he went 246/387 (63.6%) for 3,273 yards, 36 TDs, and 15 INTs. He was a 4th round pick (#98 overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. He played in four games for the Eagles over two seasons (30/50 for 300 yards, 0 TDs, and 4 INTs) before getting traded to the Arizona Cardinals during the 2015 season, for whom he did not see any game action.

2010: Ronald Powell – DE – Moreno Valley (CA) Rancho Verde
Powell chose the Florida Gators and was a backup as a true freshman in 2010; he made 25 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and 1 sack. He became a starter in 2011 and made 32 tackles, 9 TFLs, and 6 sacks. He tore his ACL twice in 2012 and got a medical redshirt. He returned as a part-time starter in 2013, making 26 tackles, 7 TFLs, and 4 sacks. He became a 5th round pick (#169 overall) by the New Orleans Saints in 2014 and made 2 tackles in 14 games. He was released by the Saints and signed by the Buccaneers in 2015, but he did not play a single game for the Bucs.

2011: Jadeveon Clowney – DE – Rock Hill (SC) South Pointe
Clowney was an immediate starter for South Carolina and made 36 tackles, 12 TFLs, and 8 sacks as a true freshman. If that didn’t launch him to stardom, a sophomore year that included 54 tackles, 23.5 TFLs, 13 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles did; he was a unanimous All-American and named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. As a junior in 2013, he got a bit of a rap for coasting and finished the season with 40 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, and 3 sacks, but he was still All-ACC and All-America. He was a 1st round pick (#1 overall) by the Houston Texans in 2014. Injuries shortened his rookie year, and he has just 47 tackles and 4.5 sacks through two seasons in the NFL.

2012: Dorial Green-Beckham – WR – Springfield (MO) Hillcrest
Green-Beckham caught 28 passes for 395 yards (14.1 yards/catch) and 5 TDs as a true freshman at Missouri. He followed that up in 2013 with 59 catches for 883 yards (15 yards/catch) and 12 TDs. Repeated legal issues became a problem, and he was dismissed from Missouri. After transferring to Oklahoma and sitting out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules, he declared for the 2015 NFL Draft without ever playing a down for the Sooners. He was a 2nd round pick (#40 overall) by the Tennessee Titans, for whom he caught 32 passes for 549 yards (17.2 yards/catch) and 4 TDs as a rookie.

2013: Robert Nkemdiche – DE – Loganville (GA) Grayson
Nkemdiche started games at both defensive end and defensive tackle as a freshman at Ole Miss. He made 34 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 2 sacks that first year. A full-time defensive tackle in 2014, he made 35 tackles, 4 TFLs, and 2 sacks. This past season, he made 29 tackles, 7 TFLs, and 3 sacks. Nkemdiche – who played some running back in high school – also moonlighted on offense, rushing 9 times for 34 yards and 2 TDs, along with catching 1 pass for a 31-yard TD in his career. He has had some off-the-field issues, and he declared for the 2016 NFL Draft after his junior year.

2014: Leonard Fournette – RB – New Orleans (LA) St. Augustine
Fournette became an immediate starter at LSU, rushing 187 times for 1,034 yards (5.5 yards/carry) and 10 TDs as a freshman; he also averaged 26.0 yards/kickoff return with 1 TD. He turned into a workhorse in 2015, rushing 300 times for 1,953 yards (6.5 yards/carry) and 22 TDs; he also stepped up as a receiver, catching 19 passes for 253 yards and 1 TD. Fournette was a front-runner for the 2015 Heisman Trophy until Alabama shut him down late in the season.

2015: Trent Thompson – DT – Albany (GA) Westover
Thompson made 25 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and 0.5 sacks as a true freshman at Georgia this past season.

2016: Rashan Gary – DT – Paramus (NJ) Catholic
To be determined.


  • Average NFL Draft position: Not counting Taliaferro (for obvious reasons) and the players who have not had a chance to be drafted, the average NFL Draft position for the other 13 prospects is #42. That puts the average #1 high school prospect in the top third of the 2nd round.
  • 1st round draft picks: 8 out of 13. The only players to fall out of the first round were Dorial Green-Beckham (2nd), Da’Quan Bowers (2nd), Matt Barkley (4th), Joe McKnight (4th), and Ronald Powell (5th). In Green-Beckham and Bowers’s cases, the reasons were less about performance and more about off-the-field or health issues.
  • Hall of Famers: 1? Okay, I realize it’s too early to fully grasp which of these players will end up being NFL Hall of Fame material, but some have already retired and clearly won’t make it. The one guy who seems likely to go to the HOF is Adrian Peterson. Williams, Taliaferro, Jones, Young, Sims, and McKnight are out. The offensive linemen (Monroe, Smith) don’t appear to be all-time greats, but maybe if they play for a really long time at a high level, they could enter the conversation. Bowers and Clowney aren’t off to stellar starts but it’s too early to tell. Powell hasn’t done anything. Barring a late-career, Kurt Warner-like surge, Matt Barkley isn’t headed to Canton. Green-Beckham has a long time to prove himself.
  • National championships: 2. Williams won a title with Miami, and Young won one with Texas.
  • States represented: California (3), New Jersey (3), Georgia (2), Louisiana (2), South Carolina (2), Texas (2), Missouri (1), Alabama (1), Florida (1), Pennsylvania (1). California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have combined for 7 of the 18 top prospects, but the other 11 have come from traditionally “southern” states in SEC country or close to it.
  • Legal troubles: I don’t mean to suggest anything about Rashan Gary, because I have heard nothing but good things about him. However, a large chunk of these players have run into legal and off-the-field troubles, including Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, Joe McKnight, Jadeveon Clowney, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Robert Nkemdiche. There may be others that I didn’t mention or remember, but that list right there includes 6 of the 18 total prospects listed. Some of those issues did not pop up until after college, but it’s a surprisingly high number.

In summary, there’s a good chance that Rashan Gary is good at football.


  1. High Sierra Howard
    Comments: 32
    Joined: 1/16/2016
    High Sierra Howard
    Feb 08, 2016 at 6:57 PM

    I would be satisfied if Gary turned out as good as Clowney.

  2. Tartarsauce
    Comments: 77
    Joined: 1/22/2016
    Feb 11, 2016 at 5:47 AM

    Thunder, based purely on high school film (that is available), where would you rank Gary against these other #1’s?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3500
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Feb 11, 2016 at 6:21 AM

      I’m not really qualified to say. Since I largely just follow Michigan recruiting, I haven’t bothered watching film on all these guys over the years. The only guys I was really familiar with were Fournette, Clowney, Nkemdiche, and Gary. I did watch Trent Thompson highlights this year just to gauge him vs. Gary, and I think Gary is a superior athlete, although he’s not as big.

      As for the guys I’ve watched, Clowney was a freak, and the only thing that would hold him back is his own desire and work ethic. I might still rank Gary #1 because of his work ethic, but that’s without having watched Powell, Barkley, Young, Sims, etc.

      • Tartarsauce
        Comments: 77
        Joined: 1/22/2016
        Feb 12, 2016 at 5:27 PM

        Good stuff Thunder, thanks

  3. MGoStrength
    Comments: 13
    Joined: 12/17/2015
    Jul 12, 2018 at 9:07 AM

    I feel like there’s something to be said about the correlation between talent & doing the right thing. It seems that all too often these highly talented players don’t do the right thing…don’t work hard, have off the field troubles, don’t do well in school, etc. I’m sure there are lots of factors like home life, socioeconomics, education, etc. but talent seems to reflect a lack of need for focus & effort. Like Calvin Coolidge said “nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.”

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3500
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 13, 2018 at 8:41 AM

      It’s the same at every level. I would rather have a kid who’s a moderately talented player who works hard than an extremely talented player who’s lazy. I’ve seen it happen numerous times, going all the way back to when I was in high school. We had a very talented player on that team who everyone looked to for leadership, but he wasn’t a leader, vocally or by work ethic. So the team didn’t reach its potential. It’s happened during my coaching career, too, at every level.

      If you’re ultra-talented, you get used to not having to work so hard. I think that’s why a lot of these “underrated” guys become superstars – JJ Watt, Tom Brady, etc. To be successful they had to bust their tails, so now they don’t know any different. Meanwhile, some of those 5-star guys who started off ahead don’t know how to flip the switch to go hard all the time.

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