NFL’s Most Overlooked Stars Coming Out Of High School

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BetMGM @BETMGM Jun 15, 2021, 1:20 PM
TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 02: Ali Marpet #74 and Aaron Stinnie #64 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers talk during training camp at AdventHealth Training Center on September 02, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

It’s amazing to think … not all of this year’s big-time NFL stars were regarded as future pros when they were coming out of high school.

Sometimes, the prep rankings nail it … sometimes? They miss by a mile. Below, you’ll see some examples of this … but one thing is sure? These guys beat the NFL odds.

Who flourished after high school? You’ll see. Two of this year’s top players, position-wise, didn’t even get a two-star rating. And several others were two-star. In general, a three-star rating puts you in the Top 2,000 when it comes to players in your class.

It’s hard to imagine the guys below not being in their signing class’ Top 2,000, but they were.

Take a look: 

The Big Exception

ALI MARPET, CENTER, TAMPA BAY -- Marpet didn’t allow a sack this year. Let that sink in. He’s a road-grader when it comes to setting the table for what Tom Brady does best. He missed some time to injury, and it hurt the franchise. And coming out of high school? He was a “NO-star”. He played at D-III Hobart College and was a 2010 college signee. Now look at how far he’s come. One of the best on one of the NFL’s best football lines

Other Exceptions

DAVANTE ADAMS, WR, GREEN BAY: Hey, he scored 18 touchdowns in just 14 games. Not bad, right? But coming out of high school, he was a two-star player according to in the 2011 class. He chose Fresno State and the rest in history. For the record, he was ranked the No. 2368 player in his class.

TRAVIS KELCE, TE, KANSAS CITY: Kelce had one helluva year, but as part of the 2008 national signing class coming from Cleveland? He wasn’t getting a whole lot of love. He was rated the No. 85 tight end in the county that year, along with being a two-star guy. Cincinnati signed him, and the Bearcats are glad they did. 

JACK CONKLIN, OT, CLEVELAND: A star on a stout offensive line, Conklin played at a big-name school with Michigan State, but coming out of high school in Plainwell, Mich.? He was a no-star recruit. My how things have turned out. He is one of the top guys on one of the best football lines

CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 14: Offensive tackle Jack Conklin #78 of the Cleveland Browns blocks during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 14, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

KHALIL MACK, DE, CHICAGO: Mack was a massive pass-rushing monster in the NFL, but coming out of Fort Pierce Westwood HS in Florida? He was a two-star recruit. He ended up signing with Buffalo as part of the signing class of 2009. He was rated the No. 2252 prospect in the 2009 signing class. 

BOBBY WAGNER, LB, SEATTLE: Wagner was a beast on ‘D’ for the Seahawks this past season, a pressure waiting to happen. But when he was part of the Class of 2008 coming out of Colony HS in Ontario, Calif.? He was rated the No. 2036 player in the nation. The two-star prospect went on to sign with Utah State.

XAVIEN HOWARD, CB, MIAMI: He picked off 10 passes in the regular season, and he was the truest of true shut-down corners in the league. But coming out of Wheatley HS in Houston in the Class of 2012? He was rated the No. 2239 prospect in his class. Baylor saw the talent in him and signed him on.

BRYCE CALLAHAN, DB, DENVER: Sometimes you’re not the biggest guy out there (and that may explain his prep ranking years ago) … yet Callahan has been a beast when the ball is thrown his way, no matter what he’s asked to do in the secondary. But when he was looking to be signed as part of the Class of 2010, he was ranked as a two-star guy from Texas, and No. 2149 in the national class. He signed with Rice.

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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered the FCS for HERO Sports, and wrote for so many newspapers he lost count. Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter. 

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.