High school recruiting rankings are fun to look back at, especially when a Super Bowl rolls around and we get to see where the starters ranked as prep prospects. Sometimes they were five-star guys, sometimes they had no stars at all. Who knew the guys with zero stars would be a part of football lines one day?
So we decided to pull the projected starting roster for the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and see where these guys once stacked up. It was fascinating, as they have everything from a player who was in high school before the internet services existed (paging Tom Brady), and there were others who were ignored even during the internet age.
RB Leonard Fournette, for example, was the No. 1 overall prospect in his high school class (2014). DB Antoine Winfield Jr. was ranked No. 1415 and a three-star prospect in his 2016 class … but he was drafted No. 45 overall in the second round of the NFL Draft just a year ago. And not surprisingly, some of the guys listed below didn’t even receive a national ranking.
For this project, we used the 247Sports.com composite ranking from the 2011 high school class moving forward, and the Rivals.com ranking for the years prior.
Generally, recruiting services view their star-rating system the following way:
Five stars: Services deemed to be a future franchise player in the NFL (yes, even way back in high school). Usually around a top-30 type of prospect, class-wise.
Four stars: Generally a Top-300 type prospect in his prep class, and a player who will go on to be a solid contributor at an FBS school. He then is likely to be drafted one day if the progression continues
Three stars: For 247Sports, they consider a three-star prospect to be in the top 10-percent of players in his class. He should end up a starter at his future college and may have an outside shot at the NFL one day.
Two stars: Has little to no pro-potential, but will contribute in college.
No stars: Not on the “radar screen,” basically. Not expected to be a part of NFL betting lines.
Not surprisingly, the services nail some of these projections and whiff on some of them. The toughest positions to project seem to be the quarterback and offensive linemen. Projections like those for the defensive line tend to be the most accurate.
So let’s take a look at the Bucs:
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 03: Antoine Winfield Jr. #31 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates a fumble recovery during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
BUCS STARTING LINEUP
NOTE: “YEAR” denotes what high school class they were in, and “NAT. RK” is the overall national individual ranking given the respective player coming out of high school in that year’s class.
|WR||Evans, Mike||3 stars||733||2011|
|WR||Godwin, Chris||4 stars||168||2014|
|LT||Smith, Donovan||4 stars||164||2011|
|LG||Marpet, Ali||0 stars (*)||n/a||2010|
|C||Jensen, Ryan||0 stars (*)||n/a||2009|
|RG||Stinnie, Aaron||no page||n/a||2013|
|RT||Wirfs, Tristan||4 stars||331||2017|
|TE||Brate, Cameron||2 stars (*)||n/a||2010|
|TE||Gronkowski, Rob||4 stars (*)||192||2007|
|QB||Brady, Tom||NONE (&)||n/a||1995|
|RB||Jones II, Ronald||4 stars||40||2015|
|RB||Fournette, Leonard||5 stars||1||2014|
|DE||Suh, Ndamukong||4 stars (*)||51||2005|
|NT||Vea, Vita||3 stars||587||2013|
|DE||Gholston, William||5 stars (*)||21||2010|
|OLB||Pierre-Paul, Jason||2 stars (*)||n/a||2007|
|ILB||White, Devin||4 stars||135||2016|
|ILB||David, Lavonte||2 stars (*)||n/a||2008|
|OLB||Barrett, Shaq||0 stars (*)||n/a||2010|
|CB||Davis, Carlton||4 stars||340||2015|
|SS||Winfield Jr., Antoine||3 stars||1415||2016|
|FS||Whitehead, Jordan||4 stars||105||2015|
|RCB||Dean, Jamel||4 stars||325||2015|
|NB||Cockrell, Ross||3 stars (*)||n/a||2009|
(*) - Means Rivals.com ranking instead of 247Sports.com ranking
(&) - Tom Brady played high school football before internet services existed.
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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 college football for HERO Sports, and wrote for so many newspapers he lost count. Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter.