You’ll notice that whenever a prospect commits to MSU, I always note two things. One, where the prospect has competing offers and two, what their ranking is according to Rivals, Scout and 247. There’s usually also a bit WOOOO!! involved. I tend to shy away from star ranking as an evaluation tool for how GOOD a prospect is and more often will rely on offer sheet and available YouTube film. Why? Well, because the star system is flawed. Not just in the way that Le’Veon Bell and Jeremy Gainer were misranked as two and four star prospects respectively. Most importantly in that the “quality” of the average B1G prospect has increased by between nine and thirty percent from 2002-2012.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use the Rivals rating system and I’m going to examine Big Ten players. I give them my moneys, they give me the datas, it’s cool like that. In the Rivals ranking system, a prospect receives two rankings. The first is a star ranking, the prospect can receive anywhere between zero and five stars. This is the traditional ranking that some idiot armchair fan from every school cites in the following beer-inspired sentence after a loss “Well, we have a five-star quarterback coming in next year.” Rivals prospects do not get one star ratings, not even the bad ones from Texas, the Lone Star State.
The second rating system is unique to Rivals. Explanation:
The ranking system ranks prospects on a numerical scale from 6.1-4.9.
- 6.1 Franchise Player; considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation's top 25 players overall; deemed to have excellent pro potential; high-major prospect
- 6.0-5.8 All-American Candidate; high-major prospect; considered one of the nation's top 300 prospects; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team
- 5.7-5.5 All-Region Selection; considered among the region's top prospects and among the top 750 or so prospects in the country; high-to-mid-major prospect; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team
- 5.4-5.0 Division I prospect; considered a mid-major prospect; deemed to have limited pro potential but definite Division I prospect; may be more of a role player
- 4.9 Sleeper; no Rivals.com expert knew much, if anything, about this player; a prospect that only a college coach really knew about
Getting the data for this one is really going to be a pain in the toucas, so unless someone really wants a follow-up post, I’m not going to dig into that.
The quality of the “average” Big Ten prospect increased from an average of 2.80 in 2002 to 3.04 in 2012. Since NO ONE who gets a scholarship offer and gets signed before the rankings are done gets a zero star ranking, I derived the 30 percent number above as (1.04-.8). Even without that, the increase from 2.8 to 3.04 is still a nine percent increase. Meaning on average according to the star rankings, the average Big Ten player is 9 to 30 percent better than they were in 2002.
Are kids really even nine percent better than they were in 2002?
In 2004, Rivals reported that there were 3375 recruits between two and five stars. In 2012, that number jumped to 3469 which is a 2.7 percent increase over 2004. So presuming the power conferences like the Big Ten snatched up the higher quality kids that still doesn’t explain a 9 percent increase. As for the stratification of the “quality class”, in 2004 there were 2437 two-star prospects which comprised 72.2 percent of the class size. In 2012, the 1603 comprised a meager 47.5 percent of the total class. No question about it, the two-star Rivals prospect is a dying breed.
So where did they all go?
In 2004, there were 660 3-Star recruits(19.6% of total) and 244 4-Star Recruits(7.2% of total) and 34 5-Star recruits(1% of total). In 2012 there were 1513 3-Star Recruits(43.6% of total) and 320 4-Star Recruits(9.2% of total) and 33 5-Star Recruits(.95% of total). So as you can see the number of three-star prospects enjoyed a 122 percent increase from 2004-2012. The number of four and five-star recruits enjoyed a 24 percent increase over the same period which would seem ridiculous if it weren’t put up next to the three-star numbers. Really all of that increase comes from the four-star prospects, five stars have been holding steady at around 1 percent through the years.
So when should I crow about a kid’s recruiting ranking?
From a human decency standpoint, never. Until they’re on the field and out producing their predecessors, they’re not anymore valuable than any other recruit. However, if you must, do not crow about a two-star kid, they should have been a three. Don’t crow about a three-star kid, they’re the new two stars. Four-star prospects are growing at a semi-manageable rate of 27.8 percent from 2004-2012, (that’s like the rate of inflation right?), but even a 27.8 percent increase over a period of time that only saw a 2.7 percent increase in the number of prospects evaluated is still pacing on an untenable track.
If you get a five-star prospect, crow. That’s cool, rare and the likelihood of them being good is high.
So why Offer Sheets?
Prospects pick up the bulk of their offers in the Summer Camp season which is in June and July. So if you receive a commitment during a prospect's junior year the Offer Sheet as a tool doesn't have much merit yet. If the commitment comes after camp season, typically the offer sheet is a better gauge of quality. Also to be considered is what scheme the competing offers come from, if a four-star LB has offers from Indiana and the MAC I'm less excited about that prospect than say a three-star LB prospect with offers from Iowa and Wisconsin.