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Recruiting Analysis: Class of 2011 Re-Ranked

Jadeveon Clowney

Jadeveon Clowney

Recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is the lifeblood of the sport. But recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is an inexact science. Five-star prospects have a significantly better shot at landing on All-America teams or getting drafted than two-star prospects. But busts and overlooked talents are a natural and inherent part of the process — just like the NFL Draft.

So Athlon Sports re-ranked the top 10 players of the 2011 class and asked 247Sports national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons to look back at the evaluation process:

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Dual-Threat No. 22, No. 513 nationally

The Honolulu native accomplished everything an individual can in college football with the exception of a national title. He was a Heisman Trophy winner and went 36-5 as a starter. Yet, coming out of high school, Mariota wasn’t one of the most sought-after stars of the 2011 class. Who was No. 1: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Barton Simmons' Take: “His senior year was Mariota's first year as a starter and hailing as a Hawaii native his exposure was limited, but everyone that saw him up close raved about his ability.”

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2. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Dual-Threat No. 14, No. 393 nationally

Johnny Football had his issues off the field, but his talent and athleticism on the field was second to only Mariota in this class. He won a Heisman Trophy and was a first-round pick after rewriting the SEC record book. Who was No. 2: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Simmons’ Take: “Undersized, super-athletic but extremely productive, Manziel was impossible to bring pressure on because of his ability to escape and improvise.” 

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3. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Weakside Defensive End No. 1, No. 1 nationally

The freakish consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation was a star right away in Columbia. The decorated and uber-talented player was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Who was No. 3: La’El Collins, OT, LSU

Simmons’ Take: “Clowney was one of the biggest no-brainer freaks that we've ever seen as a high schooler. He was unblockable.”

4. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Defensive Tackle No. 2, No. 11 nationally

The five-star defensive tackle was a monster for the Noles en route to a national championship. Jernigan manned the middle for two ACC title runs, was an All-American and was selected in the second round of the ’14 NFL Draft. Who was No. 4: Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State

Simmons' Take: “Jernigan was really athletic and physical out of Columbia High School but his instincts and ability to sniff out a play from the inside was off the charts.”

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5. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Wide Recevier No. 3, No. 20 nationally

A five-star super-recruit coming out of high school, Watkins delivered on his immense talent right away as a freshman. He was the fourth pick in last year’s NFL Draft and delivered in his first season in the NFL the same way he did in college. Who was No. 5: Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU

Simmons' Take: “Watkins was a pure speed guy that just happened to have phenomenal ball skills as well.”

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6. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Dual-Threat No. 5, No. 100 nationally

Bridgewater was one of the most highly touted signal callers in one of the deepest QB classes in recent history. And he lived up to the hype by carrying the Cardinals to a Sugar Bowl and landing in the first round of the ’14 Draft. Who was No. 6: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia

Simmons' Take: “As a high schooler, Teddy was such a cool customer that it was almost to his detriment in the rankings. He would line up at wide receiver for fun, he'd play like he was in a playground. But the dude won in everything he did.”

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7. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Offensive Tackle No. 13, No. 121 nationally

Robinson was highly touted, just missing on being a top 100 prospect. But even he exceeded already high expectations with his elite footwork and tremendous overall athletic ability. He was a top five pick in the NFL Draft. Who was No. 7: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Simmons' Take: “Robinson was a huge, barrell-chested kid who was incredibly athletic for a big body. Some college coaches thought he might be a right tackle but everyone knew he was elite.”

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8. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Dual-Threat No. 4, No. 69 nationally

Elite quarterback who led UCLA to unprecedented heights in three years as the starter. He rewrote the record Bruins record books and outperformed even the lofty expectations in recruiting. Who was No. 8: George Farmer, WR, USC

Simmons' Take: “The industry was high on Hundley as a guy that could really make plays with his feet but he proved he had big time arm talent at the Under Armour All-Star game too.”

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9. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Running Back No. 22, No. 258 nationally

Well-regarded but overlooked, Gordon’s speed and size made him one of the great backs in Big Ten history. His athletic ability and explosiveness makes him one of the most talented to ever play the position at Wisconsin. Who was No. 9: Aaron Lynch, DE, Notre Dame

Simmons' Take: “A physically impressive kid as a running back, some people even thought that Gordon could end up at linebacker.”

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10. AJ Johnson, LB, Tennessee

Weakside Defensive End No. 7, No. 124 nationally

The leader of the Vols program during a trying time, all Johnson did was post 425 tackles in 46 career games. He was a highly coveted defensive end whose athleticism allowed him to play all over the field as a star linebacker. Who was No. 10: Christian Westerman, OT, Auburn/Arizona State

Simmons' Take: “Johnson was huge kid that really stated his arrival on the recruiting scene when he was one of the top performers at Florida's prestigious Friday Night Lights event.”

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The Best of the Rest:

* - indicates five-star player, Pos. Rk = position rank




Pos. Rk

National Rk

Dak Prescott


No. 17 Dual

No. 430

Marqise Lee


No. 3 ATH

No. 45

Odell Beckham


No. 21 WR

No. 132

Ryan Shazier


No. 5 OLB

No. 107

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix*


No. 1 S

No. 7

Shilique Calhoun


No. 59 SDE

No. 938

Reese Dismukes


No. 1 C

No. 78

Brandin Cooks


No. 56 WR

No. 389

Gerod Holliman


No. 3 S

No. 89

Nick O'Leary*


No. 1 TE

No. 27

Ka'Deem Carey


No. 32 RB

No. 351

Shawn Oakman


No. 14 TE

No. 209

Connor Cook


No. 34 Pro

No. 965

Braxton Miller*


No. 2 Dual

No. 30

Danny Shelton


No. 23 DT

No. 331