Fact or Fiction: Vernell Brown III should be in the five-star range

Rivals national recruiting analyst John Garcia is joined by national recruiting director Adam Gorney along with national recruiting analysts Adam Friedman and Marshall Levenson to tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.

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1. Five-star DJ Pickett should be ranked at corner over safety or athlete.

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Gorney: FICTION. DJ Pickett is already 6-foot-4 and if he doesn't grow another inch he would be among the tallest cornerbacks ever in the NFL. He's actually a perfect example of why we have an athlete designation because the five-star can play safety and switch right over to wide receiver and be a special addition there as well. I just don't think over the long term it's realistic that he would play cornerback at that size. If he adds significant weight, Pickett probably has a better chance of moving down to linebacker because of his length and size.

Garcia FICTION. Pickett's position projection is as up-in-the-air as any elite prospect in the class of 2025. The Tampa-area star is a legitimate 6-foot-4, with legitimate athleticism and the type of ball skills warranting attention on both offense and defense by colleges. The secondary still seems like the safer bet, but the precedent of cornerbacks at his size isn't quite established at the highest levels of the sport. Even safety play with Pickett's frame is relatively rare, so a hybrid role of sorts may still become the most likely for him as he moves from one level to the next. That's why he sits as the nation's top-ranked athlete with no signs of getting knocked off that perch.


2. Vernell Brown III should be in the five-star range.

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Friedman: FACT. Wide receiver is becoming a premium position in the NFL Draft so we’re seeing an increasing number of five-star receivers. Vernell Brown III is a playmaker and contributes in a variety of ways. He can line up as an outside receiver or in the slot and has proven to be an elite route runner. Brown and the speed and cutting ability to create separation from even the quickest defensive backs. Quarterbacks will love throwing in his direction because his long arms help him reach passes that may not be thrown on target. Brown should move into five-star range in the upcoming rankings update and could add that coveted fifth star if he continues to perform at a high level.

Garcia: FACT. Brown has been on the trend towards the very elite status for the better part of the last year. He all but dominates every event he participates in, especially at wide receiver, where his polish, length and pure torque are a tough combination for any defensive back to contest with. Throw in elite bounce and true ball skills, and Brown plays like he is closer to 6-foot-3 than 5-foot-11. The consistency and catch radius make him that much more valuable in the modern sense, not to mention he has the YAC ability to make just as much plays near the line of scrimmage as he does down the field. Sometimes prospects just play their way into the five-star range and few have made it more obvious than Brown this cycle.


3. Miami fans should be concerned about Malachi Toney's commitment.

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Levenson: FICTION. There was really one one program Malachi Toney brought up on Sunday other than Miami and that was Alabama. While Toney certainly expressed his interest in the Tide and he will be making a visit later this month, I don't get the impression this is a visit that will change anything at the current time. The Alabama staff described Toney as "electrifying" so they are certainly doing their part to stick out in his mind, but Toney sounded content with his place at Miami. If worry were to come for Toney's commitment, it would not come for some time as his recruitment enters the spotlight down the line with potential official visits But right now, I don't feel there is much to worry on Toney's commitment status with the Canes, even with an Alabama visit on the horizon.

Garcia: FACT. There's too much time between now and Dec. 2025 for programs to not worry about early verbal commitments, and Toney's offer list continues to push nationally despite his pledge to Miami. Ohio State had buzz at one point and now, as Levenson said, Alabama is the new program potentially making noise in this race. Toney is also a well-traveled recruit to date, meaning he has some familiarity and/or comfort outside of the region, so the hometown feel for the Hurricanes may not stand as reason enough for fans not to have some worry. On top of that, it's 2024 and recruiting is as wide-open and fluid as it's ever been. So 'Bama or not, Toney is too good not to consider other programs at any stage of the game.