By popular demand, it's time to dig into the archives for the annual look at our accomplished, successful draft candidates when they were but pimply pups under the magnifying glass of the recruiting gurus, whose assessments are much kinder in retrospect, next to the vicious eyes of the pro scouts. Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples has already vindicated the recruitniks at the top of this year's crop, where Matt Stafford, Eugene Monroe, Michael Crabtree, Mark Sanchez, Andre Smith, Michael Oher, Brian Cushing, Beanie Wells, Josh Freeman, Aaron Maybin, Percy Harvin, et al, had "star" written all over them from the beginning. (On the other hand, Jason Smith, Aaron Curry, B.J. Raji and Malcolm Jenkins defied their initial obscurity.)
The goal here is to get a little more systematic than just the likely first-rounders, though, and go beyond just the top end of a single class to get some idea of how well recruiting stars mesh with eventual draft fate overall. There's one major hurdle in any retrospective involving recruiting rankings: The online archives only go back to 2002; members of that class weren't draft eligible until 2005, and every draft prior to 2006 consisted almost entirely of players whose recruiting info isn't readily available. So for any kind of decent comparison, we're limited to just three drafts, 2006-08.
And, as usual, if you look at the raw numbers for both the first round and the first three rounds over the last three drafts, relative to the initial recruiting rankings, the five-star studs don't come out looking especially studly:
Run those numbers back, though, against the lopsided distribution of stars in the recruiting process:
... and the picture changes dramatically. There may be three-and-a-half times as many three-stars going in the first three rounds than five-stars, but that looks far less impressive when there are 17 times as many three-star players in the pool. Adjusted on a per capita basis:
Or, if you're into visuals:
Anecdotally, the gurus fare pretty well in the draft -- not perfectly, but well -- even after their predictions have been put through the ringer (and even though draft status is not what their ratings are meant to predict). But if you take into account all the numbers, and think of the star rating as a probability rather than a written-in-stone edict, they look that much better.