Where every 2019 NFL first-round pick ranked as a high school recruit

Yahoo Sports

Before they were selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft on Thursday night, the 32 players who heard their name called were high schoolers with a dream.

Some were rated by Rivals.com among the nation’s most elite prospects. Others had to scratch and claw just to receive a college scholarship. We decided to go back and look at how all 32 were perceived as high school recruits.

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Each story — from the No. 1 overall recruit to an FCS walk-on — is unique.

1. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Team: Arizona Cardinals

Rivals rating: 4 stars, No. 71 overall

2015 position ranking: No. 5 dual-threat quarterback

Texas A&M had to sweat out a late visit to Texas before Murray, the Lone Star State’s top quarterback prospect, ultimately signed with the Aggies. Unfortunately for Kevin Sumlin and company, Murray’s time in College Station was short-lived. Following a tumultuous freshman season, Murray quickly transferred to Oklahoma and sat behind Baker Mayfield for two seasons. When he finally took the reins, Murray won the Heisman in his lone season as OU’s starting QB, a season that vaulted him to No. 1 in the NFL draft, just like Mayfield.

Kyler Murray was rated as the top quarterback prospect in Texas in the class of 2015. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images)
Kyler Murray was rated as the top quarterback prospect in Texas in the class of 2015. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images)

2. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Team: San Francisco 49ers

Rivals rating: 5 stars, No. 21 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 2 strongside defensive end

Nick Bosa considered in-state programs like Florida and Florida State, but unsurprisingly followed his brother Joey’s path to Ohio State. At No. 21 overall in the 2016 class, he was ranked higher than Joey (No. 47) was in 2013. Rivals had the younger Bosa as the second-best strongside defensive end in the country, trailing only Jeffery Simmons in the rankings, and the third-best player from the state of Florida behind Michigan QB Shea Patterson and Clemson LB Shaq Smith. Once he landed at OSU, Bosa made an instant impact, ultimately accumulating 29 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in his college career.

3. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Team: New York Jets

Rivals rating: 4 stars, No. 106 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 11 defensive tackle

Williams, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, actually committed to rival Auburn early in his recruiting process before flipping to Alabama in June of his junior year. Williams was a three-star recruit when he committed to the Tide, but launched up to No. 106 nationally by the time his senior year rolled around. Williams redshirted his first season and was solid in a reserve role as a redshirt freshman before breaking out in 2018. Williams emerged as one of the best players in the country, compiling 71 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks as an interior defensive lineman. That production quickly vaulted him up NFL draft boards.

4. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Team: Oakland Raiders

Rivals rating: 4 stars, No. 135 overall

2015 position ranking: No. 6 weakside defensive end

There were five other weakside defensive ends who were ranked ahead of Ferrell in high school when he signed with Clemson. He was also the No. 5 prospect in the state of Virginia. But Ferrell played better than his ranking and made an immediate impact when he started getting significant playing time in 2016 and totaled 50.5 tackles for loss and 27 sacks over three seasons. Ferrell made plays on the biggest stages, too, especially in the College Football Playoff.

5. Devin White, LB, LSU

Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rivals rating: 4 stars, not in Rivals 250

2016 position ranking: No. 1 fullback

Devin White was a two-way star for North Webster High School in Springhill, Louisiana, and was actually ranked as the nation’s top fullback by Rivals.com. But White kept getting bigger and bigger, and it quickly became apparent that he was destined to play defense once he signed with LSU over Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Three years and 286 tackles later, White is now the top linebacker in the 2019 NFL draft.

6. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Team: New York Giants

Rivals rating: 2 stars, not in Rivals 250

2015 position ranking: Unranked

Jones was completely unheralded as a recruit after suffering a serious wrist injury on the basketball court. Even after leading Charlotte Latin to a state title as a senior, Jones had mainly Ivy League looks before his coach showed his tape to Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe, known for mentoring the Mannings, liked what he saw and brought Jones to the team. Jones didn’t even have a scholarship at first but was the team’s starter by the time he was a redshirt freshman. He ended up as a three-year starter for the Blue Devils and now he is in line to be the heir apparent to Eli Manning in New York.

7. Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Rivals rating: 3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2015 position ranking: Unranked

Josh Allen didn’t play much defense before his senior year of high school and was ticketed for Monmouth, an FCS school in New Jersey, before Kentucky offered him a scholarship just days before national signing day (UK was hoping to fill a spot vacated when one of its commits, Tyrone Riley, flipped to NC State). Allen, who was overlooked by local Rutgers, quickly accepted the offer from Mark Stoops’ staff and became an impact player for the Wildcats by his sophomore season. In all, Allen racked up 220 tackles, 42 tackles for loss and 31.5 sacks in his Kentucky career. Not bad for a guy with one FBS offer, huh?

8. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Team: Detroit Lions

Rivals rating: 3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2016 position ranking: Unranked

Iowa is one of those programs with a knack for developing under-the-radar prospects into pros. Coming out of Chariton, Iowa, T.J. Hockenson received just three scholarship offers: Iowa, Iowa State and Eastern Michigan. Hockenson always coveted an offer from Iowa and quickly jumped on the chance to play for the Hawkeyes. Hockenson took a redshirt to add weight his first year and then combined for 73 catches for 1,080 yards and nine scores while playing in a less-than-exciting offensive scheme. The sky is the limit for Hockenson in the NFL.

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson went No. 8 overall to the Detroit Lions. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson went No. 8 overall to the Detroit Lions. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

9. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Team: Buffalo Bills

Rivals rating: 5 stars, No. 19 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 4 defensive tackle

Ed Oliver notably spurned all of the high-major schools in the state of Texas and beyond (schools like Alabama and LSU were also after him) to stay at home and play for Tom Herman, who had just led Houston to a 13-win season. Oliver, Houston’s first 5-star recruit, quickly made a splash, putting up a whopping 22 tackles for loss as a true freshman. In his three seasons at UH, Oliver compiled 192 tackles, 53 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. That’s as a defensive tackle, folks. Oliver is considered a bit undersized, but production like that will undoubtedly translate to the next level.

10. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

Team: Pittsburgh Steelers (from Denver)

Rivals rating: 4 stars, No. 182 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 7 inside linebacker

Michigan went down to Florida to grab a commitment from Devin Bush, a middle linebacker with upwards of 40 offers. Bush, who ultimately chose UM over Auburn and Florida State, would have been rated a bit higher had it not been for his height — 5-foot-11. But that height never held him back once he hit the Big Ten, and he and White proved to be the top inside backers in the 2016 recruiting class. Bush dealt with some injuries, but still compiled 172 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks during his time with the Wolverines.

11. Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama

Team: Cincinnati Bengals

Rivals rating: 5 stars, No. 24 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 2 tackle

You don’t see many players walk on the campus of Alabama and immediately step into the starting lineup. Jonah Williams did just that. Williams, who grew up in Atlanta before a family move to California, started every game at right tackle as a true freshman before shifting to the left side for his sophomore and junior seasons. In all, Williams made 44 starts and earned a bevy of All-SEC and All-American honors along the way. The Bengals hope he brings the same level of consistency to their organization.

12. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

Team: Green Bay Packers

Rivals rating: 5 stars, No. 1 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 1 defensive tackle

Rashan Gary was the No. 1 player in the country coming out of the class of 2016. He showed the ability to dominate from any spot on the defensive line and eventually chose Michigan (over Clemson) to play alongside several other recruits from New Jersey in Ann Arbor. Gary was productive at Michigan, especially during his sophomore year, but never truly lived up to the hype. A shoulder injury during his junior season did not help matters. Still, this selection shows that the Packers believe in his talents.

13. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Team: Miami Dolphins

Rivals rating: 5 stars, No. 21 overall

2015 position ranking: No. 4 defensive tackle

Christian WIlkins is known for being a boisterous guy, but he was reticent to speak with reporters throughout his recruitment. In fact, it was a surprise to many when Wilkins, a native of Connecticut, chose Clemson over Penn State and Ohio State. Even Dabo Swinney was surprised, but he sure was happy. At Clemson, Wilkins ended up as a three-year starter with two national titles, 192 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks under his belt.

14. Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College

Team: Atlanta Falcons

Rivals rating: 3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2015 position ranking: Unranked

Lindstrom blossoming into a first-round pick has to be a real prideful moment for the Boston College program. Lindstrom weighed in at 236 pounds as a recruit attending a Rivals camp but was able to quickly pack on enough muscle to start nine games as a true freshman. Lindstrom, whose only other offer came from Old Dominion, ended up starting 49 games in all at BC, bulking up to 308 pounds by the time he showed up at the NFL combine. Now the Falcons hope he will be a cornerstone of their line for years to come.

15. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Team: Washington Redskins

Rivals rating: 4 stars, No. 100 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 5 pro-style quarterback

Haskins was rated as the fifth-best pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class (behind Jacob Eason, K.J. Costello, Feleipe Franks and Austin Kendall, all of whom will be fringe NFL prospects at best next year), but needed just one season as the starter at Ohio State to prove he was the best of the bunch. But before he signed with the Buckeyes, Haskins actually committed to Maryland before flipping to OSU a few weeks before signing day. He sat behind J.T. Barrett his first two seasons before exploding for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2018. That season was all he needed to become a first-round pick.

16. Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State

Team: Carolina Panthers

Rivals rating: 4 stars, No. 65 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 4 weakside defensive end

Brian Burns was a signing day add for Florida State, which landed his signature ahead of Florida and Georgia. It was a big get for FSU. Burns ranked No. 65 overall in his class and fourth among weakside defensive ends, a position full of pass-rushers. Burns made an impact on FSU’s defense from the jump with 8.5 sacks as a freshman. In his three years, he totaled 123 tackles, 38.5 tackles for loss and 23 sacks. Now up to about 250 pounds, Burns has the look of a prototypical NFL edge rusher.

17. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Team: New York Giants (from Cleveland)

Rivals rating: 5 stars, No. 2 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 2 defensive tackle

Rashan Gary was the only player who ranked ahead of Lawrence among defensive tackles and overall prospects in the 2016 recruiting class. Lawrence was a huge presence on Clemson’s defensive line, though the Tigers still blew out Notre Dame and Alabama without him in the College Football Playoff. After 6.5 sacks in his freshman season, Lawrence had just 3.5 sacks in 2017 and 2018. But that’s because teams were having to pay a ton of attention to him.

18. Garrett Bradbury, OL, NC State

Team: Minnesota Vikings

Rivals rating: 2 stars, not in Rivals 250

2014 position ranking: Unranked

Bradbury, rated as a two-star tight end, committed to NC State early in his junior season. The only other scholarship offers he had were from Charlotte and Colorado State. He was listed at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds at that point, but he blossomed into a 306-pound interior lineman with starting experience at both guard and center. Bradbury is one of the quickest linemen you’ll see and has the looks of a longtime pro starter.

Garrett Bradbury (65) was a two-star tight end coming out of high school. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Garrett Bradbury (65) was a two-star tight end coming out of high school. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

19. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State

Team: Tennessee Titans

Rivals rating: 5 stars, No. 15 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 1 strongside defensive end

Simmons fell a bit in the draft because of an ACL injury. As a prospect, he was one of the best defensive players in the country in the 2016 recruiting class and his choice of Mississippi State was seen as a big coup for then-Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen. Among defensive linemen, only Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence were rated higher than Simmons by Rivals. He lived up to the stellar ranking with 163 tackles in three seasons for the Bulldogs.

20. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Team: Denver Broncos (from Pittsburgh)

Rivals rating: 3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2016 position ranking: No. 26 tight end

Fant joined fellow Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson as a first-round selection. Fant arrived at Iowa alongside Hockenson in 2016, choosing the Hawkeyes over in-state Nebraska and several other Big Ten and Pac-12 suitors. Fant was ranked higher than Hockenson as a recruit and finished his career with five more receptions and just three more receiving yards. Fant was a beast in the red zone, totaling 18 touchdowns in three seasons.

21. Darnell Savage, DB, Maryland

Team: Green Bay Packers (from Seattle)

Rivals rating: 3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2015 position ranking: Unranked

Savage was one of just three players from the state of Delaware to sign with an FBS program in the class of 2015. Rated by Rivals as an Athlete, Savage chose Maryland over Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple. By the time he was a sophomore, Savage was a starter for the Terps at safety. He ended up starting 37 games and registering 182 tackles and eight interceptions.

22. Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

Team: Philadelphia Eagles (from Baltimore)

Rivals rating: 2 stars, not in Rivals 250

2014 position ranking: Unranked

Washington State was the only FBS school to offer Dillard a scholarship. My how the times have changed when it comes to the NFL’s valuations of offensive linemen. Five years ago, a player like Dillard would be downgraded because of the way offensive linemen play in Mike Leach’s Air Raid system. Now, as pass protection is more and more important, teams are changing the way linemen are evaluated. And it’s also worth pointing out that Dillard is a pretty good run blocker too.

23. Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State

Team: Houston Texans

Rivals rating: Unranked

2014 position ranking: Unranked

Howard said at the NFL combine that he was 5-foot-8 and weighed just 150 pounds as a freshman in high school. He grew enough to play quarterback at Monroe County High School in Monroeville, Alabama, before arriving at FCS Alabama State as a walk-on. He arrived on campus as a tight end, moved to tackle and ended up adding nearly 90 pounds to his frame. By the time his career ended, he accumulated 34 starts, splitting time between left and right tackle.

24. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Team: Oakland Raiders (from Chicago)

Rivals rating: 3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2016 position ranking: Unranked

Alabama’s best running back in 2018 was not a guy who was a highly rated recruit. Jacobs was homeless for a time as a child and broke out at McLain High School in Tulsa. He was lightly recruited and had to sell himself to programs to get a chance. Missouri was in the mix for him first, but the lure of Alabama was too tantalizing. It paid off, as Jacobs emerged as a running back with the best power and speed combination in college football.

25. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Team: Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia)

Rivals rating: 4 stars, No. 10 overall (JUCO)

2017 position ranking: N/A

Lightly recruited out of high school, the diminutive Marquise “Hollywood” Brown spent a season in junior college before attracting the attention of an array of Power Five programs. The speedster ended up receiving nearly 20 offers before choosing Oklahoma. He made an instant impact with the Sooners, catching 57 passes for 1,095 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017 and 75 for 1,318 and 10 scores in 2018.

Marquise Brown spent a year in junior college before starring at Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Marquise Brown spent a year in junior college before starring at Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

26. Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Team: Washington Redskins (from Indianapolis)

Rivals rating: 2 stars

2014 position ranking: Unranked

Coming from the talent-rich state of Georgia, Sweat wasn’t ranked among the state’s top prospects in the class of 2014. He played both tight end and defensive end in high school, and initially verbally committed to Vanderbilt before reopening his recruitment and signing with Michigan State. Sweat spent two seasons at MSU before transferring to a junior college. From there, he landed at Mississippi State, where he totaled 30 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks in two seasons. Sweat was one of the standouts of the NFL combine and was ultimately a first-round pick.

27. Johnathan Abram, DB, Mississippi State

Team: Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)

Rivals rating3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2015 position ranking: Unranked

Rated as the 20th-best player in Mississippi in 2015, Abram signed with Georgia out of high school and played in 10 games for UGA in 2015. He then transferred to junior college and then to Mississippi State where he became one of the best safeties in college football. Abram had 99 tackles in 2019 and was the second defensive back off the board on Thursday night.

28. Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

Team: Los Angeles Chargers

Rivals rating: 4 stars, No. 145 overall

2015 position rankingNo. 15 defensive tackle

Notre Dame and LSU were among the first offers for Jerry Tillery, a native of Louisiana. He went ahead and chose the Irish early in the process, committing in June 2013. He played in 36 games over his final three seasons at Notre Dame and had seven sacks as a senior in 2018. When he was selected by the Chargers, Tillery joined Christian Wilkins as the second top-15 defensive tackle from the 2015 recruiting class to go in the 2019 first round.

29. L.J. Collier, DE, TCU

Team: Seattle Seahawks (from Kansas City)

Rivals rating: 3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2014 position ranking: Unranked

Collier committed early to Texas Tech but ended up flipping to TCU a few weeks before national signing day. Collier didn’t get much action early in his career but ended up accumulating 20.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks over his last three seasons. His senior season (11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks) was his best year with the Horned Frogs.

30. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

Team: New York Giants (from Seattle)

Rivals rating3 stars, not in Rivals 250

2015 position ranking: No. 72 cornerback

Baker verbally committed to Georgia in the summer of 2014 and stayed true to the Bulldogs despite visiting Texas in January 2015. He was also recruited by Clemson, Tennessee, Utah and others. He emerged as one of the best corners in the SEC in 2017 and ‘18, combining for 84 tackles and five interceptions in those two seasons. Not bad for the 72nd-best corner in his class, huh?

31. Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington

Team: Atlanta Falcons (from Los Angeles)

Rivals rating: 4 stars, not in Rivals 250

2014 position ranking: No. 29 offensive tackle

McGary, a four-star recruit, was one of the top recruits in Washington’s 2014 recruiting class. The Tacoma native had most of the Pac-12 after him, but he opted to head to Seattle to play for the Huskies. McGary redshirted his first season on campus and then first cracked the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman. He ended up starting 47 games in all during his Washington career and twice earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors.

32. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Team: New England Patriots

Rivals rating: 5 stars, No. 18 overall

2016 position ranking: No. 1 wide receiver

Harry, the top wideout in the 2016 class stayed in the state of Arizona and signed with Arizona State. It was a big deal for the Sun Devils, and it did not take long for Harry to establish himself as one of the nation’s most dynamic players. The 6-foot-4 Harry had 213 catches for 2,889 yards in his ASU career. Both marks rank third in program history. Now Harry is the first receiver drafted in the first round in the Bill Belichick era.

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