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Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack show recruiting ranking disparity

Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack were separated by just four picks in the NFL draft. When it came to the recruiting trail, though, the distance almost was immeasurable.

Clowney was the nation's top high school prospect in the 2011 recruiting class. He was a five-star recruit and everyone wanted him. He signed with home-state South Carolina.

Mack? He was the No. 275 player in the 2009 class -- in Florida. Mack was a two-star recruit who had one FBS offer, from Buffalo. And that came about only after then-Buffalo coach Turner Gill hired linebacker coach Robert Wimberly away from FCS Liberty, which had been the only offer Mack had. (Ironically, Wimberly is back at Liberty now, working under Gill, who went from Buffalo to Kansas to Liberty.)

Incredibly, the two players ranked immediately ahead of Mack in Florida in that recruiting class were Detroit Lions cornerback Jonte Green, who was a sixth-round pick out of New Mexico State in the 2013 draft, and Kent State running back Dri Archer, who was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday. In addition, the No. 280 player in Florida in that class was Kevin Pamphile, who went on to play offensive tackle at Purdue and was a fifth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday.

All this goes to show that college football recruiting -- as with any type of talent evaluation -- is a crap shoot and not anything close to resembling a science. If it were a science, no draft pick -- in the NFL, NBA, MLB or the NHL -- ever would be a bust (barring injury, of course).

When it comes to college recruiting, projecting how a 17- or 18-year-old kid will play is tough. Frankly, the same goes for projecting how a 21- or 22-year-old will do when he starts playing for pay. A player can have all the measurables in the world out of high school or out of college, but as all talent evaluators find, you can't truly measure intangibles, and that usually is the No. 1 factor in an athlete's development.

We looked at the high school recruiting rankings for the first-rounders in the 2014 draft, and found that four of the 32 picks were five-star recruits out of high school (joining Clowney were Sammy Watkins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Dominique Easley). There were 11 four-star prospects, 15 three-star prospects and two two-star prospects (Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward joined Mack in that group).

FBS schools sign about 2,600 football players each season. There generally are about 30 five-star prospects annually, meaning less than 1.5 percent of the players signed are five-star guys. Generally, there are about 275 to 300 four-star prospects annually, which means the great bulk of players who sign with colleges each season -- about 85 percent -- are two- or three-star guys.

Here's a look at the 2014 first-rounders. If the player was a consensus top-100 player nationally and/or a top-50 player at his position, it is noted. We used the 247sports.com composite recruiting rankings, which crunches the numbers from the "big four" recruiting sites (247sports.com, rivals.com, scout.com and espn.com) to come up with the overall consensus ranking.

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

High school: Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe
Recruiting ranking: 5-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 1 national prospect.

2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

High school: Thibodaux (La.) High
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 12 offensive tackle.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

High school: Oviedo (Fla.) High
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2010 class. Consensus No. 44 pro-style quarterback.

4. Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

High school: Fort Myers (Fla.) South Fort Myers
Recruiting ranking: 5-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 19 player and No. 3 wide receiver.

5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

High school: Fort Pierce (Fla.) Westwood
Recruiting ranking: 2-star recruit in 2009 class.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

High school: Missouri City (Texas) Elkins
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2010 class. Consensus No. 37 player and No. 5 offensive tackle.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

High school: Galveston (Texas) Ball
Recruiting ranking: 3-star prospect in 2011 class.

8. Cleveland Browns: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

High school: Huntsville (Texas) High
Recruiting ranking: 3-star prospect in 2010 class. Consensus No. 19 athlete.

9. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

High school: Los Angeles Loyola
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2010 class. Consensus No. 61 player and No. 5 athlete.

10. Detroit Lions: Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina

High school: Greensboro (N.C.) Smith
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2011 class.

11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

High school: Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chapparal
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2009 class. Consensus No. 11 offensive tackle.

12. New York Giants: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU

High school: New Orleans Isidore Newman School
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 19 wide receiver.

13. St. Louis Rams: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

High school: Pittsburgh Penn Hills
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2010 class. Consensus No. 27 defensive tackle.

14. Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

High school: Baltimore Mount Saint Joseph
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2010 class.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

High school: Plantation (Fla.) High
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 7 outside linebacker.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

High school: Indianapolis Bishop Chatard
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2009 class. Consensus No. 18 offensive tackle.

17. Baltimore Ravens: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

High school: Theodore (Ala.) High
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2010 class. Consensus No. 77 player and No. 3 inside linebacker.

18. New York Jets: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

High school: Port St. Joe (Fla.) High
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 44 safety.

19. Miami Dolphins: Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee

High school: Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2010 class. Consensus No. 23 offensive tackle.

20. New Orleans Saints: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

High school: Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2011 class.

21. Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama

High school: Orlando Dr. Phillips
Recruiting ranking: 5-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 7 national player and No. 2 safety.

22. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

High school: Kerrville (Texas) Tivy
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 13 dual-threat quarterback.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

High school: Odenville (Ala.) St. Clair County
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2009 class.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

High school: Jeffersonville (Ga.) Twiggs County
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2010 class.

25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Junior college: Santa Rosa (Calif.) JC
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 47 player and No. 3 cornerback in junior college rankings. Unranked as a high school prospect in 2009 class out of Fairfield (Calif.) Rodriguez.

26. Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville

High school: Columbus (Ga.) Hardaway
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2010 class.

27. Arizona Cardinals: Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State

High school: Fairfield (Calif.) Vanden
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2010 class. Consensus No. 49 safety.

28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

High school: Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 17 wide receiver.

29. New England Patriots: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida

High school: Staten Island (N.Y.) Curtis
Recruiting ranking: 5-star recruit in 2010 class. Consensus No. 4 player and No. 1 defensive tackle.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois

High school: Mobile (Ala.) Davidson
Recruiting ranking: 2-star recruit in 2010 class.

31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

High school: Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge
Recruiting ranking: 3-star recruit in 2010 class.

32. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

High school: Miami Northwestern
Recruiting ranking: 4-star recruit in 2011 class. Consensus No. 7 quarterback.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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