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April 27, 2011

How the first-rounders projected in high school

MORE NFL DRAFT: Wetzel: Committee approach hurts value of RBs | Yahoo! Draft Coverage

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Potential versus risk of top-tier athletes is the fine line NFL executives are walking heading into Thursday's NFL Draft.

It was a line college recruiters walked just a few short years prior on these same players.

Cam Newton was a five-star recruit out of Atlanta (Ga.) Westlake; Blaine Gabbert received the same lofty ranking when he was at Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West.

Both proved worthy of their early rankings in college - now NFL teams must figure who will make the better franchise quarterback.

At Rivals and RivalsHigh, we take pride in following the progress of these athletes from the earliest days of high school. With that, we take a look back at how we evaluated the prospects found in the latest Yahoo! Sports mock draft when they were in high school.

Before these young men turn into young millionaires, take a look back at how they were evaluated as high schoolers.

1. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: A.J. Green, Summerville (S.C.) High, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Green was evaluated as the No. 9 overall player in the country as a senior in high school. Surprisingly, that ranking was only good enough for No. 2 at wide receiver, behind fellow first round prospect Julio Jones, as well as the No. 2 spot in his home state of South Carolina with another first rounder, DaQuan Bowers, grading out ahead of him. Green piled up 137 catches and 2,640 yards in his junior and senior years of high school.
2. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Marcel Dareus, Birmingham (Ala.) Huffman, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Marcel and his brother Demerius nearly went to North Carolina as a heated recruiting battle between UNC, Alabama and Auburn went down to the wire. Dareus was a late star on the recruiting scene with some of the most impressive senior video hitting the internet in November 2007. (See it here.) Being close to home was a major deciding factor for the brothers and playing for the defensive staff at Alabama certainly boosted his stock from a three-star player to the potential No. 2 pick in the draft.
3. Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Cam Newton, Atlanta (Ga.) Westlake, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Newton was the next-to-last five-star prospect in the Class of 2007 and checked in as the No. 28 overall player. After winning the MVP award at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, scouts began to notice his ability as a passer as well as a playmaker with one article also noting his leadership skills and confidence that a quarterback needs. But even in the early days, his father, Cecil Newton Sr., was very much in the picture even citing "prestige" as a factor in the decision making process.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Blaine Gabbert, Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Gabbert is the third five-star prospect inside of the first four draft picks as he checked in as the No. 14 overall prospect and No. 1 pro-style quarterback in his class. Unlike many top flight players, Gabbert had a terrible senior season and nearly lost his five-star status as he threw for just 623 yards and five touchdowns - totals that were down almost 1,000 yards through the year from his junior year. A stellar week at the Army All-American Game helped put a lot of those questions to bed as Gabbert shined competing with Andrew Luck for the starting spot.
5. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Von Miller, DeSoto (Texas) High, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Miller elected to go to Texas A&M over LSU after his LSU recruiting coach Todd Monken revealed that the Tigers wanted to move him to outside linebacker. Miller said at the time his "heart is at weakside end". After sliding to the Jack position at Texas A&M, it appears he had a change of heart that benefited him. He ended his high school days as the No. 15 ranked defensive end in the Class of 2007.
6. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Patrick Paterson, Pompano Beach (Fla.) Blanche Ely, Class of 2008
The Buzz: For those unfamiliar with the recruiting scene and looking for high school info on Peterson, try searching for Patrick Johnson, as the former No. 5 overall player changed his name after enrolling at LSU. Peterson was part of one of the more shocking commitment switches when he changed from Miami to LSU at the U.S. Army All-American Game - although he did flirt with several teams after committing to "The U." His ability earned him class superlatives in nearly everything cornerbacks are measured by.
7. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Robert Quinn, North Charleston (N.C.) Fort Dorchester, Class of 2008
The Buzz: The No. 4-ranked pass rusher in the Class of 2008 was a Signing Day decision between Auburn and North Carolina and was a major coup for Butch Davis to land as the new head coach of the Tar Heels. The biggest factor for his decision at the time was sharing a health scare with the staff. Quinn said he and Davis were "along the same terms" after both had cancer. Quinn overcame a tumor on his brain to become a four-star prospect and now NFL first-rounder.
8. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Nick Fairley, Mobile (Ala.) Williamson, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Fairley was not a hot prospect in the Class of 2007 - mainly due to lingering questions about his grades. Then as a three-star offensive guard, Fairley went to prep school with a focus on getting better. Realizing that worked out for him and being able to switch positions while only losing one year of eligibility helped a lot. Had he not gone to Auburn, Fairley could have been another force on the Alabama defensive line, as the in-state schools went head-to-head for him.
9. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Tyron Smith, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Smith was the No. 15-ranked overall player in the Class of 2008 and amazingly that was only good enough to be the No. 6 ranked offensive tackle. A usually calm and mild mannered kid, Smith amazed his mom with his performance on the field. "He transforms into another being," she recalled at the time. His performance at the U.S. Army All-American Game cemented his status as a five-star prospect.
10. Washington Redskins
The Pick: Jake Locker, Ferndale (Wash.) High, Class of 2006
The Buzz: Locker was heralded as the savior of Washington football and lauded as the best prospect to come out of the state in years. The Huskies were thrilled when he committed and hoped that he would stick with the program - unlike Grady Sizemore and Matt Tuiasosopo who opted for baseball. Ranked as the No. 68 overall prospect in the country, Locker figured not to redshirt at UW and had then coach Ty Willingham declare that all 22 positions were open, even with Isaiah Stanback returning.
11. Houston Texans
The Pick: Prince Amakamara, Glendale (Ariz.) Apollo, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Amakamura did not generate a lot of recruiting buzz early in the process; being ranked a three-star corner out of a small school has had that effect on many. With his only initial offers being from Fresno State and Nebraska, the choice was easy even after Oregon State, UNLV, Arizona State and Colorado came in late. Confidence was never a problem as the No. 57-ranked corner in the Class of 2007 told reporters that he was going to be a Deion Sanders type player.
12. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Ryan Kerrigan, Muncie (Ind.) Central, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Kerrigan nearly landed at Ball State playing tight end before settling on Purdue and the defensive line. The then-No. 4 player in the state was all-state at both positions and was being recruited by Ball State, Purdue and Indiana. His decision to attend Purdue was due to playing time, not position, saying that he could play earlier on the defensive side of the ball.
13. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Anthony Castonzo, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Castonzo was barely on the national recruiting radar at all, checking in as a low two-star upon his commitment to the Eagles. Had it not been for Mike Siravo changing jobs from Temple to Boston College, Castonzo may have never been seen on the Big Six level, as a call between the two got the ball rolling. Castonzo didn't know the coach had switched jobs and had to be told mid-conversation, "by the way, I'm working at Boston College now."
14. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Julio Jones, Foley (Ala.) High, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Being ranked the No. 4 overall player in his class and a Signing Day decision, the high-profile Julio Jones had a lot to live up to. His legend grew nearly immediately as Nick Saban told reporters that Julio could do it all in his first public comments about the player. Jones had 143 catches and 2,487 yards in his final two years of high school.
15. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Mike Pouncey, Lakeland (Fla.) High, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Mike and his twin brother Maurkice helped lead Lakeland to a stunning 53-game winning streak in Florida. Both were four-star prospects; both went to Florida. Following in his brother's footsteps, Mike will be a first round draft pick. The differences between the two were negligible then - being ranked No. 15 and No. 16 offensive guards in high school - hopefully that gap hasn't changed as Maurkice was an All-Pro player as a rookie.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Aldon Smith, Raytown (Mo.) High, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Before deciding to head to Missouri, Smith showed a lot of maturity appreciating the opportunity to play at either Kansas State, Nebraska or Missouri. Smith was the No. 5 player in the state of Missouri the same year that Blaine Gabbert was topping the list.
17. New England Patriots - From the Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Mark Ingram, Flint (Mich.) Southwestern, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Being the son of a former Michigan State standout, it was a stunner when Ingram continued the process with Alabama and Iowa. When the No. 189 player in the Class of 2008 selected the Tide, it was a total surprise to Spartan fans. Ingram said he wanted to compete for a national title and was on his own path.
18. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: JJ Watt, Pewaukee (Wisc.) High, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Watt did not receive a lot of attention in the recruiting process but was part of a flurry of activity after Minnesota fired Glen Mason. The new Gophers staff didn't contact Watt and so he switched his plans and headed to Central Michigan for a year. Despite being the No. 7 player in the state, Watt entered college as a two-star prospect.
19. New York Giants
The Pick: Derek Sherrod, Columbus (Miss.) Caledonia, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Sherrod began his senior season inside the Rivals100 player rankings but ended it outside of the Rivals250, remaining a four-star player. Being between Louisville, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, Sherrod turned heads at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl before deciding to follow his brother Dezmond to Mississippi State.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: DaQuan Bowers, Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Bowers was the No. 2 player in the entire Class of 2008 and was a major in-state get for Clemson. He chose to be a December graduate and get to campus early which was met with rave reviews. His dominance in Shrine Bowl and the Under Armour All-American Game was a boost to his perception as an overall player gaining superlatives such as "strongest, best against the run and best pass rusher" of his defensive end class.
21. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Stephen Paea, Ephraim (Utah) Snow College Junior College, Class of 2008
The Buzz: A thick Tongan import, Paea did not make too many waves in the recruiting world as he was quick to commit to Oregon State - which continued a pipeline the school had established at Snow College. The pipeline was so strong that Paea committed to the Beavers without ever going to the campus and the coaches looked at Paea on the recommendation of Siolei Nau who was on the defensive line at Oregon State at the time.
22. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: Gabe Carimi, Monona Grove (Wisc.) High, Class of 2006
The Buzz: Carimi was the No. 3 player from the state of Wisconsin in his class and the No. 30 overall offensive tackle across the nation. There was little to no drama in his recruiting process as the six-foot-seven players grew up eight miles from Camp Randall. He did, however, have to wait it out as Nebraska, Michigan State and Indiana were all interested in him before his beloved Badgers.
23. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Jimmy Smith, Colton (Calif.) High, Class of 2006
The Buzz: Smith was one of the most raw players coming into his senior year. It was unavoidable; the No. 57 ranked cornerback had only played three years of organized football. Having a final five of Boise State, Washington State, Colorado, Hawaii and Nebraska, Smith went back and forth on his commitment with Wazzou and Colorado before finally deciding on the Buffaloes. The confidence that some have questioned in recent weeks was always there, saying in 2006, "I am a player that can do a lot on the field."
24. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Justin Houston, Statesboro (Ga.) High, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Houston was the main cog in a trio of Statesboro players heading to Georgia, with Justin Knox and DeAngelo Tyson following suit. Houston was a four-star player and ranked No. 11 nationally at the weakside defensive end position. He was also very good on the basketball court, averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.
25. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Cameron Jordan, Chandler (Ariz.) High, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Being the son of former Minnesota Viking tight end Steve Jordan, many knew that Cameron would have a solid athletic bloodline. It did not take folks very long to notice. In his first camp experience, he stood out so much that one coach called him, "a big, beautiful athlete, with size and quickness that no one could block all day." He worked up to the No. 8 player from the state of Arizona.
26. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Harris was fantastic in his high school days at Booker T. Washington, shining on every stage of combines, camps, games and all-star events. He was the No. 38 overall player in the Class of 2008 and was a high four-star player. His talent was met with the praise of national analysts who tabbed him as one of five instant impact players, saying that he was a "football star in the making."
27. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Martez Wilson, Chicago (Ill.) Simeon, Class of 2007
The Buzz: Wilson was an absolute freak in high school and was pegged as the No. 26 overall player in the country and No. 2 defensive end behind Carlos Dunlap. He played linebacker at Simeon and was all over the field, making nearly 220 tackles between his junior and senior years. Despite being a standout in Illinois, it was a trip to the U.S. Army All-American Game that helped boost his confidence. After a week of practice, he said that it gave him a good feeling to know he could compete with the best players nationally.
28. New England Patriots
The Pick: Danny Watkins, Oroville (Calif.) Butte Community College, Class of 2009
The Buzz: Coming out of a Canadian high school, Watkins received very little if any buzz. That led to him heading to a prominent Junior College, which he in turn led to a national title. His original plan was to go to Boston College and enroll in its fire program after spending several years in British Columbia as a fire fighter. He had also played just two years of organized football and hadn't given college football a second thought at the time.
29. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Nate Solder, Buena Vista (Colo.) High, Class of 2006
The Buzz: Like many oversized but athletic tight ends in high school, Solder had to be slid inside to tackle. At 6-foot-8, Solder was also an attractive basketball prospect, receiving an offer from Dartmouth to play there. His high school coach said that his quiet, lead-by-example attitude separated him. "I just appreciate how humble he is and what a team player he is. Because of that, his leadership quality stands out," Bob Marken said in 2005.
30. New York Jets
The Pick: Phil Taylor, Clinton (Md.) Gwynn Park, Class of 2006
The Buzz: After a recruiting battle between Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Penn State, Taylor followed his friend Antonio Logan-El to PSU - but neither of them stayed with the program. The No. 11-ranked defensive tackle was one of seven from the Top 10 in Maryland to head out of state during this recruiting cycle. Taylor was a four-star prospect and led his team to an undefeated season.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Corey Liuget, Hialeah (Fla.) High, Class of 2008
The Buzz: Liuget ended his senior season as the No. 80 overall ranked player and the No. 2 best athlete of the defensive tackle crop. His commitment to Illinois led Ron Zook to think that the Illini would have a better road into Florida. The head coach also told Rivals Radio that Liuget was a complete package, that can run extremely well, and could probably play a lot of different positions.
32. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Muhammad Wilkerson, Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy, Class of 2008
The Buzz: The Owls landed Wilkerson twice, once out of high school and again from the prep ranks. He was a three-star offensive guard coming into the program. His footwork and speed impressed analysts at the time when they cited his impressive 4.9 time in the 40. His final three college choices were Marshall, Temple and Western Kentucky, with the Owls ultimately winning out.

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