When the Dallas Cowboys drafted LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday, he became the latest to prove that where one is ranked on the recruiting boards in high school does not predict where one will eventually be on draft day.
In fact, a disconnect between how players are ranked -- and even what position they’ll eventually play -- is what marks the early picks in LSU's NFL draft class. Of the two LSU players picked in Thursday’s first round and the ones who might go in the second round, two were unheralded and only one plays the position he was projected to play coming out of high school.
Take Michael Brockers, who was projected as a defensive end coming out of high school, but emerged Thursday as a first round pick as a defensive tackle at No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams. Or safety Brandon Taylor, who will likely go in the second or third round today after projecting as a cornerback by recruiting services out of high school.
Claiborne was an unheralded recruit coming out of Fair Park High School in Shreveport, La., in 2009. A high school quarterback, Claiborne became a dominant corner for his home-state Tigers, showing NFL scouts not just speed and good size, but impressively fluid hips and ball skills.
These were traits not as evident when he wasn’t focusing on his future position in high school. ESPN had Claiborne rated the No. 26-rated athlete in the 2009 class and he wasn’t in the class’ top 150 players overall. Three years later, he’s one of the top x players in the draft.
While Claiborne was under the radar, ESPN wasn’t sold on Brockers, who was rated the No. 24 defensive end in the country coming out of Houston’s Cesar Chavez High in 2009. Other recruiting services did have him rated higher, but all the major services projected him as a defensive end, not as the dominant defensive tackle he eventually became.
While Claiborne didn’t give enough film of his future position (he was too busy amassing 1,000 yards in both rushing and passing as a dual-threat QB), Brockers was a long way from his future dominant size coming out of high school. Various recruiting services had him listed between 255-260 pounds, explaining his projection as an end.
LSU added bulk to him and instead of being a big-bodied end, he became an exceptionally nimble 300-pound defensive tackle who was at times dominant on the interior.
LSU’s third major prospect, wide receiver Rueben Randle, who is more of your classic big-time recruit who lived up to his ranking.
Randle was ESPN’s No. 1-rated wide receiver in the 2009 class coming out of Bastrop, La., High School. And while he won’t be the first receiver chosen in this draft, he ....... (we can explain that either his first-round selection lives up to his billing or an early second-round selection will hardly be a disappointment for him).
Brandon Taylor, the LSU safety likely to go somewhere in the second and third round, was highly touted coming out of Franklinton (La.) High School in 2008 ... but as a cornerback, not as the NFL-bound safety he’s proved to be.
Now, Taylor’s a hard-hitting safety and another example that signing day is just the beginning of a player’s journey.