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LJWorld.com weblogs Tale of the Tait

Prep "star" rankings and their connection to the NFL combine

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Today marks the beginning of the 2011 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where the nation’s top college football players strut their stuff for the scouts and try to make a good enough impression to bolster their value in April’s draft.

Three Jayhawks — safety Darrell Stuckey and wide receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier — tried their luck at the showcase in 2010, but this year’s Combine will take place without any former KU players.

Still, there’s gotta be some sort of connection between one of the premiere college football events of the year and KU, doesn’t there?

Well, yes and no. Stick with me here.

Last week, a friend’s father-in-law forwarded me some research he had done on the 2010 Combine and how the invitations related to each athlete’s standing coming out of high school.

Pay close attention: Here’s where the pseudo-KU connection comes in.

Of the 327 players invited to last year’s combine, more than half were three-star, two-star or no-star players coming out of high school. In fact, nearly one-third were three-star guys — KU’s most recent recruiting class is made up of 21 such players — and the number of combine attendees who were not ranked by the oh-so-popular star system coming out of high school more than doubled the number of five-star studs on the list.

It should be noted that the number of four- and five-star guys named each year is always smaller, but, still, I think this list shows that being a big-time player out of high school does not guarantee a ticket to the NFL.

Here’s the breakdown:

5-star prospects — 24
4-star prospects — 80
3-star prospects — 102
2-star prospects — 69
0-star prospects — 52

So what does all this mean? Well, not much, actually. Four years — three, in some cases — is a long time, and expecting players to carry those rankings with them throughout their college football careers is a little ridiculous. Some improve. Others tank. And still more shock the heck out of people. Remember, Aqib Talib was a two-star guy out of high school and he went on to become a first-round pick.

I guess the point is this: Whether you needed it or not, this is just another way to hammer home the notion that these star rankings don’t really matter. I’m not saying they’re worthless. Far from it, in fact. I know the guys that put them together spend a lot of time and watch a lot of film to come up with some sort of way to rank thousands of high school players from all over the country. I’m glad they do. It sure makes writing about these players more interesting.

What’s more, it gives the fans something to talk about and be excited about. “Did you see we landed that four-star receiver from Texas,” they’ll say to their buddies. Or, “Any chance we’re gonna get that five-star back out of Florida?” The list goes on and the conversations are long.

Just remember, four-star, five-star or no-star, when these guys get to the point where they’re ready to become pros, all that really matters is how they do in Indy. The Combine is a beast unlike any other and a good showing there can turn a former no-star high school prospect into a can’t-miss first-round NFLer. It can also work the opposite way, too.

Signing Day’s gone and spring is upon us. Although spring football doesn’t start for a few more weeks (April 1, to be exact; no kidding), I’ve always considered the first whistle at the NFL Combine to be the first true sign of spring.

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