It’s a common fallacy repeated on message boards and blogs ad nauseam: recruiting ratings are worthless because this two-star prospect succeeded and that five-star kid was a flop. I call it the micro approach to recruiting.
It’s the bigger picture that’s far more relevant, though. Talking about this year’s NFL draft, Matt Hinton observes,
… Six of the top 10 were accorded five-star status as recruits, which is even more impressive when you consider just how few players make up the upper crust in recruiting rankings. Using Rivals’ ratings, five-star players make up a little more than one percent of all Division I-A signees every year, and four-star players less than 12 percent; a full 87 percent of incoming players are rated three stars or lower. (In Rivals’ system, all DI-A signees are automatically granted two-star status; walk-ons are usually unranked.) But that group produced a grand total of 13 picks Thursday night from a cast of more than 10,000 last year.
Missing out on a particular kid tells you nothing about a program’s talent level. Signing decent numbers of four and five-star recruits on a consistent basis, on the other hand, is an indication of success. As Hinton summarizes how the math works out, “The four and five-star players, a group that makes up a little under 13 percent of the entire population of college players, accounts for just shy of 60 percent of first-rounders.” I’ll take my chances with a program that steadily cranks out first-round draftees, thank you very much.