Two things are happening right now in the world of football:
The Seattle Seahawks are champions of the m---f---ing world and high school players are being recruited by college coaches to win national titles. There was once upon a time where these same professional champs were high school recruits. The bait to the BCS trophy, the stepping stone to another ring in Nick Saban's honor.
But how these players were ranked by publications like Scout and Rivals is quite controversial, when you take into account just how blatantly wrong they are in their evaluation of these players.
How could they be so off-base and what makes them so wrong? Here are 10 things you may just be finding out for the first time when it comes to the NFL Champion Seattle Seahawks and their high school recruiting days:
Anyone that tells you that playing professional sports is a "natural gift" isn't good at knowing things. Let's put it this way: How many high school football players are there in the U.S.? 10,000? 100,000? Probably more like 1,000,000+ right now playing high school football in America.
If you were one of the 100 best athletes out of 1,000,000, that would put you in the 99.9999th percentile. "You good" basically.
Well, in 2006, Rivals.com came up with their best "Athletes" of the senior class, and Sherman was ranked 65th. Recruited to be a wide receiver, Sherman caught 22 passes as a senior for 692 yards, better than 31 yards per catch. He also had 12 touchdowns, meaning that he scored on more than half of his catches for Dominguez. (Same high school and class as Seattle safety Jeron Johnson.) He was even ranked below fellow classmates Sonny Tevaga and Marvin Johnson.
Sherman was also ranked as the 93rd best prospect in the state of California, behind players like Allen Bradford (former Seahawk, 1st overall, Pete Carroll recruit at USC) and Alterraun Verner (84th, arguably one of the top five CBs in the NFL today.)
But was Sherman a wide receiver or a cornerback? At 6'3, he's traditionally "too tall" to play corner, so receiver is the natural position that most would lean to, but either way, let's just list him as an "athlete" and let the colleges do the hard work. On the list of "athletes" Sherman came in at 65. Who else was on the list?
Myron Rolle was first. I believe we've talked about him before, but just as a reminder, Rolle had a good college career at Florida State and got a few chances in the NFL, but didn't pan out. It's nothing to be ashamed of -- this game is extremely difficult to become a longtime professional at -- and for Rolle it's probably for the better. He's extremely smart, and currently working on his medical degree at FSU.
Taylor Mays, a name familiar to most of you, was second overall and a Carroll recruit to USC. The Seattle native hasn't seen his professional career pan out quite yet, but the fact that he's still technically in the league is a testament to his athleticism.
Michael Crabtree was the star of the Texas Tech draft class that year, and he certainly lived up to the hype. It will never get old to me: 134 catches, 1,962 yards, 22 touchdowns. In a single season.
However, I'm a Sherm guy and I always will be. And for that reason, I feel comfortable in saying that even though Crabtree was ranked well above Sherman in the athlete rankings back in 2006, about seven years later, only one stands about an arms-length above the other.
2. Malcolm Smith isn't big enough to play linebacker... in college.
Back in 2007, Malcolm Smith was a high school linebacker/running back looking for an opportunity. Since his brother Steve played at USC, it only seemed natural that Carroll would recruit him to join his brother and become a Trojan. And that's what Smith did.
But would Carroll trust a 6'2, 215 lb player to be a linebacker at one of the top football schools in the country?
Smith could play running back, safety or linebacker in college. Is similar to Allen Bradford, a USC commit in the class of 2007, because of his speed and quickness and his versatility to play a multitude of positions. His size isn't ideal for a linebacker, but would make him a good sized safety.
Smith played four years at linebacker for the Trojans, and even had a pick-six (sound familiar?) in each of his last two seasons. Seems good enough, doesn't it? But he would take a step further, playing linebacker in the NFL in 2013, and I heard he even was given some sort of MVP award.
In addition to the work from Scout.com, Rivals also ranked him as the eighth best "Athlete" in the country (Golden Tate was seventh, Earl Thomas was 12th) and as the 15th best prospect in California. I could be wrong, but I don't know if the 14 players ahead of him -- aside from backup Jimmy Clausen -- are currently in the NFL.
All Smith has done is win a Super Bowl MVP and line himself up for a major contract next year. There have been more U.S. Presidents than there have been Super Bowl MVPs.
3. Earl Thomas was the 19th-best recruit... in the state of Texas
I'm not sure if there are 18 players that I would take ahead of Thomas in the NFL today, but back in 2007, there were apparently 18 better high school players than him.
Now, how many names ahead of Thomas do I personally recognize? Two. Ryan "Sunshine" Mallett was the top recruit in the country and currently warming up the Patriots future (allegedly) and Dez Bryant was at seven. But the rest?
In 2011, OrangeBloods.com took a reverse look at the recruiting class of 2007 and tried to re-rank the prospects. They still had Bryant over Thomas, but Earl the Pearl went second overall in their rankings, as well as oversights such as: Von Miller, Nick Foles, Jeremy Kerley, and Ryan Tannehill.
I had to go to page five on Scout.com just to find Thomas's name on the overall lists and that's just... four pages too many.
The high school class of quarterbacks turned out to be pretty stacked. Matthew Stafford was ranked first overall, and then later become the top overall pick. So did 2006 class-mate Sam Bradford. Other NFL quarterbacks that year included Josh Freeman, Pat Devlin, Greg McElroy, Christian Ponder, and Andy Dalton.
Now, if I were a writer for Niners Nation, I would point out how interesting it is that Colin Kaepernick was ranked 34th on this list. He was ranked well behind a shitload of no-names and flameouts. But I write for Field Gulls so obviously my actual goal is to disparage the (good?) name of Kaepernick and talk more about how funny it is when Seahawks do better.
Specifically, when Seahawks safeties are better quarterback prospects than your quarterback.
Ranked as the 27th-best Pro Style Quarterback prospect in the 2006 class, Kameron Chancellor elected to attend Virginia Tech and play defense instead. Chancellor played all over the defense, from cornerback to rover to free safety, and eventually becoming one of the top five strong safeties in the NFL, but in high school he was a quarterback.
A better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick.
Yummy yummy, these facts taste good.
5. Russell Wilson: No Rating, No Rating, No Rating
You've heard it all before. Nobody believed in Russell Wilson. However, that's not 100% true. There was this guy named Curt Cignetti at North Carolina State.
Despite the fact that Wilson wasn't recognized by Rivals.com as being a recruit worth ranking, there was at least one school and a few coaches that believed in him. The 5'11 QB rushed for 1,132 yards as a senior with 18 touchdowns, while throwing for 3,009 more with 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but he simply did not have the size to play in college.
DON'T YOU GET IT, GUYS? HE DOESN'T HAVE THE SIZE TO COMPETE WITH THESE COLLEGE ATHLETES!!!
But Cignetti believed in Wilson enough to give him a scholarship, and it certainly paid off. Duke and Virginia Tech also showed interest, but the Wolfpack (and eventually Wisconsin) were the lucky ones. And don't sluff on what Cignetti has accomplished in his college career in addition to Wilson.
He coached (and possibly along with Norm Chow recruited) Philip Rivers back in 2000, and then was hired by Nick Saban when he took over Alabama in 2007. In addition to being wide receivers coach, he was also recruiting coordinator. Let me repeat that: The guy that has been in charge of recruiting many of the players on three national championship teams also recruited Russell Wilson.
Sort of makes sense, doesn't it?
Who else was better than Wilson though?
6. Seahawks WR Phil Bates was a better QB prospect than Super Bowl-winner Russell Wilson
Yep, it's a fact.
You'll go mad if you spend too much time trying to figure out the "how" and the "why" about that.
If you've spent much time looking at high school rankings, this actually should be the most surprising fact to you. Because it's accurate, somehow. And if you don't believe me, tell me how many of the next three dozen names you actually recognize.
Against all odds, Peterson and Lynch went from being the top two running backs in the nation to two of the top two running backs in the National Football League. If only Rivals and Scout could get it right more than 2-percent of the time.
8. Doug Baldwin isn't worth mentioning
Arguably the best wide receiver on the Seattle Seahawks (if not now, if you include Percy Harvin's athletic skills, than at least total over the last three years) Baldwin doesn't really make any rankings in 2007 when he graduated from high school at Gulf Breeze, FL.
As much as we want to hate on Jim Harbaugh (for good reason) g-damn that guy knows football. Baldwin did get to go to Stanford for his athletic and academic achievements, despite being a two-star recruit by Rivals and not ranking on any of their top 2007 lists. Who was a top receiver recruit in 2007? Well, you look at their list and tell me how many of the names you recognize. I guarantee that it's not more than 90% unless you're some kind of freak.
To be fair, Baldwin already has more than 600 more yards in his professional career than he did in his college career. He's just used to outperforming expectations. Well, guess what, Doug. If I said I didn't expect you to win another Super Bowl next year, what would you say/do?
Lacy won a national championship with Alabama and in just one season with the Packers has become an "elite" NFL running back, but even he wasn't better in high school than Michael. The Seahawks top pick in 2013, Michael was ranked third overall in the 2009 class, behind Bryce Brown of the Eagles and Trent Richardson, also of Alabama, and now of the Colts.
(Hmm, how did Saban win all of those titles?)
("Rooting" for college football is a ridiculous exercise, in my opinion.)
Five years ago, Michael was ranked ahead of such NFL running backs like Lamar Miller of the Dolphins, David Wilson of the Giants, Cierre Wood of the Ravens, Knile Davis of the Chiefs, Stepfan Taylor of the Cardinals, Montee Ball of the Broncos, and Zac Stacy of the Rams.
Will he become a star player for the Seattle Seahawks one day? I think so. But as of now, he's just a high school running back that was just a little bit better than 99% of the players in his class.
Julio Jones, AJ Green, DeVier Posey, Jonathan Baldwin, Michael Floyd... the 2008 class of high school wide receivers is exceptionally talented and well-received, but how much professional success have they enjoyed? Well, a large portion of any of that success belongs to... Jermaine Kearse.
Ranked 72nd at his position alone,Kearse chose the University of Washington, and though he went undrafted in 2012 and played sparingly, he became a key cog in the offense in 2013. Kearse had 22 catches for 346 yards in the regular season, the game-winner in the NFC title game, plus 65 yards and a touchdown in his first Super Bowl victory.
I, personally, try to spit on any scum of the Earth that attends UW by choice, but I can't deny it any longer with Kearse. The underrated recruit of 2008 went on to become a key player for the Huskies and eventually the Seahawks. The grademaster generals of 2008 were just plain wrong, which, if you've been paying any attention at all, is something they are used to.