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July 17, 2011
Rivals at 10: Decade's top 100
Putting together a list of the top 100 prospects for the last 10 years was a daunting task.
We first agreed that it would be based on the prospects' ability and potential out of high school and we would turn a blind eye to how they did in college or the NFL, which is why some major draft picks are missing from this list. But it was the only fair way to assess them all equally and take away factors like injuries, system fit, off-field issues and other things that can derail a college career.
Once we established that rule, it was basically going back and comparing the top players from each class at each position. Was Reggie Bush a better high school prospect than Derrick Williams even though Williams was the No. 1 player in his class (2005) and Bush was No. 2 (2003)? Would Haloti Ngata (2002) and DaQuan Bowers (2008) have been ranked No. 1 in the same class that Ronald Powell finished on top (2010)?
These were the questions asked.
It's easy to look at this list and wonder how someone like Williams, who had a solid career at Penn State and was an NFL third round pick, could be ranked ahead of Julio Jones or Eric Berry, but remember this is based on how good they were out of high school and Williams was a special prospect and good enough to be ranked at the top of his class. There is no revisionist history being done here where we would put Mark Sanchez (No. 62 on this list) ahead of Williams (No. 15) simply because he had a better college career and became a first-round draft choice. Back in 2005, Williams was No. 1, Sanchez was No. 7 and that's the way it is.
Many of the names on this list are current NFL stars (Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Haloti Ngata, Eugene Monroe, Eric Berry, etc.) while others are complete wash-out busts (Melvin Alaeze, Fred Rouse, Willie Williams, etc.) but out of high school, all of these guys were absolute studs. Putting them in order was fun and challenging.