New Rivals250 released: Analysts weigh in on toughest decisions
The updated Rivals250 for the 2019 class has been released. The Rivals.com analysts spent last week in rankings meetings debating, discussing and deciding where to place the top 250 players in the country, and today they share some of their thoughts.
1. Who did personally go to bat for in the latest rankings that will make you look very wise down the road?
Rob Cassidy (Florida): I love Virginia Tech commit Keshawn King, who was a three-star prospect until this update. King has solid speed and is coming off of a monster season running behind an offensive line that was up-and-down. I think King might be a name to know in the ACC for years to come. I’m also am a huge fan of Miami commit Jahfari Harvey, who we moved up for a second straight time. He could be every bit as good a college player as the more touted Khris Bogle.
Mike Farrell (National): It wasn’t just me, but I was a big proponent of Texas A&M tight end commitment Baylor Cupp getting a nice bump. I like his size and athleticism. The way Jimbo Fisher uses the tight end in his offense should only help him get better and more effective. I think he’ll be one of the best tight ends in the SEC before long.
Adam Friedman (Mid-Atlantic): I'm going to say Joseph Wete here although I did push for Antonio Alfano to be a five-star. I'm sure Alfano will have success at Alabama once he gets on the field but I really like what Wete's pass-rushing skills and athleticism could do for the Oklahoma defensive line. He has the frame, length and speed to fill out and become a major presence off the edge.
Adam Gorney (National/West Coast): I pushed for Joe Ngata to become a five-star and there was not a lot of pushback after the other analysts reviewed his film. In a class where there has been regular discussion about Theo Wease or Jadon Haselwood or George Pickens, I think Ngata has a real chance to become the best receiver in this group. He could not have picked a better offense for his skillset, he looks and play just like Tee Higgins or Justyn Ross, and he will have Trevor Lawrence throwing him the ball for the next two seasons. Ngata has 1,132 yards and 20 touchdowns so far this season. When I saw him dominate a game in September, I knew I was looking at a five-star receiver.
Josh Helmholdt (Midwest): I can't take full credit for this, but I was definitely one helping push the bandwagon on Kentucky commit Wandale Robinson, who debuts in the Rivals100 during this update. When all is said and done, I will probably have seen Wandale as much or more than any other analyst because he spent a lot of time at the events I covered. I have a strong appreciation for his skillset and playmaking ability.
Chad Simmons (Southeast): Andrew Booth. The Clemson commit was made a five-star this update and I feel very good about that ranking. Booth has done nothing but improve, and showed he is among the top defenders in the country. Booth really checks a lot of the boxes to make me feel he is one of the top prospects in the country. He plays to a high level each time he steps on the field.
2. What was the most interesting/difficult debate to sort out in this rankings update?
Rob Cassidy (Florida): Trying to decide who's No. 1 at weakside defensive end was a fun debate. Both Nolan Smith and Kayvon Thibodeaux are elite prospects that deserve to be five-stars, but somebody has to be first. Personally, I’m in the Thibodeaux camp because of his length and high upside. What I want doesn’t always come to fruition, however.
Mike Farrell (National): I’m a big Jalen Curry fan but others are not. They think he lacks elite speed and that could be true, but he makes up for it with route running, excellent hands and a great feel for the game. However, he slid 80 spots out of the Rivals100 because I’m the only one who thinks he’s a Rivals100 talent so this was an interesting debate.
Adam Friedman (Mid-Atlantic): It was hard to figure out what should happen with Quavaris Crouch. I've been in favor of him remaining a five-star but I got out-voted and now he's the highest-ranked four-star in the Rivals100. I understand the concern about his transition to linebacker at the next level after not having played much this season, but Crouch is a rare athletic specimen and I expect him to be ready to make an impact in college.
Adam Gorney (National/West Coast): The discussion about Quavaris Crouch was extensive and lengthy. At some point in the call we just needed to make a decision as a group of analysts and live with it. The former No. 1 player in the class during the early stages of this cycle, Crouch has now moved to the highest four-star, one spot away from being a five-star. He’s dealt with injuries and a high school team that was not exactly loaded with talent so his performance at the all-star events will play a massive role in his final ranking. If he shows up and dominates, preferably at linebacker, then Crouch could get back in the five-star discussion. He will be playing elite talent in a few weeks and it will be his opportunity to show us what he’s got.
Josh Helmholdt (Midwest): The debate over Quavaris Crouch losing his fifth star was probably the most intense. I can get behind the move because few, if any, prospects near the top of the 2019 class have as many outstanding questions left to answer as Crouch does. However, I will also not be shy about pushing for him to re-earn that fifth star if he sufficiently answers those questions at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio next month.
Chad Simmons (Southeast): Where to slot Owen Pappoe was a nice discussion. We all know he is an elite athlete. Each time he tests at an event, his numbers are off the charts, but is he a top linebacker, would be better at safety, or should we call him an athlete? He has been in many discussions over the past year to year and a half. We have talked about his speed, size, athleticism, position, overall ranking and more. The Auburn commit was again, a hot topic.
3. Who do you think we might have too high?
Rob Cassidy (Florida): There’s really not anybody that jumps out to me at the moment. This will change quickly after I see some out-of-region prospects at all-star games. Check back then and I’ll have a long list of guys to second-guess. Promise.
Mike Farrell (National): I like Taulia Tagovailoa as a quarterback prospect but based on his lack of great size and average quickness I think he might be too high at No. 112 in the nation. He has a cannon of an arm no doubt, but I don’t think he should be that high. Of course I wasn’t that high on his brother, either. Oops.
Adam Friedman (Mid-Atlantic): I still don't think Bo Nix or Spencer Rattler are five-stars. Both are very good and should have success at Auburn and Oklahoma, respectively, but it's hard to see the high ceiling that we've seen out of five-star quarterbacks over the last few years. Both look like they're more suited to be top 50 prospects.
Adam Gorney (National/West Coast): Ishmael Sopsher was a top-10 prospect, he has now moved to No. 18 overall and I fear that still might be a touch high for the Amite, La., defensive tackle. I just want to see him routinely dominate on the high school level and while he shows flashes of brilliance the consistency is just not there. Alabama and LSU both love the kid and those are arguably the two best programs to develop defensive line talent so Sopsher should have a bright future. But to be the top-rated defensive tackle nationally – or even a five-star – Sopsher needs to show more consistency.
Josh Helmholdt (Midwest): We discuss this same topic on today's Rivals Ranking Podcast. I am not sure there is a five-star quarterback in this 2019 class. I understand the position value and that the NFL regularly takes quarterbacks in the first round who are probably not first-round talents. But we have two five-star quarterbacks in this class and I'm not sold that either of them fall in that tier.
Chad Simmons (Southeast): Jaelyn Lay is one I still have questions about. He is a very talented tight end, he has great size, and he is a great athlete, but there are some concerns with his hands. He still does not catch the ball as consistently as I would like. He, without question, has the talent of a top 200 prospect, but consistency is big for me. He does make his share of plays, and he will in that Clemson offense, but he will need to improve his ball skills.
4. Who do you think we might have too low?
Rob Cassidy (Florida): I still think Keon Zipperer could shine in the right college offense. He lacks ideal size for a tight end, but his versatility makes him interesting. Once he gets into a college program, he could realize his upside and be used in an H-back role. I understand the knocks on him, but he’s the kind of guy that could improve dramatically. We’ll see.
Mike Farrell (National): Aside from Curry, my guy is Nebraska linebacker commitment Nick Henrich, who could be a national top 50 talent. I know he’s been banged up a bit this year, but I love his instincts and the way he reads the play. He’s going to be a tackling machine in the Big Ten.
Adam Friedman (Mid-Atlantic): Other than Quavaris Crouch, I think Brandon Smith is too low. The linebacker has great size and instincts, and plays with a ton of aggressiveness. The range that Smith brings to the linebacker position makes it so difficult for any ballcarrier to get to the outside against him.
Adam Gorney (National/West Coast): Jake Smith is a kid who really started to intrigue me in the spring when I saw him at the adidas National Championships. I’m worried even at No. 69 nationally he could be a touch underrated because he should be a star in the Big 12. Smith rushed for 741 yards and 15 touchdowns, and more impressively the four-star went for 58 catches for 1,070 yards and 22 more scores. Smith could be an immediate star in the Longhorns’ offense since he could be utilized all over the field.
Josh Helmholdt (Midwest): This is another topic covered in today's Rivals Ranking Podcast and on there I went with Fort Lauderdale, Fla., defensive end Khris Bogle. But, let me give you another: Houston defensive end Marcus Stripling. He may not be a guy that wows you with speed or power, but he simply gets the job done. I came away from the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by adidas in Atlanta feeling he was a Rivals100 guy, but he slips out of that ranking in this update.
Chad Simmons (Southeast): Charles Moore is a prospect I saw recently and he really stood out to me. The problem is, I saw him after the rankings meeting. Him being on the back-end of the Rivals250 is not where he should be. The Mississippi State commit missed last season with a knee injury, but he is back. He has that toughness I like in a defensive lineman and his best football is ahead of him. I see him moving up some in the last update early in 2019.