There are always going to be skeptics of the star ratings system as it relates to college football prospects. You hear it every year when people pound their chest about how many three-stars, two-stars or unranked players are on Pro Bowl teams or Super Bowl rosters. There's howling with delight when a walk-on gets selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The undrafted five-star recruit fills them with joy.
It's true that the rankings process will never be perfect. But to the dismay of the rankings haters, it's a process that is getting more accurate every year. In fact, the 2020 NFL Draft is shaping up to be one of the worst to date for rankings haters. The first round is projecting to be crammed full with former five-stars, four-stars and prospects that the rankings industry nailed.
While draft day is full of surprises, there are no consensus projections of two-stars or unranked prospects getting picked on Day 1, and even the former three-stars are significantly outnumbered by their blue-blood brethren. But three-stars will be drafted, and they will be selected high, so it's worth looking back and examining how a future first round candidate started out with a more pedestrian label.
According to the CBS Sports big board of 2020 NFL Draft prospects, these are the eight players ranked inside the top 32 that were ranked lower than four stars coming out of high school by the industry-generated 247Sports Composite.
CBS Sports Rank: No. 13 | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 43 OT
Becton was actually held in high regard by the recruiting industry. He was a high three-star, and it was no shock to see him succeed early at Louisville. At 6-foot-7 and 345 pounds as a high school senior, there was some concern about how his game would translate to the next level when he didn't have such an out-sized physical advantage. In retrospect, Becton had some ability on the basketball court that could have helped us add some context and confidence that his body type would translate well in college.
OT Josh Jones, Houston
CBS Sports rank: No. 17 | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 100 OT
Jones was not a prospect who was an unknown. In fact, he committed to Oklahoma State before Tom Herman flipped him to Houston in his first recruiting class. He was considered a Power Five-caliber player and was one of Houston's top signees in that 2015 cycle. He was a two-sport athlete as a basketball player, and he had the desired frame at 6-foot-5-plus with a lean body type. Talented but raw, sometimes guys just get better. Jones just happens to be a guy that reached what was always considered a high ceiling.
QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
CBS Sports rank: No. 18 | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 26 pro-style QB
Herbert's film was very intriguing, but ultimately, that's all the industry had to go on. He was tucked away in Eugene, Oregon, never went to any camps of note and wasn't even offered by the hometown program of Oregon until late in the process. He committed to Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost in October of his senior season over offers from Montana State, Northern Arizona and Portland State. It was a classic example of a player that was off the beaten path that few schools were anxious to offer if the in-state program wasn't even making him a priority.
CBS Sports rank: No. 18 | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 70 pro-style QB
Often when a quarterback goes from lowly-rated to highly-drafted, it can be a product of just being an unknown. That's what happened with Josh Allen out of Wyoming, Daniel Jones out of Duke and Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. That's not what happened with Love. We had guys that saw him in multiple settings; he just was never good in those settings. Love was also just mediocre in terms of production, accuracy and efficiency. He was athletic, though he had an underdeveloped frame. Credit to Love and to Matt Wells' Utah State staff for developing him.
CBS Sports rank: No. 22 | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 23 OLB
This was actually a pure miss by 247Sports as others in the industry had Murray as a four-star caliber prospect. Far from unknown or underappreciated by the industry, Murray was productive with solid testing numbers and a priority for some well-regarded programs.
CBS Sports rank: No. 26 | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 85 athlete
Wisconsin guys have limited exposure as it is, but they're even tougher to peg when it's a linebacker that was a high school quarterback with only one other FCS offer and lukewarm Wisconsin interest for much of the process. That's the background of Baun, though I'm not going to let the industry off the hook completely. Baun wasn't just a quarterback; he was an incredibly productive quarterback even against limited competition. He also ran a 21.5 seconds in the 200 meters and was a good basketball player. There was enough there that we should have found him.
WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
CBS Sports rank: No. 27 | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 308 WR
If you look at Jefferson's 247Sports recruiting timeline on Jefferson's profile, you'll see that he committed, signed and enrolled at LSU in August 2017. That's because Jefferson didn't get qualified until August 2017. LSU made him the last piece of its recruiting class during preseason practice. He was assumed to be headed to junior college prior to that. So Jefferson was never really evaluated in any meaningful way as a high schooler by the industry because he was always considered a future junior college prospect.
RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
CBS Sports rank: No. 31 | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 24 RB
247Sports may have missed where others hit on Murray, but at least we hit where others missed on Taylor. While he was a 3-star prospect, according to the industry generated 247Sports Composite, he was a 4-star prospect according to 247Sports' own rankings. He set a New Jersey single-season rushing record as a senior, had size and ran 10.6 seconds in the 100 meters. He was a no-doubt talent who just didn't get to a lot of events for the exposure.