When it comes to recruiting rankings, who’s No. 1 is in the eye of the beholder.
There are four primary recruiting services you can go to online. ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports and Scout. Each of them has their own No. 1 prospect. It’s not because of some thirst to be off the beaten path as much as it’s about each website having their own methodologies about evaluating prospects and different weights on different attributes.
That’s not to say there isn’t a one-stop shop though, and it’s why the 247Sports Composite is SB Nation’s go-to because it’s a cross section of the major services that doesn’t rely solely on one service over the other. In their own words, here’s how it works.
The 247Sports Composite is a proprietary algorithm that compiles rankings and ratings listed in the public domain by the major media recruiting services, creating the industry's most comprehensive and unbiased prospect and team rankings.
Because of the differences in player rankings, it also becomes a thing with team rankings too. Remember the last time Alabama didn’t have the No. 1 class in the nation? Going by the Composite, that was 2010, but in 2015 Rivals.com as well as Scout.com gave the title to USC on Signing Day.
The Composite even tells you the differences between composite rankings and what the services’ internal numbers say about a team (in the gray box).
So let’s take a look at who is the No. 1 player on each website.
Composite No. 1: Jaelan Phillips, Weakside DE, UCLA.
Someone has to block this young man in college and that just really isn’t fair. Phillips is No. 6 or better in everyone on each one of the four recruiting sites, and that consensus about the fact that he’s in the upper crust of the already elite 5-star tier of athletes is the point of a Composite No. 1 ranking.
Phillips is athletic enough to return punts, which he did for his high school team. He’s 6’5 253 pounds.
Phillips is a standup roving predator that fits in that hybrid DE/LB mold. He does not simply pursue those in the backfield as much as he seeks, hunts and destroys. He excels with straight line quickness as an edge rusher, while also showing the range to cover the flats.
247Sports’ No. 1: Walker Little, OT, Stanford.
Again, don’t be confused, this is the No.1 player from 247’s in-house rankings. The website boasts more than “50 full-time recruiting reporters and evaluators” to make this happen.
Little has the most variance of any of the four services’ No. 1 prospects. He’s ranked No. 48 in ESPN’s rankings, but he’s in the top 10 in all the other three rankings.
There’s a suction-esque quality to the way Little blocks. Defenders just kinda end up with his hands on them, and by God, they go wherever he wants them to once he vacuums you in. He’s a massive 6’7 with a 315-pound frame. He is very strong against the run. Luckily he’s going to Stanford where mauling defenses is the name of the game.
ESPN’s No. 1: Trey Smith, OT, Tennessee.
A prospect with elite feet and elite initial pop. He “builds his house”, as they say, efficiently when he gets to his spot in pass blocking. When he delivers the strike on a defender, you can feel it coming through the screen. Smith can, and probably will, anchor the Vols’ offense once he puts on just a touch more weight. But he plays well and is able to maintain good leverage with his height and length.
Scout/Rivals No. 1: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama.
Imagine that, Alabama scooping up an elite running back. What are the odds? He’s No. 1 in two services, No. 11 in ESPN’s and No. 3 for 247Sports. He lands at No. 3 in the Composite when the numbers balance out.
As a player, Harris has the “one cut and go” mentality with a sudden violent change of direction. And he gets there real quick out of the cut. He’s also an absolute load at 6’2 224 pounds too. For comparison, that’s the same height and only four pounds less than Bo Scarbrough’s listed at. You want to tackle either of those dudes? I didn’t think so. It also stands to reason that Harris will gain good weight via muscle in Alabama’s strength program.