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How each Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl starter was rated as a college football recruit

There’s a lot of three-stars, but there are still more blue-chips in this game than there would be if recruiting rankings didn’t matter.

Julio Jones
Julio Jones at Alabama and with the Falcons.

The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of American football. Every player in it has taken a long road to get there. Some of those roads have been rougher than others, but there’s no easy way to get onto an NFL roster and to a Super Bowl afterward.

With the help of the 247Sports Composite, we’ve got a time machine that tells us how almost every player in Sunday’s Falcons-Patriots game was rated coming out of high school. Not counting special teams players (who’ve rarely been rated), each team has a handful of starters who didn’t get ranked before college, either because they weren’t scouted well enough, developed late, or came through high school before the modern recruiting industry. Recruits have only been ranked, as we understand it today, since about 2000.


Pos. Player Stars College
Pos. Player Stars College
CB Malcolm Butler Unranked West Alabama
LG Joe Thuney Unranked NC State
QB Tom Brady 4* Michigan
WR Chris Hogan Unranked Monmouth
DT Malcom Brown 5 Texas
TE Martellus Bennett 5 Texas A&M
RB LeGarrette Blount 4 Oregon
LB Dont'a Hightower 4 Alabama
C David Andrews 3 Georgia
CB Logan Ryan 3 Rutgers
FS Devin McCourty 3 Rutgers
DE Chris Long 3 Virginia
DT Alan Branch 3 Michigan
LT Nate Solder 3 Colorado
LB Rob Ninkovich 3 Purdue
RB James White 3 Wisconsin
DE Trey Flowers 3 Arkansas
RG Shaquille Mason 3 Georgia Tech
RT Marcus Cannon 3 TCU
WR Julian Edelman 3 Kent State
SS Patrick Chung 2 Oregon
LB Shea McClellin 2 Boise State

* Tom Brady was around before recruiting rankings, but we’ve retroactively made him a four-star with an asterisk. He was a Michigan signee with offers from other national powers and attention in national media outlets. In today’s landscape, he would’ve unquestionably been rated well.

The Falcons are a slightly different story at the top. All-world receiver Julio Jones was can’t-miss, five-star recruit when he committed to Alabama in 2008, and he’s been whatever the equivalent to a five-star is in the NFL. But Matt Ryan was only a three-star recruit before he developed at Boston College and became a top pick, which is kind of Boston College’s thing.


Pos. Player Stars College
Pos. Player Stars College
C Alex Mack 2 Cal
FB Patrick DiMarco 2 South Carolina
LG Andy Levitre 2 Oregon State
CB Jalen Collins 3 LSU
FS Ricardo Allen 3 Purdue
DE Brooks Reed 3 Arizona
LB Deion Jones 3 LSU
QB Matt Ryan 3 Boston College
DE Tyson Jackson 3 LSU
DT Grady Jarrett 3 Clemson
LB De'Vondre Campbell 3 Minnesota
TE Austin Hooper 3 Stanford
LB Vic Beasley Jr. 3 Clemson
WR Mohamed Sanu 3 Rutgers
LT Jake Matthews 4 Texas A&M
RB Devonta Freeman 4 Florida State
SS Keanu Neal 4 Florida
WR Julio Jones 5 Alabama
CB Robert Alford Unranked Southeastern Louisiana
DT Jonathan Babineaux Unranked Iowa
RG Chris Chester Unranked Oklahoma
RT Ryan Schraeder Unranked Valdosta State

The overall breakdown is almost identical between the two teams.

  • Three or four unranked starters for each.
  • Two five-stars for New England, one for Atlanta.
  • Three four-stars for New England, two for Atlanta.
  • 12 three-stars for New England, 11 for Atlanta.
  • Two two-stars for New England, three for Atlanta.
  • The average star rating of a Patriots starter: 2.8 out of five, compared to 2.5 for the average Falcons starter.

About 53 percent of the Super Bowl’s starters were three-star recruits, and just 18 percent were blue-chips (four- or five-stars).

But this is your periodic reminder that it’s way harder to be a five-star than a three-star and that a higher percentage of five-stars get here than three-stars. In most recruiting cycles, there are 35 three-stars for every five-star; in this game, it’s more like seven to one. This has been a trend in Super Bowls over the years, suggesting five-stars are scarce in number, but individually more likely to have NFL careers. They’re far more likely to get drafted, after all.

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