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.
|CB||Malcolm Butler||Unranked||West Alabama|
|LG||Joe Thuney||Unranked||NC State|
|TE||Martellus Bennett||5||Texas A&M|
|RG||Shaquille Mason||3||Georgia Tech|
|WR||Julian Edelman||3||Kent State|
|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.
|FB||Patrick DiMarco||2||South Carolina|
|LG||Andy Levitre||2||Oregon State|
|QB||Matt Ryan||3||Boston College|
|LB||Vic Beasley Jr.||3||Clemson|
|LT||Jake Matthews||4||Texas A&M|
|RB||Devonta Freeman||4||Florida State|
|CB||Robert Alford||Unranked||Southeastern Louisiana|
|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.