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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Obsessing over player rankings on National Signing Day

Xavier Watts
Twitter @stuOWH

It’s officially National Signing Day (again) and for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, it’s going to be a mostly uneventful day. Most Irish fans would agree that they like it that way, and look forward to the laid back day ahead.

Even after these past few years with the early signing period, I still get those “feels” for the signing day in February. So, I still have a little more juice for the day. Rather than fret over possible commits or decommits, for better or for worse, my energy has swung wildly towards the recruiting rankings from the recruiting services.

It’s futile and stupid, but so is recruiting — and why we love it so damn much.

While I’ve been fighting the rankings fight for a few months now [insert hill or knoll here for a proper burial] I went into a tailspin on Tuesday night because of an article from Carter Karels over at the South Bend Tribune that you absolutely need to read.

You see, it’s not really WHAT ranking these services give each player, it’s how they come about the ranking that bothers me.

I’ve spoken at great length in the past about camps and their massive role in rankings, so I won’t waste any more space on that particular subject. In the SBT article there were two particular quotes that have me obsessing over all of this.

247’s Steve Wiltfong:

“We don’t know if he’s [Drew Pyne] a guy who can make all the throws necessary of a future NFL guy. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a good college player.”

247 hands out 32 5-Star rankings a year, and they base that off of their decision to rank players off of where they project them in the NFL Draft — and not exactly at the collegiate level. Basically, it’s like projecting how a player will perform in college while he’s still in junior high.

Just as strange, is thinking about their process and trying to match up the players the way they see them. Just about every year there are 3-4 running backs ranked as a 5-Star, but over the past 10 years there have only been 15 running backs selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. There was even a two year stretch between 2013 and 2014 where ZERO running backs were selected in the first round.

It just doesn’t make much sense, and it’s one of the many reasons there is a big divide in how each service ranks some of these players — hence the Karels article.

Rivals is just as guilty as 247.

Rivals’ Mike Farrell:

“It comes down to I’m looking for freaky athletes. Mayer is very, very good, but athletically, he’s not at that elite level where he’s just a freak of nature.”

That was in response to Mayer being a 4-Star on Rivals opposed to the 5-Star status the tight end from Kentucky has received on 247. Rivals has Michael Mayer as the #3 tight end with Darnell Washington ranked above him at #2. Washington is a 5-Star on both Rivals and 247, but Washington is ranked as an athlete on 247. Washington’s hands have been a huge question mark throughout the cycle, but his athleticism and size gives him this strange ranking. I mean — is Washington really the #2 TE? Can you rank a TE that high if he can’t consistently do one of the key elements of a tight end — catch the ball? So, despite Mayer’s ridiculous production on the field and at the camps, he takes a hit.

Look, this is an extremely difficult business and an extremely difficult task. I don’t envy their job at all — or envy them seeing articles like this one that criticizes that job. Still, this is where we are and what we have in front of us.

You don’t have to tell me that I’m silly for obsessing over these types of things — I absolutely know that I am (and of course “silly” is a kind word). But at the same time, I also understand how so much of college football is perception and narrative. It all starts on national signing day (both of them) so in that sense, I feel vindicated with my reasons to rant.