How top 2014 NFL draft prospects ranked as high school recruits

Monday May 5th, 2014
Jadeveon Clowney could be the first top-ranked high school recruit to go No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.
David Allio/Icon SMI

The son of Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews had a lot of family ties to contemplate during his recruitment. He considered USC, the alma mater of his father, uncle and cousins. Another finalist was Texas A&M, where older brother Kevin played. In the summer of 2009, Jake opted for the closer-to-home option and committed to the Aggies. He wound up becoming a member of what might be the best offensive tackle haul in college football recruiting history. Luke Joeckel started at left tackle for three years and then became the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft. Matthews slid from right to left tackle as a senior and should be a top-10 pick. Cedric Ogbuehi redshirted, played right guard and right tackle and now will shift to left tackle to replace Matthews. Like Joeckel and Matthews, Ogbuehi should also be a first-rounder, barring injury.

23. Kansas City: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Class: 2011
Hometown: New Orleans
High school: Isidore Newman
Rivals rank: Four stars

Beckham narrowed his choices to LSU and Miami, and after Miami fired Shannon, his apparent lack of interest in the new Hurricanes' staff made his choice fairly obvious even before he donned a purple cap at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

24. Cincinnati: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Class: 2011
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
High school: Plantation
Rivals rank: Four stars

Shazier committed to Florida in June 2010, but Urban Meyer's resignation that December caused him to re-open his recruitment. He visited LSU and Ohio State and chose the Buckeyes. In Columbus, he wound up playing two seasons for Meyer anyway. I met Shazier in June 2010 while tagging along with his seven-on-seven team to a national tournament in Tuscaloosa. The night before the tournament began, organizers held a 40-yard dash race in the Alabama football complex. De'Anthony Thomas elected not to run, and Shazier dusted everyone else -- receivers, defensive backs, everyone. That speed became apparent at Ohio State, and it didn't decline even as Shazier bulked up. The race wasn't even Shazier's most impressive display that week. He also beat teammate Bridgewater in a rib-eating contest.

25. San Diego: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Class: 2010
Hometown: Baltimore
High school: Mount St. Joseph
Rivals rank: Three stars

Fuller had watched older brother Vincent play in the secondary in Blacksburg before becoming a fourth-round pick by the Titans in 2005, and the Hokies had also recruited Kyle's other older brother Corey before he signed with Kansas to run track. So it wasn't a surprise when Kyle Fuller chose Virginia Tech over Maryland, Kansas, Duke and Syracuse. The family affair continued when Corey transferred to Virginia Tech to play receiver. (He was a sixth-round pick of the Lions in 2013.) In 2013, youngest brother Kendall signed with the Hokies and became the ACC's Defensive Rookie of the Year.

26. Cleveland: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Class: 2011
Hometown: Inglewood, Calif.
High school: Junipero Serra
Rivals rank: Four stars

Lee endured a brutal childhood but found sanctuary on the football field and basketball court at Junipero Serra. Lee took official visits to Oregon, Miami and Florida, but he eventually decided to stay close to home and join former high school teammate Robert Woods to create a formidable receiving tandem at USC.

27. New Orleans: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Class: 2009
Hometown: Fairfield, Calif.
High school: Rodriguez
Rivals rank: Zero stars (Three stars out of Santa Rosa JC in 2011)

Verrett was a decent high school tailback who opted to go to community college to raise his recruiting profile. After delaying enrollment at Santa Rosa until 2010, Verrett moved to cornerback and drew the interest of TCU and Boise State. He joined the Horned Frogs, got torched by Robert Griffin III in his first start and almost quit, but Verrett stuck it out in Fort Worth and became one of the nation's best corners.

28. Carolina: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Class: 2009
Hometown: Richmond, Va.
High school: Meadowbrook
Rivals rank: Four stars

Moses took his recruitment down to the wire, announcing for the Cavaliers on National Signing Day. He almost took it past signing day, though. Moses had taken official visits to Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, and he had one left. According to Rivals.com, Moses toyed with the idea of visiting Oklahoma, Virginia Tech or Ohio State after everyone else signed their letters of intent. Instead, he decided to make it official with Virginia on signing day.

29. New England: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Class: 2010
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
High school: Raines
Rivals rank: Four stars

Nix was one of college football's biggest personalities -- literally and figuratively -- and it makes sense that he would defy conventional wisdom during the recruiting process. Nix committed to Miami in November 2008, more than a year before he could sign a letter of intent. He visited Notre Dame in September 2009 but publicly remained committed to the Hurricanes. Then, on Dec. 1, 2009, Nix told reporters he had flipped to Notre Dame. Why was that so odd? Notre Dame didn't have a coach. Charlie Weis was fired the day before, and Brian Kelly wouldn't be hired for nine more days. Nix is the rare player who actually adhered to the words of the National Letter of Intent, which declares that a prospect is signing with a school and not a coach.

30. San Francisco: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

Class: 2011
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio
High school: Jefferson Township
Rivals rank: Three stars

Latimer committed to the Hoosiers in October 2010, but the firing of coach Bill Lynch caused him to take second looks at Connecticut and Western Kentucky. Latimer stuck with his commitment, and that was the smart move. He flourished in the wide-open offense run by Kevin Wilson, who was hired to replace Lynch.

31. Denver: Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA

Class: 2009
Hometown: Provo, Utah
High school: Timpview
Rivals rank: Four stars

I wrote about Su'a-Filo -- and Manti Te'o -- in a 2009 story about the unique challenges faced by Mormon recruits and by the coaches who recruit them. Su'a-Filo was particularly interesting because his options included BYU, which is run by the Mormon church, and LSU, which is most decidedly secular. Su'a-Filo also considered UCLA and Utah, and he elected to sign with the Bruins on National Signing Day in 2009. He wound up starting every game at left tackle as a true freshman, and then he embarked on a two-year mission in the wilds of north Florida. He returned to UCLA in 2012 to a new coach, a new offense and a conference that had changed from the Pac-10 to the Pac-12, but Su'a-Filo slid in immediately as the starter at left guard and helped start a renaissance in Westwood.

32. Seattle: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Class: 2011
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
High school: MacArthur
Rivals rank: Four stars

Don't be fooled. Though he looks like a 10-year NFL veteran, Amaro actually was a high school student as recently as 2011. In February 2013, I visited Lubbock for a story on young coaches that featured Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, and I became a bit concerned as I watched players gather for what was supposed to be a player-run seven-on-seven throwing session. "Why is one of your assistants out there, Kliff?" I asked, wondering if I'd witnessed an NCAA violation. "That's Jace," Kingsbury replied, laughing. Amaro looks older than he is, and he played older than he was at Texas Tech after shaking off late interest from Auburn and Oregon to stick to his longtime commitment to the Red Raiders.

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