Sports

Average players can someday be NFL stars

When Christian Ponder was a senior, it might have looked like he was a future NFL prospect.

But first, he'd have to be a future college prospect.

And the Colleyville Heritage quarterback had a ways to go before that happened. He was rated only a three-star prospect by Rivals.com, a recruiting tracking web site, as a senior for the Panthers.

But that did not doom his NFL chances. He went on to become the 12th player drafted in last year's NFL draft.

Indeed, a modest star rating as a high school player does not appear to limit the chances of being drafted. Last year, the first round of the NFL draft included 10 three-star athletes, 10 four-star athletes and seven five-star athletes.

Four were two-star athletes.

One did not even play football in high school.

Still, the five-star athlete is rare, and it means something. Six of the first 10 picks were five-star high school players, including the Cowboys' pick at No. 9, offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

A look at last year's draftees and their star rating out of high school:

Pick, team

Name, pos.

College

Stars

1. Carolina

Cam Newton, QB

Auburn

5

Rivals was high on him. Everybody was after his time at Blinn JC.

2. Denver

Von Miller, LB

Texas A&M

4

Aggies picked up a prize who was considering OU and Florida.

3. Buffalo

Marcell Dareus, DT

Alabama

3

Rivals had him only a three-star prospect, perhaps because he was a late qualifier.

4. Cincinnati

A.J. Green, WR

Georgia

5

Speed and hands, evident from a very early stage.

5. Arizona

Patrick Peterson, CB

LSU

5

A no-doubt-about-it star who got away from Sunshine State recruiters.

6. Atlanta

Julio Jones, WR

Alabama

5

Built to be a receiver. Used an official visit on Texas Tech.

7. San Francisco

Aldon Smith, LB/DE

Missouri

3

Forced seven fumbles and blocked a punt as a senior.

8. Tennessee

Jake Locker, QB

Washington

4

Also wanted by Major League Baseball as a pitcher.

9. Dallas

Tyron Smith, OT

USC

5

Size was off the charts. Recruiters amazed themselves projecting his college frame.

10. Jacksonville

Blaine Gabbert, QB

Missouri

5

An elite pro-style QB prospect. Headed to Nebraska before Bill Callahan left.

11. Houston

J.J. Watt, DE

Wisconsin

2

Recruited by Minnesota as a tight end, already 6-5.

12. Minnesota

Christian Ponder, QB

Florida State

3

Colleyville Heritage product rated Texas' 50th-best prospect.

13. Detroit

Nick Fairley, DT

Auburn

3

Recruiters were split on his position, but the size - 6-4, 257 - was clear.

14. St. Louis

Robert Quinn, DE

North Carolina

4

A major high school prospect because of his size and quickness.

15. Miami

Mike Pouncey, C

Florida

4

With twin Maurkice, part of a multi-player Lakeland High haul for Gators in 2007.

16. Washington

Ryan Kerrigan, DE

Purdue

3

Indiana's fourth-ranked recruit, but not a national name.

17. New England

Nate Solder, OT

Colorado

3

At 6-8, had basketball background in high school.

18. San Diego

Corey Liuget, DE/LB

Illinois

4

At 6-3, 260, rated seventh-best prospect at his position.

19. NY Giants

Prince Amukamara, CB

Nebraska

3

Arizonian did not get much attention outside Southwest and Pac-10.

20. Tampa Bay

Adrian Clayborn, DE

Iowa

4

Missouri player of year as senior and four-year letterman in football and basketball.

21. Cleveland

Phil Taylor, DE

Baylor

4

Already at 346 pounds as a high school senior, rated Maryland's sixth-best prospect.

22. Indianapolis

Anthony Castonzo, OT

Boston College

2

Left his Illinois high school for military school in Virginia.

23. Philadelphia

Danny Watkins, G

Baylor

NA

Went to high school in Canada and did not play football. Noticed at California JUCO.

24. New Orleans

Cameron Jordan, DE

California

3

Had 17 sacks as a senior, but rated only 37th defensive end.

25. Seattle

James Carpenter, OT

Alabama

2

Rivals did not rank him on its position, state or national lists.

26. Kansas City

Jonathan Baldwin, WR

Pittsburgh

5

At 6-6, rated fifth-best receiver prospect in the nation.

27. Baltimore

Jimmy Smith, CB

Colorado

3

64th-ranked prospect in California as a senior.

28. New Orleans

Mark Ingram, RB

Alabama

4

Football, track and baseball numbers as a senior are eye-popping.

29. Chicago

Gabe Carimi, OT

Wisconsin

3

A 6-7, 285-pound Wisconsin kid who wanted to go to Wisconsin.

30. NY Jets

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT

Temple

2

Two-time state champion basketball player in high school.

31. Pittsburgh

Cam Heyward, DT

Ohio State

4

Rated the country's 13th-best defensive tackle.

32. Green Bay

Derek Sherrod, OT

Mississippi State

4

OT rated Mississippi's No. 5 overall prospect as a senior.

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