On Wednesday morning, hundreds of highly touted high school football players across the country dusted off the nearest fax machine to send their signed letters of intent to college football programs, from powerhouses to smaller schools. These commitments bring hope to every program every winter, but the reality is that projecting how high school prospects will pan out can at times be a total crapshoot.
Sure, there are players such as South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is expected to be a top-five draft pick in May's NFL draft, who met the immense hype of being a top prospect. But there are countless examples of standout NFL players who didn't generate much buzz on national signing day.
Take Joe Flacco for example. Flacco was a three-star prospect in 2003, according to Rivals,com. He was their 39th-ranked quarterback, behind a few players you have heard of and plenty more you probably never have. Chris Leak, Dennis Dixon, JaMarcus Russell and even former Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski were all four- or five-star quarterback prospects ranked ahead of Flacco, who committed to Pittsburgh. He and another three-star prospect -- some guy named Aaron Rodgers -- turned out to be the best of the bunch.
Here is a look at how Rivals ranked some other current Ravens players when they were coming out of high school:
Ray Rice: Rice was a three-star recruit and their 19th-ranked running back in 2005, when he committed to Rutgers.
Haloti Ngata: He was a five-star recruit and their top defensive tackle prospect in 2002. He committed to Oregon.
Torrey Smith: The three-star receiver, ranked 28th at his position in the 2007 class, went to Maryland, of course.
Jimmy Smith: Smith was a three-star athlete and Rivals' 57th-ranked athlete. He played cornerback at Colorado.
Marshal Yanda: Yanda, who went to a junior college before Iowa, was a three-star offensive line prospect in 2005.
Tyrod Taylor: Taylor, a five-star prospect, was Rivals' top-ranked quarterback in 2007. He went to Virginia Tech.
Matt Elam: Elam was a five-star athlete and their second-ranked safety in the 2010 class before going to Florida.
Courtney Upshaw: A four-star prospect who stayed home at Alabama, he was the 12th-ranked linebacker in 2008.
Marlon Brown: A touted four-star prospect, the Georgia commitment was their fifth-ranked wide receiver in 2009.
Chykie Brown: Brown was a four-star prospect and the fourth-ranked cornerback in 2006. He wound up at Texas.
Elvis Dumervil: Dumervil was a three-star defensive end prospect in 2002. He ended up committing to Louisville.
Dennis Pitta: Pitta, who had a productive career as a pass-catching tight end at BYU, isn't even in their database.
Arthur Jones: Jones was an unranked two-star prospect in 2005 who stayed close to home in by going to Syracuse.
Lardarius Webb: After leaving Southern Miss, Webb was rated as a two-star defensive back. He went to Nicholls State.
Michael Oher: Oher, a four-star offensive tackle, was ranked seventh at his position in 2005. He committed to Ole Miss.