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Media's Rankings Stretch to Evaluate High School Athletes

1:35 PM, Jul 21, 2011   |    comments
Alex Carter (#2) of Briar Woods is #113 in the 2012 ESPN 150
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I know it's easy to take pot shots at the big dog on the block to draw some sort of creditability, or something that resembles respect. 

It's the same reasoning you'll hear if you ever get put up in a state prison: on your very first day in the clink, find the biggest and baddest dude at lunchtime and attempt to beat the hell out of him. 

This act of foolhardy, self-preservation is two-fold: shows everybody else you're not afraid and to not mess with you. 

But as your friendly, neighborhood high school sports blogger, I simply aim to make a pertinent point about ESPN and less aiming a prison shank into the company's backside.

As a huge college football fan and pretty big NFL draft fan, I try to pay attention to the various rankings of high school and college prospects.  To me, college recruiting and professional drafting is fascinating. It's all about implementing a philosophy that you want your team to have, then finding the right players to fit the roles to execute said philosophy.

Every media outlet and their mother have their own rankings of every year's recruiting and draft classes.  But ultimately, the universally accepted service of experts is the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.  The ESPN 150 is usually the gold standard amongst recruiting heads.

When you filter through the various NFL Draft histories, you notice a smattering of former ESPN 150 players dotted throughout the draft. 

The 2006 ESPN 150, featured ten first round draft picks between the 2009 and 2010 NFL Drafts.  Tim Tebow, Gerald McCoy, and Matt Stafford are a handful of duo 150 recruits and first round draft picks. 

When ESPN is able to call a high school senior will eventually develop into a first round draft pick, that's good for business.  It builds credibility that they know what they're talking about.

But at the same token, I can help but believe that ESPN is essentially crafting the the high school, college, and professional narrative by anointing a high school junior as one of the best out of the entire country at what they do. 

Not dig up the bones of the horse that was hammered to death that was the Tim Tebow saga, but Timmothy Richard was a perfect case study. 

For those who had their heads under the sports news rock, Tim Tebow's college and professional career has been acutely documented since he first threw a jump pass for a touchdown as a true freshman for the Florida Gators.  Mixing in Timothy Richard's charisma, polarizing personality, and athletic gifts, he was tailored made for the ESPN hype machine. 

Tebow's quarterbacking skills were often put into question at the professional level and it forced a huge question: how do we evaluate Timothy Richard as a professional player when there is this echo chamber of dozens of different voices and opinions lauding him as the next great leader or panning him as a paper franchise savior.

Timothy Richard dominated headlines his entire college career and even his drafting into the NFL was made-for-television.  It was reported his trademark inspirational speeches bordering on Christian eulogies captivated the Denver Broncos brass to draft him in the first round over much more glaring needs on the team. 

Either way, there are countless of narratives manufactured by a relatively subjective ranking system invented by a bunch of guys trying to prognosticate high school kids.  I'd wager some this scouts have high school kids of their own and couldn't tell you their child's favorite subject in school, but they can rattle off Good Counsel's Stefon Diggs' 40-yard dash time that he ran back in a combine in March.   

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