LSU Football: Proof that recruiting rankings don’t always matter

LSU football wide receivers (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
LSU football wide receivers (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

LSU football is well aware that recruiting rankings don’t always tell the whole story.

One of the main reasons LSU football won the 2019 National Championship was because of their 2017 signing class.

The Tigers’ 2017 class, which was ranked No. 7 in the nation, included key players like Patrick Queen, Grant Delpit, Jacoby Stevens, K’Lavon Chaisson, Tyler Shelvin, Jacob Phillips and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

That’s a loaded class.

There was also another key player for the Tigers in 2019 that happened to be the lowest rated player in LSU’s loaded 2017 signing class — wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the younger brother of former Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson and former safety Rickey Jefferson.

By now, everyone knows that Jefferson will likely be a first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, after catching 111 passes for 1,540 yards last season.

But a few short years ago, Jefferson was a two-star recruit (via Rivals) that was expected to add “depth” to LSU’s wide receivers group.

Here’s an evaluation of Jefferson after he signed with LSU, via SB Nation’s site that covers the Tigers.

"Jefferson looks like a pretty stock D1 WR talent to me. I’m not sure he’s a guy that will break into LSU’s rotation, but he should provide solid depth. Additionally, it shouldn’t be underestimated that this is a good kid from a good family. This staff knows he will come in, do his work and take care of business without issue. At worst, he’s a special teams contributor and capable camp body for increased passing reps in camp. At best, you factor him into the rotation a year or two down the line and have additional depth at a position that’s currently sorely lacking it."

I think most folks felt the same way about Jefferson when he signed. Anyone predicting a two-star/three-star player to become a future first round pick is just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. There’s no way to make that kind of prediction for a low-rated player.

That’s what makes recruiting so hard. The recruiting services consistently miss on highly rated recruits. And they miss on lower rated recruits (like Jefferson) who end up producing at a high level.

College coaching staffs watch more film than recruiting services. They get to work players out, talk to them regularly and get a sense of who they are not just as players, but as people. That’s why we see elite programs sign players with a less-than-impressive offer sheet (Jefferson’s other offers were from Nicholls State, Northwestern State and Tulane).

Now, don’t get me wrong — I think recruiting services do a quality job. I just think it’s impossible to always get it right. And Jefferson is proof of that.

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Who would’ve thought the lowest rated player in LSU’s 2017 signing class would be one of the first players from that class selected in the 2017 NFL Draft?

Not Me.

And if you’re being honest, not you, either.