The first numerical Rivals100 for the class of 2014 has been released and Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand is the No. 1 player in the country.
Can he own the crown wire-to-wire like Jadeveon Clowney in 2011, Dorian Green-Beckham in 2012 and Robert Nkemdiche this past year? And who are the other early five stars? We have all your answers right here.
"The first numerical ranking is always an important one because it sets the tone for the year," said Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell. "But everyone needs to remember that the first one is far from the final one. We evaluate prospects in person and on junior film, but we learn so much about them between each new ranking. But this is a terrific start, we feel very comfortable with this first release."
Since the first Rivals250 To Watch in November, there has speculation regarding who would be No. 1 in February.
"To me it wasn't that much of a question, but it did become interesting," Farrell said. "I tweeted way back in April of last year that I thought I was seeing the best player in the country in Da'Shawn Hand and more in-person evaluations have cemented that feeling. However, there were some guys who pushed up into the discussion and it will be interesting.
"But Hand is special, he's a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder whose athleticism is off the charts and can come off the edge or hold the line of scrimmage depending on where he's lined up. He played defensive tackle quite a bit for his team this year without complaint and was still dominant. And his high character just adds to the formula for potential success."
Checking in at No. 2 and pressing Hand the most is Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic cornerback Jabrill Peppers. Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic analyst Adam Friedman chimes in on Peppers' run at No. 1.
"The combination of speed, physicality, understanding of the game and playmaking ability that Peppers brings from the secondary is unmatched in the 2014 class," Friedman said. "Not only is Peppers a shutdown corner but he is a true difference-maker on the offensive side of the ball, playing quarterback, running back and wide receiver and he is always a threat to take it to the house.
"What makes Hand the top player in the country right now is his unique combination of size, speed and athleticism. If Hand doesn't continue to push and work hard, Peppers could have a solid case for the No. 1 spot."
Our initail Rivals100 ranking of the Class of 2014 includes 14 five-star prospects.
The top six is rounded out by New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette, Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside safety Quin Blanding, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage running back Sony Michel and Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith defensive tackle Andrew Brown, with a new five-star addition in Monroe (La.) West Monroe offensive tackle Cameron Robinson at No. 7.
"At 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Robinson is a massive presence along the offensive front, but that is only a portion of the equation that makes him such a dynamic prospect," said Rivals.com Southwest analyst Jason Howell. "Robinson is still a work in progress, but his athleticism is there. He moves very well and gets off the line quickly when he is drive-blocking. He also looks comfortable getting downfield and blocking in space. His footwork needs to some work in pass protection, but the tools are there and make him a package that is hard to find."
While Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra cornerback Adoree Jackson (No. 8), Hoover, Ala., cornerback Marlon Humphrey (No. 10) and Beaumont (Texas) Ozen cornerback Tony Brown (No. 13) were previous five-stars, there are more additions from the November list, as well as a subtraction.
Lorenzo Carter is a physical freak. At 6-foot-5, he's long and lean with terrific quickness off the ball," said Rivals.com Southeast analyst Woody Wommack of the defensive end from Norcross, Ga. who checks in at No. 9.
"He was in the mix for five-star consideration back in November and after watching the way he finished his junior season, there's no doubt he's a five-star talent. I think he's only going to add bulk to his frame and he can do so without sacrificing any of his athleticism."
Another prospect from Georgia made the cut.
"DeShaun Watson has everything you look for in a dual-threat quarterback," Wommack said of the No. 11 overall player. "Not only is he capable of making a big play with his legs, but he's just as capable of making big plays down the field with his arm. He plays on a high school team that isn't exactly loaded with talent, yet he still put up some of the best numbers in the history of the state of Georgia while leading his team to a state championship. He's a cool customer, regardless of the situation, which contributes to his leadership skills."
Two players from the state of North Carolina check in as new five-stars in athlete Elijah Hood from Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic and defensive end Kentavious Street from Greenville (N.C.) Rose.
"Hood is a freak on either side of the football," Farrell said of the No. 12 player. "He is an amazing running back who has speed, power and game-breaking ability and on defense he is a hard-hitting linebacker with quick twitch ability.
"I think he's more special as a running back and maybe a little undersized as a linebacker, but whatever he wants to play in college he will exceed at."
As for Street, the nation's No. 14 player, Friedman was as impressed as anyone.
"Street burst onto the scene in a big way at the U.S. Army National Combine," Friedman said. "At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Street showed he has the speed, strength and athleticism to be a dominant force from his defensive end position. In pass-rushing drills, he was virtually unstoppable, beating tackles to the inside and outside. It looked as though Street is merely scratching the surface of his potential because he used the same move most of the time or just overpowered the offensive lineman. His film backs it up for sure and that's equally important."
One player who lost his five-star status is Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who is still highly rated at No. 16 overall.
"There's no doubt McMillan is still an elite-level player but I think we need to see a little more from him physically," Wommack said. "He has great height for a linebacker, but he needs to avoid of falling into the trap of putting on too much weight and in turn sacrificing some of his athleticism. It's always tough for a guy who is clearly more developed physically than others his age, but something to monitor heading into the camp season."
Other notables who just missed five-star status include Hendersonville (Tenn.) Beech Senior running back Jalen Hurd and Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Northridge athlete Bo Scarbrough.
"He's answered a lot of questions about whether or not he's a running back at the next level with his recent play on the field but he still needs to prove that he's on the same level of other backs in this class physically," Wommack said of Hurd, who checks in at No. 15. "He's a little taller than most running backs and because of it tends to run with an upright style that leaves him open to big hits. His ability to transition to the college game will depend on how he continues to develop throughout the offseason."
Scarbrough's versatility is a plus.
"Scarbrough spends most of his time at running back, but has lined up at wide receiver on the camp circuit," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Kynon Codrington said. "He has great size-to-speed ratio at 6-foot-2, 222 pounds while running a sub 4.6-second 40-yard dash. The Tuscaloosa native committed early to Alabama and will likely start off in the backfield, but a move to wideout could be in the future. Either way Scarbrough has all of the physical tools to play at a five-star level once he settles on a position and can hone his craft."
Others of note near the top of the list include two quarterbacks in Davidson (N.C.) Davidson Day dual-threat Will Grier and Palo Alto, Calif., pro-style Keller Chryst.
"Grier is special and his film is as good as anyone's this year," said Farrell of the nation's No. 18 player. "The level of competition is not very good, but he makes all the throws, can move around the pocket and clearly has a good feel for the game. He's already committed to Florida but you can bet he will continue to reel in offers once that film makes the rounds."
As for Chryst, the No. 20 player, Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney speaks to his talents.
"Keller Chryst was arguably the top quarterback at the Oakland Elite 11 last year and that was going into his junior season," Gorney said. "He has an outstanding arm, sees the entire field, has great size and then can deliver his passes anywhere he wants to. Chryst also has a great pedigree since his father, George, "Geep" Chryst, is the quarterbacks coach of the 49ers. He's really a student of the game who understands the position. When his dad talks to him about playing quarterback, he's getting advice from an expert and that can only help in his development."
Other offensive standouts include Olathe (Kan.) South Senior offensive tackle Braden Smith, Miami (Fla.) Central running back Dalvin Cook and Urbandale, Iowa, wide receiver Allen Lazard.
Finally, two defensive standouts put themselves within five-star range as well.
"As a purely physical specimen, Smith is an unquestioned five-star," said Rivals.com West analyst Rob Cassidy, who also scouts Missouri and Kansas. "He's got the best build of any offensive lineman in the country. In a lot of ways, he boasts a college-ready body as a high school junior. On film, he's the dominate force you'd expect. The sticking point is the fact that he plays out of position at the guard spot on the high school level.
"His high school team rarely throws, so Smith has not been given much chance to showcase his pass-blocking technique. His standing as a four-star at this early juncture has nothing do with anything he's done wrong; as he's great in every situation he's put into. It's just that nobody has seen him showcase his full potential. In my opinion, it's only a matter of time until he adds his last star," Cassidy said.
Codrington tackled Cook's abilities.
"Cook is a C.J. Spiller-esque type athlete. He can score from anywhere on the field and it's rare that a player that talented has yet to reach his potential," he said of the No. 22 player in the country.
"The Clemson commit has exceptional speed and make-you-miss ability. He is a threat in the kick return game and can even play defensive back at a high level. If he didn't have to share the load with teammate Joseph Yearby, he would make a strong argument for five-star status."
Rounding out the group is Lazard, a prospect that Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt is very high on.
"There are some similarities between Lazard and the nation's top receiver in 2012, Dorial Green-Beckham," said Helmholdt. "Lazard gives up an inch or two to Green-Beckham but their builds are similar and Lazard possesses that same rare explosiveness and athleticism for a big wide receiver."
And on defense, Detroit (Mich.) Loyola defensive end Malik McDowell and LaPorte, Texas linebacker Hoza Scott both check into the top 25 nationally.
"McDowell was one of the few underclassmen invited to Atlanta for the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge last summer and more than held his own among the elite talent," Helmholdt said. "The question going forward remains whether he can maintain the explosiveness and athleticism to stay on the edge or if he will have to move to the inside in college."
As for Scott, Jason Howell called him a "playmaker."
"He makes quick reads and plays with great football instincts. In the biggest moments Scott seems to come through for his team," Howell said of the Texas A&M commitment. "Whether it is making a bone-jarring hit or blocking a kick or intercepting a pass, Scott always seems to step up. He has tremendous closing speed, and is equally impressive against the run, on the blitz, or dropping into coverage."