The close of the evaluation period for the Class of 2014 produced only a couple big changes near the top of the Rivals100; but as the players jockeyed for position, the Rivals.com team of analysts saw the highlights and lowlights of each prospect.
Generally, the most difficult aspect of ranking players is making comparisons and projections, but it is the task most asked of analysts. With just days left until National Signing Day, the Rivals.com team will break down the best of the best by comparing them to players on the NFL level.
Tale of the Tape: Allen and Smith have similar builds and similar skill sets. Both have adequate arms but don't exactly dazzle with long passes. Instead, the two are mechanically sound and are able to zip the ball through tight windows. Allen can make every throw in the book and make them with confidence. While Allen is certainly a more touted high school prospect than Smith, it's hard to ignore the similarities in their games.
When we last saw him: Allen has always been at his best on the biggest of stages, and it was the same story at this year's U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Allen was the starter for the West team and came out of the gate on fire, hitting receivers in stride on a variety of different routes. It wasn't just the game itself that highlighted his skill, though. Allen looked like the top quarterback in the nation all week long and was a standout in practice most days. It didn't take a keen eye for next-level talent to identify Allen as the best quarterback in attendance.
Analyst's take: "Allen turned in one of the best camp performances many of us have ever seen at last summer's Rivals Five-Star Challenge Presented by Under-Armour and followed that up by having a great all-star season. That fact that the five-star quarterback has always been great against top-level competition says something about his ability to stand out at the next level. As a senior, Allen was mostly great. He threw more interceptions that you'd like from the No. 1 quarterback in America and his deep ball isn't elite. That said, his mechanics, accuracy and the zip on his passes are beyond impressive. No other quarterback in America possesses the blend of passing attributes of Allen." -- Rob Cassidy, Rivals.com Southwest Analyst
Final word: "Allen is a smooth customer and he doesn't seem to get rattled under pressure. He can move the pocket well and he has a feel for the rush so he can step up. He's accurate and he has the confidence of a winner. If his college and even pro career turns out to be as good as Smith's, I think he'll be very happy. BCS, first overall pick, solid NFL career. A&M fans would be happy with that as well." -- Mike Farrell, Rivals.com National Recruiting Director
No. 8 Joe Mixon, all-purpose back, Oakley (Calif.) Freedom
Tale of the Tape: Some Oklahoma fans especially might make the comparison between Mixon and Adrian Peterson, but because Mixon is such a threat in the passing game, the best comparison would be Forte. The positive thing going for Mixon, though, is that he's almost already the same size as Forte and still has outstanding speed and playmaking ability on the outside. The five-star is a phenomenal running back, but his biggest asset is his ability to come out of the backfield, catch a short pass and then make something special happen.
When we saw him last: The Northern California prospect had a very solid week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and, not surprisingly, as a running back and a receiver. Mixon scored on his only carry -- a three-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter -- and he also had one catch for 26 yards. The five-star had a good week of practice and proved that he's one of the most versatile prospects in the class. Mixon backed up his ranking as the No. 1 all-purpose back and continued to show why he's one of the top overall prospects in the class.
Analyst's take: "There has never been a time when we've seen Mixon that he hasn't been really impressive. Whether it was at the RCS Los Angeles or numerous 7-on-7 events last spring, the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Chicago, looking at his junior and senior film or at the Army Bowl, Mixon has been outstanding at every turn. The five-star has excellent size and might be one of the top receivers in this class if he only played that position. He has the added bonus of being a phenomenal running back and that mix could be special in college and beyond." -- Adam Gorney, Rivals.com West Analyst
Final word: "The sky is the limit for Mixon as a running back and Forte is a great comparison because of their pass-catching abilities. However, Mixon is much more athletic than Forte at the same stage and it will be interesting to see how big he gets. He could be an absolute star in a spread offense and the only thing he needs to work on that Forte has perfected is being physical between the tackles and finishing his runs. Forte has emerged as one of the NFL's best backs and Mixon has that kind of talent." -- Mike Farrell, Rivals.com National Recruiting Director