The NFL Network released its top 100 players of 2023 over the last couple weeks. Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney looks back at them as recruits, as there were hits and misses along the way. Today’s list features players ranked from 61 to 80.
61. Deebo Samuel
Samuel had a strong showing at South Carolina’s summer camp and then had a big senior season along with a qualifying test score, the Gamecocks offered and he committed in December. Vanderbilt and North Carolina were also involved. When Samuel played full seasons at South Carolina, he put up big numbers and ended up as an early second-round pick where he’s become one of the top young receivers in the league.
62. Bobby Wagner
Wagner was a two-star prospect out of Ontario (Calif.) Colony who played at Utah State, his only offer, where he totaled 445 tackles including 280 in his final two seasons. He was a second-round pick in the 2012 draft by the Seattle Seahawks and in his heralded NFL career he’s totaled 1,523 tackles and 29.5 sacks.
63. Grady Jarrett
Mississippi State was the front-runner over MTSU, Western Kentucky and Georgia State but when the low three-star camped at Clemson and landed an offer, he committed to the Tigers a day later. In his final two seasons at Clemson, the former Conyers (Ga.) Rockdale County standout had 156 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Jarrett was a fifth-round draft pick in 2015. Playing his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons, Jarrett has totaled 420 tackles and 32.5 sacks.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH CLEMSON FANS AT TIGERILLUSTRATED.COM
64. Aaron Jones
A two-star athlete from El Paso (Texas) Burges, Jones rushed for 1,881 yards and 28 touchdowns in his senior season despite missing two games and could have probably played elsewhere but wanted to go to UTEP with his brother, Alvin. During his sophomore and senior years when he had full seasons, Jones rushed for 3,094 yards and 28 TDs. He was a fifth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers and has been utilized in both the run and pass game there.
65. Darius Slay
Slay was a two-star receiver coming out of Brunswick, Ga., and then moved to a three-star defensive back at Fulton (Miss.) Itawamba C.C. where he chose Mississippi State for a second time. In Starkville, Slay played for two seasons and had 64 tackles and six picks. Slay ended up as a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and in his pro career he’s totaled 513 tackles and 26 interceptions.
66. Jared Goff
Once Cal offered it was going to be tough to beat the Golden Bears for the Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic standout but Washington State and Boise State were the other contenders at the time. He went across the Bay to Berkeley where he had three phenomenal seasons throwing for 12,195 yards with 96 touchdowns and 30 picks en route to being the No. 1 overall pick in 2016. He’s been a three-time Pro Bowler already but in high school he was ranked eighth at pro-style quarterback in a class led by Max Browne and a host of QBs that didn’t pan out in the NFL.
67. Amon-Ra St. Brown
Ranked as the best receiver in the 2018 class and third nationally behind only Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, St. Brown chose USC over Stanford and Notre Dame (where his older brothers played) at the Army All-American Bowl. He was arguably not used to the max with the Trojans but still finished with 178 catches for 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns at USC before being a fourth-round pick in 2021. St. Brown has been outstanding for the Detroit Lions in his first two seasons and after totaling 2,073 receiving yards so far he’s considered one of the best young receivers in the league.
68. Zack Martin
A four-star prospect from Indianapolis (Ind.) Bishop Chatard, Martin picked Notre Dame over Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and others. He became the starting left tackle for the Irish after his redshirt freshman year. Following a great career in South Bend, Martin was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 draft and has been a six-time first-team All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys.
69. Matt Milano
Boston College offered and was the leader as Rutgers, Michigan State and UConn were recruiting him but hadn’t offered as Milano committed to the Eagles in the summer before his senior season. A high three-star safety at the time, after a solid if not spectacular career at Boston College that included 13 sacks in his final two seasons, Milano was a fifth-round draft pick in 2017 by the Buffalo Bills. He’s totaled 458 tackles, 10.5 sacks, nine fumble recoveries and eight interceptions there.
70. Joey Bosa
Looking back, Bosa should have been a five-star but finished No. 47 overall and fourth among strong-side defensive ends with five-stars Robert Nkemdiche, Chris Jones and Frank Herron leading the way. Bosa chose Ohio State in the spring before his junior season despite being an Alabama lean early in his recruitment. He had 26 sacks in three seasons in Columbus (including 13.5 in his sophomore year) and then was the third overall selection in the 2016 draft. He was the NFL rookie of the year and already a four-time Pro Bowler.
71. DeForest Buckner
Not a ton was known about Buckner coming out of Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou other than seeing him at the Semper Fidelis Bowl and while he finished as a low four-star his ranking was not nearly high enough. He picked Oregon over UCLA and Cal although the Ducks were the front-runners for some time. The four-star had a strong career at Oregon and surprised some by returning for his senior season which was his best showing in Eugene. He was the seventh overall pick in 2016 and has starred since then with 463 tackles and 53 sacks so far.
72. Lamar Jackson
No. 72 in the NFL? Jackson should be much higher but he’s been overlooked for large portions of his career as he committed to Louisville in the summer before his senior season after many showed interest but didn’t pull the trigger. Florida tried to flip him late – and he walked into his signing day ceremony wearing a Gators backpack – but the low four-star stuck with the Cardinals. He won the Heisman Trophy at Louisville and was one of the most electric players in recent memory in college and then was the No. 32 pick in the 2018 draft. Jackson was the league MVP in 2019.
73. Budda Baker
The Bellevue, Wash., safety was a high four-star prospect but it was a loaded safety class led by five-stars Quin Blanding and JuJu Smith-Schuster so Baker was No. 10 in the position rankings. He picked Washington over UCLA on signing day. After Baker totaled nearly 200 tackles and five interceptions in three seasons with the Huskies, he was an early second-round pick in the NFL Draft. The former high four-star has 650 tackles and seven interceptions all with the Arizona Cardinals.
74. Garrett Wilson
Wilson is one that will haunt us because we pretty much had his ranking perfect at No. 32 nationally but that recruiting cycle we named only 30 five-star prospects. Wilson chose Ohio State over Texas as he played high school football in Austin but grew up outside Columbus. The high four-star had three impressive seasons with the Buckeyes especially his junior year with 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to being the No. 10 overall pick in the 2022 draft. In his rookie season, Wilson totaled 83 receptions for 1,103 yards and four TDs.
75. Trey Hendrickson
Ranked as a two-star tight end coming out of Apopka, Fla., at 222 pounds, Hendrickson picked Florida Atlantic over Western Kentucky and Florida A&M. After a strong career at FAU and developing into a 270-pound defensive end, Hendrickson was a third-round pick in 2017. He’s totaled 42 sacks so far in his NFL career.
76. Tariq Woolen
A low three-star receiver out of Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights, Woolen chose UTSA over Houston, North Texas and others and then only switched to cornerback in his sophomore year. He ended up as a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and in his rookie season tied the league-high with six interceptions to go along with 63 tackles for the Seattle Seahawks.
77. Geno Smith
Rated as a mid-four-star prospect in the 2009 class, Smith was third at dual-threat quarterback that year and committed to West Virginia although right after his pledge he said he’d like to visit LSU and South Florida as well. He had three really strong seasons in Morgantown and finished with 11,662 passing yards with 98 touchdowns and 21 picks before being an early second-round draft pick. After stints with the New York Jets, New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers, Smith went to Seattle and after Russell Wilson left for Denver, he became the starter.
78. Talanoa Hufanga
A few days after Christmas, Hufanga committed to USC over UCLA and Utah as the state of Oregon’s top player didn’t have Oregon or Oregon State (even though he lived in Corvallis) among his main finalists. Ranked as the third-best athlete in the class, Hufanga totaled 203 tackles and 6.5 sacks in three seasons with the Trojans. A fifth-round selection in the 2021 draft, Hufanga starts for the San Francisco 49ers and has 129 tackles.
79. Dre Greenlaw
After decommitting from Arkansas State where his father, Brian Early, coached the defensive line, Greenlaw committed to Arkansas and then-coach Bret Bielema. The Conway, Ark., standout was rated as a high three-star safety but he also played some linebacker. After finishing with 321 tackles for the Razorbacks, Greenlaw was a fifth-round draft pick of the 49ers in the 2019 draft. So far in San Francisco, he’s tallied 326 tackles
80. Mark Andrews
Notre Dame and Oklahoma along with Ohio State and many others were involved in Andrews’ recruitment but he largely kept things very quiet before his commitment to the Sooners. Adamant he was a receiver, Andrews was ranked as a four-star and No. 176 overall but once he got to Norman, the coaches moved him to tight end. Andrews caught 112 passes for 1,765 yards and 22 touchdowns in three years at Oklahoma before being selected in the third round of the 2018 draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Since then, he’s been one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL.