Every year, a new batch of high school football players join the college ranks. Some don’t get scholarship offers while others are heralded as surefire greats in the NFL. Of all of the five-star blue chip players to come out of high school, which ones received the most hype, and how did they do? Here are the five biggest blue-chip prospects in college football history.
5. Robert Nkemdiche
College Career: Heralded as a “perfect prospect” by most recruiting sources, Robert Nkemdiche stunned a lot of people when he chose to go to Ole Miss in 2013. Nkemdiche was a 6’5” 260 pound prospect that could stuff the run while also putting pressure on the quarterback. Nkemdiche was solid (including an All-SEC 2015 season), but didn’t come close to living up to the hype.
Pro Career: All of the players on our list would end up being drafted in the first round, but Nkemdiche had to wait until the 29th selection in 2016 to hear his name called. Nkemdiche was selected by the Arizona Cardinals, though never quite reached his potential. Nkemdiche has played with several teams, amassing just 4.5 sacks in his NFL career.
4. Trevor Lawrence
College Career: The term “generational quarterback” gets thrown around a lot, and one of those times it was used without much argument was when Trevor Lawrence was a prospect. Lawrence was the next big thing coming out of Cartersville, Georgia, ultimately choosing Clemson for his college ball. Lawrence ended up being an All-American that helped the Tigers win the College Football Playoff in 2018.
Pro Career: After dominating both the high school and college ranks, Lawrence was considered one of the biggest slam dunks in NFL Draft history. As such, he was drafted first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021, instantly becoming the starting quarterback.
3. Jadeveon Clowney
College Career: When the 2010s came around, the defensive end position became more important as pass rushers were in huge demand. More “prototype” rushers were coming along, starting with Jadeveon Clowney, whom many were certain would be an all-time great. Clowney picked South Carolina over Alabama and Clemson. Clowney was a two-time All-American and three-time All-SEC player.
Pro Career: Clowney was the consensus top player in an otherwise weak 2014 NFL Draft class. Clowney was selected first overall by the Houston Texans where he would spend five seasons. Clowney was a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro in Houston before moving on after the 2018 season, playing for multiple teams since then.
2. Vince Young
College Career: Many had hailed quarterback Vince Young as the “LeBron James of football” due to his unprecedented amount of hype and recruitment. Young received countless offers, but most knew he was headed to Texas where he became a legend. Young won pretty much every award in 2005 except for the Heisman en route to a Longhorns national title.
Pro Career: Considered the top quarterback of the 2006 NFL Draft, Vince Young was selected third overall behind Mario Williams and Reggie Bush, heading to the Tennessee Titans. Young was the Rookie of the Year, but had an inconsistent five seasons with the Titans. He bounced around several teams and finished his career in the Canadian Football League.
1. Peyton Manning
College Career: The reason why college football recruiting has become a 24/7 news cycle is because of Peyton Manning. Almost everyone knew that Arch Manning’s son was going to be great, but would he pick Ole Miss or Tennessee? Manning ended up attending the latter, playing four seasons with the Volunteers. Manning was a Heisman finalist and All-American, becoming perhaps the college’s best all-time player.
Pro Career: Despite some suggesting that Ryan Leaf might be the top pick, the Indianapolis Colts wisely selected Peyton Manning first overall in 1998. Manning had a Hall of Fame career, winning five MVP awards and winning two Super Bowls before retiring with the Denver Broncos after the 2015 season.