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: Physically, Haden and Peppers aren't very similar, but their playing styles are mirror images. Peppers and Haden are two strong, physical cornerbacks that like to try to get into the opposition's head. Neither is afraid to come up against the run and make a solid tackle. Haden and Peppers are also very versatile. Peppers was the best offensive player on Paramus Catholic this past year and played some offense in the Under Armour All-America Game. Haden played quarterback for his high school team also and both he and Peppers won a state championship in their senior season.
When we saw him last: Peppers was one of the overall top performers for Team Nitro at the Under Armour All-America Game. He was one of team leaders and was outstanding during the week of practice. His physicality, explosiveness and competitiveness helped him shut down most of the receivers he faced. Peppers had a big hand in how the Under Armour All-America Game played out. He was targeted a number of times while on defense, but he also played some wildcat quarterback, threw a pass and returned two kickoffs.
Analyst's take: "Peppers is such a unique prospect. He had enormous success in high school, winning four state championships on two different teams, and earned an invite to the Under Armour All-America Game. Peppers' incredible natural athleticism combined with his big frame and tireless work ethic has helped him become a true lockdown cornerback. His instincts will continue to improve as he gains experience and he should be an immediate contributor at Michigan. Peppers should also be a playmaker right away on special teams and he could see some time on offense down the line." - Adam Friedman, Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic analyst
Final Word: "Peppers is bigger than Haden coming out of high school and much more defensively inclined, but will he adapt as quick as Haden did to college? Haden made the decision to play cornerback because he knew that was his ticket to being special and Peppers has done the same. Haden obviously went on to become a star at Florida and a first-round draft choice and NFL starter and Peppers could easily do the same. I think the physical strength and aggressive nature of the two are a good match." - Mike Farrell, National Recruiting Director, Rivals.com
NFL Comparison: LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
Tale of the Tape: Fournette is a bit taller and a little lighter than Blount, but there are plenty of similarities when it comes to style and ability. Both are known for their size and ability to grab the tough yards, but they also have the vision, explosion, and footwork to hit a crease and pick up big yards. Each has sneaky speed for a big man and can run away from defenders at the second level. They wear down a defense with their power and durability.
When we last saw him: Fournette entered the Under Armour All-America game regarded as the top running back in the country and he did not disappoint. Some question his top end speed and his hands when looking for flaws in Fournette's game. During his time at Under Armour, he struggled a bit with his catching ability, but in the game he stepped up and delivered a 36-yard touchdown catch on a screen pass. He ran with a low pad level, and while he did not have a breakaway run, he was able to grind out some tough yards on the day.
Analyst's take: "Fournette immediately jumps out from a physical standpoint. He is a big back at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, and he has the frame to add more very good, very solid weight and increase his abilities. His consistency catching the ball and his breakaway speed are the two aspects of his game which draw the most criticism; however, his quick feet, vision, explosion, and balance combine with his size and physicality to make him the top back in the class. I also like his confidence as a playmaker when the game is on the line. He is not cocky or loud and he is unselfish. However, when a play needs to be made, he is supremely confident he can and will regardless of the competition." - Jason Howell, Rivals.com Midlands/Southwest analyst
Final word: "LSU fans would probably prefer a comparison to a bigger name back, but Blount is a heckuva running back and I can see Fournette being a big, physical back at the next level and beyond that has sneaky speed. Remember, Blount rushed for over 1,000 yards two years in a row at junior college, rushed for 1,000 yards and a team-record 17 scores as a junior at Oregon and would have been a Heisman candidate if not for the incident against Boise State. In the NFL, he rushed for 1,000 yards as a rookie and was huge for the Pats late in the season in 2013. His path to the NFL was an odd one because of his off-field issues, but no one can question his on-field talent. Fournette has more natural ability at the same stage and a much better head on his shoulders, so becoming a college star and an NFL regular is well within his reach." - Farrell