The third edition of the 2014 ESPN 300 features some of our most significant changes to date, but also includes some grade changes and increases in rank for several players just outside the ESPN 300 as well. Spring and summer camps and combines, including those held by college programs, have all been given consideration as well as some new film cut-ups on players we had some questions about.
The football season is right around the bend and senior campaigns will give us our final viewing of the current class leading into the all-star game season in early January.
Below are some highlights of major (and minor) shifts in the ranks. As always, some players may see a drop in rank not reflective of their performance, but rather because of an increase in another prospect's rank. Enjoy!
On the move
• OT Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe) climbs to No. 3 from No. 7: Robinson could be a player who pushes for No. 1 overall by the time February rolls around, but in fairness to Michigan CB commit Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), the nation's No. 2 prospect who did not make the combine circuit this summer, we slotted Robinson at No. 3. We will see Peppers in person and make further determinations later. Robinson was one of the most impressive prospects we saw all summer regardless of position, and we feel he can make an immediate impact at the next level.
• CB Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) jumps to No. 13 from No. 27 and earns a fifth star: Brown's athleticism is worthy of a top 10 overall rank, but for now, he sees a jump into the top 15 and becomes a five-star. Plus, he's a big, physical and fast corner, which are three traits we place a high premium on, especially in the defensive secondary. His competitive temperament is a huge intangible trait.
• C J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge) debuts at No. 246 and earns fourth star: Hassenauer, an Alabama commit, was one of our highest-rated three star prospects heading into The Opening, and his padded one-on-one performance earned him a spot in the ESPN 300. He's mean, ornery and plays with a chip on his shoulder.
• Top five shuffle: DE Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) jumps Virginia DT Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith) with Hand now sitting at No. 4 and Brown dropping to No. 5. This moves is entirely based on consistency during multiple viewings we have now had of both players. In time and depending on where he signs, Hand could actually be a Jack linebacker/rush player or 5-technique as we are not convinced he is a pure edge player.
New positional No. 1s
• WR Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian): While Dupre does not have the luxury of playing in a passing offense, he is somehow extremely polished. He is incredibly consistent and makes a ton of plays when the ball is in the air. Each time we have seen him, he has been more impressive than the time before, and each time, we have been prompted to move him up the rankings. This time, he moves past Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead), who slides down to No. 2 at the position.
• OLB Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley): Miller convinced us that he has the range to consistently play in space, if needed. His long frame can be concerning on zone drops and when transitioning to react to the ball, but he is more fluid in person and his athleticism is outstanding.
• QB Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day) climbs to No. 36 from No. 53: Grier's arm has gotten stronger and his ability to make deep sideline throws has improved. This is a very difficult QB class to project, but Grier, a Florida commit, continues to impress.
• ATH John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) climbs to No. 41 from No. 60: Smith is physical, explosive and could be a legitimate two-way prospect. His ball skills and range from the safety position are excellent and he plays fast.
• WR Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) climbs to No. 65 from No. 81: Rudolph is going to be a great player and he catches everything thrown in his area code. He might have the most secure and reliable hands of any wide receiver in this class.
• WR Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) climbs to No. 99 from No. 126: Perhaps the most undervalued wide receiver going into the summer months was the most impressive coming out. Malone, given his size, is very smooth and explosive. He is a physical presence in a crowd.
• RB Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) climbs to No. 100 from No. 137: Mixon certainly earned a big jump, but we still have questions about how smooth and instinctive he is as a running back. It is clear he has special ball skills and receiving traits.
• DE Chad Thomas (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington) climbs to No. 125 from No. 184: In a class where most of the top defensive lineman are better as run stoppers than pass rushers, Thomas stands out as an explosive edge rusher who is only going to get bigger and stronger as he adds weight to his lanky frame. The Miami commit's speed and ability to bend the edge make him difficult to handle one-on-one.
• OG Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) climbs to No. 148 from No. 242: Lobendahn moves into the top 150 of the ESPN 300 after he dominated padded one-on-ones at The Opening. The USC commit consistently showcased great feet, balance and tenacity to overpower defenders.
• Iowa State -WR Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) climbs to No. 149 from No. 224: Our concern with Lazard was that he had some of the same deficiencies that Northwestern's Kyle Prater did coming out, but the reality is that while there are similarities, Lazard is more flexible and sudden, which gives him bigger upside to develop as a route runner. Don't count out Lazard, an Iowa State commit, as a flex-WR/H-back from the slot, a position he played and looked very good in at The Opening.
• DE Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) climbed to No. 159 from No. 292 and we change his position to defensive end: This prospect created quite a stir with OSU fans based on where we initially had him projected. Honestly, on several occasions, Holmes himself indicated to us he was being recruited to play both TE and DE. We kept him at TE because he is more productive on offense than he is on defense. We still feel this way. There is no questioning Holmes' athleticism, and he does show flashes warranting some hype, but we are cautious based on overall production. Nevertheless, he makes one of our bigger jumps in the ranks.
• WR Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral) earns a fourth star: McLaurin, who was a three-star prospect, tested off the charts at the SPARQ national championships, and while he does not appear to play on film as fast as he times, the Ohio State commit certainly earned the jump to four-star status.
• ATH Parris Campbell Jr. (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary) debuts at No. 291: While it is debatable where Campbell will play (we feel he has corner written all over him), the Buckeye commit will likely start off as a slot back in Ohio State's offense. Campbell is blazing fast and smooth, and he is also a year younger than his counterparts, so there is a high ceiling for development.
Others notable moves
• Oregon CB commit Arrion Springs (San Antonio, Texas/Theodore Roosevelt) climbs to No. 30 from No. 44.
• Texas A&M QB-PP commit Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) climbs to No. 74 from No. 99.
• Georgia RB commit Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown ) climbs to No. 106 from No. 142.
• Northwestern QB-PP commit Clayton Thorson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North) climbs to No. 169 from No. 223.
• Miami QB-PP commit Brad Kaaya (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade) climbs to No. 171 from No. 252.
• Florida State OG commit Corey Martinez (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) climbs to No. 200 from No. 274.
• DE Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine) climbs to No. 216 from No. 280.