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Knights in the Pros ... how were they ranked as recruits?

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Some were big time recruits out of HS, others were not ... so ‘Beware the Ides of February’ NSD

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions
Burton walked on at RU
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Less than one week from signing day and it’s time to look back at the current Knights in the Pros and how they were rated as recruits. Just those currently employed in the NFL, not all the RU players who reached the NFL. The recruiting trail looking forward will be covered by Chris Drabik and Mike Voza.

We’ll use the same format as the weekly segment of the last five recruiting classes (Class of 2016 here; 2015 here. 2014 too, 2013, 2012). The biggest takeaway, you don’t have to be a big time recruit or even play as a true freshman to make it to the NFL. As you can see below, these are not the top 21 recruits at RU in the last 16 years, and only TWO of the top 10.

We’ll start with the lowest rated HS recruit as per 247 composite and work our way up to the highest of the group where a 1.0000 is a perfect score:

21. Michael Burton, RB, West Morris Central, Long Valley, NJ (Walk-on, Class of 2010)

247 composite rating: NA State (NJ) Overall Ranking: NA National RB Ranking: NA

NFL Draft: 5th round pick 2015

Burton was a walk on at Rutgers despite his gaudy rushing numbers in high school. He had 5 scholarship offers, all FCS and chose a preferred walk-on opportunity at Rutgers over the same at Pitt and Syracuse. He was projected as a possible linebacker or running back with questions about height and top end speed, but fit nicely as a fullback in Rutgers Pro Sets. The staff had moved Joe Martinek to fullback after being the successful lead back but was pushed by Burton as a redshirt freshman. He led the way alone after that. Currently: Lions fullback.

20. Andrew DePaola, LS - Hereford, Parkton, MD (Walk-on, Class of 2008)

247 composite rating: NA State (MD) Overall Ranking: NA National QB Ranking: NA

DePaola was a high school quarterback who became a holder in college. His recruiting was slow because he played baseball in the spring/summer and accepted a walk-on opportunity at Rutgers. Then he moved upstream to serve as the team’s long snapper at the end of his final season (from wide receiver) when reliable Jeremy Branch was injured. He remained a long snapper in the NFL where he has had a nice career. Currently: Bucs long snapper

NFL: Preseason-Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DePaola surely found his niche at the next level.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

19. Jason McCourty - CB, St. Joseph (Montvale, NJ), Nanuet, NY (Class of 2004)

247 composite rating: NA State (NJ) Overall: NA National CB Ranking: NA

NFL draft: 6th round 2008

A two-star recruit, Jason McCourty actually played as a true freshman (not his All-Pro brother) after riding Devin’s coat tails to Rutgers, the only school that offered both of them. Jason was pressed into duty as the Knights defensive backfield struggled against strong passing attacks, watch the Insight Bowl against ASU if you may have forgotten. The excitement from the team in that game is inspiring. Starting the rest of his career, he was drafted by Tennessee. Currently: Titans starting cornerback

18. Jonathan Freeny - DE, Coconut Creek, Pompano Beach, FL (Class of 2007)

247 composite rating: .7333 State (FL) Overall Ranking: 257 National DE Ranking: 122

He chose RU over Western Michigan (pre Fleck) and FIU. Darren Rizzi (with help from the Schiano pipeline) made a real find here of a player who may have been overlooked due to the number of players in Florida. He is still getting better in the NFL with the speed to play linebacker after being an end in college as an undrafted free agent. Currently: Patriots injured reserve. (starter prior to injury)

17. Khaseem Greene - S, Avon, Avon, CT (Class of 2008)

247 composite rating: .7556 State (CT) Overall Ranking: 11 National ATH Ranking: 142

NFL Draft: 4th round 2013

He and his brother Ray Graham (Pitt) did not both sign with RU like the McCourtys or Clark/Beaty. Greene chose RU over Akron and Uconn, his only 3 FBS offers. After being moved to linebacker, he won back to back Big East defensive player of the year honors before graduating. You could say he was “under-recruited”. Currently: Chiefs futures contract.

16. Clark Harris, TE/LS - Southern Reg, Manahawkin, NJ (Class of 2002)

247 composite rating: .7667 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 30 National TE Ranking: 69

NFL Draft: 7th round 2007

Despite his size and hands, he only had 3 offers, RU, Syracuse, and Hofstra. By the time he was a sophomore he was starting and leading the team in receiving TDs. Along with Leonard, Harris was on a number of All-American teams at RU even though his production took a major hit as well once additional playmakers came into the program. He can even tackle a little bit. Currently: Bengals Long snapper.

15. Devin McCourty - S, St. Joseph (Montvale, NJ), Nanuet, NY (Class of 2004)

247 composite rating: .8000 State (NJ) Overall: 33 National S Ranking: 55

NFL Draft: 1st round 2009

Devin McCourty who is the most accomplished of the current Knights in the NFL was a 3 star prospect (barely) receiving a grade of .800 by 247 the absolute minimum to be considered 3 stars. Uconn, Maryland, Syracuse, and N.C. State all made possible offers but he decided to go to Rutgers with his brother and never formally offered. So officially he had one offer, and became an All-Pro. Currently: Patriots starting safety

Top 240 Rutgers recruits since 2000 as per 247 composite:

14. George Johnson - DE, Glassboro, Glassboro, NJ (Class of 2006)

247 composite rating: .8111 State (NJ) Overall: 21 National ILB Ranking: 55

[223rd best at RU since 2000] A physical monster, Johnson has gotten better virtually every year from college through the pros. He had 7 offers and was considered an inside linebacker prospect at 6’4” like a Jamal Merrell after him. His rankings weren’t super high but his offer list based on potential included Iowa, BC, Penn St, Syracuse, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. He just scratched the surface of his potential on the banks. Currently: Bucs injured reserve (starter prior to injury)

13. Marcus Cooper - WR, Bloomfield, Bloomfield, CT (Class of 2008)

247 composite rating: .8336 State (CT) Overall Ranking: 6 National WR Ranking: 99

NFL Draft: 7th round 2013

[148th best at RU since 2000] Cooper got interest but no offer from Iowa and BC, but chose RU over Akron, Buffalo, Temple, and Troy. He initially was a wide receiver a la Richard Sherman when RU attempted to replace several departing players at that position. After the shake out he moved to corner where he wasn’t even a full-time starter as a senior behind Ryan and Brandon Jones. His physical talent was intriguing and he was drafted by San Francisco in the 7th round before getting traded to Kansas City where he started as a rookie. You could surely call him a “project” and even “diamond in the rough”. Currently: Cardinals starting corner.

12. Tyler Kroft - TE, Downington East, Exton, PA (Class of 2011)

247 composite rating: .8338 State (PA) Overall Ranking: 25 National TE Ranking: 46

NFL draft: 3rd round 2015

[143rd best at RU since 2000] His size got him offers from SEC (Vanderbilt), B1G (Iowa), ACC (UVA), and several other Big East schools including West Virginia. Kroft burst on the scene at RU at Arkansas as a redshirt freshman with a long reception. After that he was a reliable target before foregoing his final season of eligibility. He hasn’t lived up to the potential at the NFL level yet, but why not expect it? Currently: Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
Kroft just keeps moving on up.
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

11. Mohamed Sanu - S, South Brunswick, Monmouth Jct, NJ (2009)

247 composite rating: .8514 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 21 National S Ranking: 51

NFL Draft: 3rd round 2012

[89th best at RU since 2000] Though not eligible to play at his high school as a senior, since he was too old (19), Sanu was a good soldier who participated on the scout team before being an early enrollee at Rutgers. He may have been more highly recruited (though he did get offers from PSU, Syracuse, WVU, Uconn) if he had played and there was less questions about his academic performance. A world-class athlete, he could have played any offensive skill position (QB, RB, WR, TE), as a punter, as a LB, or safety, which most people had him pegged as. Once the staff saw him with the ball in his hands he was quickly switched to offense and the rest is (Big East) history. he left early for the NFL. Currently: Falcons starting receiver.

10. Tim Wright - TE, Wall, Belmar, NJ (Class of 2008)

247 composite rating: .8537 State (NJ) Overall: 14 National ATH Ranking: 27

[84th best at RU since 2000] Wright always had potential (evidenced by his offer list including MSU, Iowa, MD, and virtually the entire Big East) at RU but never could stay healthy enough, especially when surrounded by several future NFL players at wide receiver. Once making it to the NFL, he was moved to tight end and became a touchdown scoring specialist. He easily exceeded his college TD totals as a rookie in the NFL. Currently: Rehabbing and hoping to return to starting in Detroit.

9. Duron Harmon, S - Caesar Rodney, Camden Wyoming, DE (Class of 2009)

247 composite rating: .8546 State (DE) Overall Ranking: 3 National ATH Ranking: 37

NFL Draft: 3rd round 2013

[82nd best at RU since 2000] Harmon was highly recruited (notably: Stanford, Pitt, Iowa, and Virginia) despite being out of Delaware which does not have a ton of D1 talent. He emerged from a highly recruited defensive backfield pool and jumped Knight and Abdul Smith to start as a RS sophomore. The Patriots surprised many by drafting him in the 3rd round, but have not been disappointed. Currently: Patriots “big” nickel safety

8. Jeremy Zuttah - OG, J.P Stevens, Edison, NJ (2004)

247 composite rating: .8556 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 8 National OG Ranking: 18

NFL Draft: 3rd round 2008

[78th best at RU since 2000] His rankings seem low considering Ohio State, Iowa, Maryland, and Pitt offered him, but Jeremy decided to stay home at RU. Zuttah played all over the line at RU before he settled in at tackle. He continues to get better earning the Pro Bowl nod this season at center. An awesome job recruiting, developing, and preparing him for the next level. Currently: Ravens starting center.

NFL: Preseason-Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders
Longa looks to make a name for himself in the NFL.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

7. Steve Longa - LB, Saddle Brook, Saddle Brook, NJ (2012)

247 composite rating: .8655 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 17 National OLB Ranking: 59

[53rd best at RU since 2000] The offer list doesn’t blow you away, FIU, Maryland, Temple, Western Michigan, (interest from Michigan). Longa actually redshirted his freshman season which is unfortunate because he did not end up coming back for his 5th year to challenge Tyronne Stowe’s records. Currently: Detroit Lions practice squad.

6. Quentin Gause - LB, Archishop Kearney, Rochester, NY (2011)

247 composite rating: .8665 State (NY) Overall Ranking: 3 National OLB Ranking: 36

[49th best at RU since 2000] Gause was part of the Rochester pipeline, and ended up at RU as a medium prospect with offers from Louisville, Duke, and ‘Cuse. Upstate New York players don’t usually get the love of recruiting services because their season is not long and competition is more variable. Gause had the size and speed, developing the skills at RU to get him to the next level. Currently: Broncos reserve linebacker

5. Logan Ryan - CB, Eastern, Voorhees, NJ (2009)

247 composite rating: .8736 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 37 National CB Ranking: 14

NFL Draft: 3rd round 2013

[40th best at RU since 2000] Ryan was among the highest rated defensive backs in a class stacked with them. He stayed home despite offers from BC, Cinci, Iowa, MD, MSU, Northwestern, Purdue, UVA, and WVU. He ended up being the best of the bunch though he did redshirt as a true freshman. After that he locked up receivers and is the best playoff Patriot not wearing #12. Currently: Patriots nickel corner.

4. Brandon Coleman - WR, Bishop McNamara, District Heights, MD (2010)

247 composite rating: .8970 State (MD) Overall Ranking: 7 National WR Ranking: 33

[24th best at RU since 2000] One of the more variably rated prospects. Standing 6’6” with 4.5 speed, though scouts questioned his hands and agility (only offers from RU, BC, and Uconn). As a result of this, I have a feeling the 247 ranking changed retroactively because how can the 33rd best WR prospect in the nation have 3 offers? You can bet other staffs were kicking themselves when he exploded in limited action as a redshirt freshman appearing almost untacklable in the 4th quarter against Uconn. He was a one man show against Syracuse in 2012 when rumor has it he injured his kneecap and was never quite the same. Despite injuries, he left early for the NFL and was undrafted. Currently: Saints possession receiver.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
When you look at size and straight line speed, not many are better than Coleman.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

3. Kenny Britt - WR, Bayonne, Bayonne, NJ (2006)

247 composite rating: .9000 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 6 National WR Ranking: 21

NFL Draft: 1st round 2009

[22nd best at RU since 2000] Many suitors were reduced to RU and Illinois (strange but true). A big time 4 star recruit 6’3, 4.5 speed, solid hands whose only knock was character, it became clear when he was playing on a loaded 2006 team as a true freshman. Anyone who didn’t know him yet was introduced with his amazing catch and run in the pandemonium in Piscataway game. He set records and left early for the NFL. Currently: Rams starting receiver.

2. Leonte Carroo - WR, Edison, Don Bosco Prep, NJ (2012)

247 composite rating: .9183 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 5 National WR Ranking: 26

NFL Draft: 3rd round 2016

[10th best at RU since 2000] He made RU worth watching after following Darius Hamilton’s lead and staying with RU after Schiano departed at the 11th hour. The all-time receiving TD leader was rated a lot higher by 247 today than he was at ESPN though his offer list is impressive: BC, Cal, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, MSU, UNC, Pitt, UCF, UVA, Wisconsin with interest from PSU and Notre Dame. Currently: Miami Dolphins wide receiver.

1. Anthony Davis - OT, Piscataway, Piscataway, NJ (2007)

247 composite rating: .9735 State (NJ) Overall: 3 National OT Ranking: 6 National Overall: 50

NFL Draft: 1st round 2010

[4th best at RU since 2000] Despite friction with coach Schiano which Davis was very outspoken about after deciding to leave early for the NFL, he was pretty steadily committed to RU. He chose the Knights over Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and USC, wow. One of the biggest recruits ever to sign with RU, Davis was a starter from Day 1 as a true freshman. With nothing else to prove he left a year early for the NFL and was a first round pick. Currently: Retired. Was starting for 49ers.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers-Training Camp
Davis lived up to the hype.
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

other notable:

Nate Robinson - 1st (and I don’t mean kryptonate) 247 composite rating: .9954

Tom Savage - 14th. 247 composite rating: .9104

Miles Shuler - 9th. 247 composite rating: .9259

Ray Rice - 163rd. 247 composite rating: .8333

20/20 Hindsight:

1. Strength: Overall numbers of Scarlet Knights in the pros staying consistent over the last few years. As players like Brian Leonard and Gary Gibson before him wind down long careers, it seems the overall total Knights in the Pros has remained rather steady during the regular season in the high teens at minimum (mid 20s in training camp). Keith Lumpkin, Kaleb Johnson among others could get another chance.

2. Strength: Solid contributors abound. Only the linebackers (Greene, Gause, Longa) haven’t truly established a niche on their respective clubs. The rest are key contributors who could have a big role in any given game.

3: Strength: Development through end of their careers and in the NFL for a few guys, primarily Johnson, Harmon, Freeny, and Wright. This is particularly uncommon at the skill positions (even though Chris Hogan is shaking that perception). It’s also not super common to become a linebacker in the Pros after playing line in college, though Jamaal Westerman showed the path to Freeny.

4. Weakness: Decrease in younger infusion lately. This is the counter to #1 because the McCourtys are still in the league, but will be done eventually. Who from the recent teams will keep the legacy going?

5. Weakness: Lack of linemen. Only two offensive lineman and one full time defensive linemen show that the philosophy employed by Rutgers in the Big East was not super successful recently in producing linemen. This is an indication that to compete in the B1G they need to rethink their strategy. Pro-style skill guys (FB, TEs) translated well, but the pro-style linemen did not. Zuttah and Davis were simply so physical skilled they can play in any system somewhere along the line.

NOTE: For the rankings in this article I arbitrarily chose 247 rankings. We will dive into composite recruiting rankings at a later date.

For all of our coverage on 2017 National Signing Day, click here.

NFL: Super Bowl XLIX-New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks
The three amigos of the NE defensive backfield.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports