- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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Like the NFL draft, college recruiting has become a year-round interest for many football fans.
Wednesday is National Signing Day, during which college prospects can make their commitments official, which in turn leads to endless rankings of each school's class.
ESPN's marquee recruiting list, the ESPN 300, has been tracking prospects since 2006. As it turns out, a number of current Patriots once appeared on this list.
29. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (University of Florida)
100. Linebacker Brandon Spikes (University of Florida)
172. Defensive back Malcolm Williams (University of Oklahoma; he would later transfer to TCU)
12. Quarterback Ryan Mallett (University of Michigan; he would later transfer to the University of Arkansas)
49. Tight end Aaron Hernandez (University of Florida)
110. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken (University of Central Florida)
116. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (University of Arizona)
126. Offensive lineman Kyle Hix (University of Texas)
27. Defensive lineman Marcus Forston (University of Miami)
55. Running back Jeff Demps (University of Florida)
It's always interesting to look back on these lists and examine how the top-ranked players develop and produce at both the college and pro level. As we've see each year, there are instances when top-ranked recruits pan out and find immediate and long-term success (South Carolina defensive end Jadaveon Clowney, the top recruit when he came out of high school, is considered a leading candidate to be the top pick in next year's draft), while others stumble.
It's a similar pattern that we see with the NFL draft, as there are plenty of first-round picks who have succeeded, while others have been classified as busts. Conversely, there have been a number of undrafted free agents who have gone on to successful NFL careers.
All of this hammers home the difficulty of personnel evaluation, and why NFL teams dedicate such abundant resources to scouting 365 days a year.