Commentary

Ain't nothing but a number

Updated: February 3, 2010, 2:44 PM ET
By Jon Mahoney | ESPN RISE

Miles AustinAP Photo/Matt SlocumMiles Austin has gone from out-of-the-way Monmouth in New Jersey to being a big deal in Big D.
Think a recruit ranking automatically leads to success in college and beyond? Think again. Here are 10 undervalued players from the past 20 recruiting classes who proved their projections wrong:

(Players listed in alphabetical order:)

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Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys
Garfield (Garfield, N.J.), Class of 2002
Austin spent his college days at Monmouth University in New Jersey. This year, he was third in the NFL with 1,320 receiving yards and started for the NFC in the Pro Bowl.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Austin Westlake (Austin, Texas), Class of 1997
Who dat? That's probably what Texas and Texas A&M fans were asking as they wondered how this Lone Star State native got away. Brees played at Purdue before becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, throwing for more yardage in a four-year span than anyone in history.

Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts
Twin River Valley (Bode, Iowa), Class of 1998
Clark went from a walk-on at Iowa to the nation's best tight end in college to one of the premier players at his position in the NFL.

Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers
Widefield (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Class of 2001
One of the top big-play receivers in the NFL, Jackson had a game-high 122 receiving yards in this year's Pro Bowl. So how does a kid so talented and with a 4.3 GPA to boot end up at Northern Colorado?

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Olympia (Orlando, Fla.), Class of 2004
Johnson used his sub-4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash to lead the NFL in rushing this year with 2,006 yards. Yet he wasn't considered a major recruit in high school and signed with East Carolina.

[+] EnlargeDarrelle Revis
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIDarrelle Revis is considered by many to be the top cover corner in the NFL. There was a time he wasn't considered the best in his state.
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Aliquippa (Aliquippa, Pa.), Class of 2004
In high school, Revis wasn't even viewed as the No. 1 cornerback in Pennsylvania. Now quarterbacks are always wary of testing Revis Island, where great receivers go to disappear against the NFL's best cover corner.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Findlay (Findlay, Ohio), Class of 2000
Roethlisberger used his play in high school to earn a scholarship to Miami ... of Ohio. He then dominated the MAC and has since won a pair of Super Bowls with the Steelers.

Tony Romo
Burlington (Burlington, Wis.), Class of 1998
Think the Wisconsin Badgers could have used a guy like Romo? Instead, one of the game's best signal-callers played his college ball at Eastern Illinois.

Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals
Regis (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Class of 1990
How underrated was Warner? He couldn't even play for his home-state Iowa Hawkeyes and ended up at Northern Iowa. He recently retired from Arizona as one of the most prolific quarterbacks of all time.

Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City, Okla.), Class of 2000
Welker was deemed too small in high school, so he went and proved people wrong at Texas Tech. Then he was considered too small in the pros and he proceeded to catch practically everything thrown his way en route to becoming the best slot receiver in the game.

Jon Mahoney is a football and baseball editor for ESPNHS. Email him at jon.mahoney@espn.com.