Remember that cheerleader you wanted to take to prom?
. . .only never got the nerves to ask (or, she had a beau).
Recruiting rankings are a lot like that really hot cheerleader, whom for purposes of the discussion was the chearleading captain and probably dated the QB to boot (we may as well ride the cliche for all it is worth). They're both horribly overrated, even if they are fun to ogle. And, looking back some years down the road - they're way different than you remember.
Why are we so obsessed with ranking recruiting classes before any of the kids have actually graduated from highschool? Does this make any sense whatsoever? I mean, the only more absurd thing I can think of would be having a sport where on the field performance only partly dictated season success - where people not involved in any way, shape, or form instead get to pick who plays who, arbitrarily deciding who gets to when the "MNC" (err. . .).
Let's clear up a few misconceptions:
1) Recruiting doesn't matter - Talent is one of the foundations of success. As it so happens, it just isn't the only one.
2) Recruiting rankings are the end all be all - see above. You have to get talent. However, coaching and player development play a huge role in a school's success. I'd argue they play a bigger role (it is two things admittedly). And that says nothing of all the little things that can bite you, like a rash of injuries.
3) Recruiting Guru's know what's what - I think today's generation of recruiting media members have more access to kids than ever before. Most of them focus on smaller regions. They're probably as well equipped to comment on kids as they've ever been.
But, this is an inexact science at best. It's an uphill battle for coaching staffs. Moreso for website staffs who follow teams/areas. Not that there aren't quality writers covering recruiting right now - but some perspective is in order. That shiny five star RB your team just signed might not see 50 carries in his career. There are a plethora of reasons for this.
And you can't know most of them in advance.
4) Recruiting rankings matter - they don't mean squat. Again, these are handed out before players even get into school. Between signing day and the team's first game a lot of things can happen. Not the least of which is - the kids show up to find out that the game at the collegiate level is so far beyond what they're used to it's frightening. Kids are faster and stronger. Systems get more complicated (even low tech outfits employed by all those rednecks in the SEC). Just going to college is often an adjustment for kids - imagine piling having to play a major college sport on top of that.
Why do services even rank teams? Well, it's probably for the rabid fans as much as anything else. If you build it, they will come. But they're generally sensational and low on substance - like a lot of recruiting coverage. So fans have as much to blame here as anyone else, I think.
It would be much more interesting to rank classes down the road. One could "evaluate" them at the end of each year, but it typically takes a couple of years minimum to show big dividends. For every Adrian Peterson, there are hundreds of guys out there waiting in the wings who don't get serious playing time until later in their careers.
Me? I follow recruiting. As I've said elsewhere, I love knowing things about the kids who will come play at Georgia. Not 40 times necessarily. I like knowing a kid is from Augusta Prep as much as anything else. But I sometimes find myself in conversations starting to fall back on "our class is looking to be #8" or "he's a legit 4 start kid!". I hope I can catch myself, because that stuff is silly and should be ignored. I sometimes think there's too much attention paid to these kids now anyway, and if that's the case them I'm as much of a problem as anyone else.
I don't want to abolish recruiting news services, but I sometimes wish there was more perspective from the people who paid for them. Anyway, recruiting rankings & assorted hype are like that Cheerleader. And much like her, 5 years down the road from highschool (including her freshman 15, gravity, and too much time at the Sig Ep house "hanging with all my guy friends!") can sometimes be a revealing thing.