Ranking college football's top 25 recruits regardless of class

by Ricardo Gutierrez - When comparing the 2023 recruits to the 2024 (and even 2025 and 2026) prospects, who is No. 1?

Ranking college football's top 25 recruits regardless of class

Ranking the top 25 college football recruits regardless of class: How Arch Manning compares with top 2024 QB Quarterback Arch Manning, the nephew of Peyton and Eli who is also the No. 1-ranked prospect in the 2023 class, has drawn comparisons to Andrew Luck. Scott Clause/USA TODAY Network 8:00 AM ET Craig Haubert Close Craig Haubert ESPN Staff Writer National recruiting analyst and analyst for ESPNU More than a decade of college and pro coaching experience. Graduated from Indiana and Nebraska-Omaha Tom Luginbill Close Tom Luginbill ESPN Analyst Senior National Recruiting Analyst for ESPN.com Coached in four professional football leagues Graduated from Eastern Kentucky and Marshall With the high school football season long behind us and now deep into spring camp evaluations, our scouts are ready to rank the top college football prospects across all grad classes. All-class football rankings can be challenging given the various stages of physical maturity, but there will always be exceptional young talent. It is important to note that for prospects in the 2024 and 2025 classes, we considered the ceiling for both their physical and mental development. We also provided a player comparison for each of the 25 stars on our list. To be clear, the prospects below don't yet have the skills of the established college football talents to whom they are compared, but they do have the potential to develop matching skill sets based on striking similarities in their overall traits. 1. QB Arch Manning Isidore Newman School (Louisiana) Class of 2023 Believe the hype. As expected, given his family history -- he's Peyton and Eli 's nephew -- Arch has an advanced understanding of how to play the position. He also has great arm strength and accuracy. Manning totaled more than 2,000 passing yards and threw 26 touchdown passes with just four interceptions in 10 games in 2021. He also rushed for 365 yards and scored eight times on the ground. A polished pocket passer, he's clearly the most mobile out of all the Mannings and is blessed with the same poise. Texas , Georgia , Alabama , Florida and LSU appear to have the inside track, as Manning has visits lined up for all five this summer. Player comparison: Andrew Luck , Stanford 2. QB Malachi Nelson Los Alamitos High School (California) Class of 2023 Nelson is already an accomplished passer with a top-level skill set, but his upside stands out. He has a lot of physical growth development left to do. As he continues to mature and get in the weight room, he will only become stronger and more physically capable. A naturally strong arm with a fluid release, he will head into the fall having already thrown 70 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions in his high school career. The one-time Oklahoma commit-turned-USC pledge is expected to lead the turnaround for the Trojans under new head coach Lincoln Riley. Player comparison: Desmond Ridder , Cincinnati 3. CB Cormani McClain Lake Gibson High School (Florida) Class of 2023 McClain possesses just about every coveted skill a coach could want in a perimeter player, not to mention his 6-foot-2 frame, long arms and 4.58-second laser-to-laser 40 time. He has a highly competitive temperament and is a confident cover player capable of matching up with the best of the best at wideout. He possesses terrific ball skills and moves like a wide receiver. Regardless of class, we'd stack up McClain with the best cornerbacks from the 2021 and 2022 classes as well. Florida leads for the highly coveted five-star DB. Player comparison: Kaiir Elam , Florida 4. QB Dylan Raiola Chandler High School (Arizona) Class of 2024 Raiola is physically advanced as a passer, particularly from the pocket. He might not "wow" with mobility and creativity when things break down, but he will make throws that the majority of top-level 2023 prospects can't consistently make. He generates impressive velocity at this early stage. He's at his best when on time and driving the ball downfield. The Ohio State commit possesses one of the stronger arms among current high schoolers. Player comparison: Tanner McKee , Stanford 5. LB Anthony Hill Billy Ryan High School (Texas) Class of 2023 Hill is a dangerous defender, as he will attack offenses in a variety of ways. With his supreme blend of size, speed and agility, he is a physical presence defending the run downhill, hunting down quarterbacks off the edge and matching up favorably in coverage. The five-star is a sideline-to-sideline presence and is not only a strong tackler, but an explosive popper on contact to generate turnovers. Not quite as fast and mobile as 2022 five-star and LSU signee Harold Perkins , Hill is built with more mass and is further along at the position, which qualifies him for a ranking among the top overall prospects. Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas are in the mix, but Texas A&M has the slight lead. Player comparison: Devin Lloyd , Utah 6. OT Francis Mauigoa IMG Academy (American Samoa) Class of 2023 A five-star IMG Academy offensive lineman made this list a year ago in Alabama signee Tyler Booker , and now the school's OL unit is represented again with Mauigoa. The fourth five-star from the offensive trenches in the past five cycles from IMG, he continues a tradition of elite big men. Of that talented group, which also includes JC Latham (2021) and Evan Neal (2019), Mauigoa has the most upside. A prospect who initially had his sights set on being a defensive tackle, he has successfully transitioned to the offensive line and continues to make positive strides. A big body that carries his weight well, Mauigoa possesses excellent quickness and agility and can use his 6-6, 325-pound size to control defenders. The top-rated offensive lineman in the 2023 class can be a physical and dominant presence with room to grow. Alabama, Oregon , Miami , Florida and USC are all pushing hard for his pledge. Player comparison: JC Latham, Alabama Cornerback Desmond Ricks is one of the top recruits in the 2024 class. ThreeStep 7. CB Desmond Ricks IMG Academy (Florida) Class of 2024 Still young with plenty of time to develop further, the 6-1, 171-pound Ricks already impresses with his length, range, quick feet and flexibility. In addition to possessing many coveted traits for a top-tier corner at this early stage, he has also shown an aggressive and physical nature in his play. Ricks can press and set the edge as a run defender and does not shy away from contact. As we say, 6-1 corners with fluid hips are not standing on every street corner. Florida State and Alabama lead for the elite DB. Player comparison: Mykael Wright , Oregon 8. OT Kadyn Proctor Southeast Polk High School (Iowa) Class of 2023 Proctor stands among the top prospects in any class because he possesses all the tools to be an elite tackle at the college level. The five-star not only looks the part, but his play is equally impressive. He is a flexible big man who is a natural knee bender and is also an easy mover with great feet. A two-way player in high school, he plays offensive line with nastiness as well. He slots just behind Mauigoa because he doesn't consistently face the same level of competition, but this is an excellent OL prospect with the tools to be a dominant player in the trenches wherever he signs. Iowa , Alabama and Oregon are the favorites, with the Hawkeyes leading the pack. Player comparison: Evan Neal, Alabama 9. WR Joshisa Trader Miami Central High School (Florida) Class of 2024 Trader is an exciting young playmaker who is on the cusp of gaining significant notoriety. The highest-ranked receiver on this list, Trader has quickly shown he can be a dangerous weapon in the passing game. He can surge off the line and quickly hit top speed while smoothly starting and stopping to create after the catch. Just heading into his junior season, Trader is already a crisp route runner and possesses excellent ball skills with the ability to quickly extend and pluck the ball. With a wealth of physical tools, he certainly is a player to watch as he continues to fill out his frame and build off promising early performances. Ohio State and Miami are out front early. Player comparison: Chris Olave , Ohio State 10. LB Jaquavious Russaw Carver High School (Alabama) Class of 2023 Russaw was a player who jumped off the screen in initial evaluations for the 2023 Junior 300 a year ago, and after making an initial big splash in the rankings, he remains an elite prospect. He can be a well-rounded playmaker who can not only disrupt as a pass-rusher off the edge but also be tough against the run. At 6-3, 230 pounds, he possesses good size and excellent power. He not only wins battles in tight quarters, but he also moves quickly with the ability to change direction and close on ball carriers. Alabama has the lead for the five-star edge defender. Player comparison: David Ojabo , Michigan 11. QB Dante Moore Martin Luther King High School (Michigan) Class of 2023 Editor's Picks Breaking down the top uncommitted 2023 recruits by position 15d Tom VanHaaren Football recruiting class rankings: LSU, Clemson and Oregon enter top 25 17d Craig Haubert The next Sauce Gardner? Top 2023 recruits who remind us of current stars 21d Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert 2 Related Moore is a difference-maker with a great feel for the game. He has natural instincts for timing and when to use his feet. He's like C.J. Stroud , but a better runner. He's smooth and poised while making the necessary throws with very good arm strength and accuracy. He has a knack for throwing guys open. Moore can change the game as both a runner and passer, which is coveted in today's college game. He has the physical traits to compete right away. Notre Dame , Michigan and LSU are competing for the highly coveted quarterback. Player comparison: Matt Corral , Ole Miss 12. CB Ellis Robinson IV IMG Academy (Connecticut) Class of 2024 The second cornerback out of IMG to make this list, Robinson is as talented and promising a prospect as Ricks is at this premium position. Not quite as tall as his teammate, Robinson possesses more length and has a leaner frame to add weight. He is an explosive defender with quick feet and the tools to lock down receivers. He also plays with an aggressive and physical style that should only improve as he continues to develop physically. Georgia and Alabama are the early favorites. Player comparison: Jalyn Armour-Davis , Alabama 13. DT Peter Woods Thompson Public School (Alabama) Class of 2023 Woods elicits comparisons to the NFL's Aaron Donald , making him among the elite prospects overall in high school football. Donald coming out of high school was roughly 6-1, 260 pounds, and is still not considered a big D-linemen, but he is among the most disruptive. Woods is a little bigger at the same stage (6-3, 275) but is still not a massive physical presence for the position. That said, when the ball is snapped, he can wreak havoc. Explosive like Donald, he can penetrate and blow up plays, and is also powerful and active with his hands, which can make him very difficult to contain. Alabama will be tough to beat for the in-state Woods. Player comparison: Tyler Davis , Clemson 14. DT James Smith Carver High School (Alabama) Class of 2023 Smith has demonstrated the tools to be an absolute handful in the trenches. He possesses ideal size (6-3, 300) and is an explosive big man with good flexibility. He will quickly penetrate and blow up plays, but he can also uncoil, gain leverage, stand up blockers and stuff the run. Being big and strong is not just what helps separate him from a pack of talented defensive tackles in his class; he's also agile, which can allow him to be a factor all along the line of scrimmage. Smith's blend of size, power and mobility should help him be a three-down playmaking presence in the trenches. We expect the highly touted defensive lineman to end up in Tuscaloosa. Player comparison: Devonte Wyatt , Georgia 15. RB Richard Young Lehigh Senior High School (Florida) Class of 2023 Young is about as complete a back as there is at the high school level: speed, power, strength, balance, vision and decisiveness, so he wastes little time making cuts. He is a downhill runner with a slashing style that makes him very difficult to get a clean shot at. Not only could he be a load carrier, but he can also make opponents miss in the open field and separate with his 10.9-second 100-meter speed. Young averaged almost 10 yards per carry as a sophomore. He rushed for 1,755 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior. Each year, he has gotten more productive. Alabama leads for this every-down back, and he's the perfect fit. Player comparison: Bijan Robinson , Texas 16. WR Zachariah Branch Bishop Gorman High School (Nevada) Class of 2023 The No. 1 WR in the ESPN 300, Branch is a track sprinter (10.5 100-meter) who can play football. What he lacks in ideal size (5-9, 162), he makes up for in elite speed, change-of-direction skills and game-breaker potential as a return man. He's a blur with the ball in his hands and is gaining strength on his smaller frame. Don't sleep on him in the slot; he's a matchup nightmare with his speed up the seam and underneath separation ability. Branch joined an elite group of 2023 prospects when he committed to USC. Player comparison: Wan'Dale Robinson , Kentucky 17. DE Ari Watford Salem High School (Virginia) Class of 2025 Despite limited experience as a high school football player, Watford is already generating a lot of interest and excitement in his promise. An injury limited his action as a freshman, but he began getting offers as an eighth-grader -- and that list is growing. A long edge defender with an 81-inch wingspan, he possesses a big frame (6-5, 220) to develop with explosive initial quickness and wiry strength. He bends and moves well, and despite limited game action, already shows a good feel for the game in his ability defeat blocks. There is a lot of football still ahead for Watford, but the early signs are impressive. Look for Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, North Carolina and Texas A&M to be among the early favorites. Player comparison: Kayvon Thibodeaux , Oregon 18. S Anquon Fegans Thompson Public School (Alabama) Class of 2025 Thompson High School has developed into a powerhouse program with two members of its defensive unit signing with Alabama in 2022. This year's roster still has five-star Peter Woods , ESPN 300 DB Tony Mitchell and Fegans, maybe the most talented of the group. The younger brother of Trequon , a 2022 ESPN 300 corner and Under Armour All-American, Anquon flashes the tools to be even better than his brother. He possesses a good frame for this stage and is smooth mover in coverage with excellent range. He is a strong open-field tackler who will become even more impactful as a run defender with continued physical development. Alabama will be in the driver's seat for the younger Fegans. Player comparison: Brandon Joseph , Notre Dame 19. QB Nicholaus Iamaleava Long Beach Poly High School (California) Class of 2023 Talk about upside. Wait until he gets into Tennessee 's college weight room. We love quarterback prospects who are physically gifted but at the same time have a high ceiling for development. Iamaleava can be raw with his loose and whip-like delivery but has room to hone and refine his throwing motion through coaching and offseason work. The future Vol will need to develop the strength to not only enhance his skill set but help aid in durability as well. Player comparison: Hendon Hooker , Tennessee 20. ATH K.J. Bolden Buford High School (Georgia) Class of 2024 A sub-11-second runner in the 100 meters, Bolden is a big-play speedster with production in all three phases of the game. That speed, along with good ball skills, allows him to be a vertical threat in the passing game on offense. With a great frame to develop and an aggressive style of play, he could also be an impact player in the secondary for a college program. Look for his recruitment to come down to Georgia and Alabama. Player comparison: Andrew Booth Jr ., Clemson Stacy Gage is one of the top running backs in the class of 2024. ThreeStep 21. RB Stacy Gage IMG Academy (Florida) Class of 2024 Gage is one of the best contact balance runners in quite some time. It is very difficult to get a clean shot at him, and even when a defender lands one, Gage just doesn't go down. He routinely bounces off tacklers and runs with a forward lean; it usually takes multiple defenders to bring him to the ground. Gage is built in the mold of former Bama great Trent Richardson with the power and lower body strength to push the pile and be a lead back. Oklahoma is the early leader for Gage. Player comparison: Ken Walker III , Michigan State 22. CB Charles Lester III Riverview High School (Florida) Class of 2024 Lester made this list a year ago, and the talented 2024 corner maintains a slot among this selective group. A ball hawk with appealing height and length, and despite still being an underclassman, he has shown a savviness beyond his years in reading offenses. A rangy defender with an aggressive style around the ball, Lester is scheme versatile and a big-time playmaker. It might be an in-state Florida/FSU battle for the 2024 corner. Player comparison: Josh Jobe , Alabama 23. QB Julian Sayin Carlsbad High School (California) Class of 2024 We like Sayin's style and feel for pressure. For a young player, he is crafty when things break down and doesn't lose his confidence. He does such a nice job of keeping his eyes downfield when the pocket closes. Sayin is exciting because he is a late bloomer and has so much upside to develop physically. Alabama, USC, Oregon and Texas are schools pressing early for his services. Player comparison: Kedon Slovis , Pitt 24. CB Jaylen Mbakwe Clay-Chalkville High School (Alabama) Class of 2024 A top performer among the defensive backs at a loaded Under Armour Atlanta camp this spring, Mbakwe has wasted little time making a strong impression. With good length, excellent speed, smooth hips and confidence, he possesses the tools to be an outstanding cover corner at the college level. In addition, he has also shown he will support the run, and that should only improve as he gets bigger and stronger. In-state Alabama is the front-runner for this lockdown corner. Player comparison: Trent McDuffie , Washington 25. QB Julian Lewis Carrollton High School (Georgia) Class of 2026 Lewis has a chance to be special. He's very young but extremely gifted. Go back to his seventh-grade tape -- yes, seventh grade -- and it's clear that normal 12-year-olds don't perform like he does. Lewis has one of the smoothest deliveries of any quarterback over the next three recruiting classes, and he's in the class of 2026 -- about to start his freshman year of high school. Obviously, there is still a lot of growth and physical development to come, but his knack for passing and arm talent can't be coached. We expect him to be one of the biggest targets to come over the next three recruiting cycles. Georgia will be hard to beat for the 2026 phenom. Player comparison: Dorian Thompson-Robinson , UCLA