What No. 1 NFL draft picks were like as college football recruits

Matthew Stafford, the fifth-ranked prospect in the Class of 2006, is still regarded as one of the premier quarterback recruits over the past 15 years thanks to his live arm. Doug Benc/Getty Images

Quarterback Bryce Young lived up to the hype of being a five-star college football recruit, as the Carolina Panthers made him a No. 1 NFL draft pick on Thursday night.

However, not all No. 1 picks have had that accurate of an NFL forecast. We talk often about the unknown variables when evaluating high school prospects off pure film and combine results. That inexact science comes to fruition when looking back on top selections.

Dating back to the first draft class of the ESPN recruiting era in 2009, only six No. 1 selections were ranked as five-star prospects out of high school. In fact, four No. 1 draft picks landed outside our ESPN 300 rankings.

Craig Haubert, Tom Luginbill and Billy Tucker break down what former No. 1 draft prospects were like as high school prospects.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in April 2021. It has been updated through the 2023 NFL draft.