The 2013 Ole Miss recruiting class was a hot topic of conversation the moment it stepped on campus. Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1 player, chose Ole Miss over basically every other school. Laquon Treadwell, the No. 1 receiver, selected the Rebels over Michigan and many other programs. Everyone in the country wanted Laremy Tunsil. Tony Conner was a hot commodity as well.
Fast forward three years, and three of those four are projected to be selected in the first round in April's NFL Draft. Ole Miss just signed a historic class, but how good is it in comparison to that 2013 class that wowed everyone so much? Can it match the highs of the class? Is there a big talent drop-off in 2016 like we saw in the 2013 class?
The definitive answer will become much more clear in a few years, obviously, but let's look at how the classes compare on paper. After all, that's all we really have to go on at this point.
Among the top 15 prospects, the differences are pretty significant.
So, one way to evaluate a class is based around the top half or so. These players are the most likely to contribute, so a valid argument can be made that they're the best indicator of class quality. Let's take a look at how the top rated 15 players compare to one another. Before you look at this chart, let me make a note that it does not include junior college players. Since they are not nationally ranked in the same way high schoolers are, it would pretty much wreck the data. This point does harm the 2013 class in this comparison since Lavon Hooks and Nick Brassel were both highly rated junior college players. The 2016 class only has one postgrad, Myles Hartsfield, a four-star corner with five years of eligibility who I've removed from the dataset as well for the same reasons as the jucos. The y-axis is national ranking (higher is a lower ranking, or "worse"). The x-axis is the recruit's ranking within Ole Miss' signing class (again, high equals low).
Near the very tip top of the class, when you look at just the top five ranked players, the classes are neck and neck. Past that, the 2016 class separates a lot in national ranking. Consider the fifteenth best player of 2016, Jacob Mathis, being ranked at 338 while 2013's Daronte Bouldin is ranked 866. That difference is quite vast.
And it gets more vast when you look at the entire class.
When you look at the entire signing classes, the difference is remarkable. The most recent signing class's last ranked player, Tariquious Tisdale at 745, would rank fourteenth in the 2013 class. That's right. Even the "worst" player in the 2016 class would be well inside the top 15 in 2013's class. In other words, we could fit this entire class under 2013's line in the first graph up there.
So whether you're evaluating by overall class and depth or just by the most likely contributors, 2016 is just better than 2013. Will they be better on the field? Who knows. They're better on paper though, and that's all we have to go on. This recent class missed on some defensive players late, but all in all, it's objectively better. That has to be encouraging for the program moving forward.