Evaluating high school football and basketball players is a cottage industry, an inexact science that is certain to fuel heated debates on Internet message boards from coast to coast.
In football, does anyone ever agree with Tom Lemming, Allen Wallace, Max Emfinger, Rivals, Scout, ESPN and CSTV?
In basketball, don't invite Bob Gibbons (All-Star Sports), Van Coleman (Hoopmasters), Clark Francis (HoopScoop), Roy and Harv Schmidt (Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye), Brian Stinnette (ChicagoHoops), Joe Henricksen (City/Suburban Hoops Report), Bill Flanagan, Rivals, Scout, ESPN and CSTV to the same party.
Want to start an argument?
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was rated as the No. 1 football player in the nation by Lemming, Rivals and Scout. But he was No. 4 according to ESPN.
Defensive lineman DaQuan Bowers was rated No. 1 by ESPN, No. 2 by Rivals, No. 9 by Scout and No. 14 by Lemming.
St. Rita's Darius Fleming was No. 31 by Lemming, No. 63 by Scout, No. 89 by Rivals and N. 94 by EPSN.
Mount Carmel's Steve Filer was No. 35 by Lemming, No. 74 by Scout, No. 116 by ESPN and No. 143 by Rivals.
Marian Central's Sean Cwynar was No. 86 by Lemming, No. 159 by Rivals and No. 190 by Scout.
Montini's Garrett Goebel was No. 64 by Rivals, No. 73 by Scout and No. 93 by Lemming.
Lemont's Graham Pocic was No. 94 by Lemming, No. 208 by Scout and No. 211 by Rivals.
How about basketball?
Everyone agrees that Farragut's 6-10 Mike Dunigan and Oak Park guard Iman Shumpert are the two best prospects in the senior class in Illinois.
But ChicagoHoops.com rates 7-footer Aziz N'diaye of Lake Forest Academy as the No. 3 player. Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye doesn't even rank him among their top 150.
ChicagoHoops.com lists Alton point guard Rueben Cotto as the No. 24 player in the class of 2008. But Cotto, who was MVP of the Centralia Holiday Tournament and is one of the leading scorers in the state, isn't listed among Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye's top 150 seniors.
Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye rates Young's Marcus Jordan as the No. 3 player in the junior class. But he is rated No. 18 by ChicagoHoops.com.
ChicagoHoops.com rates North Lawndale's 6-10 Paul Bunch as the No. 4 player in the sophomore class. But Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye doesn't list Bunch among its top 37.
Nobody has a patent on how to accurately evaluate a prospect. College coaches frequently overlook high school players. NFL scouts miss on college players every year.
Two recruiting analysts can attend the same game and evaluate the same player and come away with opposite views. It's all about what you are looking for and how you project a player in a year or two, how you believe he will fit into a program at the next level.
Some analysts aren't looking for the same thing. Some rate players only on senior performance. Who is the best high school player? Some rate players according to how they project them for college? Who will be the best college player? Some even try to project to the NBA or NFL.
Some watch more film than David O. Selznick. Some attend so many games that they get blisters on their behinds. Some rely on opinions from other analysts and high school and college coaches, even sportswriters, people they trust. Everyone has their own system.
Unfortunately, some have ulterior motives. They favor certain colleges or certain conferences. They favor players who attend their summer camps or combines or buy their premium packages on the Internet.
In the end, however, the good guys stay in business and the others fade away. The fans are the big winners. They can enjoy the best of all worlds, comparing Brand A to Brand B to Brand C. Just so long as they don't take it all too seriously. Remember, it's still only a game.