I don't often criticize recruiting services or analysts -- everybody has his own way of trying to do the best job he can, I rationalize, and some do it better than others -- but I wish someone could explain to me how everybody came up with such varying evaluations of the Chicago area's top three players this year.
We're talking about tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz of Johnsburg, wide receiver Kyle Prater of Proviso West and offensive lineman Christian Lombard of Fremd.
Fiedorowicz, who is committed to Illinois but has indicated his intention to visit Iowa and Wisconsin, is rated as the No. 13 player in the nation (and the best tight end of all) by Tom Lemming. But he is rated No. 65 by Scout, No. 85 by ESPN and No. 111 by Rivals.
Prater, who is committed to USC but likely will change his mind and opt for Illinois or Oklahoma, is rated as the No. 2 player in the nation by Rivals but No. 13 by Scout, No. 35 by Lemming and No. 43 by ESPN.
Lombard, who has indicated that his January commitment to Notre Dame is rock solid and doesn't plan to make any further visits, is rated No. 30 by Lemming and No. 59 by Scout. He isn't even rated in ESPN's top 150 (he is the No. 21 offensive lineman in the nation on ESPN's list) and isn't included in Rivals' top 250.
"I can only explain my ratings," Lemming said. "I have seen them all play in person and on film. I can't explain the other services. I don't know who they are. To me, everything is arbitrary but I think my ratings are solid.
"Have the other services seen them in person and on film? Who is doing the evaluating? Who saw them? The other services live on being anonymous. Who has these these kids play? If there is a wide disparity in the ratings, it means different people are seeing different things."
It also means other factors are influencing the evaluations. Like politics, for example. There is a battle between the Lemming/Rivals U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the ESPN all-star game, which hasn't selected a Chicago area player in two years. Some evaluators never have seen them play. And some players are overlooked because they didn't attend camps that are sponsored by some services.
Rivals recently honored Fiedorowicz for his acceptance to the U.S. Army game. But he still hasn't cracked Rivals' top 100 and is rated as the fifth best tight end on its list. Lemming singled out Fiedorowicz as the nation's premier tight end after the 2008 season. Without Lemming's endorsement, the 6-7, 245-pounder wouldn't have been invited to the game.
How about Lombard? He accumulated 30 scholarship offers before he committed to Notre Dame in January, more than twice as many as Prater or anyone else. How many offers would he have received if he had waited to commit after the 2009 season? Lemming claims the 6-6, 295-pounder is playing better than any other offensive lineman in the Midwest, better than anyone else in the state is playing his position. Other services haven't mentioned his name since January.
Most people seem to agree on Prater. Lemming believes he is the second-best wide receiver in the nation, behind Darius White of Fort Worth, Texas.
One other thing about Rivals' calculations: In its most recent update of the top 250 players in the nation, published this week, Rivals rates quarterback Taylor Graham of Wheaton North as the No. 228 player in the nation. But the Ohio State-bound Graham was injured early in the season and no longer is playing. Several quarterbacks in the Chicago area have had better seasons, including Lake Forest's Tommy Rees, Prospect's Miles Osei, Hinsdale Central's John Whitelaw and Downers Grove South's Chandler Whitmer.
So the question is: Do you rate a player based on his scholarship offers or by his senior production or his body of work or his size, speed and potential? Or which all-star game he will participate in, whose shoes he is wearing or which summer camp he attended?