Debuting 12 new 5 stars in the junior class

Wednesday’s update to the 2024 Top247 rankings featured the first batch of five-star prospects in the junior class. Twelve players earned five-star 98 ratings on 247Sports as Chandler (Ariz.) quarterback standout Dylan Raiola retained his no. 1 overall spot. Raiola is committed to Ohio State.

Eleven additional 98-rated five-stars join Raiola on that lofty plateau. Below is the direct link to the updated 2024 Top247 rankings, along with a few key themes to consider.

TWELVE 5 STARS DEBUT

247Sports revealed the first dozen five-star prospects in the 2024 recruiting cycle. quarterback Dylan Raiola — already the no. 1 overall prospect — leads the way at the top. A big-framed multi-sport athlete (baseball), Raiola’s 50-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio across his first 21 varsity games accompanies a low INT rate of only 1-in-60 pass attempts. He’s averaged 250.1 passing yards in that span and completed 66.1 percent of his throws.

Elite safety prospect KJ Bolden (2) leads a trio of prospects from the state of Georgia, joining hyper-athletic linebacker Sammy Brown (6) and multi-faceted playmaker Mike Matthews (7). Florida claims four of the first 12 five stars in No. 2 defensive linemen David Stone (4), no. 1 receiver Jeremiah Smith (5), top corner Ellis Robinson IVand D-lineman Ernest Willor (12).

“Just playing at a different speed than others,” said 247Sports national analyst Andrew Ivins of Bolden. “Calling card is probably defense, but making plays at receiver, too. Aggressive with angles and not afraid to make a hit. Probably could play single high or in the box. Bolden vs. Mike Matthews is going to be a big debate, in my opinion.”

Let’s take a minute to appreciate the extraordinary profile Brown presents as a long-term off-ball linebacker projection. Brown owns vast two-way experience as he’s averaged 123.6 rushing yards and almost two TDs per game — on 9.9 yards per carry, no less — over his last 17 games. This fall has seen Brown gain almost 1,600 scrimmage yards and score 23 offensive touchdowns while averaging more than eight tackles per game. The 6-foot-2 1/2, 225-pounder also carries wrestling experience and multiple sub-11.00 100-meter times to give him off-the-charts long-term upside.

Williams Nwaneri (3) — one of the most physically gifted prospects regardless of class — joins track-verified speedster corner Jaylen Mbakwe (9), high ceiling pass rusher Elijah Rushinglong-armed playmaking corner Kobe Black (11), and scheme-versatile defensive terror Ernest Willor (12) to round out the five-star group. More on Nwaneri and Willor in a minute.

“Rushing has played very well in a scheme that is not centered around his most high-level tools,” said Chris Singletary, 247Sports national analyst. “Plays with effort and a high motor, and he’s produced with 10 1/2 sacks in 10 games this year.”

ANOTHER STRONG QB CLASS AT THE TOP

By this point, we are all well-acquainted with the strong 2023 quarterback group, and the 2024 cycle looks like it will also provide a good number of potential long-term, early-round projections. Four quarterbacks find themselves in the top 30 overall: Raiola (1), Jadyn Davis (15), Elijah Brown (17), and Julian Sayin (27). CJ Carr (33) and DJ Lagway (35) reside inside the top 40 overall as well.

One key factor for all six of those quarterbacks: meeting a requisite height threshold. In the last seven NFL Drafts, only 1 of 81 quarterbacks drafted measured shorter than 6 feet (Kyler Murray) at NFL Combine or per day events. None of the aforementioned six quarterbacks has been verified shorter than 6 feet, 1/2 inch (Davis).

Another noteworthy commonality across these six young signal callers: accuracy and how it reflects on the stat sheet. All six of these top quarterbacks have completed at least 67 percent of their passes this fall, according to available data.

“Completing more than 70 percent of his passing attempts for the second consecutive season, Elijah Brown continues to win over evaluators with his high-level consistency against top-tier competition — he’s 8-0 in his career against MaxPreps Top 25 opponents,” said Cooper Petagna, 247Sports national analyst. “Despite being a poised passer in the pocket, there’s been some debate on Brown’s physical ceiling as a passer. But similar to Dante Moore in this year’s cycle, Brown’s body of work is becoming difficult to ignore. Showing complete command as a three-level passer, Brown is one of the most intriguing names left available on the quarterback market.”

BIG RISERS TO KNOW

Legitimately 6-foot-6 and already north of 250 pounds, Williams Nwaneri owns a wingspan approaching 7 feet. His physical specs make him one of the most intriguing prospects in the class. We’re seeing steady on-field improvement from Nwaneri as well, as evidenced by 11 sacks and 16 hurries in the eight-game span of available data this fall.

Close to 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Willor presents another hyper-talented front-line defender who, like Nwaneri, could fit multiple roles in varying schemes. Both players previously owned edge designations, but we moved to DL largely because of frame potential and the vast physical growth that could happen in the next few years. Regardless, pay less attention to the specific position designation than the tools, which suggest both have long-term early-round potential.

Brandon Baker (20) rises to No. 1 on the offensive tackle board. Playing right tackle for perhaps the most loaded high school O-line in America (Mater Dei), Baker consistently displays foot quickness, lateral range, and technique that accompany a wingspan bordering on 7 feet. He’s a natural with a smooth, deliberate play style that makes difficult assignments seem routine.

Edge Colin Simmons (24) is another impressive defensive riser to know. He thrives as a stand-up pass rusher with excellent functional athleticism playing for a defense at Duncanville (Texas) that fields several Power Five-caliber players every year.

receivers Perry Thompson (28) has done nothing but rack up counting stats over the last two seasons, all while winning matchups with his 6-foot-3, 200+ build. A three-sporter who hoops and runs track, Thompson finished his junior season with 87 catches for 1,059 yards and nine touchdowns, along with two INTs on defense, after running a wind-aided 10.94 100 and a wind-legal 11.10 this past spring.

quarterback Austin Mack (53) headlines a group of more than a dozen newcomers to the 2024 Top247. Mack has measured anywhere between 6-foot-5 1/2 and 6-foot-8 (!) at multiple events during the pats 18 months, and his natural passing ability has taken off with a meteoric rise in Fall 2022. Mack’s totals through 11 games, and counting: 2,665 yards on 200-for-292 passing (68.5 percent), 33 touchdowns, and only three INTs. Already with above average arm strength, Mack’s height and immense frame likely mean enormous arm strength capacity.

MOVING FORWARD IN 2024…

… expect a lot to change. The all-important junior football season continues for a significant portion of the players in this latest 2024 Top247, and the ultra-valuable context provided by the junior year spring camp circuit, 7-on-7 competition, and track and field season still loom a few months ahead.

Once the recruiting cycle calendar flips fully from 2023 to 2024, we would be surprised if this version of the junior Top247 does not look significantly different upon the next update, which should arrive somewhere around late February to early March.

— 247Sports’ Blair Angulo, Greg Biggins, Brian Dohn, Bud Elliott, Brandon Huffman, Andrew Ivins, Cooper Petagna, Chris SingletaryAllen Trieu, and Steve Wiltfong contributed to this report.

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