When it comes to the top cornerback prospects in the 2013 national recruiting class, there are three players who are simply in a class of their own.
Kendall Fuller, Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Ramsey are elite-level talents with the size, speed and instincts to become top-level college cornerbacks. Determining the pecking order there was as challenging as beating any of the three in one-on-one coverage.
The five stars listed next to these players' names are well deserved. Each earned a spot in the top 15 of the overall rankings as well. But the trio remains in competition with itself. It has been - and will continue to be - a contested game of king of the mountain. Just ask Fuller, who has managed to hold down the summit as the nation's No. 1 cornerback prospect.
"You never want to be outplayed by someone else," Fuller said. "So just having guys like me, Jalen and Vernon on the field (at camps) made us push ourselves to make plays all over the field and get better."
What's unfolding underneath that battle also warrants mention. The 27 four-star prospects listed beneath the top-three make the 2013 class pop. The position is every bit as a deep as the annoying, inspirational quotes your high school classmates post to Facebook.
"It's clearly the strongest group of cornerbacks in the last three or four years," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "It's also clearly the strongest position this year."
America's top uncommitted cornerback is former Tennessee commit Mackensie Alexander, who dropped two spots at the position despite leaping 26 in the overall rankings. Tough crowd, right?
"You can drop two spots in the cornerback rankings but still move up nationally," Farell said. "That speaks to the strength of this position. It's a rare situation."
To find a batch of corners as highly regarded as this one, you need only flip back to 2009. Do that, though, and the rap sheets you'll find are as long as the lists of accolades.
Six five-star corners graced the final rankings that season. The problem is, a chunk of the group turned into nine-star headaches for college coaches. Five of the six have been arrested, suspended or dismissed from their college teams. Three have spent a few hours in jail for marijuana-related offenses. One was briefly charged with armed robbery.
Predicting such things is close to impossible, but according to Farrell, run-ins with the law seems unlikely with this group. And that, on its own, is enough to give the 2013 class every chance to surpass the highly regarded 2009 group at the next level.
"I would be really, really surprised if these players did get in trouble in college, and that starts with the top three," Farrell said. "Fuller, Hargreaves and Ramsey; I feel really confident that we're not going to look back and say, 'Those are the five-stars in the class of 2013. Look at how much trouble they got in.' "
Historical significance comes later. There's no telling where this class will figure in down the road. For now, these cornerbacks have enough to worry about in each other. It's a fact of which they're all aware.
"We've all heard of each other," Fuller said. "At summer camps, we just started out pretty much to have fun, but our competitive natures took over. When one of the other guys make a big play, I feel like I have to make a big play next."
Expect that as the jostling continues, so too will the spirit.
The last time a class produced the type of cornerback talent present in this year's crop was 2009, when six five-star corners graced the top of the final rankings. A coincidental run of off-field issues helped hold the group back from reaching its full potential.
Kirkpatrick went on to become the college star everyone thought. He left Alabama a year early to become the No. 17 overall pick in 2012 NFL draft. He was, however, arrested for marijuana possession in January of this year. All charges against him have since been dropped and Kirkpatrick is expected to contribute to Bengals' secondary as a rookie.
Jackson was effective as expected when he was on the field at Tennessee, but trouble limited his playing time. He was suspended for violating team rules midway through his freshman season. In November of 2009, Jackson was charged with armed robbery at a Knoxville-area gas station. Charges were dropped, but Jackson was dismissed from the team in mid-2011 for another violation of team rules.
Winston has stayed clear of trouble during his time at Arkansas, but has failed to live up to his high school hype. A senior this season, he has started 12 games as a Razorback and has recorded 47 tackles. Winston has also recovered two fumbles and notched one interception.
Reid was a three-year starter at Florida State and recorded seven interceptions during his time as a Seminole. He set multiple school records in the return game before being arrested and charged with driving on a suspended license and possessing marijuana in July 2012. He was dismissed from the team less than a month later and will finish his college career this season at Division II Valdosta State.
Brown is set to begin his senior season at Ohio State this fall. During his time as a Buckeye, he has played in 21 games and recorded nine career tackles. He was suspended along with two teammates in 2011 after being accused of accepting impermissible benefits totaling $300 or less.
Listed as a backup on Georgia's preseason depth chart, Smith was arrested for marijuana possession in March of 2012. He passed drug tests issued by both the court and the school in the aftermath of the incident and has not been suspended for the Bulldogs' season opener against Buffalo. He has recorded 55 tackles and four interceptions over the course of his first three college seasons.