Watts, Betts

Omaha Burke's Xavier Watts and Bellevue West's Zavier Betts are the two best players in the state for the 2020 class.

The updated Class of 2020 player rankings means some movement in the overall top 20. It’s also the first installment of position rankings for this class.

A total of 32 players for 2020 are ranked. Some position groups are yet to develop the depth to ensure a realistic top five. Three positions are not rated at all for the same reason: Kicker, punter and tight end.

A new No. 1

Omaha Burke receiver Xavier Watts takes over the top spot. His physical development has been obvious, and it has translated onto the field.

This is not a knock on Bellevue West receiver Zavier Betts, who moves down to No. 2 behind Watts. At 6-foot-3, Betts has always had the measurables and is a freak athlete with power, speed and leaping ability.

This will be an ongoing battle for my top spot, but at this time, Watts has taken a huge leap. His fluidity and versatility on the football field — he is a star safety, too — is striking.

Player rankings are a projection. Watts currently has six power-conference scholarship offers to Betts’ four. I find that siding with college coaches and their evaluations is a good practice.

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Deepest position

Receiver is the headline position in the 2020 class led by Watts and Betts. There's also a deep stable of athletes could can play multiple positions.

Fourteen of the overall top 20 play both ways. Ty Hahn (Johnson-Brock), Tyson Gordon (Omaha Skutt), Marques Sigle (Omaha North) are two-way players who could be recruited at multiple positions. The others are linemen that could land on either side of the ball.

Thinnest position

Quarterback. The 2020 class is yet to have a quarterback with a scholarship offer. By comparison, the 2019 class has one committed to an FCS school and others with Division II commitments and/or scholarship offers.

The Process

There is a formula that I use, and a big factor is scholarship offers. College coaches make their living evaluating players. Yes, some coaches evaluate better than others, but nonetheless, to ignore the level of college offers and the number of them would simply be wrong-headed.

I do take into account the fact that some really good players simply don't have a position at the next level. For instance, a fullback body is not at a premium at the highest college levels at the moment. That can hurt an athlete's offer list.

I have spent hours watching game film, I keep notes from observing practices, games and camps. I also get feedback from coaches who are typically very honest about their own players and players on teams they face. Coaches know it does no good to hype a player. No one wants to get a kid in over his head in college.

Realize that college football is no picnic, and the highest level can be brutal. It's always been my belief that some parents who want their sons ranked high so they can perhaps have a better chance at playing, say, in the Big Ten, for instance, might think twice after standing on the sideline for a game. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that more than 100 players in this junior class were considered for this iteration of the rankings.

The process of naming No. 1 starts with a look at the players returning from the previous year's All-Nebraska team as named by The World-Herald — a strong and time-honored process engineered annually by colleague Stu Pospisil — and those who are getting recruited by schools at the higher levels. From there, I review film, parse statistics and review all-state team nominations provided by coaches from every class. As part of my daily life, I also have routine conversations with high school and college coaches and confer with other sports writers.

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