First of all, that's bunk. If a top 5-A or 4-A program has to depend on freshmen or sophomores for success their not very well developed. Many, many times there might be a good sophomore or even a good junior prospect on the JV (junior varsity) squad. Why? Well, it could be for lots of reasons, but the main one is playing time.
It's quite possible that on the varsity that year is a senior stud at the same positon who plays every down, doesn't get tired, and doesn't like to be anywhere on the field. The choice is a simple on: play on the varsity and see most of the games from the sidelines, or be on the JV and play every down of every game.
Another reason is discipline. I know of a 4-A school where six kids were booted off the team in early September, and four of them were starters. They won 8 out of 9 games and won district. Sometimes on the varsity level a sophomore or junior who could be playing on varsity is relegated to the JV for disciplinary reason. Many times they're not, because the coach doesn't feel like he can win without them, and then we read about them later when they get into college and beat up a girlfriend or burglarize a vehicle or someone else' apartment.
For whatever reasons, these lists of juniors are then used to create the lists of prospective recruits, oh, and there is one more very important part of the process. Most important is what schools are looking at these kids.
If the right Top 20 Division 1-A school is looking at a kid then he makes the list. And it doesn't really matter what kind of senior season he had. There have been kids on Top 100 Lists who got injured in the first, second, or third game of the season, didn't play the rest of the year, and yet since the Top School recruiting them still wants them, they remain on the list. It doesn't matter if some other kid playing the same position in the same or neighboring district played lights out, set district, state, and national records, if they're not being recruited by a major school, they're very likely NOT to get on the list.
It makes for a vicious circle. After awhile, and that while is now, the lists simply become the product of who is being recruited by whom with little or no emphasis put on current statistics or abilities.
So, who's responsible for these list, for coming up with them? Mostly, recruiting gurus, and once upon a time they were content to be so-called "experts" on a local state or group of states concerning football players and teams. Now, that is totally inadequate and they want to go "national." Now we have several "national" recruiting gurus who consider themselves experts, although except for one or two, NONE OF THEM HAVE EVER COACHED A DOWN OF HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE, OR PRO FOOTBALL, yet they are supposed to know who will best fit into a program or be the best at their position.
Only one aspect of that needs to be shown to discredit the idea. Look at all the high schools across just the state of Texas. Now throw in California and Florida. Now, take one person and have them rate just the football players from those three states. Now, it has to be from the big schools down to the small schools. Too many Heisman Trophy winners came from smaller high school backgrounds to just toss them out.
For arguements sake, say that to properly evaluate a player one would have to view a minimum of three games against quality competition. If one takes a "plays only" game tape and looks at it thoroughly, running the film back and forth to really catch the essence of that player's ability, and can keep from being distracted by either someone else on the same tape or an outside source such as the telephone, eating, sleeping, etc., then it should take an average of about an hour to get through one game. One hour times 3 games is 3 hours.
Just in Texas, there are 32 districts averaging about 7 teams in each of Classes 5-A down to 2-A, and 27 more in 1-A (we won't count Six-Man) and 69 teams in private schools, 3-A and up. That is 159 districts times 7 equals 1,113 teams, plus the private schools is 1,182 schools give or take a few. Now we take that three hours from the above paragraph and just to evaluate players from Texas it would take 3,560 hours to just do Texas. That translates into 68.2 hours per week for just the State of Texas. Doesn't leave a lot of time for California and Florida, much less the entire rest of the country does it. Yet one person can come up with a national list that says "this player" or "that player" is the best football player in the country.
Now, does that mean that the "lists" are useless? Heaven forbid, there are many legitimate names on the list, however what it does mean is that just because a kid's name is NOT on the list doesn't mean one iota that he's not as every bit deserving as being on the list as someone else who is. It all depends, and unfortunately what it depends on has nothing to do with one's abilities, or inabilities. It used to not be that way, once upon a time.