If there was such a thing as a retroactive draft, where do you think former Steelers legendary linebacker, James Harrison, would be drafted? Top-10, maybe? He came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Kent St. in 2002, so I'm guessing he wasn't anywhere near New York City or any "green rooms" waiting to talk to Suzy Kolber on draft day.
Here's a quote from Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, regarding Harrison's pro status coming out of college:
"Number one, he came out of Kent State. Number two, the measurables were lacking. When you come from a small school, one of the things that can attract you to someone is good measurables. But some measurables were missing."
Harrison bounced around a bit in his early years--he was released by both the Ravens and Steelers--before finally finding a home in Pittsburgh in 2004. I think it's safe to say that Newsome and many other NFL talent-evaluators missed the mark with Deebo.
That might be a fit unfair of me. Hindsight is always 20/20, and it's so easy to revise history. Harrison wasn't a top-10 NFL Draft prospect in 2002; the fact that he rose to super-stardom is a testament to his sheer will and determination.
But you know who was a top-10 (forget that, top five) NFL prospect following the 2012 college football season? The Steelers' latest first round draft choice, Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Before the NFL Combine, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert didn't think his team had a chance at Jones.
However, Jones didn't work out at the combine and performed poorly at Georgia's Pro Day workout in late March--including posting a 4.9 in his 40-yard dash.
Jones's poor performance, along with a diagnosis of spinal stenosis early in his college career, caused his stock to fall. As far as his medical condition, Jones was cleared by doctors before his pro day, so I'm thinking his "slow" 40-yard time was the main culprit that caused his draft stock to fall.
The Combine and Pro Days have become significant events for football teams and fans. And in society, when importance is attached to something, the results are taken very seriously.
Forget that Jones was a very productive football player at a big-time school in the SEC, the best conference in the nation - he didn't perform well in this one workout, so that was enough to sway the opinions of many.
To quote NFL expert Gil Brandt on Jones' 40 time: "That would be the difference between getting to the quarterback and just missing him in the pros."
I understand speed is important, but what about productivity, instincts and preparation? Aren't those things important, too? From what I've seen of Jones, he seems to have all of that and then some. I'll take my chances with those "measurables" over what a person runs in shorts and an Under Armour shirt.
For his team's purposes, Colbert was delighted with Jones' 40 time:
"When he ran the 4.9, we were happy," Colbert said. "We knew we had a chance. We didn't even talk to Jarvis at the combine because we didn't think we had a chance. This kid, when you watch him play, I don't care what he runs. He's a football player in every phase of the game, and that's what was really exciting."
As far as that 4.9, aren't linebackers supposed to be slightly slower than receivers and running backs? And when you're talking about the difference between a 4.9 and a 4.5, the word "slow" is pretty relative.
In this little bit by comedian Jerry Seinfeld about track and field, I think he hilariously illustrates the difference in a few fractions of a second.
Back to Harrison and those "measurables." Can you guess what his 40-yard time was? It was 4.85. I believe he was able to make it to the quarterback over 60 times during his career in Pittsburgh.
Oh, and there was that 100-yard dash--he sure looked pretty fast there:
Maybe in 2023, there will be an article or two about Jones and how so many teams could have possibly been wrong a decade earlier.