As the 2016 NFL scouting combine is coming to a conclusion, it's important to remember that combine success can vary greatly with the prospects over the years and how their stock either climbed or dropped significantly. There are some prospects that have either started with a higher rankings on boards and ended up dropping because of their performance at the combine, while there are also some that initially ranked lower on the rankings but wound up becoming more known after the combine. This did and also did not necessarily translate to success or lack of success in the NFL.
A great example of prospects that weren't regarded as highly as they were till the combine were Dontari Poe and Jason Allen. Those are two examples of prospect that raised their stock quite a bit after the combine but wound up with differing success or lack of success in the NFL. Allen, who ended up going 16th in the 1st round to the Miami Dolphins, wound up busting in the NFL, while on the the contrast, Dontari Poe went 11th to the Kansas City Chiefs and his career is looking like a solid one with having made 2 pro bowls in his first 4 years in the league.
How could two guys end up with such different paths? Let's take a look at what made them go that high in their respective drafts:
Jason Allen CB/S Tennessee
Weight :202 LB's
40 yard dash: 4.39 seconds
Vertical jump: 39.5 inches
3 Cone drill: 6.75 seconds
Throughout his college career at Tennessee:
Jason Allen was a 3 year starter for the Tennessee Volunteers and ended up starting 14 games at CB, while also starting his last 12 at safety. In the 2004 season, after starting the first game at CB, he was moved to safety and he wound up leading the SEC with 123 tackles and was an Associated press third-team All-America and second team All-SEC. Things took a turn for the worse though in 2005 as he suffered a season ending hip injury while tackling Georgia Tight End Leonard Pope.
Due to the injury his stock really became a question mark and going into the combine he was considered a 3rd to 4th round guy. By the conclusion of the combine he wound up raising his stock all the way into the 1st round with an unreal performance at the combine. Mike Mayock said that "if he explodes here like he can, he's going to go from nobody's list to everyone's list". Well he certainly was on Miami's list and he went 16th overall in the 1st round and as we all know now, he wound up being a bust.
Dontari Poe NT Memphis
Weight: 346 LB's
40 yard dash: 4.98 seconds
Bench press: 44 Reps
3 Cone drill: 7.90 seconds
Dontari Poe out the university of Memphis was considered a project coming out college. Poe coming off his final season was considered to be somewhat of a sleeper and was considered to be close to breaking into the 1st round with a good combine performance. Not only did he have a good combine performance, he had an unreal performance that left scouts and coaches in awe. Some draft analysts moved him from their number 4 or 3 DT prospect to their number 1 after that performance.
As the draft process began to wind down though, many analysts and scouts went back and watched his tape and began to question why this guy was considered such a high pick. His production was considered average at best, but also that he lacked the polished traits so that led people to believe that he would need a good amount of development and would have to have really good coaching to be made into a successful player. So analysts began moving him down their rankings. Kansas City still took him very high with the 11th pick in the draft.
He indeed turned out to be a guy who needed some developing and just like Mayock thought, he wound up having a poor rookie season that had some KC writers thinking they pulled an Al Davis. They wound up being completely wrong and he wound up going to two straight pro bowls in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He's considered to be among the best NT's in the league and has rewarded Kansas City by taking a chance on him.
Why such differing results?
It's a good question, why did they have such different pro careers?
This is a good example of why the draft is unpredictable and why combine success adds to that unpredictability. Poe was considered to be a guy who was very raw while Allen on the other hand was seen as a 1st round talent that almost lost his stock to injury, yet Allen wound up being the bust.
When general managers make their boards, they understand the risks and rewards that come with taking a player, no prospect is guaranteed success when there are so many factors that play into this process. A general manager has to feel confident in not only the player but the coaching staff that will play a big role in developing him. No prospect is perfect, they all have their flaws and they all have their strengths.
Kansas City understood the risks that came with taking someone so raw, but they deemed that his positives were worth it more than it was passing up on him for his weaknesses. They trusted their coaching staff that he would develop into a quality player and he did. Miami's coach Nick Saban understood the risks with taking a player who didn't play his final season but ultimately he liked what they saw out of him more than what they didn't see out of him. He trusted that the coaching staff was going to develop him into a quality player but that just didn't happen.
It's all trust, the regime that picked those players obviously trusted them or else they wouldn't have picked them. It may not make sense to other teams and they may not necessarily make sense to the fans either, but they trusted them, and that's what is important. Trust can lead to busts and successful players and the stars of the combine are no different. Teams can fall in love with the measurables more so than the tape and sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't.
The reason why Allen didn't work out and Poe has is because that's the way the draft is. It's unpredictable, teams can't predict success, they can only trust the prospect, the success part is up to the prospect and the coaching staff. Poe and the KC coaching staff delivered, while Allen and the Miami staff did not. That's all there is to it. The draft is a double-edged sword and the combine success only adds to it.