I have to be honest, I didn't pay much attention to the just-concluded NFL Scouting Combine. I don't know who did enough to increase his draft stock and who turned in a Wonderlic score that has people wondering if he has the IQ of a pencil.
The way I figure it, the draft experts out there can do the heavy-lifting and crunch the numbers, input the data and upload the videos, so guys like me can spend some of my leisure time poring over said input and forming my opinions (thank you, NFL.com, Mel Kiper and you, Mr. Armchair Kiper, for the plethora of info that will be at my fingertips between now and April 28).
There's one thing I do know, however: There are some phenoms out there right now just waiting to be drafted in the top half of the first round who will be total stiffs after they sign their first professional contracts. There are also some guys out there who will have to overcome the odds of being low-round picks (or UDFAs), but will manage to turn themselves into fine NFL players.
A lot of what will give these future rookies either a major advantage out of the gate (and plenty of opportunities) or a huge disadvantage right off the bat (and maybe one opportunity) are those all-important draft-measurables that are usually the highlight of the Combine. How high did he jump? How well did he perform the cone drills? What was his 40 time? How many reps did he manage on the bench press?
As I touched on a couple of weeks ago, perhaps Andrew Billings (or a similar defensive lineman) impressed people enough during his stay in Indianapolis that he can already count on a huge signing bonus before he even plays a down of professional football, while some offensive lineman perhaps didn't make a great first impression and may now be considered too "soft" for his skills to transition to the next level. Kelvin Beachum, the Steelers seventh round pick in 2012, wasn't exactly described in a glowing fashion in his NFL.com Draft Profile. Beachum was described as a "soft prospect" with "questionable NFL-transferable skills," who would surely move inside to play guard, that is, if he could make the cut.
Of course, you now know Beachum worked himself into one of the top young left tackles in the NFL and, despite a knee injury that ended his 2015 season before it was halfway over, will surely get a decent-sized raise once free-agency commences on March 9. Same could hold true for left guard Ramon Foster, who, after going undrafted in 2009, has started 87 games for the Steelers and will probably be too expensive if he hits the open market in a week or so.
Antonio Brown wasn't drafted until the sixth round in 2010, and, according to his draft profile, lacked size, had decent but not great hands and his route running left a lot to be desired. Today, Brown hasn't exactly bulked up, but can you name a receiver with a better overall skill set? In fact, can you think of a better overall football player than No. 84?
Had Brown arrived in the NFL with a first round tag, he might already have the Dez Bryant-sized contract he has been seeking. Then again, perhaps Brown needed that chip on his shoulder and those long odds in order to turn himself into the player he is today.
Speaking of overcoming long odds, here is what Ravens' general manager Ozzie Newsome had to say years later regarding James Harrison's 2002 pre-draft measurables: "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 between the Steelers and Ravens early in his career (and even played in the now defunct NFL Europe) before latching on with Pittsburgh in 2004 and going on to become one of the greatest defensive players the organization has ever employed.
Finally, here is this glowing pre-draft description of 2007 number one overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell, courtesy of Football Outsiders:
"Russell is possibly the most physically gifted quarterback prospect since John Elway."
In fairness to Football Outsiders, they went on to describe a couple of red flags (red flags that ultimately ended Russell's career before it even began), but it is a good lesson to learn.
Sometimes, the measurables don't add up.