Photo Caption: Former Ohio wide receiver LaVon Brazill, picked by the Colts in the sixth round.
Tonight (April 26), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will step up to the podium at New York's Radio City Music Hall and announce 32 different names. These are the players, it seems, that have made it.
They survived three or four years in college relatively mistake free (unless their name is Janoris Jenkins). They have put their stamp on the college game and have separated themselves from their peers.
Some have been groomed for this moment for years (see Richardson, Trent).
Some are athletic marvels who are capitalizing on an extraordinary season (see Griffin III, Robert).
Still others are prospects who were overlooked out of high school and have proved to be special talents (see Blackmon, Justin).
Then there are the players whose names will not be called in the fist round of the NFL Draft. Odds are they will not hear their names called during the second and third rounds on Friday evening either. During rounds 4-7 on Saturday afternoon, most will be eagerly glued to the television, watching and waiting for their chance to prove everybody wrong.
Former Ohio University star wide receiver Brazill is in limbo, not sure when or even if he is going to be drafted.
Up to this point, he has done everything required to improve his draft stock. He turned in a solid performance at the NFL Combine, running a 4.48 second 40-yard dash, cracking the all-important 4.5 mark and turning in the 14th fastest time of 41 participating receivers. He added 11 bench repetitions of 225 pounds.
He also managed to stay out of trouble, a seemingly no-brainer task for potential draftees that some athletes manage to overlook.
This is all after putting up school records at Ohio during a season that saw him make countless jaw-dropping catches and exciting plays.
But there are still doubts. At 5-11 and just under 200 pounds, he is a bit undersized. And yes, Mid-American Conference teams might not be the best competition in the world. Lingering injury issues always throw up a red flag.
There is little published opinion offered regarding Brazill and the other players teams term projects or developmental players. Scouts Inc. scout Kevin Weidl wrote that Brazill could provide late value to a team "as early as the fifth round." He continued to praise Brazill's versatility in route running, elite body control and outstanding toughness.
But other scouts seem to barely have Brazill as a blip on their radar.
It speaks to a significant fact of scouting that keeps executives up into the wee hours, wringing their hands while furiously sifting through scouting reports: evaluating players is an all too inexact science.
Each year, a can't-miss prospect ends up being a major disappointment and a no-name rises from obscurity to national fame. Why is that? Because no amount of research, prodding and analysis can override the human element.
Think there have been major improvements in scouting players? Let's take a look at player evaluation by Scouts Inc.
Each year, the company rates the Top 32 players for the NFL Draft. This year the list is topped by the usual suspects – Andrew Luck at No. 1, Robert Griffin III at No. 2, etc.
But how were these same players evaluated just three or four years earlier out of high school? The presumed answer would be that if they are ranked high by the same company now, that they would have been ranked high then, too.
The results, however, are decidedly different.
Of the top 32 players according to Scouts Inc., only 10 were ranked in the top 150 in their class. The list hit on Richardson, who was ranked No. 6 in the class of 2009 and is currently the No. 4 rated draft prospect. It also got Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd right. The big target was the No. 27 rated prospect in his class and currently sits at No. 17. Same with South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was ranked No. 18 out of high school and is now No. 19.
But those are the outliers. It is far more common for overlooked prospects to outshine their projected outlook.
Coming out of high school, Robert Griffin III was the 40th ranked high school quarterback. Justin Blackmon was the 139rd ranked wide receiver in the country. Gargantuan Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe did not even warrant an evaluation.
Granted there are significant differences between evaluating high school and collegiate prospects. College players are more mature, have faced stiffer competition, and have developed further physically, three very important characteristics.
But there remains unquantifiable factors that interviews and tests can only hope to determine. How much does a person love the game? What is their pain threshold? Are they going to change once millions of dollars are handed to them?
There are countless other questions that abound and will not be answered until players begin producing on the field.
Brazill might not have as good of a shot to make a Pro Bowl as some of the earlier-drafted players, but all he is asking for is a chance.
A chance to fulfill his dream.
A chance to make an impact.
And a chance of benefiting from the fact that, once again, great players can spring from anywhere.
Consider these undrafted players who went on to star in the NFL: Tony Romo, Antonio Gates, Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, Marion Motley and Adam Vinitieri.