Good College Players vs. NFL Prospects

When scouting a player, the first element one has to look at is whether or not the player has the ability to play in the NFL, not how well his ability shines in college. There is an old saying, “There are good college players, and then there are NFL prospects.” This means just because a player is productive and has amassed numerous accolades and stats throughout his collegiate career, does not mean he will be a successful player at the NFL level.

Some recent quarterback examples who were excellent college players are former Texas Tech QB and Heisman Trophy candidate Graham Harrell, who is now playing in the Canadian Football League (Canada); former Georgia Tech QB Joey Hamilton, who was the 1999 NCAA QB of the Year, played in one NFL game from 2000-2004; former Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White was undrafted and only ever made the practice squad of the Tennessee Titans; former Nebraska QB and heisamn trophy Winner Eric Crouch, could not find a constant position in the NFL and has bounced around the professional ranks most recently playing in Canada; former Ohio State QB Troy Smith, has yet to prove he can be a successful NFL quarterback and remains a backup; and former NCAA National Champion Florida QB Chris Leak had a “cup of coffee” (undrafted free agent) with the Chicago Bears before he headed off to play in Canada.  Most of these former collegiate players were major standouts at their respective universities winning the Heisman Trophy or being nominated as a candidate, an award given each year to college football’s most valuable player.

Having scouted both collegiate and professional players, there is definitely a difference as to good college players and professional prospects.  As surprising at it seems, there are even some coaches who do not like to draft players from specific “big name” colleges and universities because they feel the players have become to “accustomed” to things and lose the hard work ethic once they reach the professional ranks.

While this is not true for most professional coaches and how they feel towards collegiate players, I know first-hand where this has been the sentiment of some coaches who tend to devalue certain college programs. A question that has always perplexed me is – Other than recent QB Vince Young, from the storied University of Texas football program and now with the Tennessee Titans, who is the last well-known, highly-decorated quarterback from the University of Texas to evolve as a major success in the NFL?

I will await your answer.

Remember, there are approximately 250 draft slots each year in the NFL, and over 3,000 juniors and seniors across the United States vying for one of those draft slots. With that being said, that leaves a small window of opportunity for college players. That equates to approximately 2 players being drafted from each of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly Division-I. Those numbers are obviously skewed by the multiple players from the larger conferences such as the Big 10, Big 12, Southeast Conference (SEC), Pac-10, etc.

Oh, and let’s not forget, the Darrius Heward-Bey/Michael Crabtree saga. Only time will tell who has the better professional career and while it is debatable that Crabtree had the better collegiate career in terms of stats, I am reminded of a few wide receivers such as former Ohio State Buckeye and Arizona Cardinals WR David Boston, former Oklahoma State and San Francisco 49ers WR Rashaun Woods, and former University Southern California and Detroit Lions WR Mike Williams. All off these players had outstanding college careers, yet none of them ever made the contributions in the NFL they were so slated to make. However, current Buffalo Bills WR Terrell Owens, Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith, and Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward were all taken as third round selections and have had more of an impact on the NFL record books than any of the previously mentioned players.

Who will be this year’s most hyped collegiate player who will never make the grade in the NFL?


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