Apologies if it seems like we're piling on Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson, out of Marshall, but a few leaders around the NFL have shared their views on how to best evaluate players that competed against lower levels of talent in college.
"The lower the competition level, the more he should dominate," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. "So, a player at any position at any level, if he’s playing Division III, Division II, Division I-AA, there’s a step in between each of those levels and of course the NFL...So, it may take them a little bit longer, but those types of players can certainly develop if they have the right skill-set."
"Do they dominate? They need to dominate at that level," Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians agreed. "They can’t just be a good player at that level. They have to dominate the competition. And they have to have a swagger about them to be able to come into a locker room of SEC guys and other guys with a chip on their shoulder. You want that chip on their shoulder because that’s usually the thing that gets them through. They’re trying to prove it every single day. Some of them keep it of five or six years, and that’s how they make it."
"As I’ve always said, how do they dominate the competition?," Chiefs general manager John Dorsey echoed. "At those different levels do they dominate the competition and do they have the measurable and the traits that you’re looking for as an organization."
Dobson left Marshall without a 700 yard receiving season under his belt, and as the team's 2nd or 3rd target in his final year. That's the opposite of dominate and it should've been a flag for the Patriots.
This isn't to say that teams should avoid small school prospects, but just have an understanding that if a player can't enforce his will against lesser opponents, then he'll be facing a far more difficult challenge in the NFL. Athletic ability only goes so far, especially if it doesn't always show up on the field.
"What kind of passion does he have for the game?," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. "What I found with a lot of the small school guys which has been beneficial for us, is they come in with a chip on their shoulder, they come in with the mindset and attitude that we are going to prove people wrong."
I've not spoken to Dobson, but one of his issues is that he plays smaller than his frame. You can tell the fire that a player has on the field- the Julian Edelmans, Tom Bradys, Vince Wilforks, and Malcolm Butlers never have their passion called into question.
If and when the Patriots dip back into the smaller school well- and they will in this upcoming draft- dominate needs to be the word in mind because small school players can and will dominate at the NFL level. And if a player fits in New England, then the team shouldn't hesitate in the draft.
"If a guy fits for us and what we're looking for, we'll draft him regardless of where he's from at the position we think he's draftable," Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. "Again, I don't want it to be about the school a player comes from. Can he play?"
"There’s a whole process that goes along with it," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome agreed. "You just cannot sit there and say a guy cannot play in the National Football League if he played at a smaller division."
Edelman and Butler are two of the more important players on the Patriots roster and they come from small schools. Jamie Collins and Sebastian Vollmer come from smaller schools. The team knows how to scout small school prospects and have a history of success. It just seems like the scouting brain shuts off when it comes to wide receivers.