You might have heard the saying "the eye in the sky doesn't lie," which means that game film puts a player's (or team's) strengths and weaknesses on display for all to see. But while film doesn't lie, it certainly doesn't reveal the entire truth about a prospect's potential as an NFL player.
Some very good players become even better as they mature physically and mentally, like NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt (who was very good at Wisconsin, but no one expected this kind of dominance). Others have to share playing time with other talented players on their depth chart, as future Hall of Famer Tom Brady did with super-recruit Drew Henson at Michigan.
Film doesn't always aid general managers and coaches in making an evaluation when they're trying to determine whether a player is better off at a different position than the one he played in college. Differences between college and pro schemes also make accurate projections difficult. Stars at a lower level of competition really aren't tested as they will be as a professional players, so watching their film can be quite misleading.
There are times when teams must look past the tape and look at the traits a player possesses.
The following 2016 NFL Draft prospects have the traits to be even better in the NFL than they were in college. They can succeed for their new teams early in their careers.
Floyd's sack totals from the previous three seasons (6.5 in 2013, 6 in 2014, 4.5 in 2015) would not lead one to believe that he is an elite pass-rush prospect. However, reviewing his role in the Bulldogs' defense shows a versatility that should be intriguing to NFL teams. His coaches moved him inside in order to take advantage of his athleticism and strength, even though he was playing at a trim 6-foot-5, 240 pounds last season. If he's given a chance to use his natural bend and length on the edge, as he was earlier in his career, by a team that regularly utilizes stand-up pass rushers (e.g. Bears, Colts, Jets), his production should greatly increase. Floyd was well on his way to a good showing Wednesday at Georgia's pro day, but, unfortunately, he couldn't complete his workout because he was suffering from food poisoning. He also didn't finish his workout at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a hamstring injury. However, if any team chooses not to select him based on the fact that he didn't finish those two workouts, they will be missing out on a player who has the potential to be very good.
When Kelechi Osemele came out of Iowa State in 2012, many scouts and media members thought he was too plodding to be an above-average NFL starter. He recently signed a five-year deal worth up to $60 million with the Raiders. There are similar questions about Alexander and his ability to be an elite tackle prospect, even though he earned All-American notice for the Tigers last season. Scheme fit is crucial for offensive line prospects, so not every team will give him a starting-level grade. But his play at guard earlier in his career makes me believe that, as a second- or third-round pick for a team like the Cardinals, Ravens or Steelers, Alexander will excel as a powerful road grader like Osemele.
Barber received a lot of attention after stating at the NFL Scouting Combine last month that his mother's homelessness was a factor in his decision to turn pro as an underclassman. He would have received more of a national spotlight for his running last fall if the Tigers had achieved more success in the SEC (2-6 conference record). He gained 1,017 yards on the ground with 13 touchdowns in 2015. Barber showed only average speed (40-yard dash of 4.64 seconds) at the combine, so he probably won't be drafted until the mid-to-late rounds. But he reminds me of two-time Pro Bowl RB Alfred Morris, who wasn't drafted until the sixth round, with his sturdy build (5-11, 228), impressive lean and strong motor.
If I had to pick one receiver with the potential to be a great mid-round find in the Emmanuel Sanders or Mike Wallace mold, it would be Davis. The 6-1, 188-pound Davis has flown under the radar a bit as a transfer from Hawaii to Cal. He set a career high with 40 catches last season (672 yards, two scores), but I think he could explode in the NFL if given the opportunity. He has the quickness to work the middle of the field, and his ability to snatch the ball from the air during his combine workout was impressive. Davis is expected to be on display again on Friday, as Cal will be holding its pro day.
You could say Ridgeway's career at Texas didn't meet expectations, but I expect him to have success in the NFL as a pass-rushing tackle in the way Geno Atkins did coming out of Georgia as a fourth-round pick for the Bengals in 2010. The 6-3, 310-pound lineman fits well as a three-technique. He can use his explosive first step to attack gaps, and he'll be more consistent if he's part of a strong rotation. He might not start early in his career, but opposing offensive lines will know his number.
Vannett is only one of several tight ends that could make this list. College offenses do not take advantage of the position as much as NFL offenses due to inconsistent quarterback play, run-focused offenses, etc., so I'd expect a good all-around player like this Buckeye to be more productive at the next level. He had 19 receptions in each of the last two seasons, and did not score a touchdown in 2015 after reaching paydirt five times as a junior. NFL quarterbacks will find him a valuable safety valve and red-zone target on Sundays.