There are an awful lot of qualities and variables that NFL college scouts have to consider when weighing the potential success a prospect can have once he reaches the pro level. Naturally there are the measurables as well as football skills and the intangible qualities like motivation, work ethic and leadership. But there can also be another factor that at times can be hard for a scout to keep out of the equation.
That factor is draft history.
A perfect example in this year's class is Florida State DE/OLB Everette Brown. Widely considered a top 10 pick, Brown has impressive stats with 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss last season alone. But there is a history of Seminole pass rushers that's difficult to ignore.
Cleveland took Kamerion Wimbley in 2006 with the 13th pick and his career to this point has been average at best.
Andre Wadsworth was the third pick in the draft in 1998 by Arizona and injuries and difficulty adjusting to the pro game led to a disappointing career.
Jamal Reynolds was the 10th pick in the draft in 2001 by Green Bay and was an unquestioned bust.
So as enticing as Brown's abilities might be for a team in need of pass rush help, it's hard to overlook Florida State's recent history at the position.
"It does enter your thinking," said Bills Vice President of College Scouting Tom Modrak speaking generally. "Whether you want to admit that or not, you do think about it. Now what you do with it is another matter."
For example, the quarterbacks at Florida when Steve Spurrier was head coach, had wildly productive careers in college, but seemed to have trouble sticking in a pro system at the NFL level. Gator signal callers like Rex Grossman, Jesse Palmer and Danny Wuerffel are some of the more recent names.
As a result some NFL scouts likely wrestled with dipping into the Florida quarterback pool again, when Spurrier was still their head coach, concerned that a prospect might be a product of his scheme.
A lot of the bigger college programs with a higher volume of drafted players are at greater risk to develop these player concerns. Penn State had a bad run of luck with running backs that were taken in the first round with Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter and Curtis Enis, all top 10 picks, succumbed to serious injuries that cut their careers short.
Of course those trends can work the other way too. Penn State is also known as Linebacker U. due to the high quantity of superior linebacker talent that has translated very well to the NFL game. Carolina's Dan Connor and Buffalo's Paul Posluszny are just two of the more recent examples.
The Bills and other NFL clubs have also experienced first hand the success in drafting cornerbacks out of Ohio State. Shawn Springs, Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements and Chris Gamble were all first round picks for the Buckeyes in recent years and have performed admirably at the NFL level.
"If you have luck at Ohio State you might go Ohio State more," said Modrak, who oversaw the draft in which Buffalo selected Buckeye cornerback Ashton Youboty in 2006.
The former third-round pick is another defensive back that has developed nicely. And in this year's draft class Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins appears to be yet another.
Ultimately, Modrak says as much as the history of a particular school might enter into your thinking each prospect must be assessed individually based on their own performance and merits.
"School history at the position shouldn't be a factor in your report on a player," said Modrak. "It doesn't mean it doesn't come into your thinking. You might think about it when you ask yourself, 'Is this player one of those guys?' Or you might say, 'This player is not one of those guys. He is better than those guys of the past at this particular school.' Or he might be another in a line of players at a school that has had success."
Determining what player is and what player isn't the next in a school's history of successes is the essence of the inexact science of college scouting. And because it's inexact school history will always weigh on a scout's mind. How much influence it has, however, depends on the courage of a talent evaluator's convictions.