Hitting or missing on a draft pick can be the difference between making the playoffs and playing golf in January for NFL teams, so it should come as no surprise that scouts leave no stone unturned when evaluating players' skill sets. It's a grueling process that involves seemingly endless film sessions, but there are games that can make scouts sit up and pay particular attention.
These are the games that feature a prospect lining up against one of the best units or players in the nation and/or playing in a game with substantial implications for his team.
Here are five such matchups that caught my eye in Week 10 and what I took from the film of each performance, as well as notes on contributions from younger players:
Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree vs. the Texas secondary
Crabtree caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against the Longhorns and the touchdown catch came with just one second left on the clock in the Red Raiders' 39-33 win over the Longhorns on Saturday night. Considering the situation and BCS implications, the 28-yard touchdown catch was nothing short of remarkable. Crabtree lines up wide right opposite Texas CB Curtis Brown and streaks down the right sideline at the snap of the ball. Brown actually does a good job of running with Crabtree but he doesn't turn his head in time to locate the ball, which QB Graham Harrell put on Crabtree's back shoulder. Crabtree pulls up around the 6-yard line, plucks the ball and then stays inbounds while shaking the would-be arm tackle of Brown before getting into the end zone. It's also worth pointing out that Texas redshirt freshman S Earl Thomas deserves some of the blame, as the coverage calls for him to provide help over the top and he lets Crabtree get behind him.
Another catch worth talking about is Crabtree's 15-yard, first-quarter reception on a second-and-11 play from the Longhorns' 45-yard line. This time Harrell rolls to the right and Crabtree streaks down the right sideline, but CB Deon Beasley and Thomas take away the deep route so Crabtree stops and works back to Harrell. He then aggressively snatches the ball out of the air and shows his strength as Beasley bounces off him while trying to play the ball. All that being said, Crabtree was flagged for interference and lost a fumble against the Longhorns. The fumble is the greater concern because coaches are always going to want the 214-pound Crabtree to throw his weight around and ball security is a must for a player who employs a physical style. Crabtree did not keep the ball tight to his frame and Texas SLB Sergio Kindle was able to rip it out.
Steve Muench has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc. since 2002.