Numbers don’t lie (not exactly)

INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to touting their prospective NFL players, representatives of college football programs can be a little, uh, creative with some of the vital statistics.

Listed heights and weights are routinely embellished for the sake of making the prospects look more attractive to potential employers.

A classic example from the class of 2011 is highly touted DT Nick Fairley, who is entering the draft as a junior. His school, Auburn, listed him at 6-foot-5 and 298 pounds. But at the NFL Scouting Combine, he checked in at 6-3 7/8 and 291 pounds.

The discrepancy isn’t likely to do much, if any, damage to Fairley’s draft stock because NFL talent evaluators consider it par for the course, especially for a junior. Physical profiles on juniors are hard to come by because NFL teams don’t assemble them on underclassmen and don’t receive measurements on them until the combine.

“We pretty much know (college measurements are) going to be inflated,” Browns general manager Tom Heckert said. “We don’t spend a whole lot of time messing with that.”

Standard procedure for NFL teams is to establish their own “estimated” heights weights, and arm lengths for prospects via their scouts’ campus visits during the fall. Then, at the combine and other individual workout sessions leading up to the draft, they put that data in the “verified” category.

“That’s why you send the scouts to the school, to kind of get an eyeball test on the guy,” Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland said. “But for the most part, we’re not gasping because a guy’s (height is) off by two inches. We knew (Fairley) was still a pretty tall kid.”

Added Chiefs GM Scott Pioli: “The actual dimensions of a person matter to a degree, but then it’s just like some people are, on paper, big and/or strong, but when they get into a game, they don’t play big or they don’t play strong. You want to have some prototypes in terms of numbers that you want the guy to be, but there are some guys that play bigger and/or stronger or faster.”

Heckert said the area where measurement tends to matter the most to talent evaluators is the arm length of offensive linemen, because “if (you discover) they have short arms when they come here, I’m not saying it would make you not take them, but you just have to be concerned if he’s going to struggle a little bit.”

Generally speaking, the one thing combine prospects can control is their weight. And for linemen, a popular tactic to prepare for pre-draft auditions is to get as light as possible to help enhance their speed while running the 40-yard dash at the combine, then add as much muscle weight as they can in order to excel at strength testing during on-campus and other private workouts.

“I know there are kids doing that this year,” one NFC GM said. “They do it every year.”

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