College players still a work in progress

When NFL scouts talk about the evaluation process, the emphasis really should be on the word "process." College players are still works in progress, and their skills, athletic ability and football knowledge are constantly evolving. What scouts think of a player as he enters his final collegiate season often is far different from what they think of him as the process winds down and the draft approaches. Sometimes that's for the better, and sometimes not so much.

This past fall, we identified 15 prospects we planned to follow throughout the college season and the postseason draft scouting period. We wanted to track how these players performed while under the microscope and see how scouts' perceptions of them might change over time. Some prospects helped themselves; others did not. Some redefined themselves entirely, and one -- DE Loren Howard of Arizona State -- first decided to return to school on a medical redshirt, then decided to give up football entirely rather than continue to fight the uphill battle to return to the field.