Jan 31, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; AFC squad player Susie Castillo reaches for the flag of NFC squad player Deion Sanders during the Tazon Latino VII flag football game at Clinic Field inside the Ernest Morial Convention center. Super Bowl XLVII will take place between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens on February 3, 2013 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Every Combine Has Their Own Leon Sandcastle

Have you seen the commercial? It’s hilarious. Deion Sanders dons a huge afro and big cheesy mustache and goes out to the combine and dazzles everyone under the name “Leon Sandcastle.”

I recall during the 2000 Summer Olympic games looking at the sprinters. This was when they had all the high-tech body suits and such before certain specific space-age technologies were banned. They really did all look the same because of the lycra body suits and meticulously cropped hair to make wind resistance as much of a non-factor as possible.

I had turned to a friend and said “Wouldn’t it be funny to see a guy with a 70’s afro win one of these races?”

Enter Leon Sandcastle. One of the “observers” on the commercial said “He looks like an ugly Deion Sanders.”

I thought he looked like a disheveled Steve Harvey myself.

Watch the Leon Sandcastle commercial here.

No, I don’t mean to say every draft has a guy who comes from nowhere to become the top pick. That doesn’t happen.

What DOES happen is one or two kids show off such physical talents that evaluators didn’t know they had.

Exhibit A: Kansas City Chiefs DL Dontari Poe. This relative unknown from a small school (Memphis) burst on the combine scene and dominated the “Twitterverse” and sports shows from his Superman-like combine until draft day. He, Fletcher Cox, and Michael Brockers were all drafted within a 4-pick spread and Cox was the first of the three to go off the board.

He was also the worst by far on his college film, which translated into the poorest rookie season of the three. Is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes…don’t fall in love with a player’s “tangibles” when his film shows he underperforms.

Exhibit B: Atlanta’s Julio Jones. The Alabama wide receiver showed 4.37-40 speed at the NFL combine after having been considered a larger-bodied possession-style WR in college. A lot of that was the system he played in. Nick Saban is an old-school coach in many ways and loves to control the clock and pay great defense. They almost never played from behind, so Jones’ full talents really never were on display at Alabama. I had predicted he wasn’t the game-changer A.J. Green had showed he was at Georgia and that much was true. However, Jones has developed quickly because of his raw tools – and competent coaching. It’s not JUST about speed; it’s about the hundred different “little” things you put together as tools at your position to maximize your talent. Julio learned them well and it is paying dividends now.

Exhibit C: New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul. It seems like every draft has that raw talent with physical skills that are off the scale. Jets WR Stephen Hill fell into that category last season. “JPP” as he’s known fell into that category a few years back and his play early in his rookie season showed it…he was quick, powerful, fast, all those things…but often played out of control and could easily be outmaneuvered or suckered out of a given play. Experience and coaching molded him into the pass-rushing force he has become.

Remember when Chris Johnson ran his way into the first round, despite his light frame, with a 4.24-40 – one of the fastest combine times ever? Or when the 6’5″ Megatron decided to run after all at the combine and posted a 4.35?

Who will be this season’s Leon Sandcastle?

Look at Ezekiel Ansah from BYU and Lane Johnson, the OT from Oklahoma, as the two larger guys who have a big chance to “wow” combine observers and solidify their tenuous first-round status in April’s draft.

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