Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon is 6-1, 207 pounds and by most reports, he runs a 40 time in the 4.46-4.48 range. Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill is just under 6-4, 215 pounds and was reportedly told by some NFL scouts that he was timed at as low as 4.28 seconds on his 40 yard dash at the combine.
Based on those numbers alone, one would be confused by the fact that Blackmon is almost surely going to be drafted before Hill. What's the difference between these two prospects?
Blackmon accumulated 232 receptions and 38 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Oklahoma State, while Hill had just 43 receptions and eight touchdowns during that time. There's no way around it: production counts in the mind of NFL scouts. But how much?
If production was the be-all, end-all in the mind of scouts, then Purdue wide receiver Taylor Stubblefield wouldn't have gone undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft after breaking the all-time FBS receptions record (one he no longer holds) with 325 career receptions. The issue was that Stubblefield was just 5-11, 174 and could only run a 4.74 40 time.
The fact is that the NCAA record book is filled with names of players that never made it in the NFL due to a lack of size or athleticism. Timmy Chang was a prolific passer at the University of Hawaii and former-Nevada WR Trevor Hinsley is still the all-time leader in receiving yardage.
Ultimately, size and athleticism comes first. It's a simple fact that the NFL's players are bigger, faster and stronger than NCAA players and for an athlete to succeed they must have the tools necessary to compete.
Also devaluing NCAA statistics are the diverse offenses and level of defenses that different players face during their careers. Most would argue that Jarett Dillard's 60 career touchdowns at Rice in Conference USA aren't quite as impressive as Ryan Broyles's 45 career touchdowns with Oklahoma in the Big XII.
Hill played in a triple option at Georgia Tech that attempted 167 passes and 718 runs in 2011 while Blackmon played in a pass happy Oklahoma State offense that gave him 121 receptions this year. Had Hill played in Blackmon's offense, it's impossible to know what his statistics would look like, but it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't be much more impressive.
At the end of the day, measurables are king. They are the reason why Stephen Hill is likely to go in the back half of the first round. They are also the reason why Justin Blackmon isn't really worth a top 10 selection despite his eye-popping numbers.