“I guess if I had to pick one position to get as much maturation as you can get it would be at quarterback,” Colbert assessed. “You’re always better served to stay for as much seasoning as you can get, especially at that position.”
That’s not to say the Steelers are opposed to investing draft choices in early applicants.
Running back Le’Veon Bell, center
And the trend toward such players being available in significant numbers every year doesn’t appear to be about to change.
This year’s total of 96 early applicants came up just short of the record 98 in 2014.
“I guess it’s probably more of the norm than not,” Colbert said.
For a variety of reasons.
This year’s crop clearly had its reasons for wanting to get to the NFL as fast as possible.
“I just decided to do what’s best for me and my family.”
Practicality - “I felt like I was ready,” Indiana running back Jordan Howard said. “I felt like I had matured enough to play in the NFL. I was ready for the next challenge and I know I was getting close to 800 carries in my career and running backs don’t have that long of a life span."
Conviction - “It was a pretty confident decision I made when I gathered all the necessary information,” Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple said. “You can’t have any regrets. You can’t look back. You’ve just got to go 100 percent with it when you make a decision.”
Inevitability - “I believe so, yes,” wide receiver Will Fuller said when asked if he had accomplished all he intended to at Notre Dame. “I had two magnificent years, I think, something that I didn’t dream of.
When I came in I just wanted to contribute. I put up a bunch of numbers I didn't think were possible.
“I just wanted to get out of there while I was healthy and still put up good numbers.”
Even quarterbacks have enthusiastically gotten into the act.
Ohio State’s Cardale Jones didn't have a smooth season in 2015, but he nonetheless believes he’s ready for the NFL because of “the experience I gained this year.”
Jones also cited “the size, ability and my knowledge of the game, my smarts,” as factors in his decision.
“I don’t think I get a lot of credit for how cerebral I am when it comes to being the quarterback,” he said. “I think I’m ready for that level.
“Only time will tell.”