For most of the participants at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the days of exposure represent a vast opportunity. But all opportunities are not created equal, as Mizzou's marquee combine participants can attest.
Much has been made in the blogosphere about Gabbert's decision not to throw at the NFL Combine, with a number of critics (former NFL QB Rich Gannon among them) clinging to the "Throw so you show you have nothing to hide" mantra. In a certain context, that kind of boldness should be awarded in the cutthroat world of the NFL.
But when was the last time a prospect's boldness served as a crowning achievement in his NFL Draft profile? While quarterbacks might receive a minimal boost from participating in all drills, the black mark that may come from a bad performance is too much of a risk both in terms of reputation and in terms of finances.
Game film from his time at Missouri will show Gabbert's accuracy on short and intermediate routes -- his deep ball accuracy is another matter. But Gabbert could throw any number of perfect deep balls in Indianapolis and still fail to change critics' preconceptions. And if poor chemistry/timing in Indianapolis with receivers to whom he has never thrown before affects his performance, there'd be millions to be lost.
Gabbert stands as one of the top options for a quarterback class that is high on potential but low on guarantees. Alternatively, Aldon Smith appears to be in the middle of a crowded DE/OLB class, needing a standout performance in Indianapolis to further solidify his draft stock.
For Smith, there's something to prove, instead of Gabbert only having something to prove wrong. Smith has been touted as an athletic specimen who thrives in pass rushing situations, but a number of NFL teams continue to question his ability to stand up and play linebacker at the professional level. A bad performance may dent his draft stock slightly, but a strong performance could go a long way in securing his spot toward the top of draft boards.
Both Gabbert and Smith appear to have made decisions that best fit the cost-benefit analysis. But all of the risk leveraging in the world means little without the results to back it up.