could be they scouted the small school guys more thoroughly, could be the small school guys just wanted it more.
whether it is "legitimate" or not, small school guys tend to come with more of a question mark than the larger school guys.
I think a kid can either play or he can't... Higher competition might reveal physical limitations but his character and ability to play the game are likely already visible. That's why people get excited when a player is both successful at a lower level and has the physical explosiveness or potential.
well sure, but what gets you MORE excited, seeing a guy do well against Louisiana State or Louisiana Tech? vs. Alabama, or University of Alabama-Birmingham?
put it this way, Dontari Poe is a divisive prospect. Most either hate him or love him, and the biggest knock on him is "what did he do against ANYBODY who might make it to the NFL?"
now imagine if he had gone to the Senior Bowl and just tore it up? The questions about his "lack of competition" will be substantially reduced. I'm not saying a small school guy CAN'T be good or WON'T be good, that would be ridiculous. But unless the guy had a really good game (or perhaps Senior Bowl or even Shrine Bowl), there's going to be the question about his level of competition.
Take a look at all the NCAA passing records. They darn sure aren't being set by QBs playing SEC or Big 12 schedules. If Ben puts up the type of season he did playing against BCS teams (I know, 2003 was different), he might've been the one that went first overall. Who knows?
I don't think I'm off base in saying that a prospects level of competition is taken into consideration.