Thankfully, the NFL Draft is completely unlike the circus the NBA runs. In football, prospective pros must prove themselves for multiple years on the gridiron if they want to dream of being selected high in the draft. Teams have a lot of film on pretty much every player and they do their homework. However, in basketball, players get drafted solely on potential, and beyond the top six to eight picks, the draft is a complete crapshoot. Still, the bust rate in first round picks in the NFL is still rather high, and I will show you ten players that I believe are likely to bust at the next level as well as ten more that could be late round gems that blossom into stars.
10. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: Quinn is supremely talented, can play in any scheme, and is rated seventh on my big board. However, while he could turn into an elite pass rusher, he comes with risk. He sat out the entire 2010 season, and skated by on his remarkable natural athleticism in 2009. In the wrong situation, he could be reduced to a situational pass rusher.
9. Cameron Jordan, DE, California: Jordan won’t be a monumental bust because he plays with sound technique and he won’t be drafted in the top ten, but I have a hard time envisioning him as a true difference maker. He could be very underwhelming if a team drafts him to be the cornerstone of their defensive line.
8. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Clayborn was a great college player because he was either too quick or too strong for opposing tackles. At the next level, there’s a good chance he could be neither. He’s a 4-3 left end only and he has a strange shoulder condition that should scare some teams away. If Clayborn is forced into the lead pass rusher role, he will bust.
7. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Great instincts, technique, and size are what will get the Prince drafted in the top ten, but I am very concerned about him. Against your run-of-the-mill college receiver, he looks outstanding, but his aggressiveness and fundamentals seem to vanish when you line him up across from a better player. There’s not a ton of examples of this, but it would prevent me from picking him in the top fifteen knowing that he’ll have to shut down much better receivers than in college every week for the next ten years.
6. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: Smith is unbelievably athletic, not unlike Robert Quinn, but is raw and unpolished. If his development fails to proceed in the way that his future team envisions it to, he could be a major disappointment. Also, he will have a very hard time against the run with his tall, lanky frame that gets pushed around a little too easily at times.
5. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: While the former tight end is sound fundamentally, I don’t see him as a franchise left tackle. He’s not an overly powerful run blocker, and he can be had in pass protection, although not as easily as some other prospects in the draft. I see him as a fringe first rounder, but he will likely be taken in the top fifteen and rushed into a starting job at left tackle, which could spell disaster for both Castonzo and his future team.
4. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: There’s no doubting Newton’s talent, but he’ll be taken in the top ten and will probably have to start long before he’s ready to. He ran a very basic, fluke offense in college and never proved that he could throw the intermediate routes in college. He can also count on rushing yards being much tougher to come by in the NFL, where everybody is both bigger and faster than in college.
3. Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: Harris won’t be taken until the twenties, but I don’t see a bright future for him in the NFL. He can tackle and plays with confidence, but isn’t all that agile, doesn’t have good recovery speed, and doesn’t have the elite body control that all successful NFL corners must have.
2. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: I have no clue why Gabbert is regarded so highly by pro scouts. Yes, he has prototypical size, but that’s about it. His deep ball isn’t in the same league as Ryan Mallett or Cam Newton’s, he played in a fluke offense where he never had to make any reads, displays no poise or pocket presence, and didn’t even put up very good numbers in 2010.
1. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Solder is extremely athletic and tall, and has shown consistent improvement as a starter. However, I think he still has too far to go for me to take him in the first round. He gets beaten way too easily and will get eaten alive if he starts at tackle next year. He will be drafted solely on potential, and needs at least one full season to sit on the bench and refine his technique.
10. Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State: A tough, high-effort player who produces in just about every game he plays. He’s one of those guys who always seems to fly under the radar and looks like he could be a great slot receiver at the next level. He reminds me of the “unknowns” that Peyton Manning throws to over and over again.
9. Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami: Franklin has everything a team could want in a guard. He’s tough but athletic, fundamentally sound but with good potential, and can both run block and pass protect. He will be a very good starter who reminds me a lot of Todd Herremans. Both are tall, well-rounded players who can kick out to tackle if necessary.
8. Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina: There was talk of Marvin Austin being a top five selection before the 2010 season, when Austin was suspended for the entire year. He has great size and even better power. He fits the Eagle scheme beautifully and reminds me a lot of Brodrick Bunkley. He could be a solid starter for any 4-3 team in the league.
7. Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State: Not as flashy as teammate Titus Young, I think Pettis will actually have the better pro career. He’s not a blazer, but he has good hands, knows how to get open, and uses his body very well. He should be a very reliable target in the NFL who may slip into the fourth or fifth round.
6. Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse: A bowling ball of a running back, Delone Carter packs more power into 222 pounds than anybody in college football. He’s very tough to wrestle to the ground, but Carter is also very shifty and has decent speed. He’s a good receiver out of the backfield and could be a starter in the league before long. He’s definitely worthy of a second round pick, but will probably be drafted in the fourth.
5. Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: Patrick has a legitimate shot at being the best cornerback in this class three or four years down the road from now. All the measurables are there, but Patrick’s real strengths lie in his aggressiveness and competitiveness. His toughness and attitude would lead me to believe that he will find success in the NFL.
4. Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh: I have Jabaal Sheard ranked above both Aldon Smith and Adrian Clayborn. He’s a lot stronger and more polished than Smith and he’s more explosive and nimble than Clayborn. He won’t be the next elite pass rusher, but he looks like a first round pick to me that is ready to start from day 1. He will have an impact in both the run and pass games, and whoever drafts him in the second or third round will be very happy they did so.
3. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia: Dowling is a long, physical corner who is very instinctive and loves to hit. There were questions about his long speed, but he ran a 4.4 flat after pulling his hamstring towards the end of the sprint. He can play corner, but a move to free safety is also a possibility. He is very similar to Malcom Jenkins.
2. James Carpenter, OT, Alabama: I’m not sure why James Carpenter doesn’t get more credit than he does. He’s an elite left tackle in the SEC, and he jumped out to me at the Senior Bowl over the likes of Nate Solder and Anthony Castonzo. He can play either tackle spot or kick inside to guard. He will be a long-time starter for somebody either way after being drafted in the middle rounds.
1. Patrick Sherman, CB, Stanford: I don’t think Sherman will be as sure of a pick as Carpenter or Johnny Patrick, but he has the most upside and will be drafted last. He’s 6’3″ and was locking absolutely everybody down at the Senior Bowl. As a former receiver, he’s very intelligent and understands how he’s being attacked. Couple that with his length and athleticism and he just may become the next top cover man in the NFL.