Authored by Jeff Risdon - 27th April, 2011 - 4:07 am
Every draft season I identify five draftees that I believe are going to either be huge busts (in need of bras) or unexpectedly boom (hence, dynamite). The track record is pretty strong, including . Flip John Jerry and Jermaine Gresham from those picks and it looks even better.
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The ground rules: The bust picks must be consensus top 40 picks, and the boom picks must be consensus 2nd rounders or lower. Tyson Alualu sort of shattered that mold a year ago, but nobody expected the Jaguars to take him at #10 overall when I wrote that . Maybe I have some sway in Jacksonville, as they plucked Mike Thomas and Eben Britton from my â€śboomâ€ť lists of years past as well.
Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona-- His teammate Brooks Reed gets all the hype, but I strongly believe Elmoreâ€™s game translates better to the NFL. Elmore has a fantastic first step, but what helps him is that he understands what to do after that step; he can quickly react to the blocking reaction to him. Heâ€™s more comfortable in space than Reed as well. Elmore isnâ€™t going to be a star--his short arms and lack of power are legit issues--but I like him as a nickel-package edge rusher for a 4-3 team. Reed would top the â€śbustâ€ť list, but it seems most people have come to their senses and realize heâ€™s stiffly over-muscled and remember how easily backs stoned him during Senior Bowl week drills.
Josh Thomas, CB, Buffalo-- Thomas is a physical corner in the Charles Tillman mold, though heâ€™s not that big. Heâ€™s got excellent reaction speed and closes with real authority. Some evaluators knock him for not making lots of plays on the ball, but what Thomas does real well is attack the receiver. Heâ€™s physical, heâ€™s confident, and heâ€™s got solid zone awareness. Because he played in the MAC (which was terrible in 2010, and I say that as a proud Ohio U. grad), he will have to overcome a learning curve. But with solid coaching and a year to adjust to the bigger/faster/stronger NFL, I think Thomas will make a very solid starting corner for a predominately zone coverage team that values run support like the Bears or Colts.
Rob Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic-- He is less heralded than another underexposed TE, USCâ€™s Jordan Cameron (I like him too), but for my money Housler is the guy more ready to play right away. His game is speed, and heâ€™s got it in spades. He reminds me quite a bit of Greg Olsen from the Bears, a seam-stretching vertical threat with very good hands that is too fast for LBs and too big for most safeties. In the freezing cold during NFLPA Game week, Housler was the only receiver to consistently catch the ball from the downright lousy group of QBs in San Antonio. The irony that he comes from the southernmost school in the lower 48 but handled the cold better than anyone else showed me his dedication and his skills. I like him better than Ed Dickson from a year ago, Baltimoreâ€™s 3rd round pick that progressed into more significant playing time as the year bore on. Like Dickson (and the aforementioned Olsen to a lesser extent), Housler is worthless as an in-line blocker, and that will repulse some. But in a league that is steadily progressing towards spread out offenses, having a guy with Houslerâ€™s size and speed is a real asset. I prefer him to Kyle Rudolph, the presumed #1 TE, and would bet good money that is Housler went to Florida and not Florida Atlantic, heâ€™d be no lower than a 2nd round pick.
Will Rackley, G, Lehigh-- Itâ€™s always difficult to forecast the transition from the small school to playing with the big boys, but Rackley has both the physical and mental acumen to successfully make the jump. I love how he plays on his toes and the strength in his hands; he locks on and itâ€™s over. I like him more than I liked Jared Veldheer a year ago, and I was more bullish on Veldheer (whom Iâ€™d seen play at Hillsdale in person twice) than most. Donâ€™t worry about the talk that Rackley is too cerebral or passive--people said the same things about Larry Allen and Willie Roaf back in the day. They turned out just fine. Iâ€™m not saying Rackley will rise to their level, but he should be a good starter for a long time.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada-- This one comes with a big caution flag: the team that picks Kaepernick must not rush him onto the field. The easy comparison is to Vince Young, but I see another parallel, and that is Josh Freeman. Kaepernick is the consummate leader, a very self-confident, charismatic field general that players just naturally respond to and believe in. Heâ€™s got incredible velocity on his throws, and he trusts his arm. Despite coming from a gimmicky offense, heâ€™s shown he can make multiple reads and improvise successfully. He does need work--his deeper throws lack arc, and he cannot expect to run so much in the NFL--but I believe that four years from now, Colin Kaepernick will be a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback for a team willing to put in the work and patience required.
Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy-- I have been beating this drum for some time now, but when I watch Jernigan, I see a player in the Percy Harvin/Reggie Bush mold. Ostensibly a shifty slot receiver, Jernigan can line up in the backfield, work as a third down weapon, return punts and kicks, and handle all sorts of gadget plays. He is simply electrifying in the open field, and he creates space for himself quite nicely in the passing game. Injuries are a concern, but if he can stay healthy Jerrel Jernigan can be every bit the weapon that Harvin or Dexter McCluster or even Desean Jackson is in the NFL.
Going real deep, some late rounder or undrafted players I like:
Ryan Jones, CB, NW Missouri State
Isaac Odim, RB, Minnesota-Duluth
Sealver Siliga, DT, Utah
Ryan Winterswyk, DE, Boise State
Denarius Moore, WR, Tennessee
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri-- It is very easy to become enamored with Gabbert after his picture-perfect pro day, his strong workout season, and listening to him just talk football. Gabbert is clearly a bright, athletic, focused quarterback. But Iâ€™m going to harken back to my initial reaction when he somewhat unexpectedly declared for the draft, â€śWhat is he thinking?â€ť He comes from a very simplistic one-read spread offense where there was a premium on getting the ball out quickly. When he had to hold the ball and look downfield, something that NFL offenses demand, Gabbert struggled with decision-making, accuracy, and patience. I donâ€™t like his pocket awareness or feel; I canâ€™t really put my finger on any one game or incidence, but I always got the sense that they had him throw the ball before counting to 3 for a reason. Ignore the gaudy numbers, because the Big 12 pass defenses were largely garbage. I know most people see Cam Newton as the bigger bust risk of the top two QBs, but Iâ€™m actually more confident that Newton will succeed than Gabbert.
Tyron Smith, T, USC-- My primary concern here has nothing to do with Smithâ€™s play on the field. He was an oft-dominant right tackle in a pro-style offense and I love his freakishly huge hands and long arms, proven capable of erasing his man from the field. But during the season I worried about his weight, as he played at around 280-285 pounds. Thatâ€™s at least 10 pounds too light for an NFL tackle. So when he ballooned up to 307 pounds at the Combine, that should have ameliorated my fears. Instead, it set off alarms. Remember, USC is the school that produced Brian Cushing, Mr. Steroids himself. Smith gained between 20 and 30 pounds in a very short time period but looked absolutely shredded. Maybe he just suddenly matured physically and the intensive weight training worked wonders. Maybe. Color me skeptical. Honestly I hope Iâ€™m proven wrong here, because this is a talented player with Ryan Clady-like potential. But I canâ€™t help and think of Cushing, who went from mega-impact rookie to Average Joe once the â€śsupplementsâ€ť were removed from the equation.
Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue-- This might strike some as disingenuous, as I wrote a little while ago about Kerriganâ€™s playmaking ability. But Iâ€™m concerned that he is too reliant on his speed to do everything for him. One trick pony rushers have limited shelf lives; just ask Mark Anderson or Manny Lawson. Kerrigan doesnâ€™t have the lateral range to play OLB in a 3-4 other than as a pass rushing specialist, and heâ€™ll find the NFL tackles a lot quicker and the QBs more aware than they were in the Big Ten the last couple of seasons. I do think Kerrigan can contribute a handful of sacks and a forced fumble or two, but thatâ€™s not the production teams want from a top 20 pick. Much like AJ Hawk or Aaron Curry, a team gets a good player in Ryan Kerrigan, not an impact player. Good teams get impact players with their top picks.
Nate Solder, T, Colorado-- I love his length and his agility, but I have a sinking feeling he might be too tall and long to be successful at tackle in the NFL. Great tackles have the ability to quickly extend the arms with great power and also shift their weight without sacrificing power. Solder has such long arms that his punch is slower and weaker than most, and he lacks â€śsand in the pantsâ€ť to handle the bull rushes. I saw a very raw technician during Senior Bowl week, but what I also saw was a guy that didnâ€™t quickly learn from his mistakes; guys repeatedly beat him with the same moves. Either he canâ€™t physically handle the needed adjustments or he is a very slow learner, a bad trait for a project player.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple-- Itâ€™s not so much that I think Wilkerson wonâ€™t be a decent player, but I think his stock is extraordinarily overvalued. A defensive lineman that had leverage and pad-level issues in the MAC, which doesnâ€™t have a single draftable offensive player, just doesnâ€™t impress me as someone worthy of a top 25 pick. He does have strong potential; Wilkerson is light on his feet, has strong hands, and locates the ball well. But expecting any more than 3 sacks and about 50 tackles from him anytime soon is foolhardy. Most teams looking at him play 3-4 defenses, which means heâ€™ll play end. Wilkerson plays way too upright to hold up against the run, a requisite skill for 30-front ends.
Some other players I feel are overrated--but not bust-worthy--based on presumptive draft position:
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Aaron Williams, S/CB, Texas
Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin