The history of the NFL draft is littered with “can’t miss” prospects who definitely missed.
The “Where are they now” file includes QB David Carr, LB Vernon Gholston, RB Ki-Jana Carter, WR Charles Rogers and QB Ryan Leaf, to name but a few busts.
That is why NFL player personnel types need to really do their homework and turn deaf ears to the hype on collegiate prospects.
As the team’s that drafted the aforementioned players can attest, there may be no quick fix provided from a highly touted prospect.
The Cleveland Browns, who have known their share of strife the last couple of years, are reported to have set their sights on no. 1 prospect Myles Garrett when go time hits Thursday night at the draft.
Fans can expect that there will be a lot of wheeling and dealing as teams move up and down to fulfill their needs offensively and defensively.
Here are 10, though, who we think bird dogs and GMs might be wary of taking too high.
10. Jabrill Peppers, S – Michigan Wolverines
When it comes to undersized linebacker-cum-safety Jabrill Peppers, buyer beware. Sure, he’s versatile, also returning punts for the Wolverines to the tune of 310 yards and a TD this season (third in the NCAA), but that one attribute may be his best. And that isn’t good for any team using a first round pick (even if it’s a late one, considering he’s ranked 29th) to fill a hole in the defensive backfield. While he did record 66 tackles, three sacks and an interception (his only one, career) in his final season, it’s worthwhile to note Peppers was targeted 93 times in college and allowed 58 receptions. Peppers also has a aversion to blockers coming his way, rather than taking them on in pursuit. Some mock drafts have him being taken as high as no. 10 through 20, which could be a giant mistake.
9. T.J. Watt, OLB – Wisconsin Badgers
The famous big brother, J.J., will surely be smiling when younger brother T.J.’s name is called in the draft, maybe even as high as the first round. However, is Watt the younger a “can’t miss” prospect, or just over-hyped because of his big bro and recognizable name. The jury is out. The NFL.com book on him says his weaknesses include: “lacks explosion out of stance and up the field to bend the edge as a pass rusher” and that his “pass rush menu will need more options against NFL tackles.” On the stats side, Watt did put up impressive numbers with the Badgers in 2016, his only year a a starter. He registered 63 tackles, 11.5 sacks and four pass defences. To their credit, the bird dogs at NFL.com have T.J. projected to go second round even though he’s ranked as high as no. 20 through 30 in some polls. What may likely happen, though, is that some GM will get “Watt” stuck in his head and call out his name too early.
8. Gareon Conley, CB – Ohio State Buckeyes
With all the press about allegations of sexual assault directed at standout Buckeyes corner Gareon Conley (no charges have been laid), it might be better that teams let him slide away from a projected first round selection. He was a force in the OSU defensive backfield the last two years, recording 75 tackles, a half sack, six interceptions and 13 pass defences, so his numbers are all right. But, Conley isn’t physical or efficient in short-area coverage, and he has displayed a need for added timing and anticipation in man and interior coverage. The NFL.com scouts laud his “above average length” and noted his low 37 percent completions allowed, however, they did go on to say he plays “small in run support and needs to work on consistency as tackler.” A work in progress who teams may want to wait out on.
7. Mike Williams, WR – Clemson Tigers
Mike Williams is a big receiver at 6’4″ and 218 lbs. that many a scout has probably lusted after while watching he and Deshaun Watson go at it during a championship season. Yet, he got a case of the yips late in the Tigers outstanding season, dropping too many passes and losing focus with his routes and seeming to have an energy sap. The numbers were pretty good overall, as he caught 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 11 TDs. The NFL scouts, though, still seem unimpressed for the receiver ranked in the top 30. This quote from his scouting profile attributed to a NFC personnel director pretty much sums Williams’ game up: “Really pretty looking when you watch him down on the field but he’s not there yet. I think he’ll get there but he’s not there yet. I don’t think he’s going to run as fast as people think. When college players get up here and find out that cornerbacks are faster and more physical, there is an adjustment period. I think it will take him some time to figure things out but I think he’ll do it. He’s going to be good, I just don’t know if he’s going to be a star.”
6. Taco Charlton, DE – Michigan Wolverines
His real name is actually Vidauntae and the word is either of Taco’s handles got him name recognition alone among pro scouts. He’s a big guy (6’6″, 277 lbs.) who used that frame to great effect with Big Blue in 2016, recording 40 tackles, (13.5 for a loss) and 10 sacks. But, his detractors will point at the fact he started only 15 games of his 33 game NCAA career, which doesn’t bode well for his stock going into the draft. The adjective that has followed Charlton’s game is “inconsistent.” For all his length and freakish athletic traits, Taco’s play at Michigan was very uneven, according to the NFL.com’s assessment and the fact he wasn’t a full-time starter until his senior season bears that out. He’s projected to be a mid-first round pick, but even that might be a stretch.
5. Mitch Trubisky, QB – North Carolina
Trubisky is the highest rated pivot heading into the draft Thursday night. That alone should give NFL execs pause before they utter his name. We are not going to argue that his freakishly great stats at North Carolina don’t warrant a first round selection, it’s just how high he might go. Rumors have circulated, particularly in QB-bereft Cleveland, that the Browns might trade up to take him at his projected slot, no. 12. Surely, they are dazzled by his 158.3 passer rating this season, based on completing 304 of 446 passes for 3,748 yards, 30 TDs and just six interceptions. However, it was his only season as a starter with the Tar Heels and according to scout sources he isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. We like this quote from an AFC team: “There are times he looks like another Carson Wentz and then there are times he looks like Blaine Gabbert. He has starting qualities and he’ll go early, but he better get better at seeing blitzes and throwing hot or he’ll get eaten alive by the exotic packages they are throwing at quarterbacks these days.”
4. Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU Tigers
Make no mistake, as the highest rated runner in the draft, Fournette will go first round, probably top 10. He’s a big, beefy back who is built like a linebacker and runs like a gazelle. There’s a big “but” where Fournette is concerned, however. After playing in all his team’s games in 2014-15, Fournette’s final season was cut short to seven games, his effectiveness limited by a pre-season ankle injury that was aggravated multiple times during the year. As we said earlier, running backs careers are a crap shoot at best, considering how injury-prone even beasts like Fournette can be. Whatever the case, he will still be selected high based on his explosiveness and size. The “buyer beware” tag, though, still applies as his very physical running style may likely affect his future durability.
3. Malik Hooker, S – Ohio State Buckeyes
Depending on mock draft is trusted, Malik Hooker will either be a member of the Los Angeles Chargers at no. 7 (most widely assumed) or even pick no. 6 of the New York Jets. Hooker started just one season for the Buckeyes and while he did explode for seven interceptions (tied for second in the nation; three were for pick sixes) he played injured all year and had off-season hip surgery for a torn labrum as well as hernia surgery. That makes him damaged goods, even before anyone utters his name Thursday night. Scouts like his fluidity and his outstanding instincts that allow him to work ahead of the play. On the flip side, he has just one year of experience and is so raw that one AFC exec says Hooker “will come in and look bad his first year and then be an all-pro by his third year. I think that’s his arc. No short-cut for experience.”
2. O.J. Howard, TE – Alabama Crimson Tide
The word potential is used liberally when scouts discuss the merits of consensus no. 1 tight end prospect O.J. Howard. As in, his numbers weren’t hugely great in college, but he’s an exceptionally gifted athlete who led tight ends in the 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle at the combine. Howard also placed in the top five in the position group in the 40-yard dash (4.51) and bench press (22 reps). Even with all that ability to run and displace weight, the NFL sized tight end (6’6″, 251 lbs.) Howard wasn’t all that impressive statistically for the Tide. His yards per catch dipped from his junior to his senior year (15.8 to 13.2) and in four seasons with ‘Bama he only hauled in seven touchdown passes. A NFC GM questioned, too, whether Howard’s heart is in it for pro football, saying “I don’t worry about the talent at all. He could be an all-pro. I just need to know if he loves football.”
1. Myles Garrett, DE – Texas A&M Aggies
The Cleveland Browns have all but said that when they go to the podium first on Thursday night, the name Myles Garrett will resound. We can’t help but shake the feeling, however, that the fact he’s everyone’s first choice taints him in some way. Like, how will he ever be able to live up to expectations, especially with a bad team in Cleveland? He’s built like a Mack truck and has been punishing foes for three years at A&M. His 31 sacks alone in three seasons says he’s a blue-chipper who will make other teams pay for mistakes in pass-blocking. That is, when he deigns to keep his head in the game. The knock on him is that he has a tendency to disappear which was confirmed by one scout (probably not a Browns scout though) who said, “This guy is supposed to be the certain first pick in the draft but he leaves a lot to be desired. He’s a good athlete but there are stretches of him not being productive. He’s not really a tough guy. He’s not strong. He’s a flash player.” A trade, we think, wouldn’t be out of the question.