2012 NFL Draft: 7 Biggest Risks in First Round

Madison GuernseyContributor IIIFebruary 15, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 7 Biggest Risks in First Round

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    Every NFL Draft has its surprises and disappointments. Sometimes, having the first overall pick isn't as great as it would seem, and teams end up with players who never live up to their hype and are out of the league within five years.

    This year's NFL Draft features talent across the board, but not all of it will be displayed at the pro level.

    In no particular order, here's a list of the seven riskiest players to take in the first round.

1. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

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    The reigning Heisman Trophy winner boosted his draft stock immensely in 2011, passing for nearly 4,300 yards and owned a touchdown-to-interception ratio of over 6 to 1.

    The senior led his Baylor Bears to a 10-win season and their first bowl victory since 1994 (over Washington in the Alamo Bowl).

    His numbers were beyond impressive, and Griffin has a great chance at succeeding at the next level. But there are some causes for concern as well.

    He has a small frame at 6'2'', 220 pounds and his health in the long-run could be an issue. While Griffin has plenty of speed and athleticism to escape the pocket, he's bound to suffer some big hits eventually.

    Being a quarterback, Griffin will be heavily praised and/or criticized, and small mistakes may be blown out of proportion.

    He's an excellent runner and defenses will have to game-plan for every facet of his abilities. Scrambling QBs like Griffin traditionally haven't fared terribly well in the NFL, but the world saw a change last season when Tim Tebow and Cam Newton were all over the highlights.

    RG3 has potential to star in the NFL, but at the same time he's a slight risk as a top-five pick. 

2. Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State

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    Vontaze Burfict strikes fear in any opposing quarterback—until they get under his skin.

    The former ASU linebacker has all the necessary skills to be productive at the next level, but he's hot headed and can be easily rattled.

    His early years in the NFL will probably be tough ones as Burfict will be adjusting to the national spotlight and the trash talking that comes with it.

    Burfict is one of the highest risk/highest reward players in the draft, and has all the potential to succeed or fail. 

3. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

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    The former Florida defensive standout is another high risk/high reward player that will be selected early on in this year's draft.

    Jenkins was dismissed from the Gators after being arrested twice on drug-related charges among other off-field incidences and played his senior season at North Alabama.

    Scouts Inc. has Jenkins rated as the 15th overall prospect and second-best cornerback for the upcoming draft. 

    He was named a 2008 freshman All-American and tallied eight picks in three seasons at Florida. He has the ability to be a lock-down corner, but off-field issues could land him in the same boat as Pacman Jones.

4. Quinton Coples, North Carolina

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    Tar Heels' defensive end Quinton Coples is listed as the top defensive prospect by Scouts Inc. He's a monster at 6'6'', 285, and was a legit pass rusher at UNC.

    Although his senior year was disappointing, Coples still has huge upside going into the draft. His best season was 2010, when he recorded 16 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.

    Coples has great size and quickness, but lacks the speed and athleticism needed to be an elite pass-rusher in the NFL. His biggest drawback may be finding the right fit, as he played both defensive end and defensive tackle at North Carolina. 

5. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

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    Quarterback issues played a large role in Alshon Jeffery's statistical decline in 2011, but the former Gamecocks' wide-out is talented and can be a standout at receiver in the NFL.

    He has elite size and strength at 6'4'', 229 pounds, and is a near impossible matchup in the red zone.

    What Jeffery lacks is great speed and route running skills, which could hinder his production at the next level.

    The aforementioned QB issues in Columbia made Jeffery's collegiate career somewhat of a mystery, as his production went way up from 2009 to 2010, then plateaued in 2011 back down to numbers almost identical to those of 2009.

    His hands and toughness will get him so far, but Jeffery will need to improve in a few key areas if he is to put up consistent numbers in the NFL.

6. Michael Brockers, LSU

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    LSU's Michael Brockers has all the makings of a star defensive tackle in the NFL. He has elite size (6'6'', 306 pounds) and strength and has great technique.

    Brockers' inexperience could delay the process of his stardom, and he may end up being a project rather than star from the get-go.

    He isn't a great pass-rusher and only has one year of starting experience under his belt, but other than that Brockers is solid defensively.

    If he's a top-five selection he could be viewed as a bust, but he could also be a steal if taken later. 

7. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

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    Dre Kirkpatrick is coming off a national championship with Alabama and has decided to take a chance in the NFL. The large corner (6'3'') doesn't have lightning speed but can keep up fairly well downfield.

    Kirkpatrick is a smart DB who can read quarterbacks and sniff out plays well in advance, but he goes for the big plays and sometimes the risk doesn't pay off.

    Kirkpatrick also has had some off-field issues, being arrested for possession of marijuana on January 17. Although the charges were recently dropped, some teams might be hesitant to take a chance on him at the risk of another disciplinary issue.