One of the very appealing, intrinsic qualities to the NFL draft every year is that most fans—and disappointingly, a lot of mainstream analysts—attach so much optimism to the majority of prospect selections.
This positivity, the desire to see and project the best-case scenario for a player, is simply a strong natural human inclination, as it tends to pervade the thinking even of many scouts and front office decision-makers—the men paid to be the most discerning with their opinions.
Even in the National Football League, where the draft translation rate is significantly better than Major League Baseball (this is not a scouting comparison between the two sports; it's due much more to the difference in the sports' developmental curves), most drafted players fall short of potential expectations if not fail altogether.
A cursory examination of the top half of the 2009 class illustrates just how perilous the business of prospect prediction can be and how quickly reality can set in.
Following Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall, it can be reasonably argued that after three seasons the second through seventh picks (Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry, Mark Sanchez, Andre Smith and Darrius Heyward-Bey) have largely or completely underperformed their slots.
And even Eugene Monroe, the eighth pick, took until 2011 to begin to pay off when he took a huge step forward at left tackle for the Jaguars.
Four defensive players (B.J. Raji at No. 9; Brian Orakpo, 13th; Malcolm Jenkins, 14th; Brian Cushing, 15th) can be considered successes.
But the other quartet to round out the top half of the first stanza that year (Michael Crabtree, 10th; Aaron Maybin, 11th; Knowshon Moreno, 12th; Larry English, 16th) have been unmitigated disasters of varying degree. The San Francisco 49ers are at least recouping certain value from Crabtree as a No. 2-type possession receiver.
Through this lens, I am going to identify which prospect at each position will be the biggest dud based on their respective projected draft ranges.