It truly is sad to see how far Vontaze Burfict’s draft stock has fallen in the past couple of months.
But it can be expected from a prospect whose bad behavior definitely out-weighs his superior athleticism, out-weighing all his good football-playing skills to the point that it threatens his ability to be drafted at all.
And this inside linebacker out of Arizona State isn’t the only one.
Other draft prospects have done little to convince onlookers that their talent is worth their trouble, whether it be a lack of work ethic or trouble with the law.
Here’s a look at Burfict and five other talented prospects who might be on the draft day chopping block:
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins—with a long list of negative issues, including expulsion and marijuana possession—has worked to rehabilitate his off-field image so pro scouts will be more inclined to draft him in the top 20.
But is it enough for teams to overlook his past faults?
NFL Draft Geek reports that being "dismissed" from Florida wasn’t enough to convince him to get his act together, as he was suspended for a fighting during a game while he was at Northern Alabama.
While I’d love to think that Jenkins’ days of failed drug tests and arrests are behind him, his lengthy list of issues has got to make pro teams nervous—especially when his bad past seems to keep popping up in the news.
The Sporting News published an investigative article on Monday, linking Jenkins’ drug problems in Florida to former head coach Urban Meyers’ reign over the football program.
I want to believe that Jenkins has cleaned up enough to get drafted high and have a fruitful NFL career, but it’s up to the NFL teams to decide whether he’s talent to covet or another "Pac-Man Jones."
NFL Draft Geek notes his "elite" speed and acceleration, and that it’s hard to believe that a tier-2 prospect like James would be in danger of not being drafted. He’s an absolute beast on the field, rushing for 1,805 yards and 18 TDs in the 2011 season alone.
But his inability to handle a "heavy workload" makes him more of liability than a dependable player. NFL Draft Geek suggests that teams should draft him as a "luxury pick," but any team looking to add depth will surely look at players who can be get the job done no matter when they're put into the game.
He would make a great secret weapon for any team, and I agree with NFL Draft Geek that his speed and footwork are a rare find. But if a team is looking for a prospect who can be expected to work hard, James might be in trouble.
NFL Draft Geek notes that USC’s DaJohn Harris is strong, explosive and versatile enough to grow in the NFL.
Harris does, however, have some "health concerns" that could make pro teams very nervous.
At this year’s NFL combine, Harris was not allowed to participate because his physical exam in Indianapolis revealed that he has a hole in his heart.
His treating cardiologist in Arizona alerted all 32 NFL teams that the hole was "normal" and nothing to worry about, revealing that the small hole is prevalent in relatively 25 percent of humans and not normally diagnosed as a health issue.
But considering that Harris already doesn’t have very good stamina, as NFL Draft Geek points out, a heart problem makes him even more of a liability.
Harris was still able to interview with teams and perform during USC’s pro day, but team’s are still wary of him. And while Harris acknowledged that he "doesn’t fault teams for being cautious with him," he could still be nervously twiddling his thumbs on draft day if teams choose to not take the gamble with his health.
NFL Draft Geek points out that Ryan Broyles is "strong, agile" and a "great route-runner." To top that off, he holds the NCAA record for receptions by 33—exactly what you would expect from a draft-worthy wide receiver.
But college injuries can certainly affect how a pro team views a prospect, and Broyles has multiple injuries that could hurt his draft chances.
He suffered from a broken collarbone during the 2009 season, and then a torn ACL that kept him out for the end of his senior season. A wide receiver with an already banged-up knee doesn’t look like a promising receiver at all.
It isn’t because Ole Miss offensive tackle Bobby Massie has off-the-field drama or has health issues.
Massie’s draft stock is in trouble because he, to put it simply, has a serious lazy bone.
In a draft class with tackles Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff, a lack of energy is a surefire way to make a prospect’s stock plummet.
This isn’t to say that Massie isn’t a great football player, as he has his "size, strength and smarts" on his side—with room to improve, notes Draft Geek. But his habit of "relying on his athleticism to make up for his laziness" hurts his play, and could hurt his draft chances on April 26th.
Burfict gets my vote for Biggest Bad Boy of the 2012 draft class.
He has Jenkins’ bad rap sheet mixed with both Massie’s laziness and the self-respect of a delinquent teenager.
This guy doesn’t just get into fights off the field. Draft Geek notes that he "fights with his coaches and fellow players during games." Heck, one of his teammates found his face on the other side of Burfict’s knuckles.
And how many NFL coaches can you think of who want to draft a guy who’s prone to punching his own teammates?
Unlike Jenkins, Burfict hasn’t put forth any effort to better his image. He "bombed" his interviews with scouts and was unprepared for the combine. A guy who "doesn’t take responsibility" for his unsavory behavior is covered with warning flags.
I can’t imagine any team wanting to take the gamble on a head case such as Burfict, no matter how talented a linebacker he is.