NFL Draft 2012: 10 Biggest Boom-or-Bust Prospects in the Draft
With the 2012 NFL draft inching ever closer, it is important to examine the prospects with the biggest boom-or-bust potential in the draft class.
While some players are inherently safe picks with a proven college track record and clean history off the playing field, others are surrounded with questions.
Whether those questions are in regards to a lack of production or other transgressions and allegations, not every prospect comes in as a proverbial "sure thing."
Let's examine those players who are either going to explode onto the NFL scene or fade away with little more than a whimper on the big stage.
10. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
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Whitney Mercilus was a standout star for Illinois in 2011.
The only problem is that 2011 was the only campaign in which he really stood out.
Plenty of NFL players have went on to great careers after only one year as a collegiate star, but even more have proven to be one hit wonders.
Mercilus has all the physical gifts. He is 6'3", 254 lbs and is one of the best pure pass-rushers in this year's class.
His motor never stops, and while he is only built for the outside of a 4-3 scheme, Mercilus is clearly going to give full effort wherever he is plugged in.
Some GMs will undoubtedly believe that his 2011 season is a big enough body of work to warrant a first-round selection, but many may be wary of the Fighting Illini prospect.
9. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
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Robert Gallery may have forever attached the "boom-or-bust" label to Iowa offensive linemen, but Riley Reiff has earned that designation all on his own.
Reiff is 6'6", 313 lbs with a solid frame and good athleticism.
The problem is that he never seems to stand out as the type of tackle who is going to bulldoze defenders.
Reiff is a gritty player who is willing to battle in the trenches, but his technique still needs a lot of work before he is ready to be an anchor at left tackle.
With the depth in this year's tackle class, Reiff will have a lot to prove to cement himself as one of the best to join the NFL in 2012.
8. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
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Alshon Jeffery has the kind of size and ball skills that make NFL scouts salivate.
At 6'3", 216 lbs, he can push defenders around and cause all sorts of matchup problems in the red zone.
However, with all the turmoil South Carolina endured at quarterback in his junior season, Jeffery's numbers tapered off dramatically after a stellar sophomore campaign.
His work ethic has been questioned, and the star wideout even appeared disinterested at times with what was happening on the field this past season.
If Jeffery stays hungry he can be an elite playmaker at the next level.
If not, he could allow his weight to balloon to new heights and waste the overwhelming amount of natural skill he possesses.
7. Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
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Cordy Glenn is an absolutely massive prospect at 6'6", 345 lbs with all the potential in the world.
Interior offensive linemen with his combination of size and athleticism do not come around all that often, and yet with his size also comes numerous question marks.
Can Glenn keep his playing weight in check while also managing to stay motivated and hungry?
If so, then he becomes a versatile weapon worthy of a first-round selection.
He has quick enough feet to play right tackle if necessary and all the physical tools needed to be a dominant guard for the next decade.
But he must be able to stay at a reasonable playing weight and maintain great conditioning.
6. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
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Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech embodies the classic case of an amazingly gifted wide receiver that had the misfortune of playing within an offense that did not cater to his skill set.
The Yellow Jackets triple-option offense certainly has its benefits, but showcasing the ability of playmaking wideouts like Hill is not one of them.
Still, at 6'4", 215 lbs and having recorded a 4.36 40-yard dash, Hill is a prospect that cannot be ignored come draft day.
His draft position will come down to whether or not GMs trust his raw skills without the college production to back it up.
5. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
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The star of Alabama, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, has certainly taken a hit recently, but it may be more because of the meteoric rise South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been making up draft boards.
Still, Kirkpatrick has not helped his cause with all the recent reports and worries surrounding his motivation or lack thereof.
Kirkpatrick is outspoken and brash. A cocky individual not afraid to let his play do the talking.
His three career interceptions are deceiving because that may be more of a testament to his skill in man-to-man coverage.
There is no doubt that at 6'2", 186 lbs and having ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine, Kirkpatrick has the size and speed to hang with the best of NFL receivers.
But can he remain dedicated on the field without a coach pushing him at all times?
Only time will answer this glaring concern.
4. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
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Mike Adams seems to throw up every proverbial red flag in the book.
He was involved in an off-field scandal at Ohio State that ended in a suspension.
But beneath all of these hazards there is still a serious NFL prospect hiding.
Adams is a freakish 6'7", 323 lbs and was very productive on the field.
The Buckeye tackle is athletic and surprisingly light-footed.
He is projected as a late first-to early second-round pick.
The question is if he can correct all the wrongs he has committed since stepping foot in Columbus.
3. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
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Oh, Janoris Jenkins, why do you refuse to be a model citizen?
Jenkins is talented and athletic enough to be a Top 15 selection in the upcoming draft. The problem is that he has a maze of problems off the field that are hindering his stock.
The former Florida Gator was kicked out of school after being arrested for marijuana possession.
He then spent a quiet year at North Alabama and helped his draft potential before raising new questions at the combine.
Namely character concerns and bewilderment about the news that he is the father of four children by three different women.
Fair or not, these are real problems for NFL teams looking for help in their defensive backfields.
If GMs can look past Jenkins off-field troubles, they will find a player with lightning-fast speed and a willingness to throw his body around whenever necessary.
He has the potential to be an elite NFL cornerback, but potential can be a scary word when talking about a player with Jenkins's track record.
2. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
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NFL Network guru Mike Mayock had the following to say about North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples:
If I'm a general manager, I'm not taking him in the first round, and I might not take him in the second round. To me, the bust potential is high, and the earlier you take him, the more risk there is inherent in that. So, for me, Quinton Coples is not even a draftable player.
These are harsh words from a trusted NFL source, but the projected best defensive end in this year's draft class has been known to take plays off at times.
When he is playing at full speed, Coples can be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
He is a gifted pass-rusher with great instincts and top-end speed.
However, in the NFL, he cannot get away with taking plays off. Teams will have to be certain of Coples's dedication before taking him near the top of the draft.
1. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
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The biggest boom-or-bust player in this class was bound to be a quarterback, and Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M fits the bill perfectly.
He made only 19 starts in his college career, but with Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor all but assured to be the first two picks in the draft, Tannehill sits as the No. 3 option in the class.
There are questions surrounding both his accuracy and consistency, and after multiple fourth-quarter collapses last season, Tannehill has not yet showcased the all-important clutch gene that elite NFL quarterbacks possess.
Still, his upside is hard to ignore and a franchise quarterback is hard to find.
There are rumors of the Miami Dolphins looking at him with the No. 8 selection.
If they fall in love with his strong arm, leadership and athleticism then so be it, but Tannehill is far from a sure thing moving forward.