Every year at the NFL draft, some players will be drafted high but turn out to be nothing more than an average NFL player, if not a complete bust.
This happens for a combination of reasons—the player’s mental toughness, the team he’s drafted by, or unusual performances at the college level or NFL combine that lead teams to believe a player is something he is not.
Here are a few players that have been highly touted, but will fail to produce in the NFL for a variety of reasons.
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
NFL Comparison: Brandon Lloyd
Kendall Wright is just the type of receiver that can be very productive in college, but then disappear at the next level.
At 5’10”, 196 pounds, Wright does not possess elite size or the ability to jump over corners to make a catch, and a 4.61 second 40-yard dash does not qualify as the type of speed you would want from a small WR.
Wright displays good route running and quickness, but he is not much of a blocker, nor is he really exceptional at any one thing. He was open a lot in Baylor’s high-tempo spread offense, and benefited from being on the receiving end of a lot of accurate deep balls thrown by Robert Griffin III.
Wright has good hands and will find his way in the league, but does not seem worthy of the first-round potential that is currently being assigned to him by ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
NFL Comparison: Alex Smith
Ryan Tannehill is an excellent prospect, and if he is given the proper time to develop and improve as a passer, he has the potential to be an excellent starter for many years.
The problem is less with Tannehill and more with his destination. Because he is being so overvalued by teams that desperately need a quarterback, Tanehill will likely be drafted in the top eight picks by a team like Cleveland, Miami or someone trading up to snag him.
It is easy to say that a team should be patient and allow a quarterback to develop and grow, but those franchises have been disasters for quarterbacks for the last several seasons, and they have a history of rushing young quarterbacks onto the field.
Both Cleveland and Miami have been struggling for a while. They have experienced inconsistencies at head coach and other positions on offense, and currently lack any real talent or hope for immediate improvement.
In the case that Tannehill is rushed onto the field, or if he is thrown into a situation where he is unlikely to succeed based on the talent around him, he could end up fading into mediocrity.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The South Carolina receiver had excellent numbers with the Gamecocks despite inconsistencies at quarterback during his time there, but he simply does not have the speed to succeed in the NFL.
At 6’3”, 216 pounds, Jeffery is physically comparable to Crabtree, who also did not possess elite speed in college. Jeffery is a more extreme case—his speed looks average even for the college game.
Being a good jump ball receiver is nice, but it is not enough to succeed at the next level. Jeffery’s lankiness hurts him, and he does not run fluidly enough to execute great routes or to get open against professional corners.
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
NFL Comparison: LeGarrette Blount
James and Blount could not be more different in terms of their running styles, strengths, or weaknesses, but they are both overrated products of the Oregon offense that will not experience long-term success in the NFL.
Although James is valued as the seventh-best running back by NFL.com, teams will be attracted by his explosiveness and quickness in the open field. He will likely be taken ahead of better running backs due to his production in college and exciting highlight tape.
The problem with James is his ability to secure the football—at 5’8”, 194 pounds, he is not big enough to withstand tough hits, and he simply lacks the strength to hold onto the ball, even against college defenders.
James is an exciting player, but he will struggle to find a team a that commits to him at the next level.