2012 NFL Draft: High-Risk Players Who Will Reward Teams in the Pros

Nolan AhernContributor IIIApril 26, 2012

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13: Janoris Jenkins #1 of the Florida Gators gets the crowd up during a game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The NFL draft begins tonight, and there is always a constant shuffle of players darting up and down the league’s draft boards.

This year, there are a few players with elite talent that have certain weaknesses that will force teams to question their true value. Whether it’s due to inexperience, the wrong body type or character concerns, each team will have to weigh those concerns against the potential reward for prospects on the edge.

These three players will face some of those questions and are just as likely to be reached for as they are to slip down the board. These high-risk, high-reward decisions will often define a team’s draft, and each of these prospects will make whoever drafts them look good in the long run.


Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

Stephen Hill is a player who suffers from a lack of opportunities.

Georgia Tech is a run-first team (using the triple-option), and Hill was only asked to run a few simple routes as part of the offense. As a result, he is largely untested in other areas of the game, but he is an excellent deep threat and a very polished blocker.

Hill helped his chances by running a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, which combines with his 6’4” frame to form an instant downfield threat for the team that drafts him.

He is knocked for being thin and easy to push around, and he does not really appear comfortable with the ball in his hands. This awkwardness speaks more about his college experience than his potential as a pro, however, and a little patience and coaching could turn Hill into a Plaxico Burress-type receiver.


Janoris Jenkins, DB, North Alabama

Jenkins is one of the most talented corners in this deep class, but his off-the-field issues have caused him to fall down most draft boards.

Jenkins was arrested three times while playing at Florida and currently has four children by three different women. These are certainly red flags, and a team will have to be very comfortable with Jenkins to take on such a risk.

That being said, Jenkins is so talented athletically that it may be hard for teams with a need at corner to pass on him. Starting in the SEC for three years, Jenkins had consistent success against the best receivers in the country—Julio Jones had a total of six catches for 47 yards in their last two matchups, and A.J. Green had a combined seven catches for 92 yards in their last two games.

There are obvious risks with Jenkins, but a team with a solid structure and a strong head coach (San Francisco, for example) could get comfortable with his character and take him based on pure value. If he can stay out of trouble, Jenkins could be one of the best cover corners in the league despite his 5’10” frame (Johnathan Joseph comes to mind).


Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State

Osweiler is ranked as the sixth-best quarterback in the draft by Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, but he has the potential to be much more than that.

Originally a Gonzaga basketball recruit, Osweiler is an excellent athlete for a quarterback. At 6’7”, 242 pounds, he can see over the line to make throws and has the toughness to stand in the pocket and take hits.

The main knock on Osweiler is his inexperience—he only played one season as the full-time starter for the Sun Devils, and he displayed a gunslinger mentality that resulted in a mixture of great throws and poor decisions.

Still, Osweiler threw for more than 4,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last year, and when he is under control, Osweiler can be brilliant. He has an NFL-caliber arm and a quick, compact release to match it.

He may be a raw talent with limited experience, but if the team that drafts him gives him time to develop his decision-making before rushing him out on the field, Osweiler has the tools to become the next Ben Roethlisberger.