NFL: 50 Rookies Sure to Flame Out Within the Next 5 Years
Let's face reality. A large number of NFL draft picks end up being busts. This is a major reason why roster turnover is as great as it is in the league.
The 2012 draft is going to be no different.
There are going to be a great deal of players that don't live up to their early-draft status. You are going to see top-10 picks fizzle out within a matter of a couple of years. You are also going to see general managers fired because of it.
The selection of players such as Bruce Irvin and Brandon Weeden in the first round last month was cause for alarm around Radio City Music Hall.
This article is going to focus on those two players, as well as 48 others that I believe will flame out in the National Football League over the course of the next few seasons.
50. Bryce Brown, Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles
I wasn't even aware that Bryce Brown had entered the 2012 NFL draft. That is how far off the radar he was to many people around the scene.
Back in 2008, the former Tennessee and Kansas State running back was one of the most hyped recruits in the modern history of college football.
His immature decision-making process at both programs led to early exits and questions about his character. Overall, Brown ran for under 500 yards in college due to these issues.
There is no questioning his talent, but the major issue is whether or not his head is screwed on straight. The Philadelphia Eagles also signed Chris Polk following the draft, who figures to have a better chance to make the team out of training camp.
Sad story here!
49. Travis Lewis, Linebacker, Detroit Lions
Just over a year ago, it looked like Travis Lewis was a lock to be a first-round pick. He had performed at an extremely high level in each of his first three seasons and seemed to fit the mold of a strong 4-3 backer.
A poor senior performance and equally pedestrian postseason workout program saw his stock drop a great deal.
Lewis lacks the explosiveness and pass-rush moves to be a consistent pass-rusher at the next level. He also tends to struggle shedding blocks between the tackles. These issues are going to be magnified a great deal at the next level.
Look for Ronnell Lewis to be the impact Oklahoma product of the 2012 NFL draft for the Detroit Lions.
48. Terrance Ganaway, Running Back, New York Jets
The New York Jets made a necessary decision to go with Terrance Ganaway in the sixth round. They need that physical running back between the hashes, someone that can get that yard when it is needed on third down.
However, the Baylor product will not be much more than a lead-blocker or short yardage specialist. He doesn't have the athleticism or speed to carry the load on a consistent basis.
Once the Jets upgrade more at the running back position, he will be out the door.
47. Nate Ebner, Safety, New England Patriots
CBS Sports had Nate Ebner as the 26th-ranked free safety in the 2012 NFL draft. Even in the sixth round, this needs to be considered a reach for the New England Patriots.
At the best, Ebner will be a talented special-teams player. At worst, he will struggle to make the team out of camp.
46. James Hanna, Tight End, Dallas Cowboys
Workout warriors that were previously off the radar seem to fade as training camp begins and teams look to fill out their 53-man rosters.
James Hanna dominated at the combine in Indianapolis but wasn't anywhere near as productive in college as that athleticism would seem to indicate.
I have a hard time believing that Hanna is going to be anything more than training camp fodder in Dallas.
45. Ryan Lindley, Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
Ryan Lindley was probably the least accurate quarterback in the 2012 NFL draft. Game film and workout video suggests that the San Diego State product couldn't hit Jennifer Lopez's backside if it were presented right in front of his face.
These are the type of struggles that lead to short NFL careers. Lindley might stick for a season or two as a backup for the Arizona Cardinals, but that is about it.
44. Andrew Tiller, Guard, New Orleans Saints
Given the fact that the New Orleans Saints had much better options at guard in the sixth round, this could be concluded as nothing more than a project pick.
First, Andrew Tiller doesn't have the athleticism to take on solid interior defenders at the next level. He struggles a great deal with lateral movement, has major conditioning concerns and just doesn't look like a NFL offensive lineman.
43. Keith Tandy, Cornerback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Prior to the end of the 2011 season, Keith Tandy was considered a mid-round pick. He struggled a great deal with technique and footwork last season at West Virginia, consistently giving up plays on the outside.
These struggles are only going to be magnified going up against more athletic wide receivers in the National Football League.
I understand that sixth-round picks are considered projects, but this is one that might fail right out of the gate.
42. Vick Ballard, Running Back, Indianapolis Colts
My comparison to Vick Ballard is fellow Mississippi State alum and current San Francisco 49ers' running back Anthony Dixon.
Ballard doesn't have the breakaway speed or field instincts to be an every-down back at the next level. Although he might contribute on special teams and in short yardage situations, Ballard will be stuck down on the Indianapolis Colts depth chart.
This pick could have been used on someone that had the potential to be more of a contributor on either side of the ball.
As it is, Ballard is looking at a relatively short NFL career.
41. Darius Fleming, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
I had the honor of watching Darius Fleming play nearly every game of his Notre Dame career. The young linebacker was a leader and solid collegiate player.
This doesn't mean that his game is going to translate to the NFL.
Fleming struggles shedding blocks between the hashes and doesn't possess a wide array of pass-rush moves. Additionally, he isn't ultra athletic and will be bogged down by superior blockers at the next level.
Couple this with the fact that the San Francisco 49ers selected another outside linebacker—Cam Johnson—in the seventh round, and you could be looking at a really short stay in Santa Clara for the former Golden Domer.
Update: Further hindering Fleming is a torn ACL ligament that he suffered in 49ers rookie camp last weekend.
40. Johnnie Troutman, Guard, San Diego Chargers
In order to be a successful guard in the National Football League, you must possess solid lateral movement and athleticism. These are two things that stood out to me when scouting Johnnie Troutman during the scouting process.
He struggles against more athletic defenders, something that will only be more glaring at the next level.
Despite a great overall draft for the San Diego Chargers, this selection made little sense. You are probably looking at a player that will be stuck down on the depth chart or on the practice squad.
39. Zebrie Sanders, Offensive Tackle, Buffalo Bills
Zebrie Sanders was considered an early second-round pick earlier in the offseason. However, after struggling in postseason events, his stock dropped a great deal.
Despite being incredibly raw, there is a tremendous amount of untapped potential here. This is where it gets tricky. How long will he be given to gain more seasoning? Can the Buffalo Bills afford to spend a roster spot on a player that might not be prepared to play over the next couple seasons?
These are the issues and questions that teams have to deal with when selecting a known project in the draft.
38. Najee Goode, Linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I was a big fan of Najee Goode on tape. He plays with a tremendous amount of passion and a non-stop motor.
That being said, the West Virginia product just doesn't have the athleticism or skill to be a good player at the next level. He lacks the speed and strength to make a consistent impact on both special teams and on defense.
This should be a rather short career.
37. Rhett Ellison, Tight End/Fullback, Minnesota Vikings
There are loads of untapped potential here with Rhett Ellison. He can play multiple roles on the offensive side of the ball, including fullback and tight end.
However, this potential did not lead to production at Southern California, as Ellison continually struggled to stay consistent.
This is something that the Minnesota Vikings are not going to put up with. Additionally, they already have Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson at the tight end position, as well as Jerome Felton at fullback.
36. Nick Toon, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints
Yet another player that slipped a great deal as the draft approached.
Nick Toon struggles to get separation at the line and possesses less-than-adequate hands. He might be helped out a great deal by Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints, but their patience level just isn't going to be there.
If Toon gets off to a slow start—which I suspect he will—you could see the Wisconsin product hidden on the depth chart for the foreseeable future.
35. Keshawn Martin, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans
Regardless of the fact that the Houston Texans had many more options at wide receiver here, I just don't get them reaching for Keshawn Martin.
Sure, the Michigan State product was a solid performer in college, but that really doesn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.
His talents do not translate to the National Football League, and this will be apparent rather early on in his career.
34. Jaye Howard, Defensive Line, Seattle Seahawks
Never mind the fact that Jaye Howard was considered a late seventh-round pick by most experts. That really doesn't matter when assessing whether or not a player is going to stick in the National Football League.
He is joining a Seattle Seahawks defensive line that seems pretty stacked along the interior. This is going to cause some issues in regards to Howard's ability to make the roster out of camp.
Moreover, Howard lacks power and doesn't engage blocks too well. He will be thrown off the line on a consistent basis and can be run at a great deal.
33. Bobby Massie, Offensive Tackle, Arizona Cardinals
Many people believe that the Arizona Cardinals were lucky that Bobby Massie fell to them in the fourth round last month. Talent-wise, they might be right, but the former Mississippi standout has a lot of work to do in regards to technique.
He consistently got too high on blocks and struggled against speed rushers on the outside. These are two aspects of his game that need to be fixed in short order.
However, the Cardinals are not in a situation that enables them to let Massie work on these techniques and take it slowly. Rather, he might be thrown to the wolves early. If this happens, you could see a major issue in regards to confidence.
32. Evan Rodriguez, Tight End, Chicago Bears
I was not a big fan of Evan Rodriguez heading into the 2012 NFL draft. He doesn't possess fluid hands and still struggles with the route-running aspect of the game.
If this continues, you can expect the Temple product to be held back in the Bears' offense and struggle making an immediate impact.
31. Robert Turbin, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks
One of the major concerns about Robert Turbin heading into April's draft was the fact that he played against less-than-stellar competition at Utah State. While I don't buy into that, I do think that he is going to have a tremendous learning curve heading to the NFL.
This has more to do with raw running technique and an inability to possess great vision on the football field. Considering that the average career for a running back is short, Turbin needs to improve on these aspects of his game in order to be a solid player at the next level.
30. Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Washington Redskins
This is more about the situation that Kirk Cousins was put in than anything else. He will not have an opportunity to compete for a starting job with the Washington Redskins.
It just isn't going to happen.
This could have a dramatic impact on his growth as a quarterback and his confidence level moving forward in his career.
If Cousins was put in a situation to compete, he would have been in a much better spot right now.
29. Travis Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns
Travis Benjamin is as raw as they come, which leads me to believe that the Cleveland Browns were going for upside here.
Still, they probably could have gone in another direction, perhaps with a player that would have made a more immediate impact.
When project wide receivers are selected, the "bust rate" is incredibly high. I see this being the case with Benjamin.
28. Jayron Hosley, Cornerback, New York Giants
Jayron Hosley is a physically intimidating defensive back that probably translates better to playing safety. He struggles a great deal with hip movement on the outside, consistently getting turned around.
If the New York Giants are planning on playing the former Virginia Tech standout solely at corner, they are in for a rude awakening.
These issues are only magnified in the NFL.
27. Lamar Holmes, Offensive Tackle, Atlanta Falcons
Lamar Holmes should have been nowhere near a mid-round selection. He has major issues getting too upright at the point of contact and struggles with footwork in order to maintain balance.
Sure, the Atlanta Falcons are going to work with him a great deal, but the NFL is a fluid game that requires a relatively quick learning process.
I just don't see Holmes being able to adapt to that speed.
26. Jake Bequette, Defensive End, New England Patriots
Jake Bequette has a high motor which impressed me a great deal on tape. The primary issue that I have with the former Arkansas standout is that he lacks the necessary talent and athleticism to make major difference in the NFL.
This is something that you either have or you don't have.
Don't get me wrong. These types of players have succeeded in the NFL after gaining some seasoning and utilizing the weight room, but I just have a hard time believe that this will be the case with Bequette in New England.
25. Nick Foles, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles was an intriguing prospect heading into the draft. He has all the skills necessary to be a successful quarterback in the NFL, but he has yet to put it together.
The Arizona product struggles with field recognition and seems to get a little antsy in the pocket. This led to some unforced turnovers in college and will only be magnified at the next level.
This is pretty much a boom-or-bust prospect for the Philadelphia Eagles moving forward. I would hedge my bets towards bust.
24. Bernard Pierce, Running Back, Baltimore Ravens
There were a ton of mid-round running back prospects available when the Baltimore Ravens selected Bernard Pierce in the third round.
He was my least favorite of the bunch.
The former Temple product does seems to struggle a great deal running between the hashes, a requirement in the National Football League. Additionally, he doesn't have the breakaway speed to get to the outside where he is more comfortable.
23. Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals
Mohamed Sanu was considered a late first-round pick prior to the start of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Struggles at that event, as well as other postseason performances, caused his stock to drop a great deal.
Sanu struggles catching the ball fluidly and will cause turnovers on the offensive side of the ball due to this. He needs to do a better job using his hands and bringing the ball in. This is something that Marvin Lewis and Co. will not have any patience with.
This is also something that leads me to believe that the Rutgers prospect is going to struggle performing to the level that his talent suggests.
22. Brandon Hardin, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
It really doesn't matter that I had Brandon Hardin as a late-round pick. If he performs up to the level that his talent suggests, the Oregon State product should be fine.
My primary issue with the Chicago Bears rookie is that he struggles with technique on the outside, consistently getting turned around. He needs to start playing the ball better and getting a feel of where the quarterback is going to go with the ball.
If this doesn't happen, Hardin is going to have a relatively short NFL career.
21. Olivier Vernon, Defensive End, Miami Dolphins
A project pick in the third that doesn't seem to have what it takes to make it in the NFL.
The Miami product does not possess NFL-ready pass-rush moves and tends to disappear at times in games. Olivier Vernon was far too inconsistent in college to justify the Miami Dolphins spending an early third-round pick on him.
In an otherwise solid draft, this pick might go down as the most problematic for Miami. Vernon not only needs to hone his pass-rush skills, he needs to gain better instincts on the field in order to make up for a lack of speed.
20. T.J. Graham, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
Yet another player that I had going much lower than he was actually selected. I do understand what the Buffalo Bills saw in T.J. Graham. I just have not seen enough solid tape to justify leaving him off this list.
The North Carolina State product tends to struggle a great deal with consistency and possesses a relatively weak frame for someone looking to cut it in the National Football League.
Either Graham bulks up a great deal and becomes more consistent, or he will be out of the league in a few years.
It really is that simple.
19. DeVier Posey, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans
This really doesn't have as much to do with the suspension of DeVier Posey last season as it has to do with his inability to gain separation at the line of scrimmage and run fluid routes outside.
The Ohio State product was drafted by the Houston Texans in order to be a nice complement to Andre Johnson, but I just don't see that happening.
There are way too many holes in his game for Posey to be considered a solid NFL prospect at this point. Of course, he can always prove me wrong.
18. Brock Osweiler, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
Another year of seasoning at Arizona State would have done Brock Osweiler some good. In fact, many within the scouting community were completely thrown off by his decision to enter the 2012 NFL draft.
The tools are definitely there, but Osweiler is probably as raw of a early-round quarterback prospect that I have seen in ages.
Osweiler struggles with accuracy on both the intermediate and longer passes. He doesn't have good placement of the ball, consistently throwing behind the intended target.
Of course, the Denver Broncos have Peyton Manning to show him the way, so that will help out a great deal.
I just don't see NFL starter written on Osweiler.
17. Ryan Broyles, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
I fully understand that Ryan Broyles had a record setting career at Oklahoma. Most of that had to do with their pass-friendly offense, but there is a certain level of talent here.
Despite some concerns over injuries, I am not going to take that into account, either.
What I don't like about Broyles is the fact that he struggles getting off the line, consistently gets bumped off of his route and doesn't possess the softest of hands.
These issues are only going to be magnified in the National Football League.
16. Jerel Worthy, Defensive Line, Green Bay Packers
Jerel Worthy was way too inconsistent in college for the Green Bay Packers to justify trading up in the second round to nab him.
The Michigan State product gets too high at the point of contact, which renders him helpless against the run a great deal of the time. He completely disappeared in certain games and doesn't possess the ability to disengage blocks at the point of contact.
Definitely not traits you are looking for in an impact second-round pick.
15. Tavon Wilson, Safety, New England Patriots
Many scouting outlets had Tavon Wilson as a late-round pick, at best. To say that the New England Patriots' selection of the Illinois product was a shock would be a major understatement.
This doesn't necessarily mean that Wilson is going to struggle in the National Football League. It just means that the best minds that the scouting world had to offer weren't nearly as high on him as the Patriots were.
My primary concern is that he was completely off the radar of some of the best experts, which has to indicate that there is something here.
Time will tell.
14. Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears
Regular readers of my articles know that I am not high on Alshon Jeffery. I see way too many important holes in his game to declare him a solid pro prospect.
Rather, the South Carolina product tends to struggle with the most important aspects of the game. He doesn't get off the line against press coverage, consistently struggles catching the ball cleanly and doesn't run consistent routes.
Maybe Brandon Marshall can teach him a thing or two with the Chicago Bears, but I wouldn't count on it.
13. Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver, New York Jets
I will not hold Stephen Hill's lack of route-running skills against him. This is something that can be learned with seasoning at the next level.
My primary issue with the New York Jets' rookie is that he tends to struggle a great deal getting off the line and will not go up there and get the ball against larger defenders. Rather, it seems that Hill plays much smaller than his frame would indicate.
As with most project receivers, the "bust factor" is relatively high here. Hill will either be a gem or fizzle out.
12. Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, St. Louis Rams
Most of this has to do with serious character issues, more than anything else. All things being equal, Janoris Jenkins would have been a top-10 pick.
When a prospect has consistent issues off the field, there has to be something to it. He didn't make one or two mistakes. Rather, his transgressions in college seemed to be more of a pattern.
Hopefully, he proves me wrong.
11. Derek Wolfe, Defensive Line, Denver Broncos
This is more about upside than anything else. Derek Wolfe just doesn't seem to have the athleticism or strength to be a consistent force along the interior of the defensive line.
Instead, he tends to struggle against larger blockers, which is going to be magnified in the NFL.
My primary concern with Wolfe is his level of inconsistency. The Cincinnati product tends to disappear at times.
10. Harrison Smith, Safety, Minnesota Vikings
As much as I enjoyed watching Harrison Smith play "quarterback" in Notre Dame's secondary over the course of the last few seasons, he just lacks the coverage skills and athleticism to be a starting safety at the next level.
This is a player that I had given a late-round grade prior to a solid senior season. He jumped up the boards after looking extremely impressive in 2011.
You just have to wonder if that was his ceiling.
9. Nick Perry, Defensive End/Linebacker, Green Bay Packers
I have been in the minority throughout the scouting process in regards to Nick Perry. I don't think the USC alum translates well to playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He tends to struggle a great deal in coverage, consistently getting turned around when asked to drop back.
Perry can get run at a great deal and consistently leaves gaps unmanned, which leads to open running lanes for running backs. He also needs to show flashes of better athleticism in order to be considered a pass-rush threat at the next level.
Just not sold on him!
8. Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Houston Texans
Whitney Mercilus had one great season in college and turned that into a first-round selection. Can he do it for one more season? Will his game translate to the National Football League? My answers to those two questions are resounding no's!
He is not going to be a consistent force at the next level. Rather, Mercilus will be called on to be a pass-rush specialist. However, he doesn't seem to have the necessary moves down to make an immediate impact in that aspect of the game.
Mercilus is a one-trick pony. How good is that trick?
7. Brandon Weeden, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns
Brandon Weeden's age doesn't concern me in the least. This could actually work in his favor early in his career.
My primary concern with the surprise first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns is that he has had the experience to fix certain mechanical flaws, but hasn't progressed over the course of the last couple seasons.
Weeden tends to throw off the back foot a great deal of the time, which causes the elevation in his passes to decrease dramatically. This might not be a major issue in the Big 12, but you can bet it will be in the NFL.
Moreover, being a pitcher in minor league baseball has really caused major issues in regards to his release. Weeden tends to throw the ball sidearm and holds it at his hip prior to release. This leads to a prolonged windup, can cause batted balls, and forces the offensive line to hold blocks longer.
All these things need to be worked on in order for Weeden to succeed in Cleveland.
6. Chandler Jones, Defensive End/Linebacker, New England Patriots
"Boom or bust" is the label that I put on Chandler Jones leading up to the draft. He is either going to be the next Aldon Smith or the next Everette Brown. There is no in-between.
My primary concern with the Syracuse product is the fact that he doesn't have honed pass-rush skills, which should cause some major issues early on in his NFL career. This issue needs to be fixed in order for Jones to be an impact player.
The New England Patriots took a major gamble in an attempt to upgrade their pass-rush. It will either payoff a great deal or backfire on them.
5. Quinton Coples, Defensive End, New York Jets
Quinton Coples was terribly inconsistent with North Carolina in college. He struggles disengaging blocks, doesn't possess a full pass-rush repertoire and seems to play extremely high at times.
Coples will be strong against the run because of his strong build, but that shouldn't be enough for him to be considered an elite rookie heading into the 2012 season.
Additionally, he doesn't seem to fit well in the New York Jets 3-4 defensive scheme. He's definitely more of a 4-3 defensive end.
4. Bruce Irvin, Defensive End, Seattle Seahawks
Never mind the fact that many people were absolutely shocked that the Seattle Seahawks selected Bruce Irvin in the first round. He definitely has the pass-rush ability to be a pretty damn good player at the next level.
My major concerns with the West Virginia product are that he tends to get too high at the point of contact, doesn't possess great strength and lacks natural instincts on the football field.
If it were just one of these issues, there wouldn't be much of a deal. That being said, these are three huge weaknesses that need to be worked on in order for him to be a starter in the NFL.
I just don't see it happening.
3. Michael Brockers, Defensive Line, St. Louis Rams
"Raw natural ability" is a term that was thrown around a great deal when scouting Michael Brockers prior to the draft last month. If he is able to hone and build technique, the sky will be the limit.
However, I am not sold on the LSU product being able to address these issues early on in his career. Consequently, the St. Louis Rams are definitely going to be asking him to make an impact early on.
Brockers also plays way too high at times, which causes him to struggle getting off blocks and leads to him being thrown off the line of scrimmage at contact.
The Rams are going to be in for a rude awakening if they believe Brockers is going to be an immediate impact rookie. If they rely on him to do that, you could see an issue in regards to confidence.
2. Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill attempted a total of 774 passes in college, about as many as fellow Big 12 alum Brandon Weeden completed at Oklahoma State. This tells you a story of a quarterback that lacks the necessary experience to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
His mechanics are right about where his experience at this point would indicate, as well.
This wouldn't be much of a problem if Tannehill wasn't a first-round pick. However, the reality is that he was selected in the initial round. The Miami Dolphins are going to ask him to start relatively early, which could set back his career a great deal.
We have seen this show repeated over and over again with young quarterbacks. The only way that Tannehill is going to be an successful quarterback in the NFL is if he sits for a season or two.
I just don't see that happening.
1.Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Blackmon continued to slide down my board as the draft approached. The more tape I watched of the Oklahoma State product, the less enthralled I was of his ability to play in the NFL.
Blackmon struggles a great deal getting off the line, doesn't run tight routes and lacks excellent hands on the outside.
These are three things that teams look for in a top-tier receiving prospect. Blackmon has a great deal of work to do in order to live up to his top-five billing. If these issues are not fixed, you could be looking at one of the biggest busts from the 2012 NFL draft.
It definitely doesn't help that Blaine Gabbert is going to be the one throwing passes to him.