NFL Rookie Predictions: 1 Rookie Sure to Bust from Every Round
Every NFL draft class is bound to have its share of draft picks that turn out to be busts. The 2012 NFL draft class will be no different. It's inevitable that somebody won't be able to make the transition from the college game to the bigger, faster and stronger NFL game.
A bust could be the result of a player that just physically can't perform at the next level, is overwhelmed by NFL playbooks, can't overcome injuries, has a poor work ethic, faces off-field issues or decides that the game of football is no longer fun. For whatever reason, the player becomes a bust, meaning the expected level of production didn't warrant the draft pick that the team invested in that player.
Some college football programs are constructed in a way that their schemes and designs will make players look superficially much better than they actually are. Once those players are in NFL training camps, they are exposed for what kinds of players they are in reality.
It could be a first-round, second-round, fifth-round or a seventh-round pick. Regardless of the round he was selected in, each round of the draft and every draft pick carries with it some level or degree of playing skill that his NFL team thought made him worthy of being drafted in that specific round. The value of expected return varies according to the round he was drafted in.
So, when we bring up a name that could be deemed a potential third-round bust or a potential sixth-round bust, we are also acknowledging that there is a drop-off in expectations the later the player is drafted. Still, if there wasn't any level of expectations for sixth-round draft picks or seventh-round draft picks, the NFL would just eliminate those rounds from the draft.
Here, then, are my choices for which rookies from every round of the 2012 NFL draft will turn out to be busts.
First Round: Justin Blackmon
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While there are a number of names that I have seen bandied about as potential first-round busts from the 2012 NFL draft, there is only one player that has really shown the ability to quickly spiral out of control. That player, who is generating plenty of talk about being a bust, is wide receiver Justin Blackmon of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
As most of you have probably heard or at least read by now, Blackmon recently committed not his first, but his second DUI in a two-year time period.
According to the police, Blackmon originally blew 0.24 on his first Breathalyzer test and then followed that up with a 0.26 on his second test. Good thing he wasn't asked to blow a third time. Another good thing was that he didn't kill anybody, since he seriously wasn't in any condition to drive.
According to the Florida Times-Union, Blackmon held a press conference on Wednesday where he apologized to everybody for his actions and promised to give up drinking for now. Might have been the wrong choice of words.
As for the message that Blackmon is sending out to Jaguars ownership, his teammates and to the Jaguars fanbase, it's clear that he is having trouble making good decisions on what to do with his time away from the field. It isn't hard to imagine that there are probably some key members of the Jaguars' front office that are now second-guessing why they traded up to the No. 5 overall spot for him.
It is not out of the question that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could step in and discipline Blackmon. He could be looking at anything from being placed in the NFL substance abuse program with random testing to something more severe like a suspension, considering it is his second DUI.
The other aspect to discuss is the football side of the Blackmon draft choice. He played in a spread offense at Oklahoma State, going up against some rather suspect Big 12 defenses. Blackmon will learn how much tougher it is to get free against NFL secondaries, and he will have to prove that he can make the necessary adjustments.
Secondly, pairing Blackmon with Blaine Gabbert as his quarterback could easily wind up as a disaster. Aaron Rodgers finished the 2011 season as the No. 1-rated quarterback, averaging 9.25 yards per pass attempt. Ranked dead last out of 34 total NFL quarterbacks was Gabbert, who averaged only 5.36 yards per pass attempt.
In other words, you have a talented athlete like Blackmon trying to get free downfield waiting for passes from a quarterback that has nervous feet and has trouble feeling his way around the pocket to be able to throw the ball down the field. It was just not a very good match by the Jaguars.
It is noted that if the Jaguars are able to plug in a quarterback with a stronger arm, then Blackmon's stock would go up. But for as long as Blackmon has Gabbert as his quarterback, this looks like it was a bad idea.
Finally, we have the trust issue. The Jaguars drafted Blackmon because they believed out of all the remaining players in the draft pool, Blackmon offered them the best chance to win and was the player that they wanted to represent the team and the community. With his actions, Blackmon is breaking that trust factor and throwing it away.
You can chalk it up to being young and naive if you want to, but assuming that he is placed in the NFL substance abuse program, he will be reminded of how stupid he was every time he has to submit to a random drug test. Let's say that Blackmon encounters a rough two- or three-game patch in his rookie year. How will he react? Will he want to go on an all-night bender? It's obvious that he doesn't have the ability to know when to say he's had enough.
For another opinion on the Blackmon scenario, here is a story from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller on why he believes that Blackmon is going to be a draft bust.
Second Round: Janoris Jenkins
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It really didn't come as a major shock when cornerback Janoris Jenkins slid out of the first round on draft day.
There were enough NFL teams that had conducted their own independent research on him to know that he was a player that ran with the wrong crowd, and despite getting a second chance to turn over a new leaf at North Alabama, he continued to make the wrong choices in his life.
Albert Breer of the NFL Network wrote a story about Jenkins' decisions and history and figured that it would cost Jenkins at the draft.
The St. Louis Rams took a calculated risk when they decided to select Jenkins in the second round with the No. 39 overall pick. The Rams are taking a chance that the player with first-round talent will realize what is at stake and not drop the ball with this opportunity.
Jenkins' near-term and long-term future depends on making better choices and doing a better job of figuring out what kind of people he wants to hang out with. To what extent the Rams are able to offer him some help along that line is unknown. They have no doubt counseled him, but when you give a player millions of dollars, he is probably going to be making a number of his own choices, right or wrong.
It will be interesting to see how Jenkins holds up in his rookie year. If he can make it through this year okay, he might be able to turn a corner. If he falls back into some of the old bad choices, then he will be classified as a major bust since the Rams are taking such a big gamble.
Third Round: Bryan Anger
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The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted California punter Bryan Anger in the third round. The third round is a round where you still figure you have a good chance to draft a player that can make an impact on your football team.
So how much of an impact will Anger make on the Jaguars? Punters are seldom drafted this high for a good reason. They only see a limited number of snaps per game, and although they have the ability to make a positive impact on the game, their overall value is minimal compared to most positions.
For Anger to justify the Jaguars' pick in the third round, he will have to lead the NFL in net punting and consistently drop the ball inside the opponent's 10-yard line whenever he is given the opportunity.
It will be difficult for Anger to live up to the expectations now placed on him. He could be a very average NFL punter for the next five or six years, but because of where he was drafted, that would be considered a bust.
Fourth Round: Devon Wylie
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Devon Wylie was drafted in the fourth round, No. 107 overall, by the Kansas City Chiefs. He is a potential slot receiver and special teams return man for the Chiefs.
Wylie was a wide receiver/returner at Fresno State. He is very fast, and his speed will be his saving grace in the NFL, for however long his career lasts in the league.
The problem with Wylie will be his size and his ability to suit up for 16 games a season. He is only 5'9" and weighs 187 pounds. That means that he will be going up against much bigger players from the secondary as well as on special teams.
The injury concerns started at Fresno State. In 2008, he missed four games due to injury. In 2009, more of the same, as he missed another four games due to injury. In 2010, he got hurt again, so Fresno State decided to have him sit out for the season as a redshirt.
You can't teach speed and you can't teach size, but hopefully the Chiefs can teach him how to absorb some of the big hits he will be surely receiving in the NFL and how to play through the pain. If not, he could very well be looking at a long string of injuries and wind up as a bust.
Fifth Round: George Iloka
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Now that we have entered the fifth round, we all know that there is a reason the draft picks slid down to the final three rounds of the draft. There is something wrong with their game or enough things that the players in question don't do right that caused teams to push them further down the draft board.
With that being said, the degree that a player will be a bust is minimized due to less risk drafting from here on out. We now return to the presentation.
In the fifth round, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted safety George Iloka from Boise State with the No. 167 overall draft pick. He has good size at 6'4" and 225 pounds, but that is about all that he has going for him.
The reason that Iloka was singled out as a potential bust is that as a safety, he really wasn't much of a playmaker. If you look at his stats, he averaged one interception per year over his final three years at Boise State. As a senior, he had no interceptions, forced one fumble and deflected one pass. That was it.
He is considered something of a liability in the passing game. If the Bengals play him much this year, he will probably be targeted by teams that realize he has trouble keeping up with tight ends. This guy has a good chance to be a total bust.
Sixth Round: Greg Zuerlein
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In the sixth round, the St. Louis Rams drafted kicker Greg Zuerlein with the No. 171 overall pick. The Rams are going to give their kicking job to Zuerlein (there is no competition for this kid in camp), who kicked at small-school Missouri Western State.
The Rams didn't bring back veteran Josh Brown, so that is why the job belongs to Zuerlein. I just wonder how he is going to handle the pressure of kicking in the NFL with the game on the line, compared to those high-pressure moments at Division II school Missouri Western State.
What were the crowd sizes at Missouri Western State this past season? According to the school web site, the smallest crowd was 2,279 and the largest crowd was 8,811.
If he chokes on a fourth-quarter kick with the game on the line, I can't say that I'll be surprised.
Seventh Round: Alfonzo Dennard
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Our final selection for potential NFL busts by round is cornerback Alfonzo Dennard of the New England Patriots. Dennard was a seventh-round draft pick of the Patriots, when he was the 224th player selected.
Dennard is the crazy kind of athlete that prepares for his life in the NFL by getting into a fight the weekend before the draft and allegedly punching a cop. Lovely. Sit back and watch your draft stock go into free fall.
OK, not the smartest move we have ever heard of before. But this isn't an isolated incident. Playing in his final college game for Nebraska, Dennard got ejected from the game for fighting with Alshon Jeffery.
Bill Belichick won't stand for any distractions, so if Dennard gets out of control, Belichick won't allow him to be a distraction, because he will already be off the team by then.
Thanks for checking out the presentation.