5 NFL Rookies That Will Fall Flat on Their Faces in Year 1
While it may seem a bit cliché, the fact remains that the old adage is true: NFL champions are built through the draft. Take any dynasty of the past 40 years — the 1970s Steelers, the 1980s 49ers, the 1990s Cowboys or the 2000s Patriots — and they each have the same thing in common: great drafts.
Conversely, if a team has a string of bad draft picks it can sink a franchise. The Cleveland Browns have had a history of horrid picks over the past 15 years and have paid for it with just one playoff appearance. The Rams, the Lions, the Bengals and the Cardinals can also point to lousy drafts as the reason for their lack of success.
With OTAs under way and the glow from the NFL Draft still in the air, every team feels like that its collection of rookies will be the foundation for a dynastic run. But history shows that it is simply not the case and many of these first rounders will fade into obscurity.
What follows is my list of five rookies that will fall flat on their faces this season. It’s a harsh sentiment and frankly, some of these may prove me wrong. But whether because of their draft position or the team they were chosen by, these five will have a difficult time finding success in the NFL.
Brandon Weeden, QB Cleveland Browns
Nobody doubts Weeden’s ability. The former Oklahoma State star threw for nearly 10,000 yards and 75 touchdowns in four college seasons, a staggering rate for any QB. He also had a 72.3 completion percentage as a senior, always an indicator of success at the next level.
But has any player come into the NFL seemingly more destined to fail? First of all, he was drafted by the Browns, a franchise that has done little right in the past 15 years. Cleveland has a great offensive line but a weak receiving corps meaning that Weeden will have little to work with.
Secondly, Weeden will turn 29 years old during the season, a staggering age for a rookie quarterback. If the Browns give him a year to learn the offense, then he will be 30 before he even gets started and given his draft position, the team may not be very inclined to wait around for results. This pick feels like Chris Weinke all over again.
Dontari Poe, DT Kansas City Chiefs
Every year, a prospect that has had an above average college career goes to the combine, wows the scouts and coaches with his physical skills and parlays that appearance into a high draft pick.
This year it’s Poe, who had 63 tackles and eight sacks as a junior at Memphis last season and was picked 11th by the Chiefs. While his numbers aren’t terrible for a defensive tackle, considering that he played in the mediocre Conference USA, you would expect more from such a high draft pick.
But that was before he lifted weights, ran the shuttle and showed off his biceps. Scouts drooled and Kansas City scooped him up. But as Tony Mandarich and Dan Wilkinson before him showed, it takes more than raw physical skills to make it in the NFL.
Justin Blackmon, WR Jacksonville Jaguars
Blackmon is a monster talent. Over the past two seasons at Oklahoma State (where he caught his passes from Brandon Weeden), Blackmon hauled in 232 receptions for over 3,000 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns.
But as good as Blackmon is on the field, there are serious questions about his character off the field. Just last week, the now-Jacksonville Jaguar was arrested in Oklahoma on aggravated DUI charges after he blew a .24 on the breathalyzer test, three times the legal limit.
It is the second time that Blackmon has been arrested on a DUI charge, and even though he told the media recently that he is “done drinking for now,” questions will persist about his ability to keep his drinking under control. If he does, he could be a rising star.
Bruce Irvin, DE Seattle Seahawks
Irvin was projected by most draft experts to be selected on the second day of the draft, somewhere in rounds two or three. So needless to say, when Seattle snapped him up with the 15th pick overall, there were many who were downright shocked.
At 6'3", 248 pounds, Irvin appears to be the prototypical pass rusher and at West Virginia, he proved to be a terror to all quarterbacks. He was second in the nation as a junior with 14 sacks and had 8.5 more as a senior. He also had 40 tackles as a senior and forced three fumbles.
But Irvin was considered a pass rusher only and a liability in the run game. While it is possible that Seattle will round out his game, it is more than likely that Irvin will be nothing but a situational pass rusher who never lives up to his selection.
Ryan Tannehill, QB Miami Dolphins
I was reluctant to put Tannehill on this list simply because it seems like piling on. Nearly everyone that has dissected the 2012 NFL Draft has attacked Miami’s selection of Tannehill and he is a permanent fixture on “draft bust” lists everywhere.
But the fact remains that Tannehill does not appear to be a franchise quarterback, at least not yet. And considering that the Dolphins took him eighth overall, he will be expected to perform if not immediately, then soon.
That kind of pressure from a team and a fan base that is still expecting Dan Marino to walk back through the door, coupled with the fact that Tannehill never dominated against great competition, leaves me believing he will be nothing more than a solid starter in the NFL. And that’s not good enough at No. 8 overall.