Predicting 1 Rookie Disappointment for Every NFL Team
All you have to do is look at recent history to find a rather depressing story in regards to college prospects being drafted in the initial couple of rounds of the NFL draft.
It really is a hit or miss when it comes to these players. While each team invests manpower and money to the scouting department, nobody has a great feel for how prospects will turn out four or five years down the road.
Let's go back to the 2009 NFL draft as a case study. By my estimations, only 18 of the top 50 picks from that season have panned out with Jason Smith, Andre Smith, Aaron Maybin and Larry English acting as the biggest first-round busts.
This is repeated every year, and 2012 promises to be no different.
Will Brandon Weeden be an upgrade over Colt McCoy in Cleveland? Is Bobby Massie the real answer for the Arizona Cardinals' pass-protection woes?
I will answer these questions and more when drawing a conclusion about one pick from each NFL team who is sure to disappoint in 2012.
Arizona Cardinals: Bobby Massie, Offensive Tackle
Any offensive tackle who is asked to start from day one is going to struggle early in his NFL career. We have seen this story repeated over and over again throughout the modern history of the league.
If the Arizona Cardinals somehow think that Bobby Massie, who has just 29 collegiate starts under his belt, is going to be the savior to their pass-protection woes, they are sorely mistaken.
While the Mississippi product does have a tremendous amount of upside, he is going to need some seasoning before he can be counted on consistently. There remains issues in regards to lateral movement, getting too high on blocks and denying speed-rushers the outside.
Atlanta Falcons: Jonathan Massaquoi, Defensive End
Jonathan Massaquoi has unlimited upside as a pass-rusher in the National Football League. He possesses elite athleticism and can beat blockers off the edge on a consistent basis.
His major issue early in the league is going to be taking on larger blockers and being able to penetrate the line of scrimmage. Considering that the Atlanta Falcons run a 4-3 defensive scheme, this will be magnified much more.
Additionally, the Troy product is going to struggle going up against the run until he adds some bulk to that frame.
Baltimore Ravens: Bernard Pierce, Running Back
The Baltimore Ravens have been looking for a complementary running back since Chester Taylor manned that position back in 2005. It has been a long time coming.
That being said, it is hard to imagine Bernard Pierce being able to make a huge impact as a rookie in 2012. Ray Rice is not only the Ravens' best offensive weapon, he needs to get 25-plus touches a game in order for that unit to succeed.
Considering how much Cam Cameron loves to throw the ball with Joe Flacco, pretending he is the second coming to Joe Montana, there will not be a lot of touches to go around for Pierce.
Buffalo Bills: Cordy Glenn, Offensive Line
As it stands right now, Cordy Glenn is the backup left tackle to Chris Hairston with the Buffalo Bills. Not that the veteran Hairston brings a whole lot to the table, but Glenn would struggle if he had to man that position as a rookie.
Moreover, the second-round pick in April's draft seems to fit better along the interior of the offensive line. He is going to struggle with technique and leverage against speed-rushers early.
It just makes more sense for the Bills to play him at guard out of the gate, rather than have him compete for the left tackle position.
Of course, I could be completely wrong with this assumption.
Carolina Panthers: Frank Alexander, Defensive End
Aside from the fact that the Carolina Panthers traded up for Frank Alexander in the fourth round this year when they could have had him with their original pick, I just don't get the selection.
Alexander struggled getting into the opposing backfield a great deal at Oklahoma and seems to be better suited to play a run-stopping role. This is not the way Carolina envisions Alexander earning his keep in the National Football League.
While Alexander did accumulate 15.5 sacks over the course of his last two collegiate seasons, he needs to gain more pass-rush moves in order for that to translate to the next level.
Chicago Bears: Shea McClellin, Defensive End
One thing that a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme must do is be able to stop the run. This is something that I envision Shea McClellin struggling with a great deal for the Chicago Bears as a rookie.
He might put up some solid sack numbers, which is always important. That being said, teams are going to be able to run to his direction at will. The blow to Chicago's run defense might be lessened since they have both Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs at the linebacker position.
I still don't see the Boise State product being a full-time player as a rookie in Chicago.
Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback
The Cincinnati Bengals are absolutely stacked at the cornerback position after three solid offseason additions. This might hurt Dre Kirkpatrick a great deal as a rookie considering that he had consistent struggles with technique on the outside in college.
The Alabama product may be able to make an impact in the slot where he can use his exceptional press-coverage ability. That being said, if any Bengals' fans are hoping for him to make an impact as a starter in 2012, they are sorely mistaken.
Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden, Quarterback
Don't get me started with this selection. The Cleveland Browns would have been much better off going wide receiver with the second of their two first-round picks and keeping Colt McCoy as the starting quarterback.
I guess that reasoning just made too much sense for this downtrodden franchise.
As it is, Brandon Weeden is going to struggle a great deal as a rookie because he has absolutely no viable receiving options on the outside other than Greg Little. As I mentioned in a previous article, all the Browns' receivers caught a total of 40 more passes than Wes Welker alone with the New England Patriots last season.
This is a stunning statistic.
Until Cleveland is able to solve its skill-position issues, no quarterback is going to turn out to be much more than a marginal starter in the National Football League.
Dallas Cowboys: Tyrone Crawford, Defensive End
Rookie third-round pick Tyrone Crawford should compete with incumbent Kenyon Coleman at the left defensive end position during training camp.
Crawford showed excellent run-stopping skills at Boise State and does an extremely good job holding the line, acting like a gap-filler for oncoming pass-rushers from the edge.
That being said, he possesses very little actual football experience. Crawford played only one season of high school football and played a total of 25 games in college. He doesn't have the necessary pass-rush skills to fully acclimate to the National Football League as a rookie.
Crawford promises to struggle early before turning it up when he gains more experience later in his career. He is more of a project right now.
Denver Broncos: Derek Wolfe, Defensive Line
Derek Wolfe never stood out on tape to me. He looked to be nothing more than a filler presence along the defensive line for Cincinnati. While this is all that the Denver Broncos might ask of the second-round pick, teams should expect more value when selecting a player that high.
You are not going to see Wolfe penetrate the offensive line a great deal. Rather, he will act as someone to take on double-teams for outside pass-rushers.
This would be great if the Broncos ran a traditional 3-4 defense, but they don't.
Detroit Lions: Ryan Broyles, Wide Receiver
Where to start? I really do like what Ryan Broyles brings to the table in terms of speed and hands. He has an opportunity to be a real stud in the Detroit Lions offense.
That being said, this is a team that is absolutely stacked at the skill positions.
Calvin Johnson, Titus Young and Nate Burleson all promise to be ahead of the rookie on the depth chart. Those three receivers combined for 217 catches and over 3,000 yards last season.
Moreover, the Lions also have two solid tight ends in the form of Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew.
In short, there is only one ball to go around and way too many options on offense for Broyles to be an immediate impact rookie in Detroit.
Green Bay Packers: Jerel Worthy, Defensive Tackle
Consistency was a major issue for Jerel Worthy at Michigan State. This is why he fell to the second round of April's draft despite possessing top-20 talent.
At this point it is safe to assume that B.J. Raji, Jarius Wynn and newly-signed Anthony Hargrove are all ahead of Worthy on the depth chart along the interior of the Green Bay Packers' defensive line.
That being said, there are indications that Green Bay plans to play the talented young lineman on the outside in its 3-4 scheme. While this does make some sense considering his massive frame, it is all about the consistency I mentioned before.
I just don't see the Packers waiting for him to show up. Rather, you can expect them to move forward with the rotation they currently have heading into the 2012 season.
Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End
Even with the departure of Mario Williams in free agency, the Houston Texans have a wide array of different options at the pass-rushing positions throughout their defense.
This was one of the primary reasons that I didn't understand the selection of Whitney Mercilus in the first round of April's draft.
If he struggles making an instant impact early in the season, which I would hedge my bets for, the Texans are not going to wait around to let him grow. Instead, they are going to put in the players who can actually make that impact.
This is the reason why the Illinois prospect makes this list.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, Quarterback
The addition of Andrew Luck to this list might be surprising to a great deal of people, but let me explain. Expectations are huge for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft. Many experts have proclaimed Luck the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning in 1998.
That is a huge reason for his existence on this list. If those are the expectations, Luck is surely going to disappoint.
He doesn't have a solid offensive line in front of him, the Colts don't boast a strong running game and outside of Reggie Wayne the majority of his targets in the passing game are going to be unproven, young players.
All the indications are there for Luck to struggle.
Listen, this is not an indictment on the talented young quarterback. He is going to be a Pro Bowl performer sooner rather than later. He has all the skills and talent teams look for in a franchise guy.
It just isn't going to be in 2012 with the team assembled around him.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver
Justin Blackmon was going to be on this list regardless of his recent DUI arrest. The young receiver was one of the most overrated prospects in the 2012 NFL draft, and the Jacksonville Jaguars bought into that hype.
There is no reason to believe that the Oklahoma State product is going to live up to his top-five billing. He struggles with a lot of the things that make some of the best wide receivers click in the NFL. Blackmon doesn't get off the line against press coverage, cannot create separation down the field and struggles with fluid route-running.
Those are all indicators that Blackmon is going to be in for a rude awakening as a rookie in 2012.
Kansas City Chiefs: Devon Wylie, Wide Receiver
Full disclosure here. I had not scouted Devon Wylie a great deal at Fresno State despite its near vicinity to my home area. His presence on this list also isn't necessarily to bash the young receiver.
It is more about the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs' first three selections were nearly flawless and all should make an impact as rookies. While Donald Stephenson will not vie for a starting job along the offensive line, he figures to be a starter in the future at guard.
I also took into account the fact that Kansas City is going to utilize a run-first offense with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis in the backfield. They also have Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Breaston and Dexter McCluster all slated ahead of Wylie on the depth chart.
There just isn't any room for Wylie to make much of an impact in 2012. Anyone thinking otherwise is in store for a massive disappointment.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback
Make no bones about it, Ryan Tannehill is nowhere near ready to be a viable starting quarterback in the National Football League. This might seem like a broken record in regards to my articles, but it still stands as we enter training camp.
He doesn't have the game experience, technique or pocket presence to be an impact quarterback early in his career. Rather, it is going to be a relatively drawn-out project for the Miami Dolphins.
If they make the mistake of playing the Texas A&M product too early, you will see his confidence affected, and his growth as a quarterback will be stunted.
Besides, it isn't like Matt Moore was horrible for the Dolphins last season. They are in the perfect situation to play the veteran stop-gap and let Tannehill sit for a season or two.
Anyone expecting big things from the rookie will be sorely disappointed. It really is that simple.
Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith, Safety
The Minnesota Vikings plan to play Harris Smith at free safety, which isn't a position that best suits his talents. The Notre Dame product was much stronger in the box against the run in college.
As someone who watched nearly every collegiate game that Smith played, I fully understand where his strengths are, and they are definitely not in coverage.
If the Vikings expect Smith to play the cover safety role, they are not going to be too pleased as the 2012 season progresses.
The good news is that he can always switch to the strong side if it doesn't workout as a free safety. This is where I expect Smith to earn his keep in the National Football League.
New England Patriots: Tavon Wilson, Safety
Just think about this for a second: Tavon Wilson was the ninth ranked free safety prospect leading up to the 2012 NFL draft by CBS Sports. This might not seem like a big deal, but no player at this position went in the initial three rounds of the draft outside of Wilson.
While this article isn't to judge the selection of teams in April, it is still extremely important to note.
Wilson was nowhere on the radar of experts, or other teams for that matter, in the second round of the draft. This had to lead us to believe that he isn't going to be able to live up to that billing as a rookie in 2012.
In fact, this selection is eerily similar to the Oakland Raiders' pick of Mike Mitchell in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft.
New Orleans Saints: Nick Toon, Wide Receiver
Nick Toon was considered a first-round prospect during the 2011 season. However, an inconsistent season at Wisconsin followed by some disastrous postseason performances caused the young wide receiver to drop a great deal.
Usually these types of drops are met with a harsh reality that a certain prospect just isn't cut out to play in the National Football League. After all, it wasn't the media that hyped then turned their back on the prospect, it was the teams around the league that did.
It isn't that Toon didn't perform as a senior at Wisconsin in 2011. The talented receiver nearly gained 1,000 yards and scored 10 touchdowns with Russell Wilson throwing him the ball. Instead, it was all about a lack of speed and ability to get off the line of scrimmage on the outside. These two things will only be magnified at the next level.
I will say one thing. If anyone can get Toon to live up to his potential, it is Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
New York Giants: David Wilson, Running Back
David Wilson is an extremely intriguing, young running back. He possesses all the physical tools that teams look for in a talented running back. The former Virginia Tech standout dominated ACC competition in 2011, going for over 1,700 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.
That being said, issues do remain in terms of field vision and cutback ability. Wilson seems to go astray from his blockers a great deal of the time instead of actually following them past the line of scrimmage.
While you can expect Ahmad Bradshaw to help him out in this aspect, it is still going to be a tremendous learning curve.
You also have to take into account that the New York Giants have Bradshaw and D.J. Ware on the roster to take carries away from Wilson as a rookie. Moreover, this is a team that ran the ball less than 26 times per game last season.
It is just hard to imagine Wilson making a dramatic impact as a rookie in 2011. That will be incredibly disappointing considering that he was a first-round pick.
New York Jets: Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver
I thought about going with Quinton Coples here but decided against it. The talented defensive end will be strong against the run, which indicates that he will have an impact as a rookie.
Instead, the decision was to go with someone who I am a lot higher on. Stephen Hill does seem to have what you look for in a legit No. 1 receiver in the league. He possesses the speed, athleticism and hands to dominate on the outside.
It just won't be in 2012.
Hill is a product of Paul Johnson's fun-first offense at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets averaged less than 13 pass attempts a game in 2011, which hindered Hill's ability to actually hone his route-running technique.
At this point the talented receiver just doesn't possess the route tree necessary to make an immediate impact in the National Football League.
Oakland Raiders: Jack Crawford, Defensive Line
Despite playing behind the proverbial eight-ball leading up to the draft, new Oakland Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie did a damn fine job.
Both third-round pick Tony Bergstrom and fourth-round pick Miles Burris promise to play vital roles for the Raiders as rookies in 2012.
So, it was pretty hard finding someone who is going to "disappoint" during his rookie season.
I had to go with Jack Crawford, who many scouts had as a late seventh-round pick. The Penn State alum just doesn't seem to be a difference-maker along the defensive line. He struggled a great deal against stronger blockers in college, which is only going to be magnified in the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles: Marvin McNutt, Wide Receiver
The Philadelphia Eagles absolutely owned the early and mid rounds of the 2012 NFL draft. Every single pick they made in the initial four rounds is going to be an immediate impact rookie.
While I do like what sixth-round pick Marvin McNutt brings to the table in terms of a possession receiver, he is outnumbered as it relates to the Eagles' roster.
They have Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper all slated above the Iowa product on the depth chart.
Moreover, he is going to struggle getting off the break initially at the next level. This will impede McNutt's ability to make an instant impact.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle
There were some issues in regards to Mike Adams holding up against speed-rushers in college. He tends to get too stiff at the point of contact and doesn't possess the lower-body technique that teams look for when scouting an offensive tackle.
Those "issues" that I mentioned above can be fixed with experience. That being said, it will take some seasoning before Adams can be counted on to be a consistent pass-protecting tackle in the NFL.
Let's just hope that the Steelers don't expect too much from him in 2012.
Moving forward, he will be just fine.
San Diego Chargers: Ladarius Green, Tight End
Ladarius Green was one of my favorite small-school prospects in the 2012 NFL draft. In fact, I had a second-round grade on him.
The former Louisiana-Lafayette standout has all the athletic ability that teams look for in regards to the new generation of tight ends. He can stretch the field between the hashes, line up outside as a wide receiver and is a willing blocker.
However, he did go up against less than stellar competition in college and wasn't asked to run a wide array of routes. Green just let his tremendous athletic ability speak for itself.
This won't be the case in the National Football league as a rookie.
San Francisco 49ers: A.J. Jenkins, Wide Receiver
It's just simply a math game at this point. The San Francisco 49ers signed both Mario Manningham and Randy Moss in order to revamp a wide receiver group that might have cost them a Super Bowl championship last season.
Following those two signings many people, including myself, indicated that the 49ers would avoid the wide receiver position in the first round of the 2012 draft.
Instead, they "reached" for the athletic A.J. Jenkins.
This isn't an indictment on Jenkins' ability to make a difference in the National Football League. Rather, it is all about roster logistics at this point.
San Francisco doesn't run four wide receiver sets too often. Pure conjecture might allow me to say they ran the least amount of these sets in the league last season. With Manningham, Moss and Michael Crabtree all slotted ahead of Jenkins on the depth chart, it is hard to imagine him making much of a difference as a rookie.
Seattle Seahawks: Robert Turbin, Running Back
I could have easily gone with Bruce Irvin here, but that would be too easy. Sometimes it just makes sense to stop playing the broken record because it causes your ears to screech.
Besides, if Irvin produces six or seven tackles as a part-time player in 2012, it will be hard to define him as a disappointment.
Robert Turbin was brought in to challenge Leon Washington for the primary backup running back spot behind Marshawn Lynch. The Utah State product was a bulldozer in college and should help out in short yardage situations.
That being said, the NFL is a much different "monster" than playing in the WAC. He isn't going to be able to physically intimidate opposing defenders at the line of scrimmage. Instead, Turbin should be in for a rude awakening early in his career.
St. Louis Rams: Michael Brockers, Defensive Line
I would like to go somewhere else here because this has been a consistent theme for my articles, but I just cannot do it.
Not only do I question Michael Brockers' ability to make an immediate impact as a rookie, I really like what the St. Louis Rams did outside of this selection early in the 2012 draft.
You can definitely expect Trevor Laws to have something to say about the Louisiana State product starting out of the gate. I really have a hard time imagining the Rams going with youth over someone who can produce immediately.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lavonte David, Linebacker
Lavonte David will probably start the 2012 season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting weak side linebacker. This doesn't mean that he is going to come in and make a huge impact early.
The talented young linebacker needs to add some weight and muscle to that athletic frame. He also needs to start recognizing offensive formations and stop taking himself out of plays on a consistent basis. This was a major issue for him at Nebraska.
While learning curves are expected from a second-round pick expected to start immediately, it seems that David's issues are going to stick with him until he gains some more seasoning.
Time will tell.
Tennessee Titans: Zach Brown, Linebacker
It is being reported that Zach Brown saw some action as the Tennessee Titans' starting weak side linebacker during minicamp. This doesn't surprise me a great deal considering that their only other options here are Will Witherspoon and Gerald McRath.
The young linebacker struggled to shed blocks in college at North Carolina and took himself out of far too many plays.
In order to be successful on the weak side, a player needs to have instincts for where the play is going prior to the snap and recognize formations. This is something that Brown just doesn't possess yet.
Being able to fly to the ball in space is one thing. Being able to shed blocks between the hashes is an entirely different thing.
Washington Redskins: Keenan Robinson, Linebacker
I bet some of you expected for me to go with Robert Griffin III here after I picked Andrew Luck for the Indianapolis Colts in a previous slide. That would be way too simple and pretty ignorant on my part. RGIII has more weapons on the outside, a consistent running game and a much better offensive line in front of him.
Instead, I am going to go with a player who really didn't standout to me on tape. Keenan Robinson just doesn't seem to possess the coverage ability or strength at the line to be an immediate impact rookie.
I guess this is why he was a mid-round pick.