2012 NFL Predictions: 6 Big-Name Rookies Sure to Bust
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Temperatures in the NFL always seem to run hotter this time of year with fans and readers. With training camps beginning, football season is upon us, and passions run deep when it comes to the varied opinions on both specific players and the collective prospects of teams.
This point on the calendar is also when the truest and most serious work from rookies begins in earnest as it applies to the 2012 season. The stakes only rise as opening week approaches and depth charts become solidified.
Intersecting these two notions—polarizing opinions on players and 2012 draft prospects in their first campaigns—I call attention to six rookies taken in the top 60 picks that I predict will bust. These are all guys that, three years from now, could compare to our review of the early returns on a player like Aaron Maybin.
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NT/DT, University of Memphis, 1st round (11th overall), Kansas City Chiefs
The timing of Poe's headlining this slideshow coincides with the announcement yesterday that he finally came to terms with the Chiefs on his rookie contract (per The Wichita Eagle). To Poe's credit, he has not missed a single minute of his development to this point while awaiting the accord.
I will couch my bust prediction on Poe with the respectful acknowledgement that he has rare—extremely rare—physical gifts for the position.
We are talking about a once- or twice-a-decade prospect that comes along with comparable dimensions (6'4", 345 lbs) and measurables (sub-5.0 40-yard dash and 44 repetitions of 225 lbs on the bench press)—perhaps not even that often.
With this in mind, if the Chiefs either coach up his technique and awareness and/or scheme him to optimally take advantage of his ability, I will likely have egg on my face for this call.
"Of course they'll do those two things—he's their first-round pick," you say?
That is the natural thought, and it seems compellingly logical. But this is pro ball, and a lot of talented players have busted or otherwise gone by the wayside due to poor communication, competing agendas and egos within an organization or a lack of work ethic.
Poe leads off this list because so much is expected of him between his historic combine and the lofty draft slot.
When I watch him on film and actually evaluate him purely as a football player, it is extremely disappointing, especially in light of how gifted we now understand him to be. A player with his athleticism should have consistently destroyed his largely subpar competition in Conference USA.
Instead, Poe made very few plays overall, and not nearly enough plus plays in the backfield or that involved the ball (pass deflections or forced fumbles, primarily). While his leverage and pad level are not a natural weakness, he constantly ran himself out of plays or was unable to find the football while penetrating. These two latter characteristics offset the would-be playmaking ability of someone with his talent.
And despite his size, he also is going to have to improve on his footwork and hand-placement technique in order to anchor better in the middle versus double-teams.
The role of an NFL nose tackle is often not to make the actual play himself, but to occupy space and blockers effectively enough to allow others to create a positive defensive stop. This is something that he will need to work on.
OLB/rush DE, West Virginia University, 1st round (15th overall), Seattle Seahawks
Like a lot of other draftniks—perhaps most famously (or infamously) and certainly most entertainingly Shane Hallam—I remain very outspoken in my disapproval of Irvin as a worthwhile first-round draft pick. In trumpeting my own analytical extremism with regard to Irvin, I actually put an undrafted-free-agent grade on him.
Again, I can understand why some teams or evaluators were intrigued by him as a prospect.
Though a bit undersized (6'2.5", 245 lbs) and looking completely maxed out physically, Irvin does possess an incredible index of speed, strength, agility and explosion. I have joked before over Twitter that if he were to demonstrate any ball skills whatsoever, he could be a conversion candidate for the oversized slot receiver position.
Irvin's selection at No. 15 has everything to do with the premium now being placed on pass-rush players. The problem with Irvin is that, while he has those tools, they are very unlikely to translate without a massive leap in his development and/or highly innovative stunting to consistently free him up on a blocking back or an open lane.
He can do incredible things in space and straight pursuit, but when college blockers got their hands on him, the play was over for Irvin.
What comes off worse for me is, even if the Seahawks hit best-case scenario on Irvin and he is an excellent pass-rush specialist, I think they are looking at five to eight sacks a season based on limited snaps and realistic production ratios.
He offers absolutely nothing in coverage or run defense, and that is the player you spent a draft pick and financial resources on at 15th overall.
It could work out, but it looks much more like a Hail Mary by John Schneider, who is now starting to develop a track record of peculiar draft choices, especially given the rest of the board at that time.
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RB, Virginia Tech, 1st round (32nd overall), New York Giants
This is the third and final first-round selection of my featured sextet in this slideshow, and it was arguably one of the worst picks of the first round. The 32nd overall selection rarely receives proper criticism, when warranted, because if the choice is kept, as it was in this case, it is being made by the defending Super Bowl champion.
And it's easy to believe that the defending Super Bowl-winning general manager can do no wrong, floats on cloud nine for an entire offseason and is generally praised as a genius for the decisions he makes just because. But a more discerning look reveals a team that barely made the playoffs before its improbable run to Lombardi Trophy glory.
The Giants boasted questions in the defensive backfield and along the offensive line throughout last season, and those concerns remain today, especially the latter unit—one that was broken down by age and battered by injury a year ago.
Naturally, they draft a running back that is clearly incomplete, not a projected starter and may even spend the majority of the year at No. 3, while hiding under the mirage concept of "best player available."
To me, the pick looked even more clumsy when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sneaked ahead of them with a trade into the 31st slot and took a more complete running back prospect and projectable rookie starter in Doug Martin.
Wilson has either questionable running instincts, toughness or both, as he routinely bounced runs outside in college at the first sight of trouble inside instead of putting his foot in the ground, his head down and gaining two or three hard yards.
Wilson also showed a propensity to fumble last year, his only campaign as the feature back, by coughing it up five times in 336 total touches.
It is also extremely rare for a rookie running back to earn the coaching staff's and quarterback's trust as a third-down player because of the crucial role played on those downs by a back, either as a blocker or safety valve in the pattern. With so many other more pressing needs in 2012 and beyond, this simply was not a prudent selection.
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WR, Appalachian State University, 2nd round (33rd overall), St. Louis Rams
Quick has some appealing physical tools with his size (6'4", 220 lbs) and leaping ability (34-inch vertical and 9'11" broad jump) as it relates to high-pointing the football, which also plays into his basketball background.
But he also lacks a lot of the natural skills and receiving ability expected of such a high selection at the position. He looks to be a prospect on the slower side of the learning curve.
In fact, if I were compelled to roll the dice in that range of the draft on an athletically gifted wide receiver that may also be a little rough around the edges, Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech was much more interesting to me in terms of rare traits and higher upside. Hill went 10 picks later to the New York Jets.
Along with the ground that he needs to make up with catching the ball, route running and reading advanced coverages, Quick will find that the big plays he was accustomed to making at the Football Championship Subdivision level are a lot harder to come by in the NFL.
This was readily apparent during his struggles at the Senior Bowl workouts, some of which is captured on this video.
With an organization like the Rams, which has been so bad for so long and has as many depth and talent issues on its roster, I am not convinced that a possible upside play on Quick was the right move at No. 33.
Given that slot and his profile, Quick would need to develop into a WR1, which from an aptitude and translation standpoint seems pretty unlikely.
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NT/DT, Michigan State University, 2nd round (51st overall), Green Bay Packers
When the Packers took Worthy at 51, I saw it as a round or two early for the big man from Spartan country.
Worthy can look very impressive, even dominant, on isolated plays. He is a guy that has an excellent highlight reel when all of those plays are edited together. He is massive (6'2", 310 lbs) and looks extremely quick on those plays he blows up.
The problem (and the crux of my prediction that he will bust) is that those impact penetrations came too few and far between. Worthy was often observed being completely removed from games for quarters at a time.
Especially against bigger and more disciplined offensive lines, it often looked like Worthy was not trying based on how little upfield movement he generated.
Respected fellow draftnik Josh Norris—now heading up the draft coverage at Rotoworld.com—pointed out that Worthy was much less effective when he did not have momentum—likely due to incorrectly guessing the snap count. While I was not able to determine this during my evaluations, it would certainly explain why Worthy looked so dominant on a handful of plays and rather pedestrian on the majority of others.
While he is young and cheap, Worthy is probably a functional part of Green Bay's interior D-line rotation. He will not make a whole lot of impact, and to me he is 50-50 to make it through or beyond his rookie contract. Either way, that kind of production is short of what a team is looking for at 51st overall.
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OT, Ohio State University, 2nd round (56th overall), Pittsburgh Steelers
Like most of the others on this slideshow, there are aspects of Adams' prospect profile that call to an evaluator with blinding allure like the sirens in The Odyssey. But similar to those infamous marine beauties, unexpected travails await those who do not resist.
With Adams, his upside has everything to do with his possession of the "unteachables" at left tackle. He features ideal size (6'7", 325 lbs) to go along with prototypical athleticism and light feet, conjuring notions of the dancing bear in the scouting vernacular.
But Adams betrays his natural advantage through a combination of poor strength, aggressiveness, technique and football character. His inability to perform consistently, let alone dominate, is tied up in all of these shortcomings.
He plays with a lack of strength and nasty demeanor that also was reinforced by a disappointing showing in the bench press (19 reps at the combine). He often retreated in his pass set, content to let the defender dictate when and how contact was initiated, leaving him vulnerable to counter moves and waist-bending.
Some of his film comes off lackadaisical and uninspired, a personality flaw that is hard to ignore on the field based on some of his decisions off it. This included suspension in the Ohio State tattoo scandal and testing positive for marijuana at the combine.
If the Steelers can mold the effort, technique and personality of Adams into their kind of player, the much-maligned former Buckeye may end up paying huge dividends at a position that has troubled them for years.
But I see it as much more likely that Adams is, for the most part, who he has shown himself to be. I predict teasing flashes of progress ruined by fits of immaturity and poor play that persist as long as Pittsburgh's football operations will tolerate him.
Ultimately, I do not believe Adams is a very Steeler-esque player and that he will simply hold his own space in the ongoing carousel at left tackle in Pittsburgh.