2013 NFL Draft: Big Name Prospects That Could 'Fall'
It seems every year there is a handful of prospects that come into their last college seasons with high NFL expectations from the media that end up slipping on draft day for a variety of reasons.
These reasons are numerous, but often include athletic limitations, injury concerns, decreased production and off-the-field issues.
Here is a breakdown of four prominent players likely to fall on draft weekend, some much further than the mainstream media would have you believe...
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
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Heading into the 2012 season expectations were high on Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell, as scouts knew he would be a player the Spartans would lean heavily on considering the heavy attrition suffered on offense due to graduation.
While he started the year out with a bang by putting up 260 yards on 52 carries with three scores in Michigan State’s opening weekend victory over Boise State, his production has since dipped and he doesn’t appear to have the level of athletic ability needed to be a high draft pick.
Bell is a thick, physical player but he runs upright and lacks the quickness and burst to make defenders miss. He struggles to get up to top speed quickly, making him an easy target at the line of scrimmage. He lacks the speed needed to take the edge and is tackled too easily when his pads aren’t square to the point of attack.
Bell could opt to return to East Lansing for his senior season, but he is unlikely to improve upon his athletic weaknesses by staying in school.
To make matters worse, he is average north of 30 touches per game (rushing and receiving). Assuming Michigan State qualifies for a bowl game, he could break 400 touches on the season, a number that often raises red flags in terms of long term durability and effectiveness.
Some analysts like Todd McShay gave him an early-season first-round projection, but I fully expect Bell to have to wait until day three to hear his name called.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
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Marcus Lattimore had an amazing 2010 season as a true freshman, as he put up 1,609 yards from scrimmage while posting 19 touchdowns.
He was off to another great start last year with 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns, when he tore knee ligaments in South Carolina's Week 7 matchup against Mississippi State, effectively ending his season.
Lattimore got back on the field for his junior season and while his production had been mediocre by his standards he seemed to be rounding into form until a hip injury against LSU. He tried to fight through the ailment last Saturday but was only able to muster five touches for 22 yards.
While he is an underclassman, Lattimore could consider leaving school after the 2012 season and enter the NFL, a move that has essentially become standard practice for college RBs.
If he does this, however, the injury label will likely be attached to his name in NFL war rooms, as teams are becoming more and more leery of Lattimore's position due to the historically short shelf-life of RBs in the NFL.
When healthy, Lattimore is a dynamic talent with the speed and burst to get through tight areas in a flash and the hands and route running ability to match in the passing game.
However, teams my shy away from taking him before day three because of his struggles to stay healthy and on the field at South Carolina.
David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
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As a sophomore at North Carolina State David Amerson led the nation with 13 interceptions and was a hot name in the scouting world this summer.
Then came the 2012 opener, where Amerson was repeatedly burned by Tennessee's NFL caliber receivers. He has since recovered to an extent by posting four interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown last weekend against Maryland, but in general his junior season has not lived up to expectations.
He has drawn comparisons to former Ohio State CB and current New Orleans SAF Malcolm Jenkins because of his size and all-around athleticism, which has led to some speculation that he could transition to safety at the next level. However, I feel this could be a mistake as he is not a fundamentally sound tackler and tends to miss too often when he leaves his feet and fails to hold his ground.
Amerson could of course choose to return to NC State for his senior season, but his past accolades could over-shadow his actual skill set and convince him to make the early jump to the NFL. If this happens, don't be surprised to see him still on the board in round three as teams struggle to determine what optimal role will be at the next level.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
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Last year Tyrann Mathieu seemed to make every big play possible for LSU, week-in and week-out whether it was at CB or as a punt returner, and he became only the third defensive player ever to be invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York.
Things fell apart for him over the summer, however, as he was booted off the team for multiple positive drug tests.
While some speculated that he might transfer to a Division II school willing to look past his off-the-field transgressions, Mathieu decided to re-enroll at LSU instead.
Mathieu was expected to try for reinstatement onto the Tigers football team in 2013—at least, that was the presumed plan until Thursday.
Thursday Mathieu was arrested (along with three other ex-LSU football players) for marijuana possession, which will in all likelihood end any chance he had of returning to LSU football next season.
When Les Miles originally kicked Mathieu off the team this past summer, many immediately started to speculate on his NFL potential. Had he kept himself out of trouble until April, he may have been taken as high as Round 2, which would have been a remarkable feat considering his troubled past and his lack of NFL size.
After this latest development he is unlikely to be drafted at all, especially if the legal process has not fully run its course.
Mathieu clearly has the athleticism and instincts on the football field needed to play on Sundays, but NFL teams want him to show better instincts off the field first before they will be willing to gamble on him, and I expect his name to be taken completely off many teams' draft boards.