With college football ending and the NFL playoffs in full swing, the 2013 NFL draft is coming into focus, and with that is an examination of a few draft prospects with some big questions to answer. There are virtually no perfect college players coming into the NFL, but some have bigger questions than others.
Some players are coming off an injury and others simply have a fundamental deficiency in a certain area. The players have a chance to quiet the critics with their play at college all-star games, pro-day workouts and the NFL combine. One way or another, the answers will come, and it is up to the players to do the best job they can in providing the right information for NFL personnel.
Let’s look at five players with enormous questions to answer leading up to the 2013 NFL draft.
Matt Leinart: unfortunately, that’s what most see from Matt Barkley after his senior season at USC. The comparison is made between these two USC quarterbacks, and it is a fair comparison at this point from one important area. Both suffer from arm strength issues.
Barkley returned to USC for his senior season to win a national championship and became the first pick in the 2013 NFL draft. We know that the USC season was a disappointment, and we also know that Barkley’s draft stock is at an all-time low.
Barkley was injured in USC’s 38-28 loss to UCLA and he missed USC’s matchup with Notre Dame the following week. Barkley also missed USC’s bowl game against Georgia Tech. Make no mistake; Barkley was a great college quarterback and a fantastic player at USC.
However, there are questions about his height and arm strength.
Let’s take the height issue first. The magic number for height of an NFL quarterback is 6’2” or taller. There was an audible sigh in Indianapolis last year when Robert Griffin III measured in at 6’2-3/8” tall. For NFL teams and their scouts, height matters and 6”2” is where Barkley is listed.
If he measures in taller than 6”2” it will be one less issue for teams to be concerned about. If he comes in under the mark, it is another area of concern for scouts.
The second area is arm strength. Barkley is a rhythm quarterback, not a gunslinger with the arm strength to fire the ball into small windows all over the field. The issue gets bigger when he faces pressure as he tries to force the ball when his arm won’t allow him to make that throw.
Simply put, Barkley doesn’t throw the ball with a lot of velocity. Instead of relying on brute force, he delivers the ball using a combination of great anticipation and accuracy. He is an NFL ready quarterback who will have to rely on skills other than arm strength, but the question is going to linger throughout the entire draft process.
Jarvis Jones is going to be the most controversial player in the 2013 NFL draft. Jones has been a pass rush menace at the University of Georgia throughout his career. He broke Georgia’s sack record in 2012 with a total of 14.5 sacks, and finished with 28 sacks as a Bulldog.
Jones has the ability to attack an offense from multiple areas using tremendous speed and an incredible first step. There is no question that Jones has the ability to get to the quarterback and make impact plays for the defense.
The issues with Jones have to do with how teams could use him in the NFL and his injury history. Jones needs to be put in a position to stand up and attack the offensive line over a large area. He is small at 241 pounds and he doesn’t shed blocks well, and there is concern that he won’t be able to bend around the edge of an NFL offensive line.
He is best suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense but even then, he would be considered undersized. Jones also stands around at times and is not a full effort player.
However, the biggest question for Jones is about his neck injury. Jones originally attended USC in 2009 and was injured in his freshman year. The USC medical staff refused to clear him to play football the following spring, and he transferred to Georgia. He sat out the 2010 season and played at Georgia as a sophomore in 2011 and as a junior in 2012.
Jones has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that can cause a shortened career. The combination of his play on tape and his injury history could have him sliding down draft board come draft day.
David Amerson is a talented cornerback out of North Carolina State University. He is a big cornerback at 6’3” and 195 pounds. Amerson had a monster sophomore season with 10 interceptions and came into his junior season as one of college football’s best cornerback prospects in the nation.
He didn’t live up to the hype as he had a bit of a down year in terms of coverage. He didn’t show great coverage ability because he looked stiff in his hips and he appears to lack elite speed. Amerson’s stock dropped because he is a very aggressive cornerback who gambles too much.
The question regarding Amerson has to do with whether he stays at cornerback in the NFL, or if he moves to safety. The trend in the pass happy NFL is for defensive backs to be more talented, and that includes the safety position.
Teams are drafting bigger cornerbacks and moving them to the back end of the defense because they can cover the bigger tight ends that offenses are deploying down the seam. The running game is becoming less and less important to offenses, and safeties don’t have to step up and defend the run like they once did.
Amerson’s best prospect for NFL success is at the safety position, unless he can show NFL talent evaluators that he can stay at the cornerback position.
Marquess Wilson is a very talented wide receiver with a couple of flags that teams are going to have to deal with. He is a dynamic athlete, but the questions about his size and the fact that he left the Washington State team during his junior year are potentially detrimental.
Wilson is 6’4” and 184 pounds. He is very frail and will have a hard time fighting through the press from the physical cornerbacks he will see in the NFL. He is not a quick athlete and has sloppy footwork while running his routes, chopping his feet to slow down to get out of his breaks.
The route-running is a component that can be improved upon in the NFL through coaching, but leaving the team is another issue entirely.
After the Cougars lost to Utah 49-6 on Saturday November 10, Wilson left the program and sent a letter alleging abuse by the coaching staff. According to www.seattle.sbnation.com, he has since recanted the entire episode—naturally, that leaves NFL teams with massive questions about what happened and why he quit on his team.
The question needs to be answered before any team could even think about drafting him.
William Gholston is a pretty physically imposing football player. He is a 6’7”, 278 pound defensive end from Michigan State University. He was a much feared player coming into his junior season.
Gholston was a highly touted junior at Michigan State after a successful sophomore season. He has looked lethargic at times during his junior season and he hasn’t made as much an impact on the Michigan State defense as he should have, and his draft stock has suffered.
The biggest question facing Gholston is what scheme is best for him in the NFL.
He is not quick or explosive enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 as he won’t get pressure on the quarterback. He does not have enough bulk and mass to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 as he is only 278 pounds and he will have no success against NFL guards and tackles.
It appears that the only position Gholston can play in the NFL is at defensive end in a 3-4 defense, and that limits the teams that will even consider him. It might not be possible, but Gholston will have to showcase more foot quickness than his game film shows if teams that run a 4-3 scheme are to consider him.
Gholston needs to showcase much more athletic ability than the tape shows to maximize his draft stock.