No matter how much homework you do or how solid you believe your draft strategy is, there are guaranteed to be plenty of curveballs thrown when it comes to the NFL draft.
There are no promises with any prospect, no matter how great a college career. For every Robert Griffin III, there's a Heath Shuler. For every Calvin Johnson, a Charles Rogers. Each and every player comes with some sort of risk.
That said, some uncertainty is documented well ahead of draft day. Some isn't. And some is accepted based on the potential of a player. The NFL is a risky business.
The following is a list of this year's riskiest players—focusing mainly on the first round and guys likely to be drafted in the Top 50.
Florida State's Xavier Rhodes is arguably the No. 2 cornerback in this draft after Alabama's Dee Milliner.
At 6'2", 215 pounds, Rhodes is physical off the line and has the strength to be effective. He's rangy with his length and speed, and he's willing to come up and contribute in run support.
My only question regarding Rhodes being a first-round pick is his ability to stay healthy.
He missed all of 2009 with a thumb injury, he was troubled with a hip pointer in 2011 before going down with a knee injury in the bowl game, and he went down a few times this season but was fortunate enough not to miss any game action (via warchant.com).
As one of my draft crushes in 2013, I like Xavier Rhodes a whole lot more than most. If I were a general manager and could come to trust his durability, I'd have no problem taking him in the Top 20.
Coming into this draft, LSU's Barkevious Mingo is touted as one of the best pass-rushers in the class. His athleticism is second to none, he has tremendous speed coming off the edge and he plays to the whistle. With such a need for athletes able to consistently apply pressure to the quarterback, Mingo is a sure-fire first-rounder.
Teams should be aware, however, that Mingo is far from a finished product. While the talent itself is undoubted, Mingo needs to add bulk at the next level, increase his strength and develop his technique.
Although most are hesitant to call Mingo a risk, there is a slight fear that he could be a one-trick pony in the NFL. Go back to some of Mingo's game tape, and you'll notice a lack of skill moves against tackles and limitations against the run due to being overpowered.
Don't expect some ridiculous slip that finds Mingo lasting into the second round. He's a first-round guy based on potential alone. But relying solely on athleticism will not work in the NFL. Teams have to believe in his commitment and work ethic.
There's a ton to be excited about when you watch BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. At 6'5", 270, Ansah is freakishly explosive off the line, and he possesses incredible athleticism for a man his size.
Teams won't be able to help themselves from falling in love with Ansah's long frame, his unique blend of strength and speed, his remarkable footwork and his relentlessness in pursuit.
In terms of concern, Ansah's most obvious flag has to be his experience—or lack thereof.
Despite his basketball background naturally helping his overall game as an athlete, Ansah has just three years of football experience, and teams can't expect to get a defensive lineman with above-average football IQ if they draft this young man.
The professional game is much different than college, and Ansah would be considered deeper in the hole considering his limited action. That's not to say teams will be discouraged, as Ansah's ceiling is simply too high. But it's noteworthy and a risk nonetheless.
Standing 6'2" and weighing just under 250 pounds, Jones combines elite pass-rushing skills with the ability to drop into coverage and defend against the run. He's explosive, he's instinctive and he's a natural fit for the game of football. Teams will love his versatility and assumed easy transition to the pro game.
However, a huge concern regarding Jones, at least in my opinion, is his diagnosed spinal stenosis.
According to the National Library of Medicine, spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord, or narrowing of the openings where spinal nerves leave the spinal column.
Spinal stenosis usually occurs as a person ages and the disks become drier and start to bulge. At the same time, the bones and ligaments of the spine thicken or grow larger due to arthritis or long-term swelling.
As we all know, different doctors have different opinions. While one guy may imply that Jones' career is cut short, another may claim that Jones' mild spinal stenosis is just that—mild. Truth is, no one really knows.
Jarvis Jones will hear his name called in the first round of April's draft simply because he's too good of a football player to pass on. But anyone labeling Jones as a no-risk talent is lying.
For those teams looking to land a quarterback this April, you're about 12 months too late. The two elite quarterbacks waiting to hear their names called found homes last year—one in Indianapolis and the other in Washington.
That's not to say there aren't good quarterback prospects in this year's draft. In fact, quite the contrary. But there's no elite signal-caller in this crop. And unlike most other positions, spending a first-rounder on a quarterback and making him your guy comes with a ton of backlash if that guy doesn't happen to pan out.
Using valuable draft picks on the game's most critical position and whiffing could lead to a three-year setback or more.
If I were to rank quarterbacks this season, at this point it'd probably look something like Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson and then Matt Barkley. Everyone after those three is a project. This talk of Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and Tyler Bray receiving consideration in the first round seems absurd.
At the end of the day, taking a quarterback in the first round is a risk within itself. Add that to the fact that this year's field isn't much to write home about, and the possibility of failure is multiplied.