Draft Prospects Whose Games Won't Translate to the NFL
While most NFL players were standouts at the collegiate level, the equation doesn’t quite work the other way. For one reason or another, excellence at the collegiate level does not lead to NFL success for all players.
This could be the case for many potential 2013 NFL draft picks. Although the following 10 players were all productive collegiate players, they have not shown the traits in their games that will allow them to have the same level of success at the next level.
Zach Line, RB, Southern Methodist
Only Eric Dickerson has more rushing yards in Southern Methodist football history than Zach Line, who is tied with Dickerson for SMU’s rushing touchdowns record. As an NFL prospect, however, Line is far from being the No. 2 overall pick that Dickerson was.
Line was a very productive college running back, but he has no traits as a runner to make him stand out. He is a hard runner, but he does not have the power to run over NFL defenders and lacks explosive burst, breakaway speed and open-field cuts.
Some have suggested Line could play fullback at the next level, but he is not a lead blocker and is weak at picking up pass-rushers. He may be able to make it in the NFL as a third-string running back and special teams player, but there is nothing about his game that makes him worth more than a late-round pick.
Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech
Colby Cameron was one of college football’s best quarterbacks in his senior season at Louisiana Tech, throwing for 4,147 yards and 31 touchdowns while only throwing five interceptions. Looking beyond the statistical production, however, Cameron is not much of an NFL prospect.
Cameron thrived by completing quick, short and open passes in an up-tempo spread offense at Louisiana Tech. Arm strength, however, is a major concern for Cameron, who lacks zip on his throws and lacks the downfield passing ability to make the throws required of him at the next level.
Cameron is an efficient game manager, but he projects only as a third-string quarterback at the next level.
James Ferentz, C, Iowa
James Ferentz has been one of the best centers in college football over the past few years and has great bloodlines as the son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. An early entry into coaching, however, is probably more likely than a future as a starting NFL center.
Ferentz is a tough and gritty center who gets intelligence and intensity from his father, but he does not measure up to the typical physical attributes of an NFL center. He is small with short arms and does not have great quickness or strength.
Ferentz may be able to make it as an NFL backup center, but his physical limitations could present problems for him in going up against the big, explosive defensive tackles he would face on a weekly basis at the next level.
Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech
Seth Doege has thrown for 8,209 yards and 67 touchdowns over the past two seasons, but Texas Tech quarterbacks haven’t found NFL success in recent years, and Doege is not the quarterback to break that trend.
Like Graham Harrell and others before him, Doege plays in a statistically friendly spread offense predicated on completing short, quick passes to receivers who are often open. Projecting to the next level, a lack of arm strength and pocket presence look to be significant flaws in his game.
Those flaws were exposed in his performances at the East-West Shrine Game and Texas vs. the Nation Game, where he often under-threw and tried to force his downfield throws. He does not have great footwork, has little experience dropping back from under center and struggles to avoid sacks.
Doege put up big numbers at the collegiate level, but he will have to improve just to earn a third-string job at the next level.
Marvin Burdette, ILB, UAB
Marvin Burdette consistently made plays in his senior season at UAB, finishing the year with 157 total tackles and 13 tackles for loss. But on an NFL defense which would require Burdette to play sideline-to-sideline and shed blocks at the line of scrimmage to continue making so many plays, his game will not translate well.
Burdette is not a great athlete, and although he managed to get in the right position often at UAB, he is subpar at block-shedding and does not have the speed to chase down next-level runners. He made most of his tackles between the hash marks and upfield, and struggled against the best athletes he faced this season when UAB played South Carolina and Ohio State.
At only 5’9”, Burdette is also short for a linebacker. While he was very productive in college, he projects as little more than a possible special teams contributor in the NFL and will likely go undrafted.
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
A Heisman Trophy finalist who had great collegiate success but has poor quarterback mechanics, Kansas State’s Collin Klein will be one of the most heavily debated prospects in this year’s draft class. Looking beyond his accolades, however, he simply does not stack up with the top quarterbacks in the class.
Klein is a physically impressive athlete with good size, a strong arm and good running ability. As a pocket-passer, however, Klein has significant flaws in his game. He struggles with accuracy downfield, does not have NFL-caliber footwork in the pocket and has a long delivery.
His ability as a running quarterback won’t translate well to the next level either. While he is a good runner at the collegiate level, he does not possess the speed, open-field quickness or scrambling ability that makes NFL dual-threats like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson so dynamic.
Klein’s collegiate success, size and arm strength make him worth taking a shot on in the late rounds, but it is very unlikely he will ever be an NFL starting quarterback.
Jordan Kovacs, SS, Michigan
Jordan Kovacs has been among the stars of the Michigan defense for the past four years, and his game has grown along with a defense that went from one of the nation’s worst to one of the nation’s best. As an NFL player, however, Kovacs projects only as a special teams player.
Kovacs is instinctive, tackles well and has decent ball skills, but he is too slow and stiff for an NFL safety. He is at his best as an in-the-box run defender, but at only 5’11” and 202 pounds, he does not have great size and would be too small to project as an outside linebacker.
Kovacs is a high-motor player with good discipline, and he could attract interest in the late rounds as back-of-the-rotation depth and a special teams contributor. He falls into the same trap of many productive collegiate safeties, however, who are very good at that level but do not have the athletic ability to continue playing the position in the NFL.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
If Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t make it in the NFL, it will likely be because of the off-field, drug-related issues that cost him his junior season at LSU. But even if Mathieu stays on the field, his game will not necessarily translate to the next level.
“Honey Badger” proved in his two years at LSU that he is a dynamic playmaker as both a cornerback and punt returner, but he would not be a starting cornerback in the NFL. He lacks height, and although he can make opponents miss with the ball in his hands, he does not have great speed.
With great instincts, ball skills and a knack for making plays happen, Mathieu has potential as a nickel or dime back and punt returner if he can stay out of off-field trouble. In coverage, however, he would likely struggle to keep up with bigger, faster receivers on the outside, regardless of his work ethic and behavior.
Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn
Philip Lutzenkirchen became an icon in his four seasons at Auburn for being a red-zone threat known for making clutch plays. As an NFL tight end, his upside is limited.
Lutzenkirchen does not have great speed and is not much of a vertical threat as a receiver. He is a solid lead run-blocker out of the backfield as an H-back, but may not be a true in-line blocker at the next level.
Lutzenkirchen is a high-motor player who makes the most of his abilities, but he may not fit any real role at the next level. He is not a player who will get on the field for his receiving or blocking skills alone, and his best chance of making it in the NFL will be to thrive on special teams.
Jordan Rodgers, QB, Vanderbilt
If Jordan Rodgers were a legitimate starting quarterback prospect, it would be easy to get excited about him, as his brother is none other than Aaron Rodgers, arguably the NFL’s best signal-caller. The younger Rodgers, however, does not have nearly the passing ability that his brother does.
Rodgers has some of his older brother’s strong traits: good athlete, has great toughness and is an intelligent leader. However, he does not have great arm strength, struggles with downfield accuracy and lacks height.
With good bloodlines, toughness and intelligence, Rodgers should get a look in the late rounds as a potential backup quarterback. He does not, however, have the downfield passing ability from the pocket to rival his brother’s success at the next level.
Dan Hope is an NFL draft Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.