The NFL draft is a process rooted deeply in the weighing of risk and reward.
Talent is almost always abundant, but the best general managers and front offices are able to sort out which prospects carry the best combination of NFL-ready talent and limited risk.
For some players, such as Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, that exercise can be a difficult one.
While undeniably talented, Jones carries a serious medical risk into the 2013 NFL draft that could hurt his stock in the minds of risk-weighing general managers. For some, that may mean avoiding Jones altogether.
In the following slides, we'll break down five talented but risky players (including Jones) who might not be worth taking a chance on early this April.
Jones might be this draft's poster boy for weighing risk and reward.
While a dominant player at Georgia that some have compared to Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Jones also suffers from a condition known as spinal stenosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, this potentially serious condition involves the narrowing of the spine, and can add pressure to both the spinal cord and nerves in the back and neck.
Pro Football Talk reported before the NFL combine that some teams were taking Jones off their first-round board because of the problem. Considering USC wasn't comfortable clearing Jones before he transferred to Georgia, envisioning a few NFL teams also shying away isn't difficult to do.
More than likely, there will be a handful of NFL teams comfortable enough with the spinal stenosis to take Jones in the first round. But with such a clear condition to deal with, it's worth wondering if Jones will end up being worth the risk.
Mathieu and the 2013 NFL draft represents another exercise in value.
If the Honey Badger falls into the later rounds, there's diminishing risk for teams in taking a chance on him. But spending a draft pick anytime in the first four rounds likely isn't worth the risk on investment.
Mathieu was an undeniable playmaker for two seasons at LSU, both as a slot cornerback and returner. But he hasn't played football in over a year—thanks to a number of run-ins with the law over marijuana use—and his size (5'9", 186 pounds) will be much more of an issue in the NFL than it was in college.
Mathieu also didn't blow anyone away the NFL combine, so there's worry that you're getting an undersized corner who isn't an elite athlete and has the very real opportunity of being a distraction.
In the right draft slot (and right situation), Mathieu makes sense. But there are very few prospects in this draft who come as a bigger risk in the first 100-120 picks than the Honey Badger.
The worry with Te'o is not just the player, but where you have to draft the player.
According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Te'o isn't going to get past Cincinnati at No. 21 overall. ESPN's Adam Schefter didn't go that far, but he did "report" that Te'o won't get out of the first round.
Herein lies the problem. Is Te'o worth that high of pick?
After running the 40-yard dash in over 4.8 seconds in Indianapolis, Te'o has likely proved he isn't athletic enough to play all three downs in the NFL. His well-documented catfishing hoax presents problems about how he will be perceived in NFL locker rooms. And the dreadful performance he put on tape against Alabama in the national championship is inescapable.
First-round picks certainly don't have to be perfect, but there are enough red flags on Te'o's draft profile to be legitimately worried about using a top-32 selection on him. There are much safer first-round options who have a higher NFL ceiling.
Lotulelei's "risk" could change based on improving information, but for now, he's worth mentioning here.
An examination during the NFL combine found an irregular heart condition, and the potential top-15 pick was held out of the physical activities in Indianapolis because of it. Mike Garafolo of USA Today reported later that the problem might be nothing more then dehydration, but that information has yet to be confirmed or denied.
If the heart problems actually turn out to be something to worry about, expect Lotulelei's stock to take a severe fall.
While talented and worthy of a top-15 pick, Lotulelei is part of a deep and equally talented group of defensive tackles in the class. Such a reality could make Lotulelei unworthy of the risk, especially if an NFL team has the pick between Lotulelei and an otherwise healthy and comparable player at the position.
Ogletree is a hard player to pin down.
While his tape at Georgia shows one of the draft's most athletic and physically impressive linebackers, Ogletree has very real off-the-field concerns that make drafting him in the first 32 picks a risky proposition.
On top of a one-game suspension for misdemeanor theft in 2010 and a four-game suspension for a positive drug test in 2012, Ogletree was arrested for driving under the influence in Arizona last month, according to Pro Football Talk.
For some teams and their draft board, the DUI could be a third strike.
His performance at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine didn't exactly revitalize his stock either. Despite his perceived athleticism, Ogletree failed to finish in the top five of any drill among linebackers. It certainly wasn't a poor workout, but Ogletree could have calmed some minds with an eye-catching performance in Indianapolis.