Breaking Down the Riskiest Draft Prospects and Teams They Fit Perfectly
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As is the case every year, the 2013 NFL draft is littered with risky draft prospects who have unlimited potential on the field and could change the course of an NFL franchise, but come with baggage that could scare some teams off come draft day.
Some prospects are slapped with the "risky" label thanks to off-field issues, such as LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Others, such as Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, have medical issues that have enabled them to be hit with the description.
Yet, each year we see risky prospects land in a perfect situation.
Last year, Vontaze Burfict went undrafted after floundering away opportunities to impress leading up to the draft. He landed with the Cincinnati Bengals and shocked the league. In 2011, Da'Quan Bowers fell from No. 1 overall to the second round with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thanks to a knee injury, but he's been productive and looks to move into a starting role next season.
The 2013 NFL draft will be no different. This year's riskiest picks have perfect destinations along the landscape of the league.
The following prospects are some of the riskiest, yet can excel if drafted by their perfect match.
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Georgia's Alec Ogletree is one of the biggest names entering the draft at the linebacker position thanks to his stellar play on the field, but also represents one of the biggest risks off of it.
According to PFT, Ogletree was charged with a DUI back in February. It hurts his chances of being the first-rounder many project him to be because as NFL Network's Bucky Brooks noted on Twitter, an incident so close to the draft shows character issues:
GMs and scouts cringe when they hear about arrests & legal transgressions leading up to the #NFLDraft. It shows immaturity & ques.character
— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) February 17, 2013
Not to mention it isn't the first knock on Ogletree's record in the past year. The same report from PFT notes that Ogletree was suspended four games last season for failing a drug test.
Ogletree's Perfect Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
There's absolutely no way Ogletree escapes the first round, risk or not. The franchise smart enough to take him will land a rare talent who will help the team for years, provided the organization is professional enough to handle alleged character issues.
That franchise would be the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Picking at No. 17 overall, Pittsburgh is the first team that would be able to handle Ogletree on and off the field, especially with the recent release of James Harrison. As NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah notes, Ogletree fits the mold of a Steelers linebacker perfectly:
Georgia LB Alec Ogletree reminds me of a bigger version of FSU/Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons. Very athletic/explosive, struggles to take-on
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 18, 2013
Ogletree to Pittsburgh is a natural fit, and it's one the rest of the league should be cringing at having to deal with.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Geno Smith isn't getting a fair shake. Think about it—Smith is the top-rated quarterback by most in the draft class following a historic one at the position thanks to Andrew Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson.
Smith has a great arm and is athletic enough to evade pressure, but he's being lambasted by experts routinely as a risky pick. For example, NFL Films' Greg Cosell believes Smith reads defenses too slowly and it will hurt him at the next level (per NFL.com).
Smith's Perfect Fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
What Smith needs, and is likely to get, is proper coaching and a team built from the ground up around him. He has a plethora of suitors showing interest, but only one has a new head coach and is beginning a promising rebuilding phase.
The Jacksonville Jaguars hold the No. 2 overall pick, and according to the Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran, Gus Bradley and Co. are extremely impressed with Smith:
Gus on Geno Smith: "I had high expectations going in ... And he kind of exceeded them." #jaguars
— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) March 19, 2013
The fit makes all too much sense. Smith will have a top back behind him in Maurice Jones-Drew and a new No. 1 receiver in Justin Blackmon. Together, Bradley and Smith could turn around the franchise while he develops.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
There isn't a name in the draft that has a combination of rare talent and risk involved when compared to LSU's Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu has been out of football for a year after being dismissed from LSU for multiple marijuana offenses. He admitted his problem and attended rehab (per ESPN), and then wowed scouts at the combine in a variety of drills.
Mathieu appears to be turning his life around, and given his recent actions, he's likely solidified himself in the draft as a third-round pick at the earliest.
Mathieu's Perfect Fit: Cincinnati Bengals
It would simply be lazy to list Mathieu as a perfect fit for the Cincinnati Bengals, but we're going to do it anyway because the team is so well-equipped to handle his personality.
Look no further than the team's redemption story with Adam Jones (formerly known as Pacman) for the perfect reason. He's back on a three-year deal with the team (per Rotoworld) and could mentor Mathieu in how to lead life in the NFL.
It also helps mentioning that the Bengals have a serious need on special teams, and Mathieu was a Heisman finalist for his elite skills in that regard. Cincinnati is way ahead of us, as Mathieu tweeted he already worked out for the team in that capacity:
Had a great punt return session with @bengals
— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) March 22, 2013
As Bleacher Report's very own Andrea Hangst points out, the Bengals and Mathieu are a perfect fit if he makes it to the third round or later, especially considering Cincinnati can afford to take a risk with three picks in the first two rounds:
— Andrea Hangst (@FBALL_Andrea) March 22, 2013
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
It's hard to name many prospects in this year's draft as well-known or as talented on the field as Jarvis Jones.
Jones is a beast on the field as an athletic pass-rusher who terrorized quarterbacks during his time at Georgia. The problem is, Jones' stock took a hit because of an alleged neck injury, which caused him to transfer to Georgia in the first place.
According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, any concerns potential suitors had over his neck should now be alleviated:
Georgia's Jarvis Jones did get favorable review on neck (stenosis) from Dr. Craig Brigham (neck, spine specialist), per various teams
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) February 24, 2013
If that weren't enough, Dan Pompei of the National Football Post reports that a medical report sent out to most teams suggests Jones didn't have a serious condition in the first place.
Jones' Perfect Fit: Philadelphia Eagles
The medical red flags appear to be out of the way for Jones, but the damage has been done. Each team will do its own test to make sure Jones isn't as big of a risk as he seems. One thing's for sure—his stellar play on the field will be there.
With that in mind, Jones fits perfectly with the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that possesses the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.
New head coach Chip Kelly is installing a 3-4 defense and needs pass-rushers. He was able to land one in free agency with Connor Barwin, but could use one opposite of Barwin to form a nice duo. As NFL Network's Brian Baldinger puts it, the two are a match made in heaven (h/t Sheil Kapadia via Twitter):
Baldinger: "If Jarvis Jones is there, it's a no-brainer for me." Eagles to work out Georgia OLB. bit.ly/16Rkcrj
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) March 24, 2013
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Any time a prospect is compared to the Baltimore Ravens' Haloti Ngata, it's easy to assume he'll be a top-three selection in the draft.
However, that line of thinking came to a screeching halt when Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was barred from working out at the scouting combine after medical testing revealed a potential heart condition (per PFT).
Fear not for Lotulelei, as he has now been cleared by medical personnel after visiting with experts, as NFL Network's Gil Brandt detailed:
Star Lotulelei was cleared to work out today by cardiologist Josef Stehlik, recommended to Star's agent by 49ers. Will visit again in April.
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 20, 2013
Lotulelei's Perfect Fit: Oakland Raiders
Unfortunately for Lotulelei, the questions and examinations by most NFL teams are going to continue up and through draft day, as his scare at the scouting combine has now created the impression that he is a risk.
However, that should not stop the Oakland Raiders from taking him with the No. 3 overall pick.
The Raiders have a variety of holes on the roster as the franchise rebuilds, but none bigger than at the defensive tackle spot. Lotulelei, if he medically checks out (there's no reason to believe he won't) would fit like a glove.
Oakland could take one massive step forward by making Lotulelei the pick, and as the man the Raiders rebuild its defense around, he'd feel right at home for a long time.
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