NFL Draft Prospects with the Highest Bust Potential
What does it take to be a bust in the NFL?
So often, we laugh at the JaMarcus Russells and Charles Rogers of the world and pretend as if they are the sole contributors to their own demises. Not that they didn't contribute, heavily, to their own busting, but consider for a moment if those players had landed later in the draft, to a team that had veteran leadership in place.
From the opposite view, consider Janoris Jenkins. He was a problem child throughout his college career and even needed to be suspended as a rookie, yet Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff eked out every drop of talent from him. Put that same player on the Lions, and he may have gone down the same road as Titus Young.
In the end, fit and atmosphere have a lot to do with a player busting, so what I'm saying is that the players on this list need the right fit and atmosphere. None of these players lack talent. All have the potential to be extremely great NFL players. However, there are hurdles to clear.
There's also the question of expectations. Had Alex Smith been a second-round pick, he might be heralded as one of the greatest draft steals ever. Instead, he is largely derided as an also-ran.
If these players go high to systems that don't fit and fanbases that have high expectations, the bust potential is great.
With all our "caveats emptor-ed," on to the list!
Sam Montgomery, DE, Louisiana State
Anytime the strength coach posts a sign about a guy's work habits, or lack thereof, it's a clue that maybe "bust" could be a real possibility.
Is Sam Montgomery a good player? Yes.
He's got fringe first-round talent and has a knack for getting to the quarterback. His effort on the field is usually apparent, even if it wasn't in the LSU weight room, but he doesn't have a ton of burst or lateral quickness.
If he gets drafted much higher than the end of the first round, teams and fans could sour on him quickly.
Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist
No matter where Magus Hunt plays in the NFL, it will be something new for him.
At SMU, he lined up all over the field—even at defensive tackle! Basically, he was so big, strong and athletic that the coaches would simply match him up wherever they felt he could do the most damage.
In the NFL, he won't be head-and-shoulders more athletic than all of his opponents.
The upside here is that a team like the Baltimore Ravens or Houston Texans could do a lot of damage with a guy like Hunt in the lineup. If a less inventive defensive coordinator winds up with him, however, he could end up as a big disappointment.
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
As Sharrif Floyd rocketed up the rest of the media's respective draft boards this past season, I couldn't help but scratch my head.
Obviously Floyd has a ton of natural talent, but I sincerely question his feel for the game. It isn't that he wasn't well-coached—Florida isn't exactly a small school—nor does he really need "polish" in the usual sense of the term.
Rather, Floyd just doesn't seem to feel where offensive linemen try to block him.
He'll have a fantastic rip, shed or punch, but then find himself out of the play. He's a talented pass-rusher and has more than enough physical ability to create plenty of pressure at the next level.
But if he's a top-10 pick, he'll need to learn the finer points of the game.
Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
For much of the predraft season, the conventional wisdom around Jarvis Jones was that he would easily be a top pick if not for concerns about his spinal stenosis. Now, as concerns fade, Jones is being overtaken by talented pass-rushers like Ezekiel Ansah, Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo on many draft boards.
That means some team will get an awesome pass-rusher as a value, right?
The truth about Jones is that he's a one-speed player who doesn't get off the snap quickly enough and gets stymied far too easily when linemen get their hands on him.
He'll flash at the next level, but like these other prospects, he may not shine as brightly as his team might expect.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Go outside. Run in a straight line for about five yards. Then, after turning 90 degrees to your right, run another five yards.
Congratulations! You have just run a route more polished than Cordarrelle Patterson is used to. If you're also ridiculously big and a phenom with the ball in your hands, you should probably head to your local NFL team and try out.
Still, look at the all-time great receivers (Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Cris Carter). Those men truly knew how to move on the football field—how to get every little bit out of their natural talent. Even the greats today (Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald) aren't just athletic freaks. They have body control and polished routes.
Patterson has a ton of talent and is a phenomenal athlete, but he is as raw as they come. If he's going to make an impact early on in his NFL career, he will need to work a lot harder on his craft than he has to this point.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
When a prospect has to be convinced to play football, it could be a sign of bad things to come.
Ezekiel Ansah came to BYU from Ghana and tried to play basketball before switching to track. The upside, of course, is that he lit up the national stage when he finally switched to the gridiron. Still, the question has to be if he'll continue to excel when he starts cashing NFL paychecks.
The sky is the limit with Ansah. He has the opportunity to be one of the truly great players of our generation, but as high as his ceiling is, he's got a pretty low floor as well.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Matt Barkley is not Matt Leinart, nor is he Matt Cassel or Carson Palmer. No, let's let Barkley be Barkley and question how good he'll be on that basis alone.
Barkley was a top prospect out of Mater Dei High School—one of the top football programs in the country. Then he went to USC, where Lane Kiffin (though lightly regarded as a head coach) is still considered something of a QB guru. He played with some of the best receivers a boy could ask for on as big a stage as any prospect in the draft.
He didn't do much.
Throw Barkley on a struggling team that he's supposed to carry, with a coach on the hot seat and the team struggling to sign free agents, and what do you think will happen?
Barkley has all the polish in the world, but he lacks the elite physical tools to make his transition to the NFL as easy as people once thought it could be. He could be Tom Brady...or he could be one of the countless other successful college quarterbacks who don't do a darn thing in the pros.
Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, Louisiana State
Barkevious Mingo is a lot like Bruce Irvin in that he'll need the perfect fit to make an impact in the NFL.
When draft experts called Irvin a reach last April, they were right. However, those same experts (this guy included) didn't expect that the Seahawks wouldn't ask Irvin to do anything he wasn't fantastic at.
It didn't matter that Irvin couldn't cover the run, because they didn't want him to. That same team brought in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett this offseason to make sure he continues to not have to.
Mingo needs a similar role and a coach who can keep his effort up at all time. If he goes top-five or top-10 and is asked to be a team's cornerstone on the defensive line, things could go bad in a hurry.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.