In the NFL, success begins with the draft. Draft poorly and you are sure to struggle.
Picking the wrong prospect can hurt a team in multiple ways. Not only is it stuck with a poor draft pick for a few years, but it also could miss out on the many other picks who will end up becoming great pros.
In this slideshow, we take a bold look at 10 of this year's most dangerous prospects. These are all guys who have serious question marks and could go in the first two rounds of the draft.
Note: Throughout the article, I reference a Physical Tools ranking system. This system uses a formula to give a combined numeric value to every aspect of a player's physical measurables. This includes: height, weight, arm length, 40-yard-dash time, three-cone, short shuttle, broad jump, vertical jump and bench press.
I also incorporate a position-specific formula to assess a player's entire college production using weighted values. Each player's production grade is relative to his position and graded on a curve.
Examples of last year's draft metric and its formulas can be seen by clicking here.
Who cares what Jarvis Jones did and didn't do at his pro day—right?
Sure, football isn't played in a pair of shorts or with stopwatches, but when you time as poorly as Jones did (4.9-second 40-yard dash), you raise some serious concerns about your NFL potential.
I've long had my doubts about Jones' pro potential and felt his game tape is loaded with blemishes. Poor open-field tackling, questionable functional strength, underdeveloped physique and limited pass-rush tools are just a few of many concerns I have with Jones.
Let us not forget the other issue worth noting here as well: Jones was not even cleared to play football for USC after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis. This is an issue of some severity and must be factored in when an organization considers paying him millions of dollars to help it win football games.
On film, Arthur Brown looks like one of the fastest linebackers in the NFL. He also looks like a guy who struggles to take on blockers at the point of attack and shed effectively. When he's allowed to roam free and attack ball-carriers, he flashes some impressive ability, but he can also show inconsistencies in tackling.
Brown is not known for his strength or physicality, but more so for his ability to run sideline to sideline. This skill is one which is highly coveted at the next level and generally displays nicely in testing.
However, Brown surprisingly tested very poorly and had a combined-speed average similar to that of Manti Te'o, whom the media bashed for running so poorly even though he is not known for having blazing speed like Brown.
Brown's lack of speed is really one of the big question marks of this draft process and has now tainted his most redeeming quality. In ranking his overall physical tools among his linebacker peers, Brown ranks 12th out of 22. This is alarming for a guy who is supposed to be one of the best athletes at his position.
Looking at his production grade doesn't get much better; in that category, he ranked 13th among non-edge-rushing linebackers. It appears there is more to be concerned about than there is to praise at this point. This is a clear case of buyer beware.
Sharrif Floyd is a dynamic interior playmaker with a ton of talent. The issue here is that he is just being projected too high considering what he has to offer.
So what do you get with Floyd in comparison to the other interior linemen in this draft? Let's take a look.
In the "physical tools" metric, he ranks seventh out of 18 interior-lineman prospects. In production, he ranks third. In regard to just grading the tape, I have Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei placed higher than Floyd.
With that said, Floyd is still one of the best defensive tackles in this draft, but to take him in the top five without elite physical tools at a position loaded with depth is a very risky proposition. Besides, defensive linemen taken in the first round already have a high likelihood of being disappointments.
Montee Ball is the most productive running back in this year's draft. While at Wisconsin, Ball scored almost 500 points and rushed for over 5,000 yards. But with the shelf life of a running back being so brief, has Ball racked up too many miles on his odometer before being sold off the lot?
Ball may be on the high end of career touches already, but this has also demonstrated his impressive durability.
Another area of concern with Ball is his marginal physical tools. Using a system which factors in every physical element necessary for a running back to succeed, such as speed (40, short shuttle, three-cone), explosion (broad jump, vertical, bench) and weight, Ball finished 16th out of 30 running backs. This means he won't have any added physical advantages at the next level—he's just athletic enough to survive the NFL.
Lastly, Wisconsin is well-known for having tremendous offensive linemen that created huge holes for Ball to run through. In fact, since 2011, five offensive linemen from Wisconsin have been drafted into the NFL and two more are expected to be drafted this April. That degree of support should boost any running back's stats.
I love Christine Michael as a prospect and would probably be banging the table to draft him if I could sit in my favorite team's war room.
In a system used to determine which prospects have the best physical tools, as I mentioned in the previous slide with Montee Ball, Michael topped the list of running backs. Physical ability has never been an issue for this kid.
Bleacher Report's own Sigmund Bloom wrote this in his scouting report of Michael:
There are questions about his character, which caused him to be used in a smaller role during 2012 and also resulted in Michael sleeping through some meetings with teams at the Combine. He has also never had more than 166 carries in a season...
...Michael's relationship with the A&M coaching staff cost him playing time in 2012. He made a bad impression off the field at the combine with his missed meetings, and he also has two serious leg injuries in his past.
Buyer beware on this kid. He may look and drive like a Lamborghini, but you have to wonder why the previous owner kept him locked up in the garage most of the time. Sometimes, a high-performance vehicle just isn't very reliable and comes with some annoying maintenance costs.
Menelik Watson was once thought to be one of the more athletic offensive-line prospects in the draft, yet, oddly enough, he turned out to be the exact opposite.
For anyone who knows what type of player Menelik is, it's really hard to believe that out of 32 offensive linemen, Watson had the worst physical-tools grade. He was only able to bench press 19 reps at his pro day, which isn't that big of a deal for a guy with long arms, but he also had some of the worst times at the combine in the short shuttle (5.01) and three-cone drill (8.31).
Watson is also a very raw prospect who has not been playing football for very long. His saving grace was once supposed to be a high ceiling and elite athletic ability, but that now seems to be outdated information.
Mel Kiper still has Watson rated as his fifth-best tackle in the draft (ESPN Insider).
If NFL teams feel similarly to Kiper, Watson will likely be a second-round draft pick, which makes him one of the riskier prospects available. Buyer should definitely beware here.
At one point, Keenan Allen was considered to be the top wide-receiver prospect in this draft. Now, teams are worried that Allen may never be able to show scouts what he can do in regard to speed, as he continues to deal with lingering issues from a knee injury suffered late last season.
Allen was supposed to run a 40 and do drills at his pro day, but he was unable to do so after unknown setbacks to his knee. He's scheduled to work out on April 9 in Greensboro, N.C.
If his knee continues to be a problem and he's unable to run yet again, Allen may end up falling out of the first round. Any team that decides to take a chance on Allen in Round 1 could be inheriting a chronic problem that limits Allen's speed potential throughout his career.
Even before the knee injury, Allen was only averaging 12 yards per catch during his final year at Cal, which was partly due to poor quarterback play. However, it also appeared at times as if Allen had lost some of the competitive drive he had during his first two seasons, when he was one of the most electrifying guys in the nation with the ball in his hands. Last year, he seemed to be missing some of those fireworks.
Potential is everything when projecting Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah at the next level. Does he have tremendous physical tools? Absolutely. As expected, he lit up the NFL combine with some of the best all-around numbers in the draft.
But when considering a guy like Ziggy as a potential top-five overall pick, one must understand the inherent risks involved. For a first-round prospect, Ansah may be one of the rawest kids to ever be projected so high.
Personally, I struggle to see how his elite athleticism will translate with any consistency onto a football field.
By the end of his senior season, Ansah was finally learning how to be a decent college football player. However, the learning curve from college to the NFL is nothing to underestimate. When everyone is as big and fast as you are, you absolutely must have qualities which can separate you from the crowd.
Up to this point, the only thing Ansah has proved is that he's equipped with the ideal prerequisite physical tools needed to compete against the best of the best. But does he have the instincts, awareness, technique, savvy or football IQ to justify such a high draft selection?
I definitely have my doubts.
Zach Ertz was once considered a potential first-round pick before the NFL combine exposed what many failed to see on tape. Ertz is a middle-of-the-road athlete who benefited greatly from a tight-end-friendly system and solid quarterbacks throwing him the ball. Beyond the scheme and his supporting cast, there is little proof that Ertz could be anything more than either a system guy or a backup in the NFL.
Ertz is also one of the worst blocking tight ends I've evaluated in the last two years. His effort, strength and technique are extremely lacking when it comes to blocking. Furthermore, once he has the ball in his hands, there is little to fear in his ability after the catch. Typically, he will run in a straight line and throw his shoulder into the first guy trying to tackle him. That's usually all it takes to get him down.
It seems as though his high statistical output during his junior year has inflated his draft stock far beyond justifiable ability. If a team is willing to pull the trigger on Ertz before Round 3, it would be making a terrible mistake in opportunity cost. This is a deep class of talented tight ends, and missing out on a better value could hurt the organization for years to come. Beware.
Bjoern Werner is a talented pass-rusher with proven productivity throughout his career at Florida State. He also happens to have one of the best "get-offs" in the draft thanks in large part to his ability to anticipate, which can be seen in several areas of his game.
His big concern seems to be his limited potential at the next level. When analyzing his physical tools in comparison to the rest of the defensive ends, Werner ranks dead last out of 18 DE prospects. This means that his combination of speed, explosion, arm length, height and weight do not translate well to the NFL at all.
Before the combine, I already had my concerns about Werner's game. He seems to lack the ability to bend his hips and turn the corner, which is an absolute must for success in the NFL. His stiffness will not be easy to hide against elite blockers.
Another issue concerning Werner is his alarming lack of motor. I was shocked to watch how willing this kid was to give up on plays that were still very much alive. I couldn't tell if this was the result of poor conditioning or simply a weak competitive drive, but either one is cause for serious concern.