6 Offensive and Defensive Schemes That Sabotage Draft Stock
This list is all about the system. In college football, the system can be everything.
Remember Darron Thomas?
Just a few years ago, he was at the head of one of the most potent offenses in college football at Oregon, led his team to a perfect season and went on to win the Rose Bowl in his final college game.
Then he went undrafted in the NFL draft. He currently plays in the Canadian Football League.
Thanks to the Ducks' offense, Thomas looked like a stud in college but didn't pan out in the NFL.
He doesn't have the arm or quarterback acumen to play at an elite professional level, true, but in a different offensive system, he would have received the instruction and preparation that would help make him successful at the next level.
Thomas and the Ducks' offense are featured on this list, along with six other styles or specific systems that can make a player's draft stock fluctuate and disguise the actual talent a player possesses.
6. The Triple Option
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If your program is going to run an offense that never passes the ball, you're gonna have a bad time.
Balance is essential.
So while Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington looked like a fiend rushing the ball in the triple-option, the offense is not conducive to preparing a player for the NFL.
While a running back, in particular, may look like a world-beater after posting huge yardage totals on the ground, one must bear in mind that these numbers are inflated due to the offense in which he operates.
And it works both ways.
For all we know, Washington was a very solid passer. Granted, he had only eight touchdown passes in 2012 to four interceptions, but he never really had a chance to showcase his skill in such an offense.
This is why Georgia Tech, Air Force and others that consistently feature the triple option will never be a threat to have a quarterback drafted near the top of the NFL draft—the offensive system does not allow for it.
5. The 'Superb Front Seven' Defense
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There is no "poster-boy" for this position, but it is in reference to a secondary player who benefits from the play of an outstanding front seven. Any defense that features an Alabama-caliber* front seven will automatically look much better on the back end of the defense.
Tyrann Mathieu, while obviously a very talented football player with an enormous clutch gene, suffered from this.
The Tigers' defensive line and the corner opposite him were phenomenal when he was with the Tigers, leading folks to believe he was better at the position than he actually is.
Mathieu struggled at times when with LSU in man-to-man coverage, and while he has the skill to be a good corner, all the hype, courtesy of a great surrounding cast, was undeserved.
But it's not just Mathieu. The 2012 edition of the Ohio State defensive line was solid, and yet the secondary got loads of press.
A player's individual coverage skills rise to the surface as soon as they reach the next level and it's time to either step up, or step out.
4. The 'Running Quarterback' Offense
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Don't look any further for a prime example of this principle than Tim "The Man" Tebow.
Tebow was a decent passer at Florida, completing over 67 percent of his career pass attempts and leading the team to a national title.
However, Tebow is known primarily as a rushing quarterback, especially since his transition to the NFL.
The inflated media hype and numbers as a consequence of playing in the system he did in college led to Tebow being drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.
That did not end well. The "Tebow experiment" ended after the 2011 season, a season in which Tebow completed only 46.5 percent of his passing attempts and struggled to demonstrate the ability to complete even the most basic of passes at the NFL level.
His meteoric rise to fame, including a Heisman Trophy and three trips to the final ceremony for the award, helped camouflage his lack of skill.
And Urban Meyer's style of offense, similar to the one he currently runs at Ohio State, is conducive to big numbers at the college level, but not so much in the NFL.
3. Air-Raid Offense
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The "Air-Raid" offense that Mike Leach perfected at Texas Tech is brutally efficient and features a boatload of passing with very little in the way of rushing the ball.
It usually results in high-scoring offenses, such as Leach's Red Raider teams or Dana Holgorsen's 2012 West Virginia squad. And many times the biggest beneficiary can be the quarterback, who sees his numbers inflate and is consistently putting up north of 350 yards per game.
With those huge numbers, you might expect these guys to succeed at the next level.
However, the Air-Raid system generally calls for shorter, precision passing rather than laser-like proficiency with the deep ball, and there are not a whole lot of quarterbacks at the next level who played in such a system in college.
For instance, former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell is in the NFL, but as a backup. Harrell threw for over 5,000 yards his junior season at Tech.
Cody Hodges nearly hit the 4,200-yard mark in the system under Leach, while Kliff Kingsbury, Sonny Cumbie and B.J. Symons all broke the 5,000-yard mark during a single season.
What does every one of them have in common?
Not a single one starts in the NFL.
2. Run Heavy Pro-Style
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This offense can work two ways.
In the case of a running back such as Ron Dayne or Brian Calhoun, or just about any other of the great Wisconsin running backs, the offense has been conducive to putting up huge rushing numbers.
Wisconsin running backs are consistently near the top of the nation in just about every rushing category, thanks to an offense that has ranked in the top 13 in attempts in five of the past six seasons.
However, there is currently only one Wisconsin running back in the NFL, Bradie Ewing with the Falcons, who played fullback at Wisconsin.
The "run-heavy" system the Badgers usually run is conducive to huge rushing numbers and inflated draft stock coming out of college, but few Badger running backs pan out at the next level.
And then there was the case of Russell Wilson, and his one season with the Badgers.
During that one season, in what is perceived as a rush-heavy offense, Wilson scored 33 touchdowns through the air, only threw four interceptions and completed 72.8 percent of his passes, all while leading his team to the Rose Bowl and a Big Ten title.
And yet, largely due to his 5'11" stature, he was not drafted until the third round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Surely, if Wilson played in a system where he was able to put up larger numbers and prove that he could succeed in an offense that threw the ball all over the field, he would have been drafted higher.
As it was, Wilson tore up the NFL as a rookie last season, winning the 2012 Pepsi Rookie of the Year award, and tying Peyton Manning's record for touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback.
If not somewhat "limited" by the Wisconsin offense, he would have had the opportunity to showcase his skill and ability.
Any offense that focuses too heavily on rushing the ball can be majorly detrimental to a quarterback's draft stock, especially given the "pass-happy" direction of the NFL at this time.
1. The Spread Option
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Darron Thomas was mentioned in the opening, and not to belabor the point, but one needs look no further than his case for an instance in which a player who flourished in the spread option in college struggled to cash that experience in for NFL draft points.
After leading the Ducks to two consecutive BCS bowl appearances, Thomas declared early for the NFL draft.
In his first season at Oregon, Thomas led the team to a 12-0 record and an appearance in the BCS title game. He threw for 30 touchdowns while rushing for five more scores.
His ability to guide the spread option that Chip Kelly's team ran, led to big numbers and big result for the Ducks, but his early departure was doomed to fail.
Thomas went undrafted after leaving early for the NFL. He is currently toiling away in the wasteland that is the Canadian Football League.
The spread option is all the rage, and we see that with Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, WVU quarterback Geno Smith and current Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
However, the system, while gaining some popularity in the NFL, is still only conducive to big college numbers and not as much success in the NFL.