Beware during the 2013 NFL draft, because landing a prospect that lacks consistent reliability will cost a team in the long run.
For the most part, this only applies to Rounds 1 through 3, but there are reasons we'll see athletes drop into the later rounds. Factor in various team needs, depth of talent—or lack thereof—at each position and a player's game tape, and what unfolds will not be surprising.
Now, not every such case is due to underachievement; durability issues will also play a role. Ahead, the following prospects have some combination of the aforementioned tangibles.
David Amerson: CB, North Carolina State
David Amerson is too much risk for the reward in this draft.
Although he collected 17 picks over the past two seasons, as well as 288 interception-return yards, Amerson also gave up quite a few big plays. Given pro football's pass-oriented approach, teams will challenge him with double moves downfield and off play action.
Even though he is 6'1" and 205 pounds, Amerson must also get more physical at the line scrimmage.
Allowing a cushion for the receiver leaves Amerson even more vulnerable to deeper routes. The fast reactionary skills do exist to take away the slant, screen and out routes; however, bigger and stronger NFL targets will capitalize on the immediate space and press him back.
In addition, Amerson's failure to build consistency against the quicker-developing passing plays lets receivers stock block him better, which helps establish the run.
T.J. McDonald: Safety, USC
T.J. McDonald definitely has potential, but there is plenty of developing to do.
While at USC he recorded 268 tackles and defended 17 passes from 2010 through 2012. At the same time, plenty of McDonald's plays came from making tackles downfield. Although he also spent a good amount of time near the line of scrimmage, his size does not fit for a pro-football linebacker.
Running lanes do need to get filled quicker when sitting and reading in Cover 2, not to mention coming up and delivering hits more consistently. At 6'2" and 219 pounds, McDonald brings the physical tools to destroy ball-carriers and receivers at the intermediate level.
It's a matter of utilizing better instincts, because he has gotten caught peeking in the backfield against the pass. Plus, McDonald must improve wrapping and tackling, as opposed to just launching in with a shoulder.
Marcus Lattimore: RB, South Carolina
Everything with Marcus Lattimore comes straight down to durability.
He has the physicality at 5'11" and 221 pounds and uses that to bulldoze would-be tacklers by running downhill. Lattimore has also displayed the short-area quickness to make defenders miss in open space.
And after accounting for 1,609 total yards and scoring 19 touchdowns in 2010, Lattimore's future was looking exceptionally bright.
Since then, however, he has not been so fortunate.
In October of 2011, Tony Santaella of WLTX-CBS 19 in Columbia reported a knee injury that put Lattimore out for the year. Roughly a year later, Lattimore was injured once again. This time his right knee was the injury's recipient, according to Gamecocksonline.com:
Lattimore suffered a significant impact to the front of his right knee during the Tennessee game on Saturday. The ensuing hyperextension of the knee resulted in injury to several ligaments. There were no fractures or additional injuries, according to team physician Dr. Jeffrey Guy. Lattimore's surgically repaired left knee was uninjured during the play.
The proven talent when healthy is quite impressive from South Carolina's main running back. But Lattimore's injury history will drop him back in the draft.
Brian Winters: Guard/Tackle, Kent State
There is a flash of potential with Brian Winters, because he possesses the immediate quickness to jolt defensive linemen at the snap—or blitzing linebackers.
On the flip side of the coin, Winters must do a better job of extending running lanes at a consistent rate. The stronger and quicker front-seven defenders in the NFL will take advantage of that and make plays against him.
Moving laterally, Winters provides solid balance, but his base will get too high at times, and strength is a definite concern. At the combine he managed only nine reps on the bench press, although that was due to an injury, per Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Even with his size (6'4", 320 lbs), he must prove his ability to drive opponents backwards, as opposed to remaining stagnant at the line. The better defensive linemen who utilize fluid hand techniques will take advantage when Winters lunges forward.