Hype is a dangerous thing around NFL draft prospects.
So much about the draft can be filed under "managed expectations." Take a decently talented player in the first round, get solid production out of him, and he can be labeled a bust because he isn't starting, heading to Pro Bowls or contributing to a Super Bowl-winning team. Take that same player in the fifth round, get that same solid production, and he's a steal!
So, as players rise and fall around media mock drafts and big boards, remember that real NFL teams rarely (if ever) operate that way. Boards have been set for months and got little tweaks (if any) from things like the combine and pro days.
The players will be selected based on those boards, but the boards can be wildly different (the one time reality and the media match up). Each team weighs the possible reward it thinks a player can bring against the inherent risk he has as a draft pick.
The following are 11 players that I believe are overrated by many—both fans and media. Undoubtedly, many in actual NFL positions would disagree with me, and many would agree. That's how draft prep works, with lots of varied opinions.
Remember, it only takes one team with a high opinion of a player to turn that "consensus mid-round prospect" into a first-round pick.
What this isn't is a list of players I don't like or players I don't think will contribute in the NFL. No, it is extremely possible to like a player at pick No. 25 and still think he's overrated by people who want him to go in the Top 10.
It's about managed expectations, and these players might be better served entering the league with a little less weight on their shoulders.
I just don't see it with Ryan Nassib. People I respect see it, but I just can't.
Russ Lande (National Football Post/Montreal Alouettes) has Nassib as his top overall player. Greg Cosell (NFL Films) has Nassib as the top quarterback. Many others have Nassib as the second- or third-ranked quarterback.
I have the Syracuse product tied for fourth on my board and have gone back to numerous games in order to see what I'm missing. No matter how hard I try, I can't understand it.
Nassib brings solid (but not great) athleticism to the table with solid (but not great) arm strength. His accuracy is as good as they come between the hashes on short-to-intermediate throws, but it falls apart outside the hashes and over 15 yards.
He's a rhythm thrower who can get flustered and make terrible throws and decisions when the rush gets to him. This accentuates his arm-strength deficiencies. His footwork gets sloppy, and he worked almost entirely out of shotgun.
Can Nassib start right away in the NFL? Yes, but his upside is limited, and he's a better fit in spread or West Coast-based offenses that aren't looking to drive down the field. He can be a field general, but he better have a great platoon around him.
In a QB-starved league, Nassib could still end up going in the Top 10 of this year's draft, but he has the talent of a second-round prospect and will not be able to carry his team like a Top 10 pick should.
I've seen Joseph Randle as high as the second or third back on some people's boards, and fans have asked me if their team should grab him in the top of the second. My usual reply is that the top of the fourth would be a lot more appropriate.
As spread offenses continue to permeate the college football scene, so much virtual ink has been spilled on the difficulty of projecting spread QBs to the NFL. In reality, offensive linemen, running backs and receivers who operate out of the spread are just as difficult to project because so much of what they do is an apples-to-oranges comparison to what the NFL values.
Randle is productive, and he doesn't fumble. He's a capable pass-blocker and a solid receiver. He showcases decent vision and has a little upper-body wiggle to his running style.
What Randle isn't is dynamic in any way. He has questionable lateral athleticism and runs too upright. He doesn't have a ton of burst to the hole and doesn't accelerate or decelerate in the open field. He is not what scouts refer to as a "natural runner."
Randle is a volume back. The best role for him in today's NFL is what I call a "second back." Not No. 2 on the depth chart. No, that position is usually reserved for some sort of change-of-pace option. Randle fits best as a guy who can come in when the starter goes down and who won't hurt the team.
A lot of Southern Cal fans might be upset by this selection, but others will need to see a chiropractor after shaking their heads so much in agreement.
Robert Woods is maddeningly inconsistent and will disappear for long stretches because he isn't getting separation. When his name is called, it is too often done so negatively because he drops the ball too much to be considered a high-caliber No. 1 wideout.
The biggest problems with Woods are on deep passes and jump balls where he doesn't flash the necessary strength to beat his defender. He doesn't possess great body control in the air and doesn't track passes well over his shoulder.
The best fit for Woods is as a No. 2 receiver on a team looking for an option on crossing patterns. Woods is tougher over the middle than he is down the sideline and would be a great complement to any team that doesn't expect him to shoulder too much of the load on offense.
Travis Kelce is one of those players who isn't talked about very often, but when his name is brought up, he's a favorite of the draft community because he's a well-rounded player and a good enough athlete to create matchup problems. NFL.com's draft profile even compares him to Rob Gronkowski.
Side note: If you're going to compare someone to Gronkowski and not use the phrases "poor man's," "homeless man's" or "end-of-the-world-and-money-no-longer-has-value man's," you'd better put that prospect in the first round. Meanwhile, NFL.com (after dropping the Gronk comparison) has him as the fourth-best tight end.
The biggest issue with Kelce isn't on-field production—although I think Brent Celek is a much more apt comparison than Gronkowski)—it's his attitude. He was suspended all of 2010 after an undisclosed violation before the team's bowl game. One NFL evaluator called him a "train wreck" in terms of character. He's also coming off of a serious abdominal tear.
Kelce can be a starting tight end in the league, but he's also going to create a bunch of headaches for coaches, teammates and front office personnel. In this year's deep tight end class, that's worth a third-round pick—if not later.
My apologies to Syracuse faithful for posting both of your top draft prospects on this list, but I promise it's nothing personal. Justin Pugh just isn't the fringe first-round prospect some are making him out to be. He's an offensive tackle in an offensive guard's body—a "tweener" in the most negative connotation of the term.
The push up draft boards makes sense because this year features a top-heavy offensive tackle class (perhaps three in the Top 10) alongside a top-heavy offensive guard class (probably two in the Top 20). So, teams at the bottom of the first round are going to need to reach if they need a lineman.
I suggest they reach elsewhere.
Pugh doesn't have the strength to anchor against NFL-caliber pass-rushers or the ability to road grade against interior linemen. He's too short for an offensive tackle and too slight to be an effective offensive guard. There is a decent amount of polish to his game, and he could be a fringe starter at the NFL level, but he would be a liability as a long-term starter.
It's relatively difficult for any guard to be overrated unless he's being projected as a top pick, and this year's class has a legitimate top prospect in Chance Warmack. So, there's a good chance that Hugh Thornton is the least overrated on this list simply because of the position he plays.
However, Thornton has started to make waves as a possible mid-tier guard prospect, and that would be a mistake for any but a few teams in the league.
Like Pugh in the last slide, Thornton is a former tackle who doesn't have the strength to play guard at the next level. While he fits nicely as a guard in a zone-blocking scheme, many teams may end up projecting him as a swing tackle instead—third on the depth chart.
With some off-field issues in his past, this may be a player some teams just end up passing on altogether.
Sharrif Floyd is another player who I just can't seem to understand what people are infatuated about.
He certainly passes the "look test," but Floyd didn't have the production he should have had at Florida. His 4.5 sacks are nothing to write home about, and the fact that they came in only three games is even more troubling. It says that he's a player who can make an impact but often doesn't for various reasons.
Too often, Floyd overran pass plays as the quarterback stepped up in the pocket. He also gets washed out on far too many run plays for a top tackle prospect. He plays with high pad level and doesn't come off the snap low. Those are habits that should've been coached out of him by now and may never be at this rate.
Floyd is a tantalizing athlete, so he'll end up going high in the draft, but he's less likely to become any better of a player at the next level and could end up being one of the biggest busts of this draft class.
Speaking of potential busts, NFL.com's Gil Brandt had this to say about Jarvis Jones:
I just see him as a one-position player. I see him as a guy that's going to play with his hand on the ground and he's going to try hard, and he's going to come close to making sacks, but he's not going to have 14.5 (sacks) like he did at Georgia.
That's a harsh assessment from one of the men responsible for building the Dallas Cowboys.
Jones is a one-speed player, and that speed isn't particularly fast. Tackles in the NFL will be able to run him off plays easily because he lacks countermoves toward the inside and doesn't have the strength to bull rush them.
In the right system, Jones could be a valuable second end and produce a good number of sacks, but he's never going to be the guy who sits among the league leaders or single-handedly impacts the opponents' offensive game plan.
With linebackers like Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly in last year's class, it's almost unfair to be a linebacker this year. It's possible that none of the linebackers this year match the impact those three are going to have on the league.
Khaseem Greene—a solid late-second-round prospect—is a great chase-and-tackle linebacker who will wrack up a ton of tackles if the players around him do their respective jobs. He doesn't offer a ton of ability or potential in coverage or rushing the passer.
The biggest problem with Greene is that the game sometimes seems too fast for him. He's a good athlete, but he needs to have better anticipation, angles and ability to sift through traffic if he's going to be a great player in the NFL.
When a cornerback is being pushed around in the Pac-12, it's a problem.
Desmond Trufant has legitimate cover skills, but he lacks the size or the strength to press NFL receivers, and he doesn't help much (if at all) in the run game. While he has the athleticism to keep up with speedy receivers, he makes a lot of boneheaded plays as well. On Sundays, those types of mistakes will be magnified.
Because of his last name, speed and length, he's going to get a chance at going in the first round, but he's not worth a first-round pick right now. Not by a long shot.
This is a perfect time to remind everyone of what was said in the intro slide. Just because a player is overrated does not mean I'm "down" on that player. Jonathan Cyprien is a perfect example of runaway hype. A few months ago, most fans had no idea who Cyprien was. Now, fans of Miami, Carolina or Tennessee think he's worth their first-round pick.
I'm a huge fan of Cyprien, but the way he threw around receivers at Florida International may not work in the NFL. His physical play is more likely to get flagged on Sundays. He has little experience playing in a deep third and may need to be in the box only. Like Trufant on the last slide, he's all projection and very little in terms of evidence.
Cyprien's pre-draft hype reminds me a lot of Louis Delmas who came from a similar situation out of Western Michigan. He had clear talent and "rocketed" up draft boards, landing where he belonged all along at the top of the second round. Look for Cyprien to go around the same place in this year's draft.
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.