Each and every team will be looking for its next franchise player in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft, and some of those teams will be lucky enough to find them. With that said, there are plenty of pitfalls involved with the draft, and some highly touted players simply aren't going to work out.
It's difficult to predict who those players will be at this juncture, and that is why the draft is such a crap shoot. There are obviously some guys out there with more red flags than others, though. That doesn't necessarily guarantee failure at the NFL level, but teams may be more cautious because of it.
Here are the top projected first-round selections who are at the greatest risk of falling flat at the next level.
After a quarterback class that included Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson among others last season, it's fair to say that this year's crop is a bit of a disappointment.
In fact, the only signal-caller who appears to be a certain first-round pick is West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. While Smith will likely come off the board within the first 32 selections, that doesn't mean he is a lock to live up to his potential.
Smith flashed signs of greatness with the Mountaineers and had some prolific passing games last season in particular. He and West Virginia faltered down the stretch, though, and many draft experts are down on him because of that. Smith played in a wide-open offense in college, and even though many NFL teams are starting to adopt similar offenses, he has been downgraded for not playing in a pro-style system.
It wouldn't be a stretch to call Smith the biggest enigma in this year's draft as he could be a star or he could be out of the league in a couple years. Somebody is going to take a chance on him, and it could very well be the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 2. The Jags desperately need a spark and Smith could provide it, but he could just as easily set the franchise back for years to come.
Which player is most likely to be a bust in the NFL?
One of the most exciting athletes in the 2013 draft is BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. The 6'5", 274-lb. physical freak can do some incredible things on the football field, but he remains a raw prospect.
Ansah contributed very little prior to his senior season in 2012. He didn't put up spectacular numbers as he only posted 4.5 sacks, but his ability was evident. Based on talent alone, Ansah may very well be a top-10 pick on draft night.
Ansah appears to be the very definition of a feast-or-famine pick. Ansah could develop into an elite pass rusher like Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants, who is very similar in a lot of respects.
At the same time, his lack of production could manifest itself at the next level. It's very possible that Ansah was unable to get increased playing time at BYU because he wasn't good enough. If that is the case, then there's no way he'll be good enough in the NFL.
Somebody is going to pay for potential, though, and they'll either be ecstatic or dejected in a couple years. It's best to mitigate risk while still getting elite prospects in the draft, but that isn't always possible. Ansah is definitely enticing, but it just doesn't seem like a good idea to take someone who did very little at the collegiate level.
Whether or not Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is a first-round prospect is up for debate, but the odds of him being taken over the course of the first 32 picks are pretty good. Teams in the second half of the first round like the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens have a need at middle linebacker, so Te'o will be in the mix. Although the risk isn't normally as great late in the first round, there are a lot of question marks surrounding Te'o.
Unlike a guy such as Ansah, Te'o was extremely productive in college. He was a tackling machine at Notre Dame and he had a nose for the ball as well. Te'o was so good as a senior that he led Notre Dame to the BCS National Championship Game and was the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race. Despite all of that, there is a lot of concern among experts about Te'o translating to the NFL.
He was exposed by a physical Alabama team in the BCS National Championship Game, and the well-documented hoax surrounding his fake girlfriend has caused many to question his aptitude. Te'o has proven in the past that he can play, and there really shouldn't be much talk about the girlfriend issue, but the true question is if he can adjust to the NFL speed. Te'o isn't as much of an unknown as Smith or Ansah, but he's a risk nonetheless.
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