The 2013 NFL draft (April 25-27) is one of the most exciting events on the offseason schedule, but the hype around the first-round prospects not worth the risk will have franchises in need of major upgrades starting off on the wrong foot.
Potential first-round picks like Geno Smith, Eddie Lacy and Manti Te'o were bona fide stars in college. However, there are many that will question how well they will perform against the much together competition in the NFL.
All of the following first-round risks have serious talent, but whether or not they will be able to translate it to the next level and remain as successful is a serious question each faces.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is the best quarterback in the 2013 draft class, but that does not mean he will be a success in the NFL or that he should be taken in the early stages of the first round.
Smith won’t fall past No. 10 overall on draft day because of the NFL’s need for quarterbacks. Still, there are serious risks that come from drafting a player with this much hype coming out of a weak defensive conference like the Big 12.
Every team with a top-10 selection in the draft will kick the tires on Smith. Most of it looks to be posturing, though, in order to get organizations that really love Smith to either take him too early or trade up to select him.
There is little doubt that Smith has the raw talent and smarts to become a great player in the NFL—42 touchdowns to six interceptions in his senior year is a great statistic—but a successful translation to the next level is far from a safe bet right now.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
While there is no questioning running back Eddie Lacy's success last season with the Alabama Crimson Tide—1,511 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns—every running back that team puts behind its excellent offensive line does well.
Just ask former Crimson Tide stars Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, who found success before Lacy, or sophomore T.J. Yeldon, who succeeded last year playing alongside Lacy. While teams will be hoping Lacy is the next Richardson, the feeling is that he will be more like Ingram.
Lacy still has plenty of room to grow as an athlete and as a football player, but the fact that Alabama has so much schematic success at running back no matter who is running the ball lends credibility to the scheme the team runs.
Whether Lacy can translate to the NFL is a huge question mark.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
While there is no denying that former Notre Dame Fighting Irish middle linebacker Manti Te'o has raw talent, there is no way that he should be taken in the first round, no matter how well people speak about his leadership qualities.
Te'o changed his style in 2012—moving into pass coverage more often—but that exposed a few glaring weaknesses. Not only does Te'o lack the elite speed to keep up with pass-catchers, but his willingness to jump into coverage also hurt the team’s ability to stop the run at times.
The poor performance against Alabama in the National Championship Game was a perfect example of how Te'o can be taken out of the equation by a talented team. In the NFL, they’re all that talented and will abuse the linebacker.
Risk or not, there are plenty of teams at the tail-end of the first round (the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens, for example) that will be looking to take the linebacker with the hopes that he will develop into a viable starter and an on-field leader.