The 2014 NFL draft class can potentially be one of the best in years but no class is immune to some busts along the way.
For every Jadeveon Clowney or Greg Robinson, who appear to be surefire stars at the next level, there are guys who simply won't live up to their first-round billing. It isn't easy to say for sure who those players will be heading into the draft, but there are definitely some red flags that talent evaluators need to be aware of.
While the NFL Scouting Combine can put some deserving prospects on the radar, it also masks the on-field deficiencies of others with flashy numbers that don't really mean much. Because of that, general managers have a tough job in terms of determining what information is relevant.
Here are three players who had their moments at the combine but will ultimately prove to be busts if selected in the first round of May's draft.
The Florida State Seminoles completed an undefeated campaign this past season by capturing the national championship, and their No. 1-ranked defense was a big reason for that.
Junior defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan was the anchor in the middle of that defense, and he made life miserable for opposing running backs all season long. Jernigan was essentially impossible for any one man to block at times last season, and it is understandable why he has a first-round grade.
Jernigan doesn't come without his drawbacks, though. Florida State's level of competition prior to the title game against Auburn was questionable to say the least, and Jernigan wasn't put in many high-pressure situations.
Had Florida State not won the national championship with a last-second touchdown, then it's quite possible that the enduring image would have been that of Jernigan on the sidelines on one knee while Auburn running back Tre Mason put the Tigers in the lead late in the fourth quarter.
That has led many to question the 299-pound tackle's stamina, but Jernigan has downplayed it, according to Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel.
I definitely don't feel like it’s an issue. I played on a team where I only played three full games-- no, actually four full games the entire season and I just did what I could with the opportunity. There wasn't times where I had to play the whole game. Like I said, I only played in four games the entire season, every game I was out by third quarter. But when my number was called, when they needed Jernigan to be in the game, when I knew that I had to be in the game in order for us to win, I was there. I played 73 plays (in the title game).
Perhaps Jernigan has a point, but the fact remains that he was unavailable when his team needed him most. Also, the fact that he was rarely called upon to finish games is a concern regarding his preparation for the NFL. Jernigan can definitely be dominant in spurts but players aren't drafted in the first round to play well for three quarters.
Teams will expect a full, 60-minute effort, and it is unclear if Jernigan can provide that.
There are four quarterbacks in the 2014 class who appear to be potential first-round picks and Fresno State signal-caller Derek Carr is likely the riskiest among them.
His numbers this past season were fantastic as he threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, but he did so against sketchy competition in the Mountain West Conference.
Also, quarterbacks who lead the nation in passing don't have a great track record of NFL success. Per Numbers Never Lie on Twitter, no leading passer has been selected in the first round since the Houston Texans took Carr's brother, David, in the 2002 draft:
Derek Carr led the FBS in passing yds last year. The last QB to lead the FBS in passing yds & then get drafted in the first round? @DCarr8.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) February 27, 2014
That doesn't necessarily reflect on Carr since times have changed, but it underscores the fact that gaudy collegiate numbers don't always translate to the NFL.
With that said, Carr raised a lot of eyebrows at the combine by running the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds, which was just a hundredth of a second slower than Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who is lauded for his mobility.
Carr wasn't asked to run much at Fresno State, but he proved that he has some escapability, which will improve his stock. Carr was so impressive, in fact, that Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has heard that the Cleveland Browns prefer him over Manziel, per NFL.com's Marc Sessler.
Their guy is (Fresno State quarterback) Derek Carr and they're going to take a different player with the fourth pick and they want to take Derek Carr with their second one (at No. 26). ... I heard that from several different places.
Waiting to take Carr at No. 26 rather than No. 4 alleviates some of the risk, but the pressure will still be immense. Carr has yet to prove that he can thrive against elite opponents, and his NFL prospects mirror his brother's in many ways.
In terms of versatility, it can be argued that Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin has no equal in the 2014 draft class. Martin was primarily an offensive tackle with the Fighting Irish, however, there is a belief that he can play any number of positions in the NFL. In fact, NFL Network's Mike Mayock tabs Martin as a guy who can start at any of the five offensive line positions, including center:
Which 2014 draft prospect is most likely to bust in the NFL?
That can obviously be viewed as a huge positive in Martin's favor, but it may ultimately be a bad thing. Martin may be selected in the first half of the first round despite the fact that he doesn't have a definitive position.
There is a huge difference between drafting a left tackle and a right guard, and the issue is that Martin could be either of those things or anything in between.
Drafting in the first round is about limiting risk as much as possible, but the team that takes Martin will absolutely be rolling the dice to a certain degree. Some might say that Martin is a safe pick since his floor is higher than most, but his ceiling may not ultimately be much higher than that.
Players selected early in the first round should have the potential to change a franchise, but Martin could end up being little more than a run-of-the-mill offensive lineman. That's fine in the second round, but a first-round prospect he is not.
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