The only way a team wants the word "bust" attached to its first-round selection in the NFL draft is with the kind of bust found in Canton, Ohio. Unfortunately, more common than that, the word comes up because a player vastly undershot his projected impact.
Obviously, identifying a bust is not a scientific process, but there are certainly qualities to look for when picking which players have the most bust potential.
I put those factors to work while identifying the three players from this class who will turn out to be the biggest busts.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The quarterback position is always a good place to start when identifying busts. For starters, the position is so important that a team will often overdraft a player it thinks has the potential to be its signal-caller of the future.
This year, there are no quarterbacks who feel like a sure thing. There are talented players but all have question marks. Teddy Bridgewater will be doomed by his.
Once widely regarded as the No. 1 pick in this draft, Bridgewater's draft stock has taken a bit of a hit, but he is still an almost certainty to be selected in the top eight.
Bridgewater has shown an advanced ability to be able to go through his progressions and call audibles at the line. This gives him a leg up on most quarterbacks entering the NFL. That leg up won't last for long.
Raiders Beat tweeted along this information on Bridgewater, as provided by ESPN's NFL insider Chris Mortensen:
ESPN's Chris Mortensen: Teams have been underwhelmed by Teddy Bridgewater's private workouts, small hands one of the concerns.— Raiders Beat (@RaidersBeat) April 11, 2014
Bridgewater's hands are not going to doom him in the NFL. But combine that with his frail size (around 200 pounds) and his apparent lack of confidence, and he doesn't have what it takes to stick as a starting quarterback.
I note Bridgewater's lack of confidence for a couple of reasons. First, he hardly did anything at the combine and then had a lackluster pro day when he did throw. On top of his performance at his pro day, he offered up a lame excuse. Numbers Never Lie passed that along:
Teddy Bridgewater says accuracy issues at his pro day were b/c he didn't wear gloves. Will they make the diff? pic.twitter.com/YX9pUu0uBn— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) March 20, 2014
After all of this, I wouldn't touch Bridgewater in the first round of this draft. We are talking about what might be the most pressure-filled position in sports, yet Bridgewater hasn't successfully faced the pressure at any point in this offseason.
If he needs gloves to throw, that's fine, but then he should have worn them on his pro day. Not only is it disappointing that he threw poorly, it is disappointing that he wasn't accountable for it.
This is not the attitude a team wants in its leader. Bridgewater may go on to have a lengthy career in the NFL, but it won't be as a starter.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
There is a lot to like about Anthony Barr. He is a rare combination of size and speed. Checking in at 6'5" and 255 pounds at the combine, Barr covered 40 yards in 4.66 seconds. With that length and speed, he has the potential to be a dominant pass-rusher.
That length also limits his leverage, however, and he did not show a lot of strength for his size while playing at UCLA. Barr relied almost exclusively on his speed to beat offensive lineman. You can get a feel for his strengths in this video:
That isn't all that surprising given that he spent his first two years at UCLA as a running back/tight end. He doesn't have a lot of experience at the position.
Which of these players will be the biggest bust?
Barr has a long way to go before he can hope to be anything more than a pass-rushing specialist in the NFL. And given his lack of diversity as a pass-rusher, Barr's impact as a pass-rusher is also going to be limited.
Barr adjusted quickly to being a linebacker in college, but he did so based on his fantastic physical abilities. He is going to need a lot more technique to thrive in the NFL.
Barr will underwhelm right off the bat and will never make a huge impact in the NFL.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron is widely considered the best tight end in this class and could be headed for a top-10 selection. He won't be worth it.
It is easy to see why teams are enamored with the North Carolina prospect. He checked in at 6'4" at the combine and ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds. His size and athleticism will make him a threat all over the field. He will be able to stretch the seam and require extra attention from safeties.
The problem is, he isn't very good at catching the ball. NBCSports.com's Josh Norris helps explain:
Had an 11.43% drop rate in 2013 RT @jjones9: Here at UNC Pro Day where TE Eric Ebron has registered three drops so ffar— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 25, 2014
Drops can kill drives and offensive momentum. They can also destroy a player's confidence. The more often Ebron drops a pass, the larger the possibility will loom in his head.
With hard work and dedication, it certainly isn't out of the question that Ebron could improve in this area. It is not likely, however. Ebron will face stiffer coverage and harder hits in the NFL. This is not going to help him get over his drops, and once they start, they will only get worse.
Ebron's value comes from his ability as a pass-catcher. He is not a great blocker. As he loses confidence in himself and his quarterback loses confidence in him, he is going to run out of playing time before he gets a chance to get his career off the ground.