The Most Overrated Player at Each Position in the 2014 NFL Draft
Every year there are NFL prospects who look shiny and wonderful in February, March and April, only to end up terrible during the summer and fall.
Overrated players infest every draft—it's a fact of life.
Whether it's a workout warrior who gains traction with a ridiculous 40 time or a "sleeper" offensive lineman who's boosted to a first- or second-day prospect thanks to "anonymous sources," the truth is every year someone hits the jackpot and goes earlier than he should.
The following is my list of players at every position who I feel are getting more heat than they deserve.
To give us a basis to work from, I am mostly looking at the rankings at CBSSports.com.
Who is going to be fool's gold in this May's NFL draft?
Quarterback: Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
I believe it was the great and legendary draft analyst Joel Buchsbaum who once sang, “Never trust a big arm and a smile, that's quarterback poison.”
Well, either Buchsbaum or Bell Biv DeVoe.
Whomever sang those words (or ones like them) could have been talking about the hype around Pitt’s Tom Savage. He’s a big 6’4”, 228 pounds, and has that wonderfully strong arm, but he’s getting way too much buzz right now.
Frankly, his film is average (admittedly, he played behind an atrocious offensive line), some of his decisions defy logic and his accuracy is so-so at best. He’s also 24, and while that’s not entering Brandon Weeden territory, it’s on the old side for a rookie.
This is a guy who bounced between three schools, at times because he seemed to want to avoid competition, and had some bad games in 2013, including against future BCS champion Florida State in the season opener. Mentally, is he tough enough?
He’d be a decent developmental quarterback. But borderline first round? No way.
Running Back: Andre Williams, Boston College
While the overall value of running backs has dropped, the competition is getting more dense. There are numerous backs who will go early, starting on Day 2, and the field is crowded.
I like Andre Williams’ tendency to pick up yards after contact, but he doesn’t have a lot of burst or explosion. So while his 40-yard time is solid (4.56 is the listed time at NFL.com, but he says he bettered it at his pro day), it takes him too long to get there.
Some of his longer runs in college were wide open for him—he won’t get that at the pro level, and if he lacks the speed to accelerate in the open field, he’s not going to take advantage of space when he sees it.
Williams had no receptions last season and rarely was targeted in college. He’s shown some ability catching balls in shorts and a T-shirt, but I don’t feel comfortable saying he is a reliable receiving weapon. On top of it, his pass-blocking is so-so at best.
He’s not bad, but if I need to spend a third-round pick on him (as CBSSports.com has him rated), I’d rather go with a back like Lache Seastrunk, Jeremy Hill or Devonta Freeman.
Williams should go sometime in the middle of the third day.
Receiver: Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
The value on Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin has been a bit fluid this offseason, though at present CBSSports.com has him ranked as a second-round pick (albeit it looks like a late one).
As with the running back class, it’s a dense group, though far more talented, making Benjamin’s issues stand out a little more.
Benjamin isn’t a very good route-runner, and between that and a lack of more-than-decent speed, he will struggle to break away from defenders. His speed (4.61 40-time) is an issue after the catch as well, as he’s not likely to run away from anyone.
He also struggles with drops at times, so focus is a concern.
Finally, for a guy who is one of the biggest players in the receiver class (6'5"), I don’t feel like he gets up there and extends himself enough. His vertical jump at the combine (32.5") wasn’t very special, and there are guys a lot smaller who came down with more contested catches than Benjamin.
Again, it’s not that he’s bad so much as there are better and more complete players in his position group.
Tight End: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
At 6'5", 265 pounds, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro has the look of a big-time tight end. He can certainly catch the ball like one of the best.
However, to be a first-round pick (or even a borderline one), you need to bring the complete package, and Amaro just doesn’t.
First of all, Amaro played primarily in the slot, as discussed by Rotoworld’s Greg Peshek’s piece on tight end metrics back in February. He didn’t line up much elsewhere, so from a versatility standpoint—well, he has very little. Further, he’s not big or strong enough to take on NFL-sized defensive linemen—a real problem when it comes to blocking for both the pass and the run.
Amaro also lacks maneuverability after the catch. If he doesn’t have an open lane straight ahead, I don’t see him breaking many long runs after a catch.
While a guy like North Carolina’s Eric Ebron played in the slot a ton as well, his athleticism, hands and overall ability set him apart from a guy like Amaro.
When it comes down to it, I’d rather grab a guy like C.J. Fiedorowicz or Austin Seferian-Jenkins, both of whom have as much upside but more versatility.
Tackle: Billy Turner, North Dakota State
The problem I always have with the idea of waiting on an offensive tackle is once you get past the top of the group, the fall in talent can be sharp. Even if it isn’t, there are too many pitfalls to make it safe to do so.
North Dakota State's Billy Turner is one such pitfall. Turner has the look of a tackle, but his strength and technique aren’t up to snuff.
He has quick feet and plays with a nasty streak, but all too often he overextends himself and will be off-balance. Turner won't be much use past the line of scrimmage for a team’s run game either—once he gets to the second level, I found him disappearing.
Overall, he’s a decent project, and that’s not what I want with an earlier Day 2 pick.
Guard: Joel Bitonio, Nevada
Joel Bitonio was a decent tackle at Nevada but is a guy who will probably shift to guard at the pro level, something he never did in college.
Right there, I’m not sure how early I want to pick him. He doesn’t have the strength or build to hang at guard, and it’s going to take time to shift him to a position he has never played. Further, he often lined up in a two-point stance, so how does he work with his hand on the ground?
On top of it, sometimes he looked a bit sloppy in his technique. Brute force can win in the interior of the line, but inconsistent technique will hurt you anywhere.
A project guard, Bitonio could end up being a very good interior lineman, but I don’t know that I want to have to work that hard with a second-round pick when there are solid guards who can step in and do the job from the first day.
Center: Marcus Martin, USC
I want my center to hammer the guy in front of him, something USC's Marcus Martin doesn’t do enough of on tape.
Frankly, he just doesn't have that killer instinct you want at center—that toughness to hold the middle of the line and pivot in whichever direction needs you first.
The thing is, at 6'3", 320 pounds, he should dominate more than he does and should be able to finish a lot more aggressively.
Defensive End: Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
In some ways, that's the first warning flag: Where does he fit?
I don’t love the fact that he’s not quick enough off the edge to be a great pass-rusher. I don’t love his weight (304 pounds) for the edge either, though we know he has dumped weight already, per Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com.
Tuitt struggles to shed blockers as well and doesn’t seem to get to the ball with any great speed.
Maybe CBS is right and you kick him inside, but if you do, you likely drop him more than a few notches despite the potential upside.
At defensive end, though, I wouldn’t take him before the late second.
Defensive Tackle: Will Sutton, Arizona State
NFL.com’s Gil Brandt puts it best in his review of Arizona State’s Will Sutton: “He showed a strong club in his workout, but other than that he was pretty average.”
That’s my issue with Sutton. While some have touted him as a second-round pick, I see a guy who gets caught up in blocks too much, looks overweight (though as Brandt points out, he has lost weight since the combine), appears to get tired and disappears far too often.
If you are thinking of taking a defensive tackle early, Sutton hasn’t shown enough consistency and drive to be that pick.
Brandt says he’s a Day 3 guy, and I can’t argue a ton with that.
Outside Linebacker: Anthony Barr, UCLA
While I just wrote about UCLA’s Anthony Barr and how his stock seemed to be heating up, I’m not all that big a fan of him going as a top-15 player.
Barr has a lot of upside but is very raw. He is still a work in progress as a run-blocker as well as dropping into coverage. If he can’t adjust quickly, he’s only going to stick his nose onto the field as a situational pass-rusher.
While teams do it, spending a top-15 pick on a guy who will only be on the field a little is foolish (unless you happen to be a team with a good defense and a pick at that spot).
Barr has to work on his technique, strength and overall game to be worthy of a pick in the top half of the first round.
To me, his upside keeps him in the first, but his flaws keep him in the back half of it.
Inside Linebacker: Chris Borland, Wisconsin
And now I tick off all my Wisconsin friends.
Wisconsin’s Chris Borland falls short in two areas—actual height (5'11") and arm length (29.25"). Both things make it hard for him to get release off a blocker and make it easier for bigger offensive linemen (with longer arms) to lock him up.
The size also leads to durability concerns, as noted by draft analyst Todd McShay.
On the plus side, Borland’s motor is ridiculous even if he doesn’t really have the speed to go side-to-side and have great range. You can’t question his drive.
This isn’t a fantastic class of inside linebackers, and Borland’s drive, motor and ability to tackle will push him up the board.
In a better class, though, he’d slip to the third or fourth round—about where he should be.
Cornerback: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
With the success of the Seattle Seahawks secondary, specifically Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, NFL teams are looking to get long.
So at 6'3", Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste is going to get some scouts salivating.
However, Jean-Baptiste lacks one thing Sherman and Chancellor have in spades—physicality.
He doesn’t play nearly as big as he measures, even when tackling. In fact, his technique when tackling isn’t very good—he often just throws himself at a guy’s legs—and he is not reliable tackling in the open field.
Jean-Baptiste also can get outmaneuvered in coverage, as he bites on things like double moves too much.
His upside is nice, and his size and overall speed are very attractive.
But there are better choices in the second round.
Safety: Terrence Brooks, Florida State
As with several other positional groups, safety—specifically in this case, free safety—sees a steep talent drop after the top one or two guys.
After Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor are off the board, things go south.
Brooks isn’t a terrible safety by any means, and you have to remember he’s only been a starter for a pair of years, so he’s another raw prospect tagged to go in the second round.
However, he also lacks height (Brooks is just 5'11"), which would be fine if he were a more reliable tackler. He has a great vertical leap (38"), so he can overcome his height in jump-ball situations, and he has the aggression to stick his nose into any play once an offensive player has the ball in his hands.
Unfortunately, that aggression hurts him since he often goes for the hit and misses the tackle.
Finally, Brooks won’t be generating many turnovers because he has a real problem catching the ball.
As with some of the other positions we’ve discussed, scarcity may push Brooks up higher than he should be. While I see him as a Round 3 or later player, he may get grabbed early in the second.