One thing that football fans tend to forget about the draft and translating skills from college to the pros is that it's not a one-to-one proposition. Things that you can get away with in college rarely work in the NFL.
As a result, the bust factor for college stars is higher than anyone wants to admit. The 2014 draft class is loaded with players who will at least be starters for a long time, but there are a lot more players who will be out of the league before their rookie contracts expire.
Here's our latest mock draft with a special look at the first-round talents who are going to bust. These players will be italicized to differentiate them from the rest of the pack.
1. Houston Texans (2-14): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
If the Houston Texans want to make the best pick for their franchise and get the most bang from the No. 1 pick, Jadeveon Clowney has to be the selection. He's a freak athlete, can play off the edge in a 3-4 defense and will take pressure off J.J. Watt.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington, 3-13): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
It may not be a sexy pick, but Jeff Fisher's team doesn't need to go that route. When you play in the NFC West, pass protection is crucial to success. Greg Robinson has elite potential at left tackle, giving Sam Bradford the big body up front he's needed for years.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
There are two sides to Khalil Mack as he moves into the NFL. There's the player who was so dominant and running all over the place against Ohio State last September, which elevated the star linebacker into the mainstream conscious.
Albert Breer of NFL Network is even putting Mack in the same breath as the other elite defender in this draft.
... Basically, if teams strike out on Clowney, they'd likely be motivated to deal up for Khalil Mack. Drop off after those two is big.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 28, 2014
But there were also games last season where Mack disappeared. He had just four tackles against Baylor and six against San Diego State in the Idaho Potato Bowl.
There's no doubt the athleticism and raw talent is there for Mack to be a star, but consistency from week to week is vital if you are being picked third in a deep draft.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Brian Hoyer was effective as Cleveland's starting quarterback last season, completing 59.4 percent of his passes with five touchdowns in three games, before blowing out his knee. Assuming he comes back healthy, then pairing Sammy Watkins with Josh Gordon suddenly makes the Browns a lot more interesting on offense than they've been since returning to the NFL.
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Of the three big-name quarterbacks on the board, Blake Bortles is exactly what the Oakland Raiders need. Johnny Manziel is too volatile, with such a wide gap between floor and ceiling that taking him at No. 5 would be foolish.
Teddy Bridgewater can excel in the NFL, but he has to be put in the right environment (possibly a dome team) to reach his potential.
Bortles has all the physical gifts to be a very good NFL quarterback, including arm strength, touch and accuracy. He's not going to air it out in ways that Oakland usually likes, but given the franchise's decade-long history of futility, that's a good thing.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Falcons need to hit big in two areas this draft: offensive line and pass-rushing defensive end/linebacker. They'll take care of the former with the sixth pick, adding Texas A&M stud Jake Matthews to keep Matt Ryan off the ground after being sacked 44 times in 2013.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Mike Evans is a matchup nightmare for NFL defensive backs, even before he takes a snap. The 2013 All-American is 6'4", 231 pounds with big, strong hands to get the ball in traffic and a 37" vertical jump.
Now imagine Evans on one side of the field with Vincent Jackson on the other. Good luck stopping that duo.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Forget about the bad pro day, because Bridgewater's overall body of work at Louisville spoke volumes about how talented he is. His arm strength is decent, but his ball placement is exceptional.
The Vikings have to find a quarterback in this draft, and there was a time when Bridgewater was considered to be the best in this year's class. He deserves a chance to prove that one bad day in March shouldn't define his ability.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bills are a running team with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson carrying the offensive load, so getting big bodies to control the trenches is vital to success. Taylor Lewan is a monster, regardless of the scheme, making life easier for the two running backs and giving EJ Manuel time in the pocket to develop as a passer.
10. Detroit Lions (7-9): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
It's time for the Lions to get their enforcer in the secondary. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is nothing if not a playmaker. He's got tremendous range and instincts, finding the ball even when it looks out of reach, and has more than enough strength to take on the run.
11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
With so much time between the various scouting events and draft, Johnny Manziel has become the most scrutinized player to the point where he is almost underrated.
"Almost" being the operative word.
Even NFL scouts have no idea what to make of Manziel, who is undersized for an NFL quarterback (5'11", 207 lbs). Tom Pelissero of USA Today got this quote from an NFL personnel guy about the former Heisman winner: "He's the wild card. He's just got to be (with) the right coach, right scheme. You don't want to bottle him up, but you also have to discipline him, and he's got to buy into what you're doing."
Discipline is key with Manziel. Not necessarily for his off-field exploits, though that wouldn't hurt, but because he can't run around in the NFL like he did in college and last 16 games. The players at this level are bigger, stronger and faster than anything he's seen.
Therein lies the dilemma. If you discipline Manziel's football skills, does that take away from what makes him special? Is he strong enough to handle the rigors of a 16-game NFL schedule without that discipline?
Too many things have to go right for Manziel to be a star, or even a viable quarterback, in the NFL. Someone will see the upside and take a chance in the first round, especially if that team has immediate and future quarterback concerns like the Titans.
12. New York Giants (7-9): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Versatile tight ends who can play on the line or in the slot are becoming more of a necessity than luxury in today's NFL. Eric Ebron is the only player at his position worth a first-round pick, boasting star potential thanks to a 6'4", 250-pound frame, mammoth hands (10") and strength to outmuscle NFL defensive backs.
It won't take long for Ebron to become Eli Manning's safety net.
13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
When you play in a division that features big-body receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, you need a big, physical cornerback who can match up one-on-one with them.
Justin Gilbert has that size (6'0", 202 lbs) and intensity to fit in nicely with a much-improved St. Louis defense. The Rams have to get better in the secondary if they want to take the next step following a surprise resurgence last year.
14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald doesn't fit into the traditional mold of an NFL defensive tackle due to a 6'0", 285-pound frame. When you watch him play, though, it's not hard to see why the Pittsburgh star will be taken in the first half of the round.
Measurements get too much attention before the draft. Donald has the strength to overpower NFL guards and centers. His size actually helps him because he's able to stay low to the ground against offensive linemen, who will be forced to play lower if they want to stop him.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The more you think about it, the more Darqueze Dennard just looks like a Pittsburgh Steeler. He's an aggressive, attacking cornerback who can play on the line against any wide receiver with the ball skills and instincts to be a disruptive force.
Getting an attitude and swagger back on defense is vital for the Steelers to get back in the postseason. Dennard has that kind of confidence and ability to make the transition go quickly.
16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Jim Nantz of CBS Sports passed along a rumor to Tony Grossi in a radio interview he was hearing that the Cowboys "will figure out a way to get Manziel."
That would fit right in with Jerry Jones' philosophy of trying to build a team that gets headlines instead of one that competes for a championship. The best pick for the Cowboys will be adding a big, physical presence on the defensive line.
Tony Romo, for all the flak he takes, is still a terrific quarterback who would have led the team into the postseason last year if it had any semblance of a defense. Timmy Jernigan knows how to get after the quarterback and eat up blockers against the run. It's time the Cowboys learn to play physical football again.
17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia Tech
Baltimore fell apart last season because of a disastrous offensive line that couldn't open a hole for Ray Rice or give Joe Flacco enough time to throw the deep ball.
Enter: Morgan Moses.
The Virginia Tech offensive tackle has a huge 6'6" frame and arms that are nearly 36", so good luck to anyone trying to get around that. He's equally effective blocking for the run and pass, making him a bargain for the Ravens at No. 17.
18. New York Jets (8-8): Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Even with an unsettled quarterback situation at USC last season, Marqise Lee took a huge step back in 2013. His hands were pedestrian, leading to a lot of careless drops, and speed is a concern with a 4.52 40-yard dash at the combine.
I know this may not be popular, but I just don't love Jordan Matthews or Marqise Lee. Willing to gamble on less finished players at WR.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 29, 2014
The Jets need another wide receiver and have been burned in the past by faster receivers, like Stephen Hill. Lee does know how to run routes, so that could help him play quicker than his natural speed suggests, but he's like a poor man's Eric Decker.
19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Zack Martin will be Ryan Tannehill's best friend because it will be the first time in his two-year NFL career that the Dolphins have found a stable, youthful presence on the offensive line. It will also help the quarterback evolve into a star and open the offense up for Mike Wallace to stretch the field.
20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
If you have a head coach who wants to spread the field and throw the ball deep, you need a quarterback with arm strength. Bruce Arians was the interim coach in Indianapolis for most of Andrew Luck's rookie season, then came to Arizona and brought in Carson Palmer.
With Palmer getting long in the tooth, not to mention throwing 22 interceptions last season, the Cardinals have to find a long-term answer at quarterback.
Derek Carr has a lot of helium leading up to the draft, with ESPN's Jon Gruden leading the crusade.
"You could make a case for him going No. 1 overall, he's got that type of arm talent. It's rare." Jon Gruden on QB Derek Carr— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 28, 2014
Watching Carr, though, he's never been a consistent performer and gets rattled when faced with pressure. His footwork is dreadful, and his awareness goes out the window, leading to a lot of ducks that will be intercepted.
21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Packers get a steal by landing C.J. Mosley with the No. 21 pick in the draft. He slides down because teams covet outside linebackers who can rush the passer instead of an inside player who can do everything.
Mosley can also give Clay Matthews support at the linebacker position, allowing Dom Capers to send the latter in pass-rush situations without having to worry about leaving the second level completely abandoned.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
For all the talk about Carolina needing to address its receiving corps, take a look at what the Eagles currently have without DeSean Jackson. It's a better group than the Panthers, but there's a problem when Riley Cooper is your No. 1.
Brandin Cooks can step in immediately to take the place of Jackson. He's not as quick as the not-so-dearly departed former All-Pro but is a burner who will fit Chip Kelly's system and can be effective in the return game.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Safety isn't the biggest need for the Chiefs—that would be wide receiver—but the value at this spot is Calvin Pryor. He can be the center fielder Kansas City's overmatched secondary desperately needs, while also making plays against the run.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Even if you could take Bradley Roby's off-field exploits out of the equation, he would still fall into the bust category. There's no doubt the Ohio State product has the raw tools to be a star, but 2013 was not a banner season for him, leaving some doubt about whether he even belongs in the first-round mix.
He's talented, but I'll be surprised if Bradley Roby is a first-round pick. Inconsistent play and off-field issues.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) April 29, 2014
If there is a team that will pop Roby, it's Cincinnati. The Bengals are getting long in the tooth at cornerback with Adam Jones (30) and Terence Newman (35). Marvin Lewis also isn't afraid to take a chance on talent that comes with baggage.
Unfortunately, Roby's inconsistency last season is a sign that things are trending downward for this young man. He's got a huge uphill climb to live up to the potential he showed two years ago.
25. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Even though there is huge bust potential with Cyrus Kouandjio, thanks to inconsistent play at Alabama and injury concerns, he still looks the part of a star tackle at the next level.
Bad news for #Bama OT Cyrus Kouandjio. I’m told several teams have failed him on his physical. Arthritic knee from failed surgery. “Ugly.”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 22, 2014
The Chargers are building a solid foundation on the offensive line but need one more player to be an elite group. Kouandjio has good value at this spot.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis, 11-5): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Jason Verrett is going to be a steal in this draft. He slides down to the bottom of the first round because of his 5'9", 189-pound frame, but that's one small part of the equation. The TCU star is as aggressive and physical as any cornerback in this class with better tackling skills than he needs.
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
It seems strange to say considering how effective the offense is each year, but the Saints need help on the outside. Cody Latimer is a late-rising receiver thanks to his big 6'2", 215-pound frame and excellent top speed (4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash).
28. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
No wide receiver in this class can match the physically imposing 6'5", 240-pound Kelvin Benjamin from a height and weight perspective. However, what the other playmakers lack in size, they more than make up for in natural football ability.
Benjamin has to outmuscle receivers to get the ball because the routes and separation skills are non-existent. Scouts are souring on the Florida State star, with one telling Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that "he's stiff and lazy. Can't separate. Inconsistent catcher. I don't think he has off the field what it takes to be great on field."
The Panthers are desperate for help at wide receiver and may be inclined to get a bigger body, since they are currently stuck with aging, smaller pass-catchers like Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
There's nothing sexy about this pick for New England, but Ra'Shede Hageman fills a need on the defensive line and adds youthful toughness that has been missing up front for a long time. He can also take over for Vince Wilfork in the next year or two.
30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham is gaining steam late in the draft process, meaning he may not be around by the time San Francisco picks at No. 30. That may force the 49ers to move up, because he provides exactly what this offense needs. He's got fantastic separation skills and huge hands to get the ball in traffic. A 4.43 in the 40-yard dash shows he can also take the top off a defense, which Jim Harbaugh's offense needs to utilize Colin Kaepernick's arm strength.
31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
One thing the Denver Broncos lost last season when Von Miller got hurt was a playmaker on the edge. Ryan Shazier isn't the elite athlete Miller is, but he makes up for it with excellent instincts, recognition and take-on skills. He's also got the ability to play against the run.
32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
A big-body wide receiver who can start in the slot to take the place of the departed Golden Tate, Davante Adams is flying under the radar because he didn't play at a big school and was in an offense that didn't always utilize his big-play capability. The Seahawks need speed and playmakers at wide receiver.
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