Each team in the NFL draft would like to think it is landing the next Lawrence Taylor along the defensive line, Tom Brady at quarterback or Walter Payton at running back when it makes its selections, but that is simply unrealistic.
Every single draft throughout the history of the sport has featured both booms and busts, and the 2014 version will be no different. The trick is figuring out which players will succeed in a given system and which ones will not.
While that is far from an exact science, there are some telling signs in the predraft lead-up to the event. With that in mind, here are a couple of high-risk, high-reward collegiate stars who will not fulfill their potential at the NFL level.
Derek Carr, Fresno State
It is completely unfair, but Derek Carr will forever be linked to his brother David, who flamed out in the NFL, until he proves otherwise in the professional ranks.
Carr’s numbers at Fresno State this past season were eye-popping, to say the least. He threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns on the year, but those statistics may be a bit misleading. They certainly are if ESPN’s Todd McShay has anything to say about it:
Most surprising part of '14 draft process so far is all the Derek Carr love. Good arm but not accurate downfield and/or under pressure.— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 17, 2014
The Fresno State offense was largely built around Carr getting the ball out of his hands quickly on bubble screens and high-percentage short passes, which certainly accounted for a sizable chunk of those yards. He had difficulty dealing with pressure the rare times it actually came, and never was that more apparent than in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
USC was the one team that consistently pressured Carr in what can only be described as a weak schedule, and the Trojans held him to a pedestrian 29-of-54 passing for 216 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. That is a whopping four yards per pass attempt.
Will Derek Carr be a starter in the NFL in five years?
To Carr’s credit, he did show leadership skills in the immediate aftermath, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "Blame me. Blame me always. I've got to do a better job of leading, and I've got to do a better job of getting our guys in better spots. That's my fault."
If we are to project ahead, Carr’s best chance at success in the NFL comes in the form of a team with a strong and consistent offensive line and running game.
That will take a lot of the pressure off him in the pocket, and defenses will have to hesitate before committing too many resources to the blitz if there is a talented running back alongside Carr.
If Carr is a late first-round pick, he may just have the luxury of sitting behind an incumbent starter while learning the ropes in the NFL. That would pay dividends in the future.
Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Bradley Roby brings elite-level speed and an All-Big Ten pedigree to the table, but there are a number of issues to worry about before drafting him.
For one, his durability came into question at the end of the 2013-14 season for Ohio State. He missed the Buckeyes’ clash with Clemson at the Orange Bowl because of a bruised knee, and Sammy Watkins torched Ohio State’s remaining secondary with 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the game that cemented Watkins’ place as a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft, but there were some who thought Roby may have sat out the contest for self-preserving reasons. Had he been on the field and been beaten badly by Watkins, Roby’s draft stock may have plummeted.
Far be it for anyone to question an athlete’s toughness given the physical gruel they undergo every season, but there were those who did, via Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com:
Roby couldn’t go because of a bruise on his knee, and he stands by that despite the common assertion that he didn’t play because he was more focused on preserving his draft stock and being healthy for NFL workouts.
Some who were upset with Roby expressed those feelings to him via Twitter before, during and after the Orange Bowl.
That wasn’t the only game Roby missed, which brings us to the next point of concern.
There are some off-field concerns after he was suspended for the season opener against Buffalo because of an altercation at a bar in Bloomington, Indiana. The fact that Roby was cited for OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence) in April won’t help matters much in that department either.
When Roby did play, he was largely effective, but there is one game in particular that stands out.
Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis torched Roby to the tune of 207 receiving yards and a touchdown, and while it is unfair to pin all that production on Roby’s shoulders given the different schemes both teams used throughout the night, Ohio State did leave him on an island with Wisconsin’s best receiver for much of the game.
If Roby truly is an elite first-round prospect, he should have been able to contain Abbrederis a bit more effectively. Abbrederis is a talented receiver, but he is nowhere near the level of some of the opponents Roby will see in the NFL.
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