Starting Thursday night, more than 200 college football players will realize their dreams during the 2014 NFL draft.
For some, their talent speaks for itself, and that dream is a given. For others—those with lingering question marks—the pressure continues to mount.
Often, those question marks are medical in nature, and serious injuries or health conditions can derail NFL plans for even the top prospects.
For example, last year, former University of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a dislocated knee and is still waiting to make an appearance in the NFL. Elsewhere, a surprise heart condition briefly cast doubts on the ability of Star Lotulelei to safely play football in the first place. Finally, cornerback D.J. Hayden nearly died after a tackle partially tore his inferior vena cava from his heart.
Thankfully, one year later, Lattimore continues to recover. Additionally, Lotulelei's condition—a low left ventricular ejection fraction—proved temporary and reversible, and Hayden not only survived but performed quite well last year for the Oakland Raiders.
This year, the field does not carry the same caliber of diagnoses. However, a number of knee, shoulder and foot injuries—to name a few—still cloud the draft profiles of several prospects.
Starting with the least worrisome and moving toward the most concerning, let's take a look at the relative medical risk each injury poses to a particular athlete's career—and future NFL team.
Author's note: The author does not have access to radiographic imaging or any other medical information on any of the following players. As such, the following analyses are based on incomplete information and thus are admittedly imperfect.