Perhaps more than any other professional sport, the NFL draft has the ability to completely turn around an entire franchise in a very short period of time. But it can also be seen as a double edged sword, because a draft gone wrong has the ability to cripple a franchise for a number of seasons.
In recent years, many organizations have taken notice of the draft’s ability to drastically improve their personnel and have put a premium on keeping and acquiring additional draft picks.
To prove how much of a difference a single draft can make, look no further than the New York Giants in 2007. In that draft, five of their eight picks were; Aaron Ross (CB), Steve Smith (WR), Jay Alford (DT), Kevin Boss (TE), and Ahmad Bradshaw (RB). All of whom had an immediate impact on the team and were an integral part of their Super Bowl run.
The Green Bay Packers used the 2009 draft to re-tool their defense and selected linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle B.J. Raji, in the first round, and added outside linebacker Brad Jones in the seventh round.
All three players would have a major impact on the team and along with the Packers switching their base defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4, they helped transform one of the league’s worst defenses in 2008 to one of its best in 2009 (their wildcard playoff game against Arizona aside).
For every draft success story there’s a draft horror story, which features a team that uses a high draft pick on a player who never lives up to his potential. It would be bad enough if the team simply wasted their first round pick on a player who never amounted to anything, but the NFL’s rookie pay scale makes this situation even worse.
In what is currently one of the most puzzling institutions in all of sports, rookies who are picked in the first round are guaranteed huge sums of money before ever playing their first snap in the NFL.
For example, last year’s No.1 overall pick, Matthew Stafford, signed a contract with the Detroit Lions that guaranteed him $41.7 million dollars, regardless of his performance. The $41.7 million is more guaranteed money than any player has ever received in NFL history.
So when a team whiffs on a high first round pick, not only did they fail to improve the talent on their team but they are also saddled with a player whose contract will bog down their salary cap for many seasons to come.
There are many reasons why draft picks never reach their potential; trouble adjusting from college to the NFL playing style, character/off the field issues, lack of motivation and hard work once drafted, and inflated expectations because of combine and collegiate statistics are all among the culprits.
Whatever the reason may be, it has been evident for many years that in any given draft class there will be a few players who are risky picks.
But if these risky picks are able to succeed in the NFL, the team that drafted them will be rewarded with a great player for many years to come. Here are seven players in the upcoming 2010 NFL draft who have a high risk/reward factor associated with them.
The larger than life nose tackle is definitely on a lot of team’s draft boards because of his ability to clog the middle and occupy more than one blocker. Cody’s not just big, he’s “where’d the buffet go?” big.
With his weight fluctuating between 350 and 370 pounds he’s a nightmare for cooks, caterers, and offensive linemen alike. Since so many teams in the NFL are moving to a 3-4 base defense, players like Cody are coveted because they play one of the most crucial positions in the scheme, occupying blockers and allowing the linebackers to run free and wreak havoc on the offense.
Cody was a vital part of a great Alabama defense this past season and was virtually unblockable in most of their games. Of course, when dealing with a player like Terrence, who is a force because of his size, it works both ways.
Many NFL scouts have said that in order for him to be successful he will need to weigh around 340 pounds. So Cody raised some eyebrows at the Senior Bowl when he showed up weighing 370 pounds. Since then it has been reported that he has dropped some of that weight and is down in the 350’s.
His weight has been an issue for Cody for most of his life and it has affected his stamina in many games while at Alabama, and should be a major concern for whatever team drafts him.
If Cody can get a handle on his weight and increase his stamina he should be a dominant defensive player in the NFL. If he can’t, it will limit how much he is able to play and also how effective he will be when he does play.
It seems like we’ve been hearing about whether or not Tim Tebow can play quarterback in the NFL for forever. In fact, not even a minute after he was born, an argument erupted in the maternity ward between the delivering doctor and one of the nurses about Tebow’s prospects as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Despite this topic being beaten to a pulp, it’s valid to question if Tebow can make the necessary changes to his throwing mechanics and footwork, as well as adapting to a pro-style offense. If there’s one thing we do know about Tebow, it’s that he’s a winner, and that he will probably work harder than anyone once he’s drafted.
He’s already impressed many around the NFL by shortening his throwing motion and seems committed to playing quarterback. But because Tebow has a great combination of size and strength it makes him a candidate to play more of an H-back role in the NFL.
Because of how tough it is for a quarterback to adjust from college to the pros, you can make the case that taking almost any quarterback in the early rounds of the draft is a risk. This is especially true of Tebow, who seems to have more work to do than most.
He was just taken by the Broncos with the 25th pick in the draft, and it would seem that Josh McDaniels drafted Tebow with some gadget packages in mind rather than having him play a traditional quarterback position.
Time will tell if Tebow turns out to be worthy of his first round pick, but if he can successfully make the transition to quarterback he would certainly be a steal for Denver at the end of the first round.
Speaking strictly from a talent standpoint, Dunlap may very well be the best pass rusher in the entire draft. The 6’5’’ defensive end was one of the best players on a loaded Florida Gator team, and was named the defensive MVP in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game.
Dunlap has great athleticism and his combination of strength and speed is usually too much for a single offensive lineman to handle. When he’s not in the backfield throwing quarterbacks and running backs to the turf, he’s using his long arms and above average jumping ability to get his hands in the passing lanes to deflect balls, which can lead to turnovers.
Because Dunlap is also very skilled at stopping the run, he is essentially a player without any weaknesses. What makes Dunlap a risk is his questionable character.
This has not only manifested itself on the field, with him taking plays off and seeming uninterested at times, but also off the field. Just a few days before the Gators biggest game of the 2009 season against Alabama in the SEC Championship, Dunlap was arrested for drunk driving when he was found asleep in his car, which was stopped at a traffic light.
Carlos was suspended for Florida’s game against Alabama, which the Gators would lose. Dunlap picked the worst time of the season to make such a costly mistake, as the Gators loss ended their hopes of a second National Championship.
The NFL has seen too many talented players never reach their potential because of character issues, and Dunlap is currently a first round talent who has slipped into the second because teams are weary of drafting him.
McClain is regarded as the best linebacker prospect in this years draft, and with good reason. He has ideal size and strength for the middle linebacker position and while he doesn’t have top end speed, McClain makes up for that by taking great angles and utilizing his superb instincts.
Rolando also called the plays for the Alabama defense, and showcased his fine leadership skills in helping the Crimson Tide win the 2009 National Championship. McClain seemed like a lock to have a very successful NFL career but on March 10th, at Alabama’s pro day, McClain revealed that he has been dealing with Crohn’s Disease since he was a freshman in high school.
Crohn’s Disease is thought to be an autoimmune deficiency which causes the intestines to become inflamed and can also affect many other aspects of a person’s gastrointestinal tract.
There are also many side effects of the disease, which include abdominal pain as well as fatigue, and it can even lead to life threatening complications in more extreme cases. Perhaps the worst part about Crohn’s Disease is that there is currently no known cure for it, only treatments which control the symptoms.
McClain has recently said that he was misdiagnosed back in high school, and after talking with his doctors he actually does not have the disease. Whatever the situation currently is, McClain is still one of the best players in the draft and if he does have the disease, it has not affected his play thus far.
The Oakland Raiders will need to keep on eye on this situation, because if he does have the disease it is imperative that he continue to take measures to keep it under control, as it has the potential to negatively affect his play.
The offensive lineman prospect from Maryland went into the combine with a lot of hype, and Campbell certainly didn’t disappoint.
He measured in at 6’6’’ and 314 pounds, which are pretty much perfect dimensions for an NFL lineman. Adding to his prototypical height and weight, Campbell’s arms measured 36’’, which are the longest for any lineman in this year’s draft. Then, Campbell ran a 4.85 40 yard dash, which measures as one of the fastest times for a lineman in the history of the combine.
On the bench press Campbell put up 225 pounds 34 times, and he showcased his athletic ability for someone who is over 300 pounds with a 32 inch vertical leap. As if that wasn’t enough, during his 20 yard shuttle, Campbell solved the world’s energy crisis and rescued 35 children from a burning school bus.
Scouts and NFL front office personnel were raving about the immaculate workout of Campbell and his performance definitely boosted his draft stock. However, for someone who possesses such unbelievable physical abilities, Campbell didn’t dominate at the collegiate level like you might think he would.
Much of Campbell’s game film is ordinary, and he lacks ideal blocking technique and recognition skills. Durability is also a concern for Campbell who only started 17 games in his Maryland career and has missed time because of a knee injury, turf toe, and a brain problem.
It would seem that Campbell needs time to develop some of the finer points of his game, but if he gets drafted to the right team that is willing to work with him, the sky is the limit.
The Oklahoma tight end came into the 2009 season as one of the top players in the nation, but he tore the meniscus in his right knee during practice just a few days before the season started.
Gresham had surgery to repair his knee and missed the entire season. Further adding to the injury concerns that teams have, Gresham also tore the ACL in his left knee in high school.
However, Gresham seems to have rebounded from both injuries and had a good showing in this years combine. What scouts aren’t concerned about is Jermaine’s talent; he’s essentially a wide receiver in a tight ends body and he has the ability to stretch defenses with his speed and elude tacklers with his athleticism.
Gresham stands at 6’5’’and weighs 260 pounds, couple that with his great length and above average hands, and you have a prototypical pass catching tight end that quarterbacks love. He will be the first tight end taken in this year’s draft, but you have to be cautious about a guy who’s had two major knee surgeries before the age of 22.
Like Gresham, Dez Bryant didn’t see much action during the 2009 season, but unlike Gresham, Bryant wasn’t injured. Instead, Bryant missed the final 10 games of the season because he was suspended for lying to NCAA officials about a meeting he had with retired NFL great Deion Sanders.
In part, because of his suspension and in part because of his upbringing, Bryant has been labeled as yet another player with, “character issues.” This time of the year teams are looking to avoid players who will potentially cause problems in the locker room.
It’s unfortunate for Dez that he’s also a wide reciever, because pass catchers have (rightfully or not) earned a reputation in the NFL as being divas who can have a negative impact on their team. The Cowboys still selected Bryant with their first round pick because he’s a big wide receiver who uses his strength, speed, and hands to make catches that few other players can.
While at Oklahoma St. Bryant showcased his great knack for making acrobatic catches both over his shoulder and taking balls out of the air at their highest point. Bryant’s character issues are probably blown out of proportion, but it is a fact that he has coasted through practice at times, and also has taken plays off during games.
Both actions won’t sit well with the Cowboys and it seems he has a lot of work to do to repair his image with the media.