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.