Blaine Gabbert and 10 College Stars Who Will Be Big NFL Busts
It's hard to put into words, or to quantify accurately what it takes to be the next Peyton Manning or Ndamukong Suh. Besides being blessed with incredibly athletic ability they also had the requisite football IQ to be successful on the next level. When you mix that with a personal ability to avoid off the field trouble and to be a leader on and off the field you get an idea for what it takes.
However, take any one of those things out of the equation and you have the recipe to be bust in the NFL. Sadly busts are sometimes easier to come by and get recognized far and wide for their failures. So as the NFL approaches draft day they'll be looking at the top prospects in the country to see if they can sniff out the potential busts.
Picking a bust isn't easy, but it's not rocket science either. Here's a look at 10 potential busts for this year's NFL draft.
10. Christian Ponder, QB
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Here's a classic example of Combine Fever. Ponder goes relatively unnoticed at Florida State for four years, then makes a little noise at the Senior Bowl, then has a great combine, and now he's a potential first round pick?
If he stays in the second round he can avoid the definition of bust, but coming out in the first round won't work to his advantage. Ponder, in his four years at FSU, averaged 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions a season. While figures lie and liars figure, you still have to assume that a guy who couldn't dominate on the college level is going to have trouble getting it done at the pro level.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but forget what a guy can do in a practice drill, Ponder could be a bust if he goes in Round 1.
9. Mark Ingram, RB
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Ask me to truly qualify Mark Ingram as a bust and I can't. He hasn't been a bad guy off the field. He's not lazy, and he's got good size.
Here's the thing though: one time in his college career did he rush for over 1,000 yards. That's it. There's reason to be leery of guys who have success on championship teams. Usually those teams are perfect storms. Everything goes right and everyone benefits.
Last season he rushed for well under 1,000 yards. It's true he had a hip injury, but in 2008 he rushed for under 1,000 yards. Many make comparisons between him and Emmitt Smith, but Smith was an elite Florida rusher where as Ingram was elite for just one season.
He may not flame out like Heisman winners before him, but there doesn't appear to be anything special about him either.
8. Phil Taylor, NT
Here are some of the things that Scouts, Inc said about Phil Taylor:
"Can play high at times and gets washed out of plays by down blocks."
"Won't win many battles with first-step quickness and lateral movement is just average"
These comments don't make it certain he'll bust but they have to raise concerns. A tackles who doesn't have a quick first step and doesn't move side to side well isn't looking good to have a stunning NFL career.
If you combine that with the knock on him that he doesn't keep himself in tip top shape you have all the makings of a disappointing first round pick.
7. Akeem Ayers, LB
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Ayers seems to have a lot of upside, but where his game gets troublesome is that he's not a good pass coverage linebacker, and while he's certainly got some pass rushing game that could be much improved as well.
I'm often hesitant to think guys will do well when size seems to be an issue for them. In Ayers' case it's not his size, but the size of others. He has trouble getting off of bigger blockers and when you're protecting against the run you need to be able to disengage.
If they are drafting Ayers in the first round he'll need to be able to help out on most downs, and as it stands now he looks like he'll be most helpful on blitzing situations. If that's all he's good for then he might be in trouble.
6. Cameron Heyward, DE
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
There are plenty of people who would call Cameron Heyward a stud on the college level, but just because he was able to shine in the Big 10 doesn't mean he'll do so on Sunday's.
The two things that should concern teams about Heyward are these:
1. He often disappeared in games. For a guy of his talent he should have been a factor from beginning to end in every game in college.
2. The other is that the rap on him from scouts is that he doesn't have the "the burst or closing speed to get around the edge at the NFL level."
A defensive end who'll have trouble rushing the edge and was a forgotten man at times in college is not a recipe for success.
The other issue is his sack total. Last year he managed just 6.5 sacks. This was his best sack total as an Ohio State player.
He's graded a bit lower on most boards for a reason. If he goes first round he could make a team regret that pick.
5. J.J Watt, DE
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
There are a few things that might give teams pause about Watt. The first is that he's relatively new to the position of defensive end. He was a tight end coming into college, but then he transferred to Wisconsin.
What impresses scouts is that he's got a good motor and that he never gives up, but being able to work hard is different than being able to get results. The issue that truly faces Watt is he's a guy who doesn't seems to have a good first step.
Sure, it's said a lot and there are a lot of people who pay it no mind, but football is a game of leverage and getting to your guy first can make the difference in the leverage.
In the pros you cannot rely on strength or the ability to keep working, at some point you have to be quicker or smarter than the guy in front of you. Watt may lack the quickness to excel. Hopefully teams won't find that out too late.
4. Blaine Gabbert, QB
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Here is what you have with Blaine Gabbert: A quarterback with about two full years of quarterbacking experience at the college level.
A guy who's played in a spread offense. It's the same thing people rip Cam Newton for. They complain about all the time it will take Newton to adjust to a pro style offense, but with Gabbert it's a non-issue?
He had a great sophomore season when he was 24/9. But his last year he threw for 16/9 and about 400 less yards on 39 more completions. So this should tell you he had less success throwing more.
Gabbert's not a sure fire bust but he seems to be a guy who was wrapped up in the hype machine and is now skyrocketing. He's also the benefactor of a shaking Cam Newton, and drug questions about Ryan Mallett.
There's a good chance that Carolina drafts him first, but if they do that they will get more of a project than they might be ready for.
3. Ryan Kerrigan, DE
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Kerrigan has a lot of the right skill set to excel at the next level, but there should be pause about his health.
He had a broken foot in 2009 that required surgery. It's the same foot that he aggravated this season. It seems small but a guy with problems with his feet, especially a heavier guy, is asking for more problems down the road.
Even on the field he has his limitations. Scouts Inc. says he doesn't have great body control and can struggle against mobile quarterbacks. If he can be slipped by guys with mobility then it's quite possible that he'll struggle a lot with the array of slippery NFL quarterbacks out there.
2. Robert Quinn, DE
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Quinn has more things working against him, than he does for him. First, there are concerns about his overall health. Yes, he has shown no signs of a tumor since being in college, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be a problem down the road.
The other issues are his lack of playing time and his off the field issues. No one can forget that he missed his senior season because he took over $5,000 in jewelry and travel arrangements from an agent. Maybe it's not the worst thing that he could have done, but it doesn't show good judgement either.
The hope is that Quinn is the real deal, but he lost a season to prove himself and for the rest of the league to know just how good he is.
1. Cam Newton, QB
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Cam Newton is a perfect mixture of everything needed to create the next great NFL bust.
So why is their so much hype on him? The real reason is success at the college level and a skill set that very few players possess. He's a dynamic runner out of the pocket and he knows how to win, but the pro level requires much more attention to the science of football rather than the art of it.
Newton hasn't done well at the combine, and was not well received in his interviews which should worry teams. The truth is that if Cam wants to have success he's going to have to show that he's willing to do anything to get it.
But the transition from a spread offense where he ran with the ball at will, to a pro style offense where running is a last resort, won't be an easy transition.
Still, teams are enamored by potential and by a "winner." Joe Montana was a winner without great physical ability. But Montana played the position well mechanically, he just wasn't incredibly athletic.
Someone will take a chance on Cam early, and someone will be sorry they did.