2011 NFL Draft: Cam Newton Leads Group of Potential Busts

Ravi LullaAnalyst IApril 10, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Cam Newton Leads Group of Potential Busts

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    Almost as interesting as the players from the NFL Draft who become stars, are the ones that are expected to dominate, but never live up to the hype.  

    For every Peyton Manning, there are at least a couple Ryan Leafs (or Akili Smiths, if you prefer).  Here is a look at five players who have serious bust potential.

    Note: In order to qualify for this list, a player must be projected to be picked in the first two rounds.  After all, a player cannot be a bust if no one expected him to be that good in the first place.

5. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

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    Some people believe Mark Ingram will be the second coming of Emmitt Smith due to the similar size and SEC background the two share.  While there are certain similarities, there is little reason to predict Ingram will replicate Smith's Hall of Fame career.  

    There is no denying Ingram's success at Alabama, where he has won a Heisman Trophy and a national title; however, there are several factors which indicate Ingram is a candidate to become a bust.  

    First of all, Mark Ingram is not an elite athlete when compared to other NFL running backs.  The 4.62 40 yard dash time he posted at the NFL Combine turned heads for the wrong reasons.

    There has to be some serious questions about whether the burst he appeared to have in college will look more like a crawl in the NFL.

    Second, Ingram was used pretty heavily at Alabama and got a little banged up because of it.  With the shelf life of NFL running backs seemingly shrinking every day, it is entirely possible that the miles that are already on Ingram's body will prevent him from having a long and productive career.

    Finally, Ingram is considered the only first round talent at running back in this year's draft.  This means that his stock is going to be more elevated than if there were a wealth of talent at running back in the class.  

    Everyone knows, the higher a player is drafted, the higher the expectations are and the harder it is to live up to the hype.  Even if Ingram turns in a solid career, he might get labeled as a bust because he didn't live up to a draft position where he didn't necessarily belong in the first place.

4. Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada

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    Colin Kaepernick's place on this list is almost entirely a result of the lack of depth in this year's quarterback class.  In most drafts, Kaepernick would be a mid-round selection who was labeled a project and given plenty of time to develop.  

    The problem is, this is not most drafts.  This class has questions from top to bottom in addition to a lack of overall depth.  

    As a result, Kaepernick is being projected in Todd McShay's latest mock draft to go early in the second round.  Ask Jimmy Clausen how much time second-round quarterbacks get to develop on bad teams.

    Finally, let's get to the reasons Kaepernick is going to struggle if he has to play early.

    Colin Kaepernick has prototypical size and off-the-charts athleticism for a quarterback; that is why he would be so attractive as a project.  However, he comes from a quirky system at Nevada where he essentially never took a snap from under center.

    Furthermore, the offense at Nevada resembled more of an arena league style than the pro-style offenses used in the NFL.

    The point is, Kaepernick is going to have an extremely steep learning curve and whoever drafts him probably won't have the patience to teach him to swim before they toss him in the deep end.

    The other major issues with Colin Kaepernick is with his arm.  While Kaepernick has extraordinary arm strength, he has a rather long delivery and there has been questions about his accuracy.  

    The throwing motion is something that could possibly be fixed, although with Kaepernick's baseball background, that is not a certainty.  

    The real concern may end up being his accuracy.  Kaepernick's senior season was the first in which he managed to complete more than 60 percent of his passes.  

    Many scouts believe that accuracy is the most telling indicator of success as a quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately for Kaepernick, most of those same people also believe it is one of the few things a player cannot be taught.

3. Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina

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    Talent has never been the problem with Marvin Austin; the issue is everything else.  When it comes to pure ability, Austin is elite.  His athleticism for a man his size is remarkable.  Sounds like a can't-miss prospect right?  Wrong.

    Marvin Austin has always had to answer questions about his motor and work ethic.  The trouble is, Austin has yet to give a satisfactory answer to those questions.  His production has been marginal at best, which considering his immense physical tools, is extremely disappointing.

    The cherry on top of this potential bust sundae is the fact that Marvin Austin sat out the entire 2010 season for improper contact with an agent.  This only served to accentuate the perception that he had character issues that would scare off NFL teams.

    The bottom line is that Marvin Austin is an incredibly talented player whose lack of work ethic will not allow him to overcome the rust that has surely accumulated during Austin's sabbatical from football.  

    Some team will take a chance on him in the first two rounds, but they will likely end up just as disappointed as North Carolina fans have been for the past few years.

2. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

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    The scoop on Nick Fairley is going to sound strikingly similar to the report on Marvin Austin.  Like Austin, Fairley has tons of talent but has done significantly less with it than most people would have liked.  

    That changed a little bit this past year and to Fairley's credit, he did have a great season in 2010 and was a key part of Auburn's national title team.  

    However, the fact that his breakout season still did not put to bed the concerns about his motor and work ethic is all the more troubling.

    Even in the midst of putting up monster numbers, especially at the defensive tackle position, anyone who watched an Auburn game could plainly see that Nick Fairley took plays off.  

    If you are Randy Moss and you know the ball is not coming your way and you take plays off, it is still something that needs to be addressed, but it is not that big of a deal.  

    If you are Nick Fairley and you are supposed to anchor the defense of a team in the hunt for a national championship and you take plays off, now that's a problem.

    No matter how talented a player is, if they do not work hard, they will not last in the NFL.  

    This is especially true for bigger guys like offensive and defensive tackles who are never more than a few Happy Meals away from eating themselves out of the league.  

    Nick Fairley is more likely to be the next Terrence Cody, not the next Ndamukong Suh. 

1. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

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    First of all, if Cam Newton figures it all out, he will be a superstar.  He could revolutionize the quarterback position.

    He could be Michael Vick except with prototypical quarterback size and probably a better throwing motion. That being said . . . Cam Newton probably is not going to figure it all out.

    The history of run-first quarterbacks in the NFL does not seem to be a promising prophecy for Newton. At this point, the standard of success for a running quarterback is probably Steve Young.

    Remember, Steve Young did not become a Super Bowl winner and Hall of Fame quarterback until he learned to trust his arm more than his feet.  

    If Joe Montana was going to play quarterback for whoever drafts Cam Newton and Montana could mentor him for a few years, then Newton might have a fighting chance to become a star.

    The other problem with Cam Newton, besides being a running quarterback, is all of the baggage that he carries into the draft.  Newton has attended three different schools over the course of four years; that kind of bouncing around raises a red flag with scouts.

    He stole a laptop while at Florida, and while a lot of people do stupid things when they're young, if you're an NFL team and considering investing millions in a kid, the whole theft issue might scare you off.  

    Even though the NCAA ruled that Newton knew nothing of his father's pay-for-play scheme, common sense outweighs the NCAA, and common sense pretty clearly states that Cam knew what was going on all along.

    Perhaps the most concerning issue with Cam Newton is that he seems just as interested in becoming a pop culture icon as he does a Pro Bowl quarterback.  This might sound crazy, but NFL teams want their quarterback to care about football and little else.

    If an NFL team can find their way to ignore all of the other red flags, they should pay attention to this one.  

    Quarterbacks who put in the time and do their homework are the ones who succeed, and from the sounds of it, Cam Newton may not be willing to do what it takes off the field to be successful on it.