NFL Draft 2011: Cam Newton and 10 Potential Busts
"I'm looking forward to a 15-year career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl and a parade through downtown San Diego"—Ryan Leaf
Every year we spend months breaking down game film, scouting reports, workouts, test scores and police blotters in an attempt to project how college prospects will fare at the next level.
At the end of the day, it's still nothing more than the world's most expensive guessing game.
Smarter (and better paid) football minds than you and me made Ryan Leaf a No. 2 pick, and let Tom Brady slide to No. 199. It's an extreme example, but we see it every year.
I'm great at gambling with other people's money, but if it were my wallet, these 10 guys would cause me to lose the most sleep.
10. Akeem Ayers, OLB: UCLA / 6'3", 254 Lbs.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Ayers' stock has slipped steadily since the Combine—his athleticism was supposed to be his greatest asset, yet he posted a 4.83-second 40 time. Once a mid first-round prospect, he may fall all the way into the second.
Is he versatile, or is he a 'tweener without a true position? The more we learn as we approach the draft, the more he's trending towards the latter.
Other concerns are his technique, instincts and consistency. He's also been knocked for playing too passively at times, and his sideline-to-sideline speed is now being called into question.
Overall, Ayers projects as a guy who does a lot of things well, but won't excel in any one area at the next level.
9. Mark Ingram, RB: Alabama / 5'10", 215 Lbs.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Polished and productive, there's a lot to like about the former Heisman winner. Physically, the fact that he's not a home run hitter (4.62 40 time) really doesn't bother me. He's quicker than he is fast, and his overall game projects very well to the next level. He's a pure runner.
The major concern is durability. He's already logged a lot of miles in his college career, and much more importantly, the speculation that he has a degenerative arthritic condition in his knee has caused some teams to remove him from their draft boards altogether.
Once locked in at No. 15 to Miami, Ingram is now in jeopardy of falling out of the first round. Nothing spells bust like a running back with knee issues.
8. Muhammad Wilkerson, DT: Temple / 6'5", 315 Lbs.
Wilkerson's hype machine has kicked into high gear. He's rocketing up draft boards due to outstanding athleticism for his size. A few weeks back he was viewed as a solid second-round prospect—he's now closing in on top-10 territory.
Charley Casserly, who knows a thing or two about defensive linemen, thinks Wilkerson has NFL-prospect-suspect-?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CSports%7Cp" target="_blank">"workout warrior" written all over him.
I tend to agree.
If a team were to hedge their bets and draft him in the second or third round, I'd have no problem with it. He's a project, and his raw athleticism would be worth a flier in that portion of the draft.
For me, however, he didn't dominate the MAC the way a top-15 pick should have. He has the tools to develop in time, but he's going to be badly over-drafted.
7. Ryan Kerrigan, DE: Purdue / 6'4", 267 Lbs.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Kerrigan flashed outstanding pass-rushing ability at Purdue. He has a great motor and possesses all the intangibles you look for in a first rounder.
Unfortunately, he's going to have some problems finding his place in the NFL. He's too small to hold his own against the run at the next level, and he's not athletic enough to drop into coverage as an outside linebacker.
He has the feel of a dominant college prospect whose game doesn't translate to the next level.
6. Nate Solder, OT: Colorado; 6'8", 310 Lbs.
A converted tight end, the 6'8" Solder is an outstanding athlete who towers above the competition.
Solder's still working on his technique and footwork, and I don't think he's as NFL-ready as some. He's definitely more of an athlete than a finished product.
His height has been used against him, as power rushers have been able to get under him and knock him off balance. He's also struggled with speed rushers and, in general, he'll need to stay much lower at the next level.
He's a work in progress who has great potential, but his narrow frame may spell trouble in the NFL.
5. Marvin Austin, DT: North Carolina / 6'3", 310
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
How does an elite talent like Austin maneuver his way out of the top 15? By displaying the maturity of a 14-year old girl and the effort of a five dollar prostitute.
He quits on plays.
He disappears for extended periods.
He was benched (coach's decision) twice in 2009, and last year he was suspended and kicked off the team for inappropriate dealings with an agent.
There's no denying that Austin can be as good as he wants to be. He doesn't want it.
What a waste.
4. Blaine Gabbert, QB: Missouri / 6'5", 235 Lbs.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Blaine Gabbert looks the part, but the truth is, this quarterback class' top tier was one player deep, and that player returned to Stanford. Because of high demand and the importance of the position, Gabbert has been elevated to a draft position he doesn't belong in.
He has the size, arm strength, athleticism and character that look good on a scouting report.
However, his production at Missouri was less than spectacular, and there's concern that he may be a (spread) system quarterback. He has very limited experience under center, and he'll need to learn how to read defenses and go through progressions while dropping back in the pocket.
He's also been knocked for perceiving non-existent pressure, which affects his decision making.
Overall, I don't see a special prospect that warrants a top-5 selection.
3. Jake Locker, QB: Washington / 6'3", 230 Lbs.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Jake Locker looks great on paper. A big-time athlete with an even bigger arm, the kid oozes leadership and has everything you look for in a franchise quarterback.
The tape tells a different story.
His footwork is a mess, which has led to erratic accuracy. He appears to be very uncomfortable in the pocket, and would prefer to throw on the run. He has limited field vision, struggles to read defenses, and often locks on to receivers from the pocket.
In short, he's very unpolished and will experience a steep learning curve.
Does that really sound like a potential top-10 pick to you?
2. Da'Quan Bowers, DE: Clemson / 6'4", 280
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Bowers is a complete, NFL-caliber defensive end who came into his own last season. He just turned 21-years old, and once projected as a potential No. 1 overall pick. He's the total package—the sky was supposed to be the limit.
Sadly, word is out that he's damaged goods.
According to NFL.com and several other sources, Bowers' surgically repaired right knee showed signs of weakness and long-term arthritis in a recent medical recheck. Teams are running from Bowers as the draft approaches, as it appears that this condition may be career-shortening.
Cam Newton, QB: Auburn / 6'5", 248 Lbs.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
With the (probable) No. 1 pick comes No. 1 expectations. Even if you put his laundry list of well-documented (and substantiated) character concerns aside, there's still significant risk attached to Newton.
He dominated at the college level by being a better athlete than everyone else. He's a much better athlete than he is a quarterback, and he was able to rely on improvisation at Auburn.
It's a pocket game for quarterbacks in the NFL, and Newton has a long ways to go to prove he can succeed from there. His throwing mechanics, pocket accuracy, fundamentals, vision and anticipation will all be major hurdles to overcome.
Sheer athleticism alone should prevent him from busting out of the league entirely, but everything that made him successful in college will be neutralized by bigger, stronger, faster competition at the next level.