2012 NFL Draft: Potential Boom or Bust Prospects

Elyssa GutbrodContributor IOctober 11, 2011

2012 NFL Draft: Potential Boom or Bust Prospects

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    Although we are in just Week 5 of the NFL season, some have already begun to look forward to the 2012 NFL Draft next spring.

    As with any year, clear candidates stand out in their class.  Those names are the ones everyone in the know is talking about, as they are clearly the best that this year’s draft will have to offer.

    Some of them, like Andrew Luck out of Stanford, have already become well known outside of sports analysts and hardcore fans. In fact, Luck in particular has become a household name.

    Others aren’t as well known right now, but they may soon become household names as well as they join whichever NFL team announces their name in April.

    Lost in all of this hype is the cold reality that not all of the exciting prospects will live up to the hype come fall of 2012. Over the next eight slides, we will overview some of the most exciting draft candidates this year who could either be booms in the NFL—or big busts.

Matt Kalil, OT, USC

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    Thankfully, there are NFL teams who won’t be circling for a chance at Andrew Luck. Matt Kalil of USC will be a top prospect for a team looking for talent on the offensive line.

    Why he could boom:

    Protecting the quarterback is a thankless job, but good tackles are vital to a team’s success in the NFL. The more flexible an offensive lineman can be regarding his position on the offensive line, the more valuable he will be for his team.

    Matt Kalil is already being compared to Maurkice Pouncey in terms of his potential to revive a team’s flagging offensive line. If he can fulfill that role of difference-maker and maintain his health, he will be a huge asset to any team.

    Why he could bust:

     If we’re being honest, Kalil is huge. He’s also a little slower than some would like a tackle to be. It is possible that despite his great potential, he could wind up not being able to keep pace with the faster, more athletic NFL.

Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

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    One of the most touted defensive ends of this year’s draft class, Quinton Coples of North Carolina could make a big splash with the right team.

    Why he could boom:

    He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s smart. He’s flexible. He’s got the type of personality that could turn him into a team leader sooner rather than later. What’s not to like if you’re an NFL coach looking for a defensive boost?

    Why he could bust:

    Although Coples has the potential to fit into most NFL teams’ defensive schemes, it is possible that he will need to either bulk up or slim down to fit a positional profile more efficiently. He will also need to learn to be more effective at getting his hands up as a pass rusher to capitalize on his defensive efforts.

    Of course, if those are his biggest problems entering the NFL, then whichever team manages to grab him should consider himself lucky.

Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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    For a team that is not able to secure the first round draft pick (and consequently Andrew Luck), Matt Barkley of USC may be one of several good alternate choices.

    While he has not impressed as thoroughly as Luck, Barkley is an excellent athlete in his own right. His predicted top-10 rank in the draft is a testament to that.

    Why he could boom:

    Barkley is an excellent prospect for the NFL, possessing both the physical and intangible qualities that would make him an excellent leader for a rudderless team. It is not hard to see him becoming the face of a franchise.

    Barkley has demonstrated marked statistical improvement in each of his three years at the helm of the USC squad, so it is easy to believe that he will be coachable in addition to his athletic gifts.

    Why he could bust:

    He’s a talented player who is gaining great experience, but he still has his sticking points on the college field.

    In particular, he has demonstrated some poor decision making in throwing the ball, sometimes taking a risky gunslinger approach to try to make plays happen. He has also shown some difficulty when he is flushed out of the pocket, which could get him into a lot of trouble as a professional.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

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    Oklahoma's Landry Jones is yet another quarterback that will be snapped up by a team that isn’t fortunate to win the Andrew Luck lottery.

    Another predicted top-10 pick, Jones will be expected to breathe new life into a team that is struggling to find a franchise quarterback.

    Why he could boom:

    He led the nation in completions and was second in total pass yards in 2010. While he was at it, he broke seven passing records at Oklahoma and came close to claiming even more. That’s an awfully compelling case for Landry Jones.

    He’s got what it takes to be good in the NFL. His arm is good, his pocket presence is solid, and he can be effective on his feet.

    Like all great draft prospects, he has started off the new season on track to produce even better numbers than he has previously.

    Why he could bust:

    His football IQ is lower than some of the other hot quarterbacks who will be eligible for the draft in 2012. With his somewhat predictable play calling, other teams will catch on to him quickly unless he can find a way to mix things up.

    This problem is made worse by the offensive style that Oklahoma runs, which is a watered-down version of the offensive schemes run by most NFL teams. This lack could hurt Jones when it comes time to execute in the NFL.

Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

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    Like Matt Kalil, Jonathan Martin of Stanford has the potential to be a real difference-maker on some fortunate team’s offensive line. He doesn’t possess quite the same positional flexibility as Kalil, but he excels at his job as a left tackle.

    Why he could boom:

    There are plenty of teams in the NFL who have an adequate left tackle, so chances are good that Martin will be signed in a place where he can make an immediate.

    As long as he maintains the steadfastness that he has demonstrated throughout his college career, he has the potential to start during his rookie season—although he could also benefit from a season of watching and learning.

    Regardless of whether he starts immediately or not, he has an excellent presence on the field and will be an asset when needed. He’s a brick wall against defensive pass rushes, and he has a knack for opening up run lanes when necessary.

    Martin also brings great character and leadership qualities to the table, which is an attractive quality that cannot be improved by good coaching alone.

    Why he could bust:

    Martin’s worst nightmare might be getting drafted by a team whose draft policy is to take the best available player regardless of positional need. If he finds himself on a team that is stacked at left tackle, he may find himself expected to learn a new position to earn his keep—and quickly.

    Although Martin certainly has the football IQ to make it work intellectually, shifting positions and being a rookie in the NFL at the same time is not a combination that will be easy.

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

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    With such short lives in the NFL, good running backs are an attractive commodity in the NFL. Trent Richardson of Alabama is certain to garner plenty of attention as a top tier running back with an excellent college record.

    Why he could boom:

    He is great at what he does, with the physical ability and mental intangibles to be a top-10 talent in the NFL.

    In 2010, he demonstrated that he is capable of carrying the full load as an every-down running back and that he possesses the endurance to close out games successfully. He’ll be effective in both short- and long-yardage downs and has proved to be difficult for teams to bring down.

    When scouting reports compare him to Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden, any NFL team who wishes to establish a run game will be wise to take notice.

    Why he could bust:

    Transitioning to the NFL from college football seems to be difficult on running backs in particular.

    In addition to playing a position that makes them prime candidates for injuries, they must also take on a three-part role in the offense: running back, receiver, and blocker.

    Many big-name recruits from past draft years with just as much promise as Richardson have faded quickly into obscurity. There is no guarantee that Richardson will not become simply another passing phenomenon.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

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    Teams that are searching for a number one wide receiver should take a close look at Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina. With size that is reminiscent of giant Calvin Johnson, and fantastic play-making ability when he’s let loose on the field, Jeffery could be a huge asset to any team’s passing game.

    Why he could boom:

    He’s tall, fast, smart and has great hands. Defenses have a hard time keeping up with him before he catches the ball and find him difficult to tackle once the play is in his hands.

    He’s also consistent, which can be a huge benefit to a team that is struggling to keep talent on the field due to injury.

    There is very little about Alshon Jeffery that doesn’t scream “huge potential in the NFL.”

    Why he could bust:

     Jeffery has the type of talent at his position that portends a long and productive career.

    Of course, injury can knock any promising career off its course—so can a rough transition into the NFL that manifests into a huge drop of production, a rash of dropped passes, or ball security problems.

    Neither of those scenarios is likely, but there is very little else that would cause this rising star to fizzle.

Andrew Luck , QB, Stanford

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    Of course, the prodigal Andrew Luck of Stanford has to show up on a list of potential boom draft picks. As the group consensus No. 1 draft pick, it’s a given that his potential career in the NFL will be dissected and inspected for the next six months until his name is called on the podium.

    Why he could boom:

    With consistent aerial displays that are complimented handily by his outstanding athletic ability on the ground, Luck has emerged this year as one of the best players in college football.  It is hard to believe that his strong play won’t continue as he transitions into the NFL.

    He is the dream player of any coach in the NFL, particularly one whose team is struggling. Heck, the fans of at least four or five struggling franchises, led by the Miami Dolphins, are actively cheering for their teams to lose out this year to secure the No. 1 draft pick.

    Why he could bust:

    Okay, let’s be honest here. Although there is plenty of history of No. 1 draft picks busting in the NFL, Luck probably will not join that ignoble group.

    That being said, things in professional football are different from college football, and it’s entirely possible that he will need some time to adjust. To put this into perspective, though, even if Luck does have growing pains in the NFL, he will still be better in his first season than many quarterbacks who have been there for years.

    At the very worst, you can expect him to play better right out of the gate than Cam Newton, who has been utterly impressive in his first year.