NFL Draft 2012: Power Ranking the 7 Most Fragile Top Draft Picks
When NFL scouts, coaches and executives are evaluating potential draft picks, they always look at a few key things; size, speed, athleticism, character, production, etc. Yet, the most important and often overlooked feature of a prospect is his ability to stay on the field.
A player can have all the talent in the world but if he can't stay healthy and be relied upon by his team day in and day out, then he doesn't have much value.
Justin Harrell, who was selected by the Packers in the 1st round of the 2007 NFL Draft, missed most of his senior season at Tennessee due to a torn triceps, playing in just three games. He also was limited to eight games as a freshmen due to injury.
However, his past injuries didn't deter the Packers from using a premium draft pick on Harrell, who rewarded Green Bay with just two starts in 14 career games.
In the NFL, injuries are part of the game. Managing those injuries and staying healthy is an essential part of any successful season. Some players get injured in college and that trend continues in the pros. Others have been able to play through injuries in college, then fall apart against NFL competition.
Let's examine some of the most fragile players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft who should have given teams cause for concern with their injury histories.
RG3, as he is affectionately known, was drafted by the Redskins with the 2nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. In four seasons as quarterback of the Baylor Bears, he was highly productive, accounting for 111 total touchdowns and over 12,500 total yards.
Considering his remarkable production and elite athleticism, it's easy to see why the Redskins invested so much in him. However, his injury history and style of play raises concerns about his durability and ability to handle the constant pounding he will receive in the NFL.
While at Baylor, Griffin was relatively healthy, excluding the 2009 season, when according to ESPN.com, he missed all but three games due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
However, the 2011 Heisman winner bounced back from the injury to play every game in 2010 and 2011, except for a half against Texas Tech which he missed with concussion-like symptoms
But there are still reasons for concern, namely his size. Vick, who possess a similar build and style of play, has had constant injury issues. He missed 11 games to injury in 2003, four games in 2010 and three games in 2011.
Griffin, who registered 528 carries while at Baylor, has already taken more of a pounding than most quarterbacks entering the league. Therefore, he will need to be both smart and cautious as a runner, otherwise he will see his name on the injury report quite often as an NFL quarterback.
There has never been a more productive receiver at the division one collegiate level than former Oklahoma wide out Ryan Broyles.
Broyles, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft, put up some eye-popping numbers while with the Sooners. He had 349 career receptions to go along with 4,586 career receiving yards, both tops in NCAA history according to profootballreference.com.
Broyles' tremendous career was highlighted by his 2010 campaign, which was arguably the best in NCAA history for a receiver. The shifty playmaker hauled in 131 passes for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Last season, he was well on his way to another extraordinary season with 83 catches for 1,157 yards in just 9 games, when, according to ESPN.com, he suffered a season-ending ACL tear against Texas A&M.
Broyles was once considered a surefire first-round pick but, as a result of the injury, fell to the 2nd round.
Not only is the injury a concern, Broyles size at 5'10"192 pounds also brings up questions about his ability to handle the punishment likely to come his way in the NFL.
He has tremendous potential and would be a great complement to Calvin Johnson and the Lions passing attack if he can stay healthy.
LaMichael James is as explosive in the open field as any runner I've seen in quite some time. At the University of Oregon he made a ton of big plays in three seasons and was one of the most prolific running backs in NCAA history, with 552 carries for 5,082 yards during his college career.
James, who was selected late in the 2nd round by San Francisco, should see the field early on for the 49ers and will likely contribute right away as a 3rd down back.
However, he is the quintessential fragile player not only due to his injury history but also his size. James stands at just 5'8" and weighs 194 pounds. Even though he suffered separate injuries to his ankle, knee and elbow during his time with the Ducks, according to ESPN.com, he never missed a game in college.
Keep in mind though, the Pac-12 is not necessarily known for its physicality and the NFL is a big step up in that department. It will be much more difficult for his small frame to hold up to the punishment running backs routinely take at the pro level.
Jared Crick is a perfect example of how quickly a player can become injury prone. Before his senior season, he was viewed as a solid 1st round pick but after a pair of unfortunate injuries, he was lucky to be picked in the 4th round by the Houston Texans.
Crick is a bit of a tweener at 6'4" 279 pounds but should find a good home in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense, playing a similar role to that of 2011 1st round pick J.J. Watt.
The former Husker is an explosive inside pass-rusher when healthy, posting 9.5 sacks in each his sophomore and junior seasons.
Crick was hampered with injuries throughout his senior season, first spraining his MCL in spring practice, then suffering a pectoral injury that ended his season after just 5 games according to ESPN.com.
If Houston had picked Crick in the 1st round I would call it a gamble, but at this point it could be a steal. The only thing holding him back is health. Thus if he can stay on the field, he will have no problem contributing very quickly.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could not be happier after selecting Mark Barron with the 7th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft last Thursday. He's an elite safety with a knack for making big plays, intercepting 12 passes, registering 5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in three seasons as a starter at Alabama.
While Barron has been very good at racking up impressive numbers, he is also starting to build a bit of an injury history, which is a concern for any NFL player.
During his college career, Barron was mostly healthy, missing parts of just two games due to injury. According to ESPN.com, Barron missed the Capital One Bowl his junior season due to a pectoral injury and was also limited against Auburn last season thanks to a chest injury.
However, the most serious injury Barron suffered followed his senior season. He underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia and was out for two months, causing him to miss the combine.
Barron has been very reliable through his career in college, yet the NFL is a much more physical game. Injuries start to pile up and that's why a player who's suffered three injuries within an 18-month period raises some red flags.
Few picks offered a better combination of need and value than the Cardinals selection of Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd with the 13th overall pick in 2012 NFL Draft.
Floyd, who finished his career in South Bend with back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards, should come in right away and contribute across from perennial pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald.
Floyd, who notched 271 catches for 3,686 and 37 touchdowns in his college career, also missed parts of the 2008 and 2009 due to injury seasons according to ESPN.com.
As a freshmen in 2008, Floyd missed three games due a knee injury and then 5 more in 2009 after breaking his collarbone against Michigan.
Floyd did rebound to play in every game as a junior and senior, yet once a player is hit with injuries it remains a concern for the rest of his career. So while he is a fabulous selection, health will be a big factor in determining his success in the NFL.
Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones was one of the fastest rising prospects in the weeks leading up the 2012 NFL Draft and it's not hard to see why.
Jones, who checks in at 6'5" 265 pounds, has outstanding athleticism for a man his size and a knack for making plays in the backfield.
For all those reasons and more, the Patriots used the 21st pick in the draft on Jones. The Pats hope he can come in and fill the spot at outside linebacker, which has been a void in their defense since the days of Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest.
In his three year career with the Orange, Jones demonstrated his ability to wreak havoc on opposing offense, totaling 10 sacks and 27 tackles for loss.
However, evaluating draft prospects is not just about seeing the positives in a player, it's also about looking into the negative traits he might posses.
Jones has very few negatives and as a player, it's hard to find faults in his game. Yet one area that does cause concern is the fact that he missed five games in 2011 according to ESPN.com, due to a knee injury he suffered in a game against Wake Forest.
Even though the knee injury he suffered was the only major health problem of Jones' college career, teams can never be too careful when it comes to injuries. The Patriots obviously must feel comfortable with it at this stage, yet it only takes one injury to get a player like Jones labeled as injury prone.