It's been a while since any NFL teams have forfeited a future draft pick in favor of a gamble on a player in the supplemental draft. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that the last time a player was selected in this fashion (Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon in 2012), things worked out great right up until they didn't.
However, it appears that 2015 might just be the year the dry spell ends, as a talented but (possibly) troubled offensive lineman has entered the fray, and he could have enough of the former to overcome the latter.
As Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reported, Clemson tackle Isaiah Battle, who started 11 games on the left side for the Tigers in 2014, left the team and will declare for the supplemental draft on July 9:
I have some family matters to address, with a child due this summer, and I feel it is in my best interest to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft. I want to thank everyone at Clemson, especially Coach (Dabo) Swinney and the assistant coaches, for what they have done for me the last three years. I also want to thank my teammates. They have all had a big impact on my career.
That whitewash job by Battle was a nice try, but rumors have swirled that his decision to turn pro wasn't entirely his. He had some discipline issues at Clemson, including an incident against North Carolina State last year when he punched an opposing player. Battle was also reportedly cited for possession of marijuana earlier this month during a traffic stop.
To those familiar with Gordon's story, that last bit might be enough to send teams heading for the exits.
However, for all the potential risk involved with burning a pick on Battle, there's also the potential for a significant reward. Battle was widely regarded as one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the 2016 draft class and a potential first-round pick in next year's draft.
One NFL scout who spoke with Feldman called Battle a "major talent," proclaiming that this news is going to send NFL teams scrambling to both the film room and to get more info on Battle's off-the-field issues. "This news came totally out of nowhere," the scout said. "He's actually about 6'6", 326 with 35-inch (long) arms and he can run. He's a little high-cut, but he's 6'6", not 6'3", so that's kind of expected."
Bryan Broaddus of the DallasCowboys.com also saw a lot to like while watching Battle battle (sorry, it couldn't be helped) on tape:
He has lined up at both tackle spots, but primarily played left side later in the season. He plays with surprising initial quickness despite his long, rangy build. Playing and foot speed are solid once he gets on the second level and out on the edge in space when blocking in the running game. Did not see him have to make any blocks where he pulled but was able to make the reach and cut off block staying on his feet.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports tweeted that a pair of sources told him that Battle might be worth using a Day 2 pick on:
There has not been word of a possible pro day for Battle, which only serves to muddy the waters further. Maybe one will be held. It's possible one won't with the supplemental draft less than two weeks away. One thing's for sure: Things are about to get interesting quickly.
Players of Battle's caliber just don't come along in the supplemental draft very often. We're talking about a player who, assuming a decent 2015 campaign, all but certainly wouldn't have made it out of the 2016 NFL draft's first day.
He's a rangy, athletic, strong blind-side pass protector. The list of teams interested in getting a piece of that is a lot longer than the teams that aren't. Then you have squads like the Denver Broncos and New York Giants who have lost their starting left tackles to serious injuries already this year.
For a team like that, adding Battle could be like finding a bundle of $100 bills while walking down the street.
But it isn't that simple. More and more NFL teams are becoming wary of drafting players with red flags. It doesn't help Battle's case that the last time a team burned a Day 2 pick on a player in the supplemental draft, that player went from leading the NFL in receiving yards to out of football altogether thanks to an indefinite suspension for multiple failed drug tests.
Never mind that in the supplemental draft, it isn't just a matter of what an NFL team is willing to pay. There's also the matter of another team being willing to pay more.
Make no mistake, though: Unless news comes out that paints Battle's departure from Clemson in a much more negative light, one of the NFL's 32 clubs (and probably more) are going to pony up a bid for his services. A left tackle with first-round talent? That turns heads.
It isn't really a matter of if the dry spell is about to end in the NFL's supplemental draft. No, it's just going to be a waiting game to see how high an NFL team is willing to go, and where Battle will begin battling in training camp this summer.
What? I told you it couldn't be helped.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPSharks.