NFL Draft Prospects Most Likely to Be Overdrafted in 2016
Every year, NFL teams fall in love with high-upside prospects who fail to pan out at the next level.
Despite an alarming rate of developmental prospects unable to achieve success in the NFL, teams simply can't help themselves. The upside of landing a superstar is simply too great to pass up.
Here's an early list of prospects who possess the skills that typically lead teams to overdraft based on upside.
Since it's early in the process, some of these players may eventually prove their worth and be deserving of high picks, while others will have disappointing workouts and lose their momentum. But consider this list a starting point for the prospects who teams should be cautious with before stamping them with a high grade.
Connor Cook, Michigan State
It happens almost every year. In the middle or late first round, a quarterback-needy teams reaches to fill that hole and satisfy the fan base.
In recent years, we've seen the Vikings take Christian Ponder, the Bills take E.J. Manuel and the Browns take Brandon Weeden. None of those prospects held consensus first-round grades, but desperate teams decided to roll the dice on them.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook appears to be that guy this year, with the Houston Texans most likely to play the role of the desperate team. Like Ponder, Manuel and Weeden before him, Cook checks off all the boxes in terms of physical tools. But his wildly inconsistent performances in college are a red flag.
It's tough to teach accuracy by the time a quarterback reaches the NFL, and players with Cook's issues rarely iron things out to achieve a high level of success.
Myles Jack, UCLA
In brief flashes, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack looks like a superstar in the making. But due to injuries and his usage at UCLA, there just isn't a lot of tape on him.
An injury wiped out the majority of Jack's junior year, which forces scouts to guess at the type of development he's made since his sophomore season. Jack's incredible athleticism, which he displayed as both a linebacker and running back at UCLA, is obvious. But how will he transition to being a full-time linebacker in the NFL?
Ideally, teams wouldn't have to spend a top-10 pick on a prospect with as little experience as Jack, but his decision to leave UCLA early forces teams to do more guesswork than usual.
Jack has many supporters, including CBS Sports' Rob Rang who ranks him at No. 4 on his big board.
Someone will take Jack early in the first round, but there's definitely more risk involved than with the typical top-10 selection.
Will Fuller, Notre Dame
It's rare for a prospect who can win only with speed to succeed in the NFL. It works in college, but when that speed gap closes at the next level, the more nuanced skills become vital to success.
Ted Ginn Jr. of the Carolina Panthers is a great example of a prospect who was overdrafted due to his eye-popping speed but never lived up to his status as a top-10 pick.
Notre Dame's Will Fuller won't land in the top 10, but a team desperate for a deep threat could certainly fall in love with his athleticism and take him too early.
To be clear, there's certainly a role for Fuller in the NFL. Simply the threat of him getting over the top of the defense can change the way it lines up. However, until he develops his route-running skills and more reliable hands, his production will likely fall short of his draft status.
Derrick Henry, Alabama
The NFL has become skeptical of all running back prospects in recent years, so it's tough for any of them to be overdrafted.
The 2016 draft class is severely lacking top running backs, however, which could cause a team to reach to fill a need.
Derrick Henry's 2015 season was phenomenal, but his skills don't translate well to the next level. He's a pure downhill runner who struggles to make defenders miss, even in the open field. We've seen other elite college running backs, such as former pros Ron Dayne and T.J. Duckett, struggle to make the transition to the NFL for similar reasons.
Henry's power running style is valuable, and he can carve out a nice career for himself in the NFL. But he should not be drafted with expectations of developing into a feature back.
Shawn Oakman, Baylor
Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman is the classic workout warrior and will command much attention at the combine in Indianapolis.
Unfortunately, Oakman's impressive stature hasn't led to consistent production on the field.
Having failed to show progress throughout his career, Oakman is not a viable first-round prospect. But it would not come as a shock if a team falls in love with his raw skill set and gambles on him early on Day 2.
The best recent example of an Oakman-type prospect being overdrafted is Margus Hunt, the 6'8" phenomenon who was selected No. 53 overall by the Bengals in 2013. After three years in the league, Hunt remains a project and has struggled to get on the field when healthy during his time in Cincinnati.
Every so often a raw player with extreme athleticism develops into a star, but far more often he meets the fate of Hunt—and Oakman will likely head down that path as well.
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III has been among the most highly touted defensive backs in this draft class since before the season began, with Pro Football Focus anointing him the No. 1 cornerback in the nation.
However, Hargreaves' year was a mixed bag of results, and he finished with a thud against Michigan, getting burned on multiple occasions.
Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net shared some information back in August that suggested the NFL may not view Hargreaves as favorably as some of those in the media. Pauline gave Hargreaves a third-round grade entering the year, and he indicated that NFL scouts viewed him as "significantly overrated."
A defensive back with as much athleticism as Hargreaves is likely to still land among the first prospects off the boards, but his inconsistent production is reason to be worried about his transition to the pros.
Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
Ronnie Stanley is as impressive as any lineman in this draft class in terms of his combination of strength and agility. But there are a few glaring flaws that raise concerns about his ability to make a smooth transition to the NFL.
When sitting back in pass protection against an edge-rusher, Stanley looks great. However, when he's asked to block on the move in the running game, he tends to get lost in space without an obvious assignment in front of him. This lack of awareness and discipline also shows up in his shocking rate of penalties.
According to CFB Film Room, Stanley led the Notre Dame offensive line with 11 penalties in 2015—not the type of on-field leadership you would expect from a third-year starter at left tackle.
Stanley is a first-round lock, but a team snagging him in the top 10 may be disappointed with the immediate results.
Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz generated as much buzz as any prospect at the Senior Bowl, as those in attendance raved about his physical tools.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller was among those quick to point out Wentz's cannon.
While his arm strength and other physical tools are certainly intriguing, there's still an awful lot we don't know about Wentz as a quarterback.
He finished his career at North Dakota State with 612 pass attempts—for comparison, Jared Goff attempted 1,568 in three years at California.
Maybe Wentz will work out, but he's a project. The limited film he's put together is impressive, and he clearly has the baseline tools to play in the league. But there's still a lot we don't know about his ability to produce against elite competition.
He should not be drafted with any expectation of production in 2016, but unfortunately we're in an era where fans expect immediate results.