Risk defines each pick in an NFL draft.
Sometimes a team gets a Trent Richardson. Other times, it's a Jordan Howard.
Running back is an example of the downright unexpected happening. The transition to the pros isn't the hardest, and offensive fit isn't a major ordeal, which is what makes Richardson one of the bigger busts in recent history so perplexing.
A finer line surrounds other positions. Schematic fit, usage and talent around a rookie can decide whether he booms or busts. Coaching itself plays a major role, too.
A boom-or-bust prospect is just that—depending on seemingly countless variables, certain prospects will either put on a show at the pro level or fall off fast with little between the two extremes.
Here's a look at a few of the notable guys who fall under this classification after making the cut in an updated mock.
2017 Draft Order and Projections
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|3||Chicago Bears||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from Rams)||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|6||New York Jets||Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from Eagles)||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame|
|14||Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings)||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|15||Indianapolis Colts||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|17||Washington Redskins||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|20||Denver Broncos||Garett Bolles , OT, Utah|
|21||Detroit Lions||Takkarist McKinley, OLB/DE, UCLA|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State|
|23||New York Giants||Haason Reddick, LB, Temple|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA|
|25||Houston Texans||Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Kevin King, CB, Washington|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||David Njoku, TE, Miami|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida|
|32||New Orleans Saints (from Patriots)||Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut|
Projections for Boom-or-Bust Prospects
Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
Questioning a player's effort or motor is always shaky ground to stand on for those who weren't in the huddle with a guy or coaching him up.
Alas, such is one of the main stories around Michigan State's Malik McDowell. On paper, he has the upside to perhaps be the best defensive player to come out of this draft.
McDowell is 6'6" and 295 pounds with a scheme-independent skill set. That means he's one of those guys no coach should have a problem implementing. If they can't, they probably shouldn't be coaching at the pro level, as "fit" isn't a thing.
The only question is the motivation. Look at what an NFC scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein: "He has a chance to be a dominant player in our league. I mean dominant. It hasn't turned on for him all the way yet but if it does, he could be like Mario Williams. He's just a little lazy and I worry about whether he is going to be a self-starter."
Some scouts also panned McDowell's interviews at the combine, according to Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm. It sounds harsh, but it rings true. There are times on film where McDowell is simply another guy.
When McDowell is on, though, he's unstoppable. He can play on the edge or kick inside and has the power to stand up the running game. He lands with the Miami Dolphins in the above mock, a stable environment where he'll get to play alongside Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and others, perhaps helping him lean more toward boom than bust.
Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes II is the way to go.
Based on that description alone, it's clear Mahomes might have more upside than any other quarterback in the class.
It rings true on film. He's 6'2" and 225 pounds with a strong arm and has improved every year, which isn't what the majority of draft hopefuls can say. Numbers produced aren't really important as a scouting metric, but his completion percentage climbing each year and scoring double-digit rushing touchdowns in each of his final two years says a lot.
The biggest problem for Mahomes, other than coming from Texas Tech's passer-friendly scheme, is mechanics. They were a mess in college even though he put up solid numbers, so coaches won't necessarily look to iron out the issues. But they're something that could flare up at the wrong times at the pro level.
Pro Football Focus' conclusion summed up the good and bad on the nose:
His arm is as good as any quarterback in the NFL playing right now. The natural passing instincts as far as sliding and feeling pass-rushers in the pocket, to seeing in front of the throw and adjusting to the type of throw needed, is special. His lack of discipline in the pocket with footwork, bailing on clean pockets, and decision making is a big concern.
A developmental prospect like Mahomes will be attractive to the Houston Texans near the end of the first round.
It's a great fit, provided the Texans don't force him to start as a rookie. Head coach Bill O'Brien is a quarterback guru, and when he does eventually take the field, Mahomes will have guys like Lamar Miller, Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins to lean on—potentially helping him boom.
Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
This year's big safety who may or may not pan out at the pro level is Obi Melifonwu.
Make no mistake, Jabrill Peppers is the posterboy for boom-or-bust safeties this year, but his sheer lack of experience at the spot has him falling out of the first round in the above mock.
He measures at 6'4" and 224 pounds, yet blazed a 4.40 40-yard dash at the combine. The problem is coverage skills, as Melifonwu is better suited as a sideline-to-sideline enforcer near the line of scrimmage.
Make no mistake—this isn't a bad thing. Look at the comparison NFL.com's Bucky Brooks throws out there:
He has all of the physical tools that teams covet in an enforcer between the hashes and I can see him thriving in a Kam Chancellor-like role as a pro. Considering how the perennial Pro Bowl safety has made an impact in the Legion of Boom, Melifonwu should receive high marks for his long-term potential at the position.
Again, it all hinges on fit for a player like this. If a team in a pass-happy division drafts Melifonwu to play deep every down, forget it.
If a team like the New Orleans Saints in the mock above gobbles him up with an extra pick and plays him to his strengths, both parties win in a big way. In New Orleans, Melifonwu can provide a foundation building block while succeeding in his defined role.