NFL Draft 2020: Who Are This Year's Biggest Bust Candidates?

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2020

NFL Draft 2020: Who Are This Year's Biggest Bust Candidates?

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    Although it's a harsh description, the bust label is often thrown around prematurely. For a multitude of reasons, some prospects don't live up to lofty expectations.

    Just like disappointments in life, NFL busts are players who don't measure up to preconceived outlooks. At times, a prospect going into the selection process may have a first- or second-round grade, but his traits or production doesn't align with that classification.

    While it's too early to definitively categorize a prospect as a bust, there are some indicators before a team drafts a player with high hopes placed on his shoulders from Day 1.

    We'll list five players and provide the warning signs based on collegiate production and skill set. In all cases, these prospects have been rated or mocked in spots that are potentially a round or two too early.

QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

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    The dual-threat quarterback may be in demand thanks to MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson and 2019 first-round pick Kyler Murray. Both showed promising signs this season—the former more than the latter.

    In a copycat league, teams will likely look for the next Jackson or Murray—even if that player is a Day 2 prospect.

    Jalen Hurts threw for 3,851 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 69.7 percent of his passes during the 2019 term, but he struggled against LSU in the Peach Bowl.

    He shouldn't feel ashamed about his performance against the eventual champions. However, he started the campaign on a strong note and noticeably faded down the stretch.

    In his last four collegiate games, Hurts recorded four touchdown passes and three interceptions. He completed fewer than 53 percent of his attempts in two of those outings. Even in his highlight plays, he would often complete shorter passes to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who racked up yards after the catch, as opposed to anticipatory deep throws through tight windows.

    According to TeamRankings, Hurts lost six of eight fumbles during the season, so ball security is a huge concern when he's on the run. Talent evaluators shouldn't put too much weight on his physical attributes, particularly flashy quickness and elusiveness as a ball-carrier.

    Hurts will probably run a 4.4-second 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine, but his low passing volume (340) in 2019 and tendency to give away possessions (fumbles) raise legitimate concerns. 

    Hurts' athleticism will generate intrigue, but as a quarterback talent, he isn't a solid Day 2 pick despite the early-round buzz connected to his name.

QB Jacob Eason, Washington

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    Staying on the subject of quarterbacks, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. listed Jacob Eason as the fourth-best prospect at the position. Let's pump the brakes on that ranking.

    As one NFL scout told ESPN's Dan Graziano, Eason has a lot of unknowns because of an inadequate number of starts on the collegiate level.

    "With him there's a lot of inexperience, and it's hard to evaluate quarterbacks if you don't see them go through situations more than once," the scout said before Eason declared for the draft. "If he comes out, there will be a limited amount of tape to evaluate him. But you can feel the arm strength and the athleticism."

    Eason's growth seems a bit fragmented. He started as a freshman at Georgia, suffered a knee injury, lost his starting job to Jake Fromm, transferred to Washington and started one season for the Pac-12 program before going pro.

    As a result, you won't see major growth or consistency in Eason's game from his 2016 term at Georgia to 2019 with Washington. As well, the passing numbers from his last collegiate campaign don't jump off the screen (3,132 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions).

TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame

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    Tight end is one of the weaker positions in the 2020 draft, which means a team may reach for a prospect to address that roster need. That's a bad idea with this group.

    Dane Brugler of The Athletic matched Cole Kmet with the Chicago Bears at No. 43 overall, which isn't a terrible spot for the Notre Dame product.

    In 2019, Kmet displayed his pass-catching skills, hauling in 43 receptions for 515 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers may help him draw interest in the first round, which is a mistake if those clubs expect early production.

    Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports and Jordan Reid of The Draft Network mocked Kmet to the New England Patriots at No. 23 to fill Rob Gronkowski's void. While the prospect matches the position of need, the projection doesn't fit.

    Before the 2019 season, Kmet logged 17 catches for 176 yards in 13 games. He may have benefited from another year in college. Because of his limited experience and production in a prominent role, the underclassman would have high bust potential as a first-rounder.

DL Raekwon Davis, Alabama

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    Teams may overvalue Raekwon Davis for two reasons. One, he's coming out of Alabama—an NFL prospect factory since Nick Saban took over the head-coaching position in 2007. Two, the 6'7", 312-pound defensive lineman had a strong sophomore campaign, logging 69 tackles, 10 for loss, 8.5 sacks and an interception.

    In recent seasons, interior defensive linemen have stepped to the forefront as pass-rushers, such as Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams), Chris Jones (Kansas City Chiefs) and Cameron Heyward (Pittsburgh Steelers).

    Davis could make an impact in that area, but teams should adjust expectations on him after two decent terms following an impressive second collegiate season. Over his last 26 outings, he's logged 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks—far from his numbers in 2017.

    In a recent mock, Draft Wire's Luke Easterling slotted Davis to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 28, which is a reasonable needs-based selection. Nevertheless, the Alabama product should be available in the second round after two average terms with minimal output as a pass-rusher.

CB A.J. Terrell, Clemson

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    A.J. Terrell had a rough outing in the College Football Playoff National Championship. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow took advantage of the matchup between the Clemson cornerback and Ja'Marr Chase, the 2019 Fred Biletnikoff Award winner.

    Of course, one game shouldn't skew your opinion of a player. Terrell had a solid year, logging 34 tackles, three pass breakups and two interceptions. However, after a subpar performance in a big game, it's important to look back at the regular-season tape to examine the flaws in his technique.

    At times in 2019, Terrell struggled to locate the football, which may partially explain his modest numbers in pass breakups over the last two terms (six in 28 games). That fault showed up in the title game.

    Against top-notch competition on the pro level, he will face elite wide receiver talent. If he's unable to make plays on the ball, expect to see more of the same lapses in coverage.

    To be clear, the title contest against LSU alone doesn't put Terrell in the potential bust category, but scouts shouldn't ignore the sight of his weakness in the bright lights. Brugler listed him as a second-rounder. Teams may want to see if he falls to the third.