The 2012 NFL Draft is barely a week old. Fans and pundits have had some time to digest and super impose a player's scouting report onto the NFL gridiron for the kind of irrational exuberance not seen since that whole recession thing happened, or at least since the last NFL Draft. Everyone looks like a future star right now, but the harsh reality is that a fair number of these players will be gone and forgotten seemingly overnight, remembered only because they went bust.
Before jumping into a very premature look at which players have the potential to go belly up, allow me to establish a pair of ground rules. I'm limiting "busts" to players picked in the 1st round. Teams need those players to be regular contributors, above average players. It leaves a big hole in the roster when a 1st round pick fails to reach that level. Second, these are players with the potential to bust. I'll read comments and walk through any hate mail I get here, but please remember the key word here is potential. This is not a guarantee.
Tannehill is an easy name to add to this list. Being a quarterback makes the bust factor that much higher given the player's responsibilities. Unlike other quarterback busts, Tannehill does not have the iffy character issues. He is, by all accounts a hard worker and a willing leader for his team. Nowhere was that more evident than his conversion from wide receiver to quarterback.
Yes, he converted from wide receiver to quarterback in the Aggies' spread offense. Tannehill made 19 college starts as a signal caller. That right there is what the kids like to call a red flag. Poor second-half performances and blown leads against Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Missouri last season all raise even more concerns.
Working in Tannehill's favor is that the Dolphins have no need to start him immediately. They can get by with Matt Moore or even the veteran David Garrard, if they have to. That will be especially important since Miami traded away its top receiver. Tannehill has the raw talent; can he put it together with a year as an understudy?
Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, Seattle Seahawks
Yes, I also put Irvin on the list of potential breakouts. That's the player he is, boom or bust. Had Irvin been a 2nd or 3rd round pick his rookie season would have been celebrated or ignored. As the 15th pick in the 1st round of the draft, anonymity is not on his side.
Irvin has the skills as a pass rusher, though that's about all at this point. Seattle should take note of how San Francisco handled Aldon Smith, except for Smith being a much better player. Irvin also has off-field concerns. I tend to think those are overstated, but it is fair to ask how players handle the adjustment to life in professional football.
Quiton Coples, DE, New York Jets
Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's draft wizard, has been leery of Coples for some time. The problem with Coples is the combination of natural talent and a questionable motor.
The UNC product lit it up at the Senior Bowl in January, following a hum drum season for the Tarheels. That raised a red flag for Mayock. Was he merely playing for a contract?
Working against Coples is his new home. Motor issues require a strong, disciplined environment, one with clear accountability and consequences. Rex Ryan's Jets make Lord of the Flies seem like a tropical island Utopia.
Poe did it all this spring, letting his natural athletic ability take over and wowing scouts and the media. Admittedly, it is impressive to see a 346 pound man run a faster 40 time than most of us could. It earned him the dreaded "workout warrior" label in some circles.
Poe never really stood out on tape. He never did much to stop offenses in Conference USA. That worries some. The key for the Chiefs and Poe is to extract his natural talent, to turn him into something more than a mediocre nose tackle in the NFL. Is Romeo up to the task?
The bust factor for quarterbacks is high by nature. It's a tough position. Weeden's maturity gives him a leg up over the typical quarterback coming from college to the pros. Age aside, he is coming from a spread offense to the NFL. That's not an easy adjustment, especially since the Browns will lean on him from the start of the season.
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur did well with Sam Bradford in 2010, his rookie year. Shurmur kept it simple, maddeningly simple, with a dink and dunk passing offense that guaranteed a high completion rate. That Rams team lacked receiving talent, much like this Browns team. Washington and Indianapolis were smart to bring in, or keep, some established receivers to aide their rookie signal callers.
Trent Richardson will help that offense tremendously, but Weeden will still have to make plays. Pat Shurmur's 2010 Rams team struggled to score point because they had a one-dimensional offense, built around Steven Jackson. It looks like a similar situation in Cleveland. Weeden turns 29 in October. The Browns can't really afford a lost year with him.
Expectations are working against Blackmon. He is not in the same tier or talent as A.J. Green and Julio Jones, last year's top receivers, but he was drafted with the fifth pick. Blackmon had a great college career working mostly hitch routes in Oklahoma State's spread offense against so-so competition.
His maturity levels were called into question prior to the draft. I tend to give players the benefit of the doubt on those matters, but it is worth keeping an eye on early in his career. Jacksonville's quarterback situation is the biggest threat to Blackmon's development. Blaine Gabbert is fighting the bust label himself. In order to succeed, Blackmon needs a quarterback that can get him the ball.
Blackmon's hands are good enough that it should prevent him from being a total flop, but will people be happy with a possession receiver taken with the fifth pick in the draft?
McClellin has the kind of speed and tenacity teams want in a pass rusher. Based on his raw skills alone, he should be fine in the NFL. So why is he on this list? Simple, the transition from 3-4 outside linebacker to a 4-3 defensive end, and vice versa, always stumps a few players. McClellin seems like the kind of player that can handle the switch, even if there is some transition time, but monitor the situation closely.