This year's NFL draft seems to have a good number of players who appear to look good on paper, but come into the draft with some concerns that could just as easily make them draft busts. Following on the heels of the erratic performance of Robert Griffin III, the less than consistent work performed by Eric Fisher and the deer in the headlights debut of Johnny Manziel, it can often seem like college football and the NFL are two compeletely different sports. Many sure-fire college prospects have wilted under the pressure of the speed, timing and mental aspects of the NFL game.
Every season the NFL serves up new slices of humble pie as new draft prospects come into the league failing to achieve the same level of success that they enjoyed in college. Seemingly simple things, like taking a direct snap from center, or being able to block players given a weight advantage of almost 100 pounds, are not so simple at the next level. Even for two of the top prospects of this year's draft, their success in the NFL is far from guaranteed. Marcus Mariota is a tremendous talent, but he will line up against 11 players who have similar speed and their own set of skills. Jameis Winston looks ready to play, but needs to prove he can throw into tighter windows with less time to stand in the pocket and scan the field. Both of these players are tremendous prospects, but that doesn't always translate into NFL success.
The following 20 players will all get drafted into the NFL. They all have the talent, size or physical attributes to become stars in the league, however, that doesn't mean they are immune from failure. On each and every play, there will be less time to think and even less time to react. Windows and running lanes will be smaller, opposing players will be faster or stronger and failure will come easily while success will take much more work to achieve. The draft will be the culmination of many dreams but once Sunday comes around, many of these dreams will inevitably be crushed.
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20 Grady Jarrett, DT - Clemson (6'1", 305 lbs)
Grady Jarrett was a three-time All-ACC selection at Clemson even though his teammate, Vic Beasley, still seemed to get more attention. Jarrett had 83 tackles, with 11 tackles for loss and two sacks as a junior, earning Clemson's co-Defensive Player of the Year honors. He has quick feet, is good at penetrating gaps, and is explosive off the line of scrimmage. Jarrett also has great leverage and strength, with the ability to knock opposing linemen backwards. He could end up being a lot like Michael Dean Perry, the former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle who had a similar frame and quick feet.
What scares most scouts is Jarrett's lack of length, particularly with his arms. His short arms might limit his productivity in making tackles and big plays when running backs hit his gap and he is still engaged. Jarrett is not much of a pass rusher and might struggle against the mammoth offensive lines in the NFL. If he gets drafted to a team that runs a 3-4 scheme, he might not be a good fit. However, if he is paired with a large run stuffing defensive tackle in a 4-3, he has a better chance of being a disruptive force.
19 Brett Hundley, QB - UCLA (6'3", 225 lbs)
Brett Hundley has great size, speed, and arm strength, making him one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft. In three seasons at UCLA, Hundley passed for 9,966 yards with 75 touchdowns, while also gaining 1,747 yards on the ground with 30 rushing touchdowns. He has all the tools to be an effective quarterback at the next level, including good football smarts and leadership qualities. He might be able to make all the NFL throws, but the big question is whether the speed of the game will make him hurry his throws and panic or take off and run on too many plays.
He will have to learn how to make his reads taking the ball from the center and will have less time to figure out where he wants to throw. If he can't handle that, he could struggle with accuracy and try to use his arm strength to force the ball into windows that will be much tighter than they were in college.
18 Devin Smith, WR - Ohio State (6'0", 196 lbs)
Devin Smith has been able to make some unbelievable catches for Ohio State during his collegiate career. His knack of making big plays was reflected in his 28.2 yards per reception average in 2014. Smith only had 33 receptions, but managed to make most of them count, with his gaudy average and the 12 touchdowns that he scored. Smith is fast, 4.42 second 40-yard dash, and powerful enough to break free from jams and stretch the field. Smith shows signs of having a little Odell Beckham Jr. in him.
Smith has proven that he can make big plays, but needs to be more disciplined in his route running, learning to make more precise cuts. He will need to have better timing with his quarterback in the NFL, and adjust to making more plays 5 or 10 yards down the field as opposed to leaning on his speed to create separation. Smith has raw talent and skills, but will need to be more of a tactician to work his way open in the NFL.
17 Jordan Phillips, DT - Oklahoma (6'5", 330 lbs)
Jordan Phillips is a large man who happens to be a terrific athlete for a man of his immense size. Phillips has great burst and speed for his size, and although he only ran a 5.17 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Draft Combine, he looks to have even better straight-line speed on the football field. Phillips managed to record 33 tackles, seven for loss, and two quarterback sacks in 2014 to earn 2nd-team All-Big 12 honors. Despite his size that draws double-teams and his quickness that allows him to make occasional plays, the red-shirt junior is still a little short on experience.
Phillips was a reserve in 2012 and played in only four games in 2013 after suffering a back injury. Most of his experience came in 2014 when he had a solid but not spectacular season. All the hype surrounding Phillips seems to be due to his terrific size, lower body strength, and above average quickness for his size. He will need to work on keeping bend in his knees and proper leverage for dealing with bigger and stronger offensive linemen at the next level.
16 Shaq Thompson, OLB - Washington (6'0", 228 lbs)
Shaq Thompson might not have the ideal NFL size for his position, but he has the motor, agility, and speed, to consistently make big plays. Thompson is good at diagnosing plays and avoiding blockers on his way to the ball carrier. He is also a very good open field tackler, managing 52 solo tackles in his 81 total tackles in 2014. Thompson is fast and agile, gaining 456 yards on 61 carries as a running back in 2014. He scored six touchdowns, with four of them coming on defense. Thompson is an exciting player, but where he will fit into an NFL scheme is the biggest question mark.
Thompson has enough speed to play strong safety, joining the ranks of Kam Chancellor and some of the other bigger athletes who currently play that same position. He is short and small for playing outside linebacker, and only has 3.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his three-year college career in the pass-friendly PAC-12 conference. It will also be harder for him to dodge the massive NFL offensive linemen, who are much more athletic than the linemen he faced in college. If he can bulk up and move to the inside, he might be the next London Fletcher with even more speed.
15 Phillip Dorsett, WR - Miami (5'10", 185 lbs)
Phillip Dorsett could scare any secondary with his blazing speed. He had the fastest 40-yard dash time at the Combine (4.33 seconds), and even included a better than average 37" vertical leap. Last season at Miami, Dorsett caught 36 passes for 871 yards and 10 touchowns, averaging a remarkable 24.2 yards per reception. Dorsett has the speed and quickness to get open and pick up yards after the catch in the short passing game. He is capable of breaking a few ankles at the next level and could be a lot like Percy Harvin if he ends up playing in the slot.
Dorsett suffered a partial tear of his MCL in 2013 and didn't play a down for the whole year. Although he appears to have not suffered any significant loss of speed, it remains to be seen how much confidence he will have making quick cuts and accelerating after the catch in the NFL. Since he is small in stature, he will also need to be able to absorb lots of contact from defensive backs who are much bigger and faster. He also doesn't have the best hands on the draft board and will need to run cleaner routes when he gets to the NFL. Dorsett is a terrific athlete who needs to work on all the details to complete the conversion from track athlete to complete receiver, but his speed is something special.
14 Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE - UCLA (6'3", 267 lbs)
Owamagbe Odighizuwa put up some impressive numbers at the NFL Draft Combine. He ran a 4.62 second 40-yard dash, had a 39" vertical leap, 25 reps of bench press, and broad jumped over 10 1/2 feet. He is a great athlete who had a productive season in 2014, registering 61 tackles, six sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, and five pass deflections. After missing the entire 2013 season due to a hip injury, Odighizuwa came back to earn second-team All-Pac 12 honors.
Odighizuwa appears to have come back to form from surgery on his right hip, but playing on the defensive line in the NFL will offer even more of a test. He has great quickness and speed, but will need to develop more pass rushing moves to consistently beat NFL tackles. He can be powerful and has a great burst to get past blockers on the outside, but he will need to learn to set up his moves.
13 Dorial Green-Beckham, WR - Oklahoma (6'5", 237 lbs)
Dorial Green-Beckham is pretty high on just about every draft board, thanks in large part to his impressive size and athleticism. Green-Beckham also caught 87 passes for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns in his two seasons at Missouri. What excites scouts, however, is his 4.49 second 40-yard dash speed and 10-foot broad jump. This athleticism, combined with his 237 pound body, is enough to make NFL scouts drool. Green-Beckham attacks defenders with aggression and goes after the ball with aggression as well. He could have the same impact in the NFL as Mike Evans.
Green-Beckham does come to the NFL with some baggage. He has had multiple off-field incidents and was even dismissed from the University of Missouri football team, having to transfer to Oklahoma where he didn't even play a game. He has maturity issues, character flaws, two arrests for marijuana possession and a rap sheet that will scare many scouts. If he can stay out of trouble, he has is very capable of being a special player.
12 Breshad Perriman, WR - UCF (6'2", 212 lbs)
Breshad Perriman is big and fast with all the physical tools an NFL team would want in a wide receiver. In workouts, Perriman ran a 4.26 second 40-yard dash and even cranked out 18 reps of bench press. He can stretch the field, averaging 19.5 yards per reception for his career, and can also make difficult catches anywhere on the field. He had a terrific 2014 season, catching 50 passes for 1,044 yards, nine touchdowns, and a 20.9 yard average per reception. He also seems to be able to establish great rapport with his quarterbacks, enabling him to help take advantage of any breakdowns in coverage that might arise on the football field.
The only real knock on Perriman is his relative lack of experience against elite competition. Questions remain whether he will be able to get open in the NFL and make the same kind of plays that he made in college at UCF. He needs to work on running more precise routes, and must prove that he has the quickness to get defensive backs leaning the wrong way when he makes his cuts. Like many college receivers, Perriman used his speed to get open compromising much of his technique.
11 D.J. Humphries, OT - Florida (6'5", 307 lbs)
D.J. Humphries might not be one of the most polished offensive tackles in the 2015 draft, but he does have two things NFL teams covet. Humphries can move, is extremely athletic, and has long arms. He also has big broad shoulders, is skinny in the middle, has plenty of bend in his knees, and terrific balance, to go along with his ability to move like a receiver or tight end. Humphries has plenty of talent to go along with his athletic body that could easily add more weight. He could end up being a lot like Joe Staley who was a track athlete in high school and came into the league with a similar frame.
On the other hand, Humphries would probably benefit from another year of development, especially when it comes to facing the speedy pass rushers in the NFL. With his slightly skinny frame, he might have some difficulty pushing defenders around at the next level. Humphries will need to learn to position his body better, in all phases of the game, in order to stop relying on athletic prowess alone, something most defenders also have. He also needs to prove that he can stay away from the injury bug that has hit him the last couple of seasons.
10 Andrus Peat, OT - Stanford (6'7", 315 lbs)
Andrus Peat is nothing short of a perfect physical specimen for playing offensive tackle in the NFL. He is long, carries most of his weight in his massive lower body, can move well forward and laterally, and has terrific balance. Peat is a force in the running game, and has the quick feet and long arms that enable him to handle speed rushers in the passing game. Peat started every game the last two years at left tackle, earning the Morris Trophy and All-American honors in 2014. He would seem like he has all the tools to become an All-Pro at the next level, but lingering questions still remain.
Stanford has a history of having its share of extremely athletic tackles that look good on paper but seem to be too nice for play in the trenches at the next level. Peat needs to prove he has that nasty disposition that will allow him to dominate at the next level. Johnathan Martin had all the athletic prowess necessary to become a great tackle in the NFL, however, his character was questioned in Miami. Despite all the fallout from the incident, it did expose the fact that a nasty disposition is a positive trait in such a violent sport.
9 Jake Fisher, OT - Oregon (6'6", 305 lbs)
Jake Fisher is easily one of the most athletic offensive tackles in the draft. He is long and lean and has the speed and quickness to get to the point of attack in a hurry. Fisher is capable of handling NFL speed rushers and could flourish in a zone blocking scheme or when pulling to the outside in the running game. He was an honorable mention All-Pac 12 selection the past two seasons, and has been very consistent. Fisher is a warrior, and his scrappy play only enhances his raw athletic talent. He doesn't give up on plays and will go out of his way to block more than one man or get down-field to make a big play even bigger. He plays a lot like Kyle Long who also came from Oregon and now plays guard for the Chicago Bears.
Fisher is long and lean, but lacks the mass to push people around for four quarters. Despite his athleticism, he sometimes lacks the quickness to move his feet and position his body better. In Oregon's high octane offense, he was able to impose his will on defenders who were more concerned with lining up properly before the ball was snapped. In the NFL, he will face many defenders with fresh legs and enough time to figure out a different way to attack him on every play.
8 Randy Gregory, DE - Nebraska (6'5", 235 lbs)
Randy Gregory has a terrific long and lean athletic frame with the speed and quickness to match. He is a classic speed rusher who knows how to use his legs and long arms to get around offensive tackles. Gregory ran a 4.64 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and backed that up with 24 reps of bench press to show above average strength for his position. In two seasons at Nebraska, Gregory tallied 17.5 sacks, and 25.5 tackles for loss, while also grabbing a pair interceptions and forcing two fumbles. Gregory has explosive quickness, knows how to extend his arms with power, and does not give up on plays. He has the body and passion to be like DeMarcus Ware.
Gregory might be an athletic marvel, but NFL tackles will force him to the inside to test his strength. He needs to bulk up to add some more thunder to his bull rush if he is unable to get to the edge. Gregory's size is more like a linebacker, yet he has little experience covering running backs or tight ends. Although he is a terrific athlete with good strength and an active motor, Gregory will need to react faster and play with more instincts that match his motor and passion.
7 Todd Gurley, RB - Georgia (6'1", 222 lbs)
Todd Gurley has the talent and tools to become the premier running back of the draft. Even though Gurley only played in six games last season for Georgia, he still gained 911 yards with 9 touchdowns and an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Gurley was a freshman All-American in 2012, when he gained 1,385 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. He has breakaway speed, great movement in his hips, and explosiveness that has attracted plenty of attention from NFL scouts. He also has good size and can punish defenders who are out of position. Gurley could be the next DeMarco Murray, coming into the league with a little more size and equally impressive speed.
The big question with Gurley is how he will play following his surgery for a torn ACL. He can still lower his pads and has terrific size and a solid running back frame, but it remains to be seen whether he will trust his knee enough to make the same cuts and run with the same balance he had at Georgia. Durability is a major concern, especially with the explosive way Gurley plays. If he losses a little of that tremendous speed, Gurley still has the compact frame, exploding through holes in much the same manner as Frank Gore, who also tore his ACL in college.
6 Malcom Brown, DT - Texas (6'2", 320 lbs)
Malcom Brown (not to be confused with his running back teammate Malcolm Brown) has been more than just an imposing figure on the University of Texas defensive line. Brown was a highly regarded 5-star recruit out of high school, rated as the second best defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals.com. He is big, but athletic, running a 4.8 second 40-yard dash out of high school. Brown can shift his body well and has impressive quickness laterally and off the ball. He can explode into the backfield, and has great vision and the persistence to get to any player who happens to have the ball. In 2014, Brown had 61 tackles and 6.5 sacks, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Brown has the tools and physical traits to become a fantastic player at the next level, but his power and strength will be tested in the NFL. Brown will need to be able to develop more technique, using his hands and arms more to get around better blockers. Brown will see plenty of double-teams and will need to use his hands and keep himself anchored in position in order to make plays while still being engaged in blocks.
5 Arik Armstead, DT/DE - Oregon (6'7", 292 lbs)
Arik Armstead has the size and length to be a very versatile player in the NFL. He is tall and relatively lean, and looks like the modern day version of Ted Hendricks. Armstead redshirted on the Oregon basketball team and has a solid 34" vertical leap. In 2014, he registered 46 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and had 2.5 sacks, despite being subjected to many chip blocks and double teams. Armstead improved each season at Oregon, going from an occasional starter to starting in all of the Duck's games in 2014. He quit playing basketball to concentrate on football and likely has a higher ceiling with more experience under his belt.
Armstead might be an intriguing prospect, but he comes with great risk. He is not particularly explosive, only running a 5.10 second 40-yard dash. He might have long arms and can use them well, but his strength and power could be negated at the next level due to leverage concerns. He has good size and athleticism to be an end in a 3-4 defense, but he is an adequate pass rusher to play the position in a traditional 4-3. He will need to work on his technique and develop more pass rushing skills to get to the quarterback in the NFL.
4 Brandon Scherff, OT - Iowa (6'5", 319 lbs)
Brandon Scherff has the prototypical size for an offensive tackle at the next level. He has tremendous upper body strength, has no problem driving defenders off the ball, and has remarkably quick feet for his hulking size. Scherff really came into his own in 2014, earning first-team All-Big 10 honors, unanimous All-American honors, and the 2014 Outland Trophy. He is a tough mauler who knows how to use his hands and can negate speed with his arm strength and power. Scherff has the size, strength and nasty disposition to be a lot like a slightly smaller version of Jason Peters.
Despite his ready for the NFL strength, Scherff has his work cut out for him to be able to handle the speed of NFL pass rushers. Although he has above average technique, Scherff often gets off the ball a little slow and needs to be quicker with his first step. His feet are quick, but his body can struggle to get in the right position due do his very still hips. He is far from fluid, and has been able to compensate by using his powerful hands and arms.
3 Ereck Flowers, OT - Miami (6'6", 330 lbs)
Ereck Flowers is an extremely large and powerful man. At the combine, Flowers powered his way to 37 reps on the bench press. He has the size, talent and nastiness to start in Week 1. Flowers started in all 24 games for the Hurricanes his last two seasons, earning second-team All-ACC honors in 2014. He has good quickness and balance, with wide shoulders and great length that allows him to cover plenty of ground to make up for his lack of elite NFL speed.
Flowers is coming off a season in which he had a minor knee surgery, forcing him to miss just one game. Although he played through any lingering pain, there is always concern when a player weighs over 300 pounds and has issues with speed and quickness. He is a mauler and will play on when the whistle tells him to stop, but he will face players who are much bigger, stronger and faster in the NFL. Flowers is not a tremendous athlete, but he knows how to use the tools that he has, making him a less risky choice if he's still on the board late in the 1st round.
2 Jameis Winston, QB - Florida State (6'4", 231 lbs)
There is plenty to like about Jameis Winston. He has the perfect NFL quarterback size, arm strength, and pocket presence, that make him the likely first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Winston is also a winner, good leader, and stays composed when the going gets tough. In two seasons at Florida State, Winston passed for 7,964 yards and 65 touchdowns in 27 games. It seems like Winston has very few flaws on the football field, even being equipped with football intelligence that is off the charts. Winston also played in a pro style offense and knows how to make plays taking snaps over center as well as from the confines of the pocket. He reads defenses well and goes through his progressions quickly, surprising many scouts with his ability to diagnose what defenses are trying to take away.
Whispers of JaMarcus Russell have filled the air, as many photos of a shirtless Winston have been posted all over social media. Winston is not a finely conditioned athlete, and might never be, but neither is Tom Brady. He has also had many off-field issues that apparently haven't affected his draft stock. From feeling entitled to free sodas, to walking out of the market with crab legs, to being the village idiot in a campus crowd, Winston's decision making has not been as keen off the football field. Maturity might cure all these issues and Winston has more desire to be great to compensate for his lack of desire in keeping in tip top shape.
1 Marcus Mariota, QB - Oregon (6'4", 222 lbs)
Marcus Mariota has great size and athleticism to become a special player at the next level. He can make all the NFL throws and uses his legs to get out of trouble when the pocket breaks down. Mariota is coming off a Heisman Trophy season where he passed for 4,454 yards with 42 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also rushed for 770 yards with 15 touchdowns. Mariota has nice touch to his passes and does a good job of leading receivers with his throws down the field. He doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but can throw into tight windows when his feet are set. What makes Mariota special is how he is able to make big plays when the pocket breaks down.
Mariota is a great kid, leader by example, and an athletically gifted football player, but his readiness for the NFL is the big question mark to his overall game. Can he take snaps under center? Will he be able to go through his progressions and not settle on line of scrimmage reads? He was the perfect quarterback for the Oregon offense, but playing in the NFL is almost a completely different game. Mariota has the talent and positive attitude to learn and develop into a great pro, but there will be more speed lining up on the other side of the ball in the NFL, and less time to make his reads. He can't make late throws or run the ball on every play in the Pros or he will likely have a short career. If he can adapt, he can become one of the most dangerous weapons the NFL has ever seen.
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