Richner: Draft Busts

Last Updated: 2/25/2016 7:35 PM ET
Before, during and immediately following the NFL Draft, every first round pick is given praise and every team is lauded by the media for selecting the next X-time Pro Bowler. NFL Teams will repeat the message that their new star player will have a long and established career for their new team. The fact is that most first rounders are a coin flip with a 50/50 chance of being a competitive starter in the first three years. According to the NFL Communication website, the average career length is about 3.5 years.

Blaine Gabbert was supposed to be the cornerstone for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Danny Watkins was a long term solution to the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line woes. Jonathan Baldwin was supposed to help alleviate some pressure from Dwayne Bowe and create a formidable one-two punch for the Chiefs. Gabe Carimi was quickly shipped off by the Bears to Tampa Bay last season. These are perfect examples of players who received great praise on draft night yet after three quick years (or less) are no longer with their original teams.

In just two short seasons a handful of former first rounder selection from the 2013 NFL Draft have yet to live up to their lofty expectations. Players such as Dion Jordan (Miami Dolphins), Kenny Vaccaro (New Orleans Saints), Bjoern Werner (Indianapolis Colts), and Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota Vikings) highlight the list of players who have yet to achieve their full potential.

While one of these players may eventually develop into a top caliber performer, it is far more likely one of these players will be cut from their team by this time next year.

Below are four players that have appeared on a number of mock drafts as possible first or early second-round draft picks, but that I believe have the highest likelihood of becoming draft busts. These players were selected based on a statistical evaluation of their college stats, measurables and comparisons with other elite players in their position group.

Arik Armstead (DE/DT, Oregon): A former two sport athlete at the University of Oregon, Armstead was a nationally recruited football and basketball player. At 6'7” and 292 pounds, he moves like a power forward and is one of the more athletic defensive linemen in college football.

With all the talk about Armstead being an incredible athlete, he still has a ways to go to prove that he is an NFL caliber defensive lineman. In 2013 he registered 15 tackles in 13 games, he quit the basketball team to focus solely on football in 2014.

Even with his focus now directly on football, his level of play didn't improve much. He finished 2014 with 35.5 tackles, 5.5 TFL, and 2.5 sacks. One stat missing from his resume this past season was pass breakups. For a player with his size and length he should have at least a half dozen pass breakups in a season. For his career, he only registered two pass breakups in 39 career games.

Against Michigan State this past season, Armstead had five tackles, one sack and one QB pressure. His snap-to-sack time was 3.97 seconds. On his lone QB pressure, he was able to force the quarterback outside the pocket in 1.48 seconds.

Armstead is routinely the last defensive lineman out of his stance. While his he has the top end speed to beat his man, his opponent is two or three steps ahead of him and is already set in their stance. Once he engages with his opponent, he will only use his hands and has not shown much outside speed rush or inside rush technique. He just tries to outmuscle his opponent versus beating them with technique and skill.

The potential might be there, but the talent and skill levels need a lot of work. He's a raw talent and someone who could be molded into a dominant player, but teams rarely have the time and resources to work on and slowly develop first round selections.

Armstead, like former Oregon teammate Dion Jordan, has all the measurables without the production to back it up. Armstead had a total of 17.5 impact plays, an average of .45 impact plays per game. Teams would be wise to avoid the risk and let him drop into later rounds before selecting him in the upcoming draft.

Carl Davis (DT, Iowa): With an imposing stature, Iowa Hawkeyes starting defensive tackle Carl Davis has a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism that have NFL scouts intrigued about his potential. Davis was one of the key leaders on a defense that ranked 22st in the country, allowing just 344 YPG. At 6'5” and 320 pounds, Davis' size allows him to anchor the defensive line as he quickly closes gaps and is able to take on multiple blockers.

A foundation for the defense, Davis allows those around him to roam free and make plays on the ball. With a quick first step, he has shown albeit inconsistently, the overall ability to get into the backfield and clog up the interior running lanes.

More often than not Davis, rather than staying small and bending his knees, stands tall and gets pushed up, which reduces his power and leverage. Thus, rendering him ineffective on most plays. His level of play is inconsistent, routinely taking plays off and not showing maximum effort during long stretches.

Amongst defensive tackles in this draft class Davis is ranked 15th overall. His overall lack of consistent production shows up with only 22 career impact plays in 44 career games played, an average of .5 impact plays per game.

Few players possess his size, length, and power and Davis will most likely be a second round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.

With some more time to work on technique and experience, Davis could develop into a functional starter in the NFL, but it is unlikely he will ever become a Pro Bowl caliber player.

Benardrick McKinney (ILB, Mississippi State): The Mississippi State Bulldogs have become one the nation's toughest, and most competitive teams in the country these past few seasons. With a rise of young talented players on both sides of the ball, the future looks bright for the Bulldogs.

The defense for Mississippi State while flushed with youth and athleticism had its problems last season. They finished 12th in overall defense in their conference, surrendering 424 YPG, allowing 17 rushing TD's, and giving up 4.2 rushing yards per carry.

It is easy to see why scouts have become enamored with McKinney, his measurables stand out even for an inside linebacker. At 6'4” and 246 pounds, he certainly looks the part of a possible first round caliber prospect. McKinney lacks the consistent production and playmaking ability that usually go hand in hand with future Pro Bowl players at his position.

The top tier NFL middle linebackers such as Luke Kuechl, and Bobby Wagner, are three down linebackers who can do a bit of everything and are leaders on defense. Both these players can help shut down opponents rushing attack, and are excellent in dropping into coverage.

McKinney has repeatedly shown to be a liability in coverage and opponents routinely attacked his weakness in covering one-on-one. On film he missed tackles in the open field, allowing for significant yards after the catch and yards after contact these past two seasons.

A downhill type of player, McKinney is at his best when he can read and react. As a pass rusher, he will try to run through a blocker versus around them. This is also the case in terms of his tackling ability; he is looking to make the big hit with his shoulder versus wrapping up the ball carrier.

McKinney had a difficult time slipping past his blockers, with his size and strength he should have little issues shedding blocks.
While the measurables are first round caliber, his level of play is that of a fourth or fifth rounder who needs to work on his technique and refine his skill set. While only a redshirt junior, McKinney would have been better served returning to school and working on improving all aspects of his game.

David Cobb (RB, Minnesota): The stocky power back for the Golden Gophers has started to rise up the draft boards with his early season performance so far this year. At 5'11” and 229 pounds, Cobb is a load to take down and it usually takes two or three defenders to bring him down. He has a physical, punishing running style that some scouts have begun to compare with a young Marshawn Lynch.

As one of college football's top rushers last season, Cobb has gained 1,629 rushing yards on 315 carries, with an average of 5.2 YPC, and 13 TDs. He is more suited to run in between the tackles, though he has good initial quickness and can get to the corner, but in the NFL this will become more difficult.

Some running backs are always looking to hit the home run, they like to bounce it outside if there isn't anything up the middle. Cobb is one of these backs and unfortunately he doesn't have the speed to bounce it outside against NFL linebackers. They will shut down his ability to bounce it outside and make him one-dimensional

Ball security is going to be a major issue with Cobb as scouts begin to pour over his film. He has 10 career fumbles, including four that came during the 2014 season. He had a fumble rate of 1.8%, while not the highest in the draft, it is definitely a red flag for a player who is expected to be a workhorse back in the NFL.

Most scouts consider Cobb as a back that gets stronger as the game reaches the third and fourth quarter. Cobb averaged 4.9 YPC in the first half, and 5.4 YPC in the second half, an improvement of .5 YPC between the two halves. This slight improvement puts him in the middle of the pack when compared to other running backs in this draft class. He is closer to T.J. Yeldon and Mike Davis, two backs that are considered likely day three selections.

While he might not be an every-down back in the NFL, Cobb has the makings of a solid backup who is capable of picking up a blitz and is a capable receiver coming out of the backfield. It would be wise for NFL teams to realize his limitations as a ball carrier and as someone who can be a potential liability with the ball in his hands. It would be wise for teams to considered waiting until the later rounds of day three before selecting Cobb.

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