Before you blink, the 2012 NFL Draft will be here. There are a million different takes on each NFL prospect. Some ask the question, how can so many experts have such differing opinions if the game film is the same? Different evaluators focus on different assets, some take skills at face value, some put too much on workouts and testing, and then there are the ones that make 90% of their evaluation game film solely.
I purposely block out all other opinions and try not to hear what any other talent evaluators think on prospects. This leaves you without a cushion and the comfort of being with the crowd. Doing this ensures that your opinion is based solely on what your eyes are telling you, instead of what person A, B, and C have collectively agreed on what they see.
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It seems that every year there are players drafted in the first round that don’t live up to their hype or draft billing. This usually happens when a guy has a great workout, looks the part, destroys people in one on one drills (instead of in-game action), has limited production, performs at a high level against weaker competition, etc. I don’t mind the difference in opinion. I actually enjoy the original debates that aren’t watered down or people repeating other’s words.
Fans that follow different draft evaluators are left wondering how these media scouts can be so off on some players. They don’t realize that behind the curtain 90% of the industry doesn’t watch their own game film. Sure, they watch some players but then they have other guys focus on certain regions, teams, conferences, small schools, etc. These guys that are being asked to do these tasks usually aren’t trained on how to study tape.
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So, they ask these interns to watch tape, see what other “respected” scouts are saying about those prospects, and then come to an opinion on a prospect and report back to the head of the company. Then the head of the company speaks on those prospects without ever studying the film himself or watching a single game or so. Some of these interns watch whatever they can get their hands on, including highlights, instead of actual game action. This can be extremely misleading, but, they have the popular opinion to fall back on. The fans at home see that they have the same opinion as bigger media scouts like Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper Jr, and Todd McShay and feel comfortable in their opinion.
Every prospect I comment on, I’ve watched at least 2-8 games on and form my own opinion without it being manipulated by twitter debates with other media scouts or a security blanket of checking to see what everyone else thinks about a guy I like or dislike. The common draft followers feel as if I don’t know what I’m doing because my opinion differs in many areas from everyone else. The question that they should really be concerned with is, how does 90% of the media draft evaluators have the prospects so similar before the combine and then they all maneuver their boards after the combine but yet, all their changes look the same? Could it be that they all saw the exact same thing before the combine from game film and then they all saw the exact same thing at the combine and after re-watching game film? Of course not. I miss on prospects every year. It’s not an exact science but my opinions are just that…my opinions. When I miss on a guy one year, I go back and study the next year on why I missed on that guy.
“Insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results.” I haven’t been doing this for 30 years. I’ve been evaluating prospects since 2003 and in the early years I made a lot of the same mistakes. Each year I get a little better at spotting the bad decisions / mistakes I’m made in years past. In the past few years, I’ve warned teams about drafting Vernon Gholston, Aaron Maybin, Jimmy Clausen, Blaine Gabbert to name a few. At the time and well, even now, people think I’m insane. This isn’t a business that people really go back and check to see who was right on calling out over hyped players. They just move on to the next year and continue to follow the popular opinion. This doesn’t deter me from still warning about players that could turn out to be “busts”. There are 5 guys that I want to talk about today, that I see could fall victim to being over drafted. This does not mean that these players can’t make it in the league. All 5 of these players could be good to great players but I’ll share each unique case below.
1. Dontari Poe - The athletic freak! When a 350 lb man moves with the ease of Poe, of course it’s going to draw attention. I was extremely impressed with his workout. All that should do is force you back to his tape. So, that’s what I did. I went back and watched the tape again and came away with the same opinion. Here’s a big, athletic guy that gets man handled by people half his size. I’ve seen Poe’s knees get buckled by a small school running back when he had all 350 pounds moving towards the quarterback. He loses way too often in one on ones. He’s not the force in the middle that he’s being made out to be. Do I think he’ll have a chance at the next level?
Absolutely…if he wasn’t drafted high in the draft. His expectations will be too high and will be expected to play great immediately. Poe could be successful if he was drafted in the 3rd round and went to an experienced defensive coordinator that knew how to develop his athleticism into a football player, but he will probably be drafted high in the first round and the fan base and coaches will put too much on him and he will be labeled a bust after year one. Then in a couple of years, he will hopefully catch on with a team that doesn’t have much invested in him and he won’t be in the spotlight and that’s when his development will finally start. I’ve seen this movie before.
2. Quinton Coples - This is a unique case. It’s hard to say he would be a bust. I’ll label him a possible bust because I don’t think he has the heart to live up to what he could become. He doesn’t lack talent. He lacks the will to turn that talent into a beast. Coples depends too much on what was given to him at birth and not enough on what he could give the game. If he got with a team / coach that had the energy to motivate daily and that could actually get 100% effort out of him, then he would be amazing.
The problem is, he quit on his team when the times got tough at UNC. He likes to say, that his past is his past and he’s looking forward but it doesn’t work that way. His past displays his character and work ethic. I would be afraid to give him an early first round payday, as I think he would become even lazier as a millionaire that lacks work ethic. Also, any team that drafts him as a right defensive end in a 4-3 is doing him and themselves a disservice. He would be best suited as a 34 DE, a 43 DT, or a 43 right defensive end. He’s naturally physical and does well winning at the line. He’s not going to blow past anybody but his physical stature will help him win.
3. Melvin Ingram - If I haven’t loss you yet, you will probably get upset with the last three players and really buy into me being a hack…unless you’ve watched the tape yourself. I love Ingram, but ONLY as a 43 defensive tackle. Ingram was impressive at the Senior Bowl and the Combine while doing linebacker drills and he destroyed some of the other top prospects in one on one drills while standing up and with his hand down coming off the edge. All of that’s great, if the NFL plans on changing the game to one defensive player taking on one offensive player and the quarterback just standing back there. But, because I don’t see that happening, I had to go back to the tape to see how he played coming off the edge. When Ingram stood up in college, he had absolutely 0 explosion at the snap and hardly made an impact.
When he came off the edge with his hand down, he still lacked explosion, speed, and frequently loss his balance while trying to get the edge. I haven’t even talked about his arms that led to him routinely being engulfed by over sized offensive tackles. How does Ingram live up to his draft selection? Easy, go to a team that drafts him as a 43 defensive tackle. He will need to add weight but all of the plays that analysts love from Ingram’s college film, came from the DT position. How good do I think he could become as a 3 technique in the NFL? I see Warren Sapp on his tape. He’s explosive and a mismatch waiting to happen if a team drafts him in that role. If they draft him as a 43 DE or a 34 OLB, he won’t ever live up to his pick / contract.
4. Ryan Tannehill - Let me start by saying that I love Tannehill’s film for the most part. I get excited about how great he can become and all of his upside. But, what people don’t understand about upside, is that it’s a nice way of saying that the kid hasn’t proven the ability to do it yet. We are all projecting that he will fix a lot of things and become great. There’s a huge risk involved in that. Tannehill does somethings better than most rookie quarterback prospects. The problem is that there are whispers that a team will draft him anywhere from the 4th pick in the draft to the 12 pick. If a team selects a quarterback that high, than he will usually start fairly early. Last year was an odd year as free agency came after the draft and the Titans had Matt Hasselbeck in place so Jake Locker didn’t need to start early on.
We all know that Tannehill had to play receiver at A&M before finally getting to play quarterback. That only allowed him one full season as a college signal caller. He’s still getting accustomed to the college game and now some team will want to throw him to the NFL wolves. If a team wants to draft Tannehill with a top 12 pick and allow him to develop behind the scenes for 2-3 years, then I would be all for it. But, it’s a win now league and the ownership and fan base won’t allow a possible top 5 pick to sit on the bench for longer than one year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was asked to start week one and he’s nowhere close for that. His best situation would be one that had him drafted towards the end of the first round, where a veteran was in place and it allowed him to develop to the NFL game for two years. Oddly, no one is questioning his 4th quarter decision making.
My biggest concern is how Ryan will handle the NFL pressure. He fell apart at the end of so many close games in college. Some players aren’t built to handle the pressure of a game being on their shoulders. It might sound crazy but Tannehill may only be another Mark Sanchez, with better tools. I wouldn’t fault any team for drafting Tannehill after the 20th pick in the draft but if he’s drafted in the top 10, his risk and what they would expect from him in 2012 would be too high for me.
5. Stephen Hill - The most puzzling guy in this draft. I want to love him and I can’t fault any fans for wanting their team to draft him. His size, speed, and hands are exciting. The possibility of what he could become would give you night terrors due to passing on him. But, if you need a receiver that’s a sure thing and one that can play right away, there are several other options that don’t come with the questions of Hill. I know and understand the triple option offense that Georgia Tech ran and how that slowed his production but there are more questions in that production that I have. In 2011, in 3 games vs. Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee, and UNC, Hill had 13 catches, 458 yards, and 4 touchdowns. The other 10 games against better comp he only had 15 catches, 362 yards and 1 touchdown. Hill didn’t have the explosion off the line that you would expect from a 4.3 guy and you rarely saw separation that didn’t come from the defense falling asleep from playing the run for 10 straight plays. Several times when the defense did fall asleep and blow an assignment, Hill would drop the ball in the open field with no one around him.
I mention that Hill is scary to pass on. He is probably one of the best blocking wide receivers to come out in years, due to being asked to block on 80%+ of the downs. He’s a huge target that showed the most natural hands at the combine. He may just need to develop and could become one of the top receivers in the NFL. I will second guess my opinion on Hill almost hourly. If he slides to the second round somehow, he’s definitely worth the risk. But, just remember he’s a risk and any team that uses a high first round pick on him may of had a bad 2011 season and only have a project WR to show for it.
The thing to remember with all of these players is that there is definitely a chance that each one of them contributes at the next level, if drafted to the right situation. This article is just to remind you that there will be several “can’t miss” prospects that will be huge misses if they go to the wrong system or a team uses him in the wrong way. Here’s where these guys could work but will probably not fall that far:
Dontari Poe: IF drafted late 2nd, early 3rd round – New York Giants - Would have Canty/Austin beside him and great rotation of DEs that would allow him to rely on athleticism instead of being big body space eater that consistency takes on 2 blockers.
Quinton Coples: IF drafted late 1st round – Pittsburgh Steelers – Coples could be Brett Keisel’s replacement and they would continue to add youth to their aging defense. Not to mention they would have Cameron Heyward opposite of Coples to maximize Casey Hampton’s ability until he retires.
Melvin Ingram: IF drafted early to mid 1st round - Chicago Bears - There’s several teams that could use Ingram as a havoc creator up the middle of the defense. The Bears have been looking for another pass rusher, Ingram would provide it from the inside. Being on the same line with Julius Peppers would only provide more mismatches for the Bears and Melvin could constantly force division rivals, Matt Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, and Christian Ponder out of their comfort level earlier.
Ryan Tannehill: IF drafted late 1st or early 2nd round - Buffalo Bills - The Bills have made a commitment to Ryan Fitzpatrick. He will be the signal caller for at least 2012 and maybe 2013. They’ll be able to win with Fitzpatrick but he’s not a special, franchise guy. The Bills have a young team that will compete with anyone this year. If they stick with Fitzpatrick for two years and then turn the team over to Tannehill, it will allow him time to get comfortable with the NFL speed, the team, and hopefully how to handle in-game pressure. Tannehill has all of the physical tools but he’s nowhere near ready currently.
Stephen Hill: IF drafted early 2nd round - Arizona Cardinals - The best receivers in the world spend their summers working out with Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is the most giving player, when it comes to his time and developing young receivers. If Hill was going to perfect his craft, being with Fitz year round, would be the quickest path to doing it. It doesn’t hurt that the Cardinals like big receivers and have a huge need for a compliment to Fitzgerald.