There’s an inherent risk when anyone becomes a millionaire especially a 20-something-year-old football player set to live out his dream to play in the NFL. However, on the field there are “safer” bets that some organizations make a point to build the core of their roster around and on the other hand there are the high risk – high reward prospects that could pay huge dividends or completely blow up in your face as a talent evaluator. We call these so-called “rolls of the dice” Risky Business.
Carson Wentz – The 2016 NFL Draft “Golden Boy” Award goes to….Carson Wentz. It happens every draft season, a relatively unknown quarterback moves up the ranks as the “IT” prospect, one evaluator talks him up and the rest of the world follows. I get it, there is a lot to like about Wentz as I’m a pro style type of guy who prefers my college quarterback to play from under center (or at least have it in their repertoire). Wentz has legitimate NFL size at 6’5 237 and is able to diagnose defenses and read the entire field. So why is Wentz one of the more risky players in the 2016 Draft? His hype doesn’t match up with what I see on the field. When pressured, Wentz’s foot work is erratic at times causing him to force inaccurate passes down the field. He often throw balls in very tight windows which is fine for FCS football but in the NFL those passes end up in the hands of the opposition. And I can’t leave out the elephant in the room, the lack of competition he faced at North Dakota State. Of course there have been previous small school QBs like Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, and Tony Romo who’ve had exceptional careers, but none of those guys were projected as a number 1 draft pick. Well, what about Steve McNair who went number 3 in the 1995 draft, McNair unlike Wentz had superior production including an historic 53 touchdown passes his senior year which brings me to my next point. Wentz did not dominate lesser competition playing for a team who has won 5 consecutive FCS championships (3 before he became a starter). I’m not saying Wentz will be a bust but he is a risky selection for any team that wants to hand the keys over to him.
A’Shawn Robinson – Every time I watch the tape on Robinson I always go back to watching his teammate Jarran Reed. Reed flashes with more consistency and has a higher motor than the once highly recruited Robinson. The reason why A’Shawn will get selected first will be a result of teams assuming he gets to the quarterback and his physically imposing frame. But the tape suggests otherwise. I see a player who doesn’t get to the quarterback with any consistency. Robinson is an upright player lacking bend which at times results in him being defeated as soon as the play starts. The 2016 Draft Class has a deep interior defensive line position group and frankly Robinson’s name will be called before a lot of players I have higher on my draft board.
Paxton Lynch – You know the name of the game, quarterbacks will always be over drafted as teams are looking for the next franchise quarterback. Although I believe Lynch can become a serviceable QB at the next level, he will definitely get drafted early on to the point he will have to come in immediately and make a difference on a roster. If that is the case, Lynch will struggle out of the gate as he has some developing to do before becoming a viable starter in my opinion. The transition from a spread shotgun simple read offense to a more traditional pro style offense will be his biggest hurdle but if given the time to learn, Lynch’s physical attributes coupled with his athleticism can make him a very fine dual threat quarterback. With all that being said, risk will always come with these type of quarterbacks like a Vince Young, Robert Griffin, and Colin Kaepernick.
Robert Nkemdiche – The former Ole Miss five star consensus number 1 recruit is the personification of a risk/reward player in the 2016 NFL Draft. Nkemdiche is a physical specimen who can dominate games with his sheer athleticism, size, and speed. Problem is…he didn’t flash his dominance for large stretches of plays and often time games in his collegiate career. Despite his pro ready skill-set Nkemdiche’s production and game tape leaves a lot to be desired. In his 3 years at Ole Miss Nkemdiche only tallied 6.5 career sacks which in inexcusable for a player with his level of talent. If Nkemdiche wasn’t risky enough with questions about his motor and love for the game, his documented off the field transgressions coupled with his unpredictable personality will have teams hesitant about investing a first round draft pick for the uber talented defensive tackle. In my opinion loving football and working at your craft is essential and at times more important than your actual talent level. I had the same questions of Jadaveon Clowney when he was selected with the number 1 pick that I have with Nkemdiche, but the difference is Clowney had great tape and production in college. If Nkemdiche proves he is dedicated to the game and willing to improve some of his pass rushing techniques the sky is the limit as he can be one of the most dominant 3 technique defensive tackles in football. Put on the tape against Alabama this past season and you will see why some team will ultimately risk an early round draft pick for a huge potential reward.
Cardale Jones – Yet another quarterback makes the list for the riskiest players in the 2016 NFL Draft. Unlike the first two prospects (Wentz and Lynch), Jones won’t be selected in the first round due to his lack of experience and his label as a developmental project player. Although he is a better talent than Logan Thomas out of Virginia Tech who was drafted as a developmental quarterback in the fourth round of the 2014 draft (released by Arizona in 2015), it will be very risky for a team to select Jones within the first 3 rounds of the NFL draft when there will be much better players on the board than can help your team immediately. The big bodied 6’5 250 pound quarterback gained notoriety leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to a national championship title dominating opponents with his size, power, and arm strength. The caveat to that of course is Jones was an unknown third string quarterback who got his opportunity only because of injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. In the 2015 season Jones was named the starter but was eventually benched for Barrett, adding more salt into Jones’ platform to becoming an NFL caliber quarterback. In my opinion Jones will struggle at the next level due to his inconsistent accuracy and inability to read coverages and get through his progressions causing him to tuck and run the football entirely too much. Some team will overdraft Jones with the belief that they can coach him up and make him the next best dual threat quarterback in the league but the price they will pay for him is risky business.
T.J. Green – You got to admit that Green could be the player that made himself the most money throughout the draft process. A relatively unknown 2 star recruit who received two scholarship offers that debuted as a receiver in his freshman season and only started one season at safety in Clemson is now being considered a potential 1st round draft pick. Before the scouting combine Green was considered a later round prospect, then he ran a 4.34 in Indianapolis while displaying fluid hips and ball skills in his individual drills shooting him up draft boards. A later round guy excelling at the combine moving up to the middle rounds makes absolute sense as Green’s potential, speed, and size (6’2 210) makes him an enticing prospect for defensive back needy teams in a league that is pass happy. But it doesn’t stop there as word around NFL circles is that there is a possibility of moving Green to corner which would in turn move him up the board to a potential first round guy. I get it, I get it, teams are trying to find the next Richard Sherman, a converted receiver with great ball skills that has length and athleticism to cover. Although I like the talent that Green possess, I just don’t agree with the notion of spending a first round pick on a player that has moved positions multiple times, a one year starter and is completely raw. I was all for selecting him as early as the late second round/early third but a first round guy is going a little bit too far and is as risky as it gets.