The more I read about this draft and listen to people tell me what to think about this draft, the more I’m arriving at this conclusion: a few years from now when we go through the exercise of looking back on the names that will be called starting on April 25 (which inevitably happens with every draft, and often too early) the first round will either be littered with booms, or busts, and nothing in between.
Of course, busts surface in every draft class. A bust is defined by more than just the player’s talent and what he achieved. Perhaps more importantly, a bust is gauged by a player’s success — or lack thereof — in relation to his draft position. Most obvious example of this ever: JaMarcus Russell is widely viewed as the worst bust in draft history, and he still would have retained that title regardless of where he was selected in the first round. But had he been selected, say, 16th overall, the stigma wouldn’t have been nearly as strong.
There’s no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III or Sam Bradford or Cam Newton in this draft. But there could be a few JaMarcus Russells.
We’re almost a week away from the first round (!!!), which means we’ve arrived at the point where you’ll repeatedly hear people in the know voice concerns about that very phenomenon. Without an anchor, certainty is difficult to find.
The latest was Chip Kelly yesterday. The new Eagles head coach and former Oregon coach spoke some heady words when he met with the media following Tuesday’s offseason workouts. Now more than ever, there’s no guarantees a week before the draft, and that’s a scary thing for a rookie head coach who holds the fourth overall pick.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“I think the draft has depth. I don’t think, there’s not an Andrew Luck or an RG3, who you say, ‘That guy is going to be a 10-year all-pro.’ . . . [Luck] was as close as there was to a can’t-miss guy. I don’t see that type of guy in this draft, at any position, to be honest with you.”
Fair enough, but this next part is what’s truly troubling for Kelly, and any other head coach or general manager who really want to totally screw up their top ten pick.
“If you look at the top five or six players in the draft, they weren’t the top high school players five years ago. Dion Jordan’s one of the top players out there, and we were smart enough at Oregon to recruit him as a wide receiver. He’s going to play outside linebacker or defensive end in the NFL.
“Lane Johnson was a high school quarterback, and now he’s a top pick. The list goes on and on. Ziggy Ansah was playing basketball. He went to BYU to play basketball, and now he might be a top 10 pick. It varies. I don’t know. I think there are some quality players in this draft, and that’s our job in this draft. But I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination there’s slam dunks.”
Freakish but very raw athleticism among front line players on either side of the ball could be found in abundance in the top 10 this year, and Anash is the most common example. But Sharrif Floyd, a hybrid defensive lineman, is up there too, as despite his explosiveness, it’s sometimes been difficult to determine exactly how he’ll be best utilized at the next level.
There’s even questions that linger around a seemingly more secure prospect in Tavon Austin. Can he survive at his size? Maybe and probably, but even if a general manager has heavy doubts, Austin’s upside will be far too attractive. When a blind eye is turned to caution because potential is overwhelming, that’s how the first-round disappointment/bust sausage is made.