Thursday, April 23, 2015
Most overrated NFL draft prospects
By Mike Renner
Pro Football Focus
Every year, there are some players that fail to live up to their pre-draft hype. With Pro Football Focus now analyzing college games and producing performance stats based on every play, let's take a look at some of the players whose 2014 production doesn't match their draft stocks.
After compiling this list, it became obvious there was a theme in our selections. All the players included already look the part of a high-level NFL player in terms of size, speed, etc., but none performed even like high-level college players. If these guys can't consistently beat up on college opponents, what's going to change when they square off against NFL players that can match their athleticism?
While it's understandable that these players have first- or second-round grades based off of their potential, each provides teams considering selecting them early some cause for concern, because all are still a ways away from realizing that potential.
Click here for a list of the 10 most underrated prospects in this class.
1. Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
While most left the combine in awe of Waynes' speed, the discussion among PFF analysts centered on the fact that his 20-yard shuttle (4.39 seconds) was slower than his 40 time (4.31), a rare feat we couldn't recall seeing. That poor change-of-direction ability was evident on tape, and is a problem at a position where change of direction is vital.
Moreover, for someone who possessed the recovery speed to not have to worry about getting beat deep, Waynes was fairly average breaking on intermediate routes and had only three pass breakups on 59 targets. His mark for yards per coverage snap allowed was just about average, at 1.04, but he was exposed against the most talented passing team the Spartans faced all year (Oregon). In that game in Week 2, he yielded 113 yards on seven targets, including a touchdown.
2. Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
It seems as though many look at Armstead's measurables (6-foot-7, 292 pounds, 5.1-second 40-yard dash) and his position (3-4 defensive end) and can't foresee him becoming anything other than Calais Campbell. What has gotten overlooked for the most part, however, is that Campbell had as many sacks his sophomore season of college (10.5) as Armstead had his entire Oregon career.
Defensive line is one of the positions where physical freaks can easily dominate in college with little to no technique. That is why it's concerning that Armstead produced well outside the upper echelon of defensive linemen. The Oregon defensive end graded out as our No. 20 interior linemen against power five schools, and posted middling numbers in run-stop percentage (7.1) and pass-rushing productivity (6.0) for the season. Those are worrisome numbers for a potential top-15 pick.
3. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
This one comes with a caveat, as we think Scherff could possibly be a fantastic guard, it's just that if you plug him in at left tackle next season you'll be sorely disappointed. It's difficult to see the Outland Trophy winner ever being an effective pass protector on the edge. Scherff wasn't close to the top of our tackle rankings, even after facing a fairly weak slate of edge rushers in the Big Ten. The Iowa tackle's 96.2 pass-blocking efficiency was 62nd out of the 95 draft-eligible tackles.
People have fallen in love with Scherff's ability to plant a defender to the turf, but when asked to play in space on the edge, Scherff lacked the length and feet quickness to regularly engage defenders. His skill set translates much better to guard in the NFL, but even there he would be something of a question mark.
4. Bud Dupree, LB, Kentucky
After one of the most impressive performances in the history of the combine and a productive senior season, it is easy to see why Dupree has become a consensus first-rounder among draft analysts. However, when we dug deeper into his stats and film, there were some red flags that popped up.
The most meaningful one is that only three of his 36 pressures came against tackles with positive pass-blocking grades for the season. While he posted an overall respectable pass-rushing productivity mark of 9.8, that number dropped to 7.1 against SEC competition. A third of those pressures against SEC competition came versus Missouri's right tackle, Taylor Chappell, who had the second-worst pass-blocking grade in the country.
It's also worth noting that despite being 6-foot-4, 269 pounds, Dupree didn't generate a single pressure off of a bull rush last season. Those stats paint the picture of a player who feasted on weak competition and then put up impressive workout numbers, rather than a complete pass-rusher.
5. Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan
Funchess is a tweener who some project as a "move" tight end in the NFL. Our analysts saw a different story, as we thought he had neither the radical size advantage to out-muscle corners nor the quickness to consistently beat linebackers. To top it off, he showed very little promise as a run blocker.
This means Funchess is likely limited to a "big slot" role like Marques Colston. However, playing the slot requires a certain level of consistency that Funchess simply doesn't possess yet, and he'll have to improve in that area. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound receiver had an 8.8 percent drop rate (8.3 percent was the NCAA average) to go along with a handful of misses on attempted contested catches.
6. Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Goldman has many of the traits you look for in a nose tackle at the NFL level. He holds up well versus double-teams and has the strength to control most one-on-one blocks. He was by no means special in that regard, however, and was fairly poor at shedding and making the stop himself. In fact, his 5.3 run-stop percentage was well below average for this class.
Run defense aside, if you are taking a nose tackle in the first round, he better provide some complementary pass-rushing ability, and Goldman did not last season. The Florida State defensive lineman finished with a 5.5 in pass-rushing productivity, a figure far less than half that of the leader among D-linemen, Stanford's Henry Anderson (12.1).
7. Phillip Dorsett, WR, MiamiPhillip Dorsett stood out for his speed at the 2015 Senior Bowl.
Everyone loves speed at the receiver position because it is so hard to find, but consider the following: 38 receivers have run sub-4.4 40-yard dashes since the 2009 combine, and only six are now a top-two receiver on their respective teams. The main takeaway is that speed can help, but one needs to do so many other things well to be a complete receiver in the NFL.
With Dorsett, we didn't see much besides elite speed. He's undersized at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, and is still an unrefined route runner. Of his 67 targets last season, 40 came on deep routes (go, deep crosser, post and corner). He'll have to run a much more varied route tree at the next level. DeSean Jackson goes deep as often as anyone in the NFL, and even he was only targeted on downfield routes 37 percent of the time last season.
There's certainly a lot of potential here, but with all the other proven talent at receiver in this draft, taking Dorsett in the first round would be a substantial gamble.
8. Shaq Thompson, S/LB, Washington
People have been in love with Thompson's athleticism since he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school in Sacramento. However, all the athleticism in the world won't make up for poor instincts as a linebacker, and Thompson has yet to show he can make the necessary reads for the position. His 7.3 run-stop percentage was 41st among 58 draft-eligible starting inside linebackers, and he was an overall ineffective player against the run, outside of forcing and recovering fumbles.
Thompson's skill set translates better to safety, as he was smooth in coverage and has nickelback experience, but it's hard to feel comfortable picking a player early for a position you've never seen him play.
9. P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
After watching all of Williams' plays this season, our analysts agreed that the most accurate description of him is "inconsistent." Inconsistency at cornerback in the NFL is synonymous with getting benched, as defensive coordinators won't put up with the types of highs and lows Williams experienced last season.
While the Florida State corner was aggressive and productive around the line of scrimmage, he gave up tons of ground on intermediate and deep routes when receivers got a hint of initial space. Williams actually graded out negatively in coverage, in no small part due to his silly habit of not wrapping up receivers after the catch. He missed 11 tackles in coverage last season, and his ratio of a miss on every 6.2 attempts was 79th out of 101 starters in the class.
10. Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
McKinney is a fantastic athlete whose size (6-foot-4, 246 pounds) and explosiveness (a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash, a 40.5-inch vertical leap) have him at or near the top of most inside linebacker rankings. The trouble is that all of our analysts who broke down his games agreed they wouldn't trust McKinney as anything more than a two-down linebacker. That still has value, but not early-round value.
McKinney's 0.81 yards per coverage snap was below the class average of 0.71, and he made a paltry five stops in coverage all season, 66th among inside linebackers (Eric Kendricks led, with 28). His biggest problem was bringing down receivers in space, as he had only seven solo tackles in coverage, compared to five missed tackles.