The NFL Draft is a crapshoot. Every year scouts and analysts alike pretend to know what they’re talking about when in reality, drafting the right player proves to be as inaccurate of a science as a Tim Tebow pass. Yes…THAT inaccurate.
All kidding aside there are of course some time where the “experts” get it right. However, for every Peyton Manning there’s a Jamarcus Russell. For every late round pick that fizzles out of the NFL after a few years, there’s a Tom Brady. For the sake of this article, I’m going to pretend to be an expert.
From the overrated to the unheralded, here are my picks for the biggest potential bust and sleeper candidates in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Bust: QB DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame)
DeShone Kizer looks like a quarterback. He has the size, at 6’4” 234 lbs., which makes draft scouts go wild, has one of best arms in the draft, and has the ability to make a plethora of highlight reel plays, but there’s just one problem. Well, there are a few problems but the one that seems to be his biggest detraction is his accuracy.
His completion percentage last season was a lowly 58.7% which grades out lower than other prospects such as Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Davis Webb, Nathan Peterman, Brad Kaaya, Joshua Dobbs…you get my point. He has trouble throwing into tight windows and those windows will only get smaller once he reaches the next level.
This certainly isn’t his only drawback however. Kizer has trouble reading defenses which again will only get tougher as he hits the NFL. He has a tendency to get locked on to a receiver and has proven incapable of checking down to secondary reads which results in forced passes and turnovers.
He may look like the prototypical quarterback before the ball is snapped, but once he drops back in the pocket opinions tend to change a little. Poor footwork leads to many off-balance passes and when the pressure gets there, Kizer has a tendency to make poor decisions that leave scouts scratching their heads.
In the following clip, Kizer is seen rolling out of the pocket only to force the ball to a covered receiver as he airmails the pass in the face of pressure.
It’s that kind of decision making that could make his transition to the pros a very shaky one. Having good size, a strong arm, and being an effective runner in college may have rocketed him up draft boards, but they may not stop him from becoming a huge draft bust when all is set and done.
Sleeper: CB Ahkello Witherspoon (Colorado)
Time for some much needed optimism. One of my favorite prospects in this upcoming draft is a man who may have been overshadowed in a surprisingly excellent Colorado secondary behind teammate Chidobe Awuzie (who I’m also pretty high on), Ahkello Witherspoon.
They say “the numbers don’t lie” and with this kid two numbers is all you have to know: 6’3” and 4.45. I like tall cornerbacks. I like fast cornerbacks. I love tall AND fast cornerbacks. Witherspoon is the ultimate blend of speed and size that leave many wondering why you aren’t likely to hear his name on Day 1.
If numbers are your thing then I’ll throw a couple more at you. In 2016, Witherspoon ranked 2nd in passes defended with 20 and recorded a completion percentage against of a mere 26.5%. At Colorado he played a lot of press man coverage, but due to his size and length I see him more as a prototypical “Cover 3” with a little more speed than usual.
His past as a multi-sport athlete has helped to refine his skills as his background in baseball has improved his hand-eye coordination and developed his ball skills while his previous ventures in the world of soccer have helped his footwork, backpedaling in particular, and his overall quickness.
The one knock against Witherspoon comes with his physicality. He is an almost unwilling tackler and is extremely inconsistent when it comes to delivering hits in the open field. He shies away from potential contact, but a lot of this could be blamed on his skinny frame.
If he bulks up in the pros and learns to become a more consistent tackler, he could prove to become a dangerous outside corner and maybe…just maybe, the steal of the entire draft.
Bust: OLB Tim Williams (Alabama)
With an abundance of pass rush depth in this year’s draft it almost seems outright absurd that a player such as Tim Williams is still so highly touted, but I suppose that shows just how greatly valued a player who could get to the quarterback is in the NFL.
With this prospect there are more “red flags” than are flown at the United Nations, nevertheless let’s begin with the positives.
When at his best, Williams is one of the most prolific and explosive edge rushers in this entire class. He may be slightly undersized, but he more than makes up for that with his quickness and explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. Williams has the ability to dip and duck under opposing offensive tackles and contorts his body in enough ways to be able to provide pressure when combined with his initial burst. This may be a part of the reason that he is still held in such a high regard, that and he played for Alabama’s defense.
Then again, this might be a part of the problem. Since he played for such a skilled university, his playing time was limited and he only started two games this past season while being used strictly as a situational pass rusher. Alabama’s scheme limited his ability to defend against the run as well as drop back in coverage so any team looking for him to become a three-down player would have a lot of work ahead of them in that department.
But it certainly isn’t only his on the field detractions that scare teams away from the former 4 star recruit. Williams’ indiscretions off the gridiron include multiple failed drug tests during his tenure in Tuscaloosa and an arrest for carrying a pistol without a permit. His effort has also been called into question on multiple occasions with many insisting that he takes plays off and doesn’t take the game seriously at times.
In terms of ability, Williams has the potential to have a long and prosperous career in the NFL. Every NFL team always has room for a situational pass rusher and Williams’ combinations of explosiveness and speed provide him with the tools necessary to succeed. It will all depend on what team is willing to roll the dice and take a chance on a player who could become known as just another draft bust.
Sleeper: QB Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee)
For those who are not familiar with Joshua Dobbs it’s time to be enlightened. The 22-year old QB is about a month away from graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering.
That is legitimate, genuine rocket science.
So not only is the 6’3” 216 lb. Dobbs athletically gifted, he also happens to be a real life rocket scientist. Although picking up NFL playbooks and schemes prove to be a problem to numerous young signal-callers coming out of college, that should be considered light work to what this young man studied during his time in Tennessee. Praised for his intelligence both on and off the field, Dobbs has shown the ability to read defenses effectively and make appropriate decision making in the face of pressure.
But let’s stop talking about his brain and move on to another body part: his arm. Dobbs has one of the strongest arms out of every prospect coming out this year and could very well have the most accurate deep-ball in the entire draft class.
While at Tennessee, the 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year recorded a 47.7 completion percentage and threw for 14 touchdowns on passes of 21 yards or more. That is a staggeringly high completion rate on mid-range and deep-ball passes, one that unquestionably puts him at the top of the list in that category.
Dobbs also managed to display his athleticism as he put on a show at the NFL combine. His 4.64 40-yard dash was good enough for second among all quarterbacks while he placed in the top three in both the vertical and broad jumps and topped all quarterbacks in the 3 cone drill.
And if you’re not really a numbers type of person, just watch this spin move.
Where he struggles however is in his footwork and balance which often negatively impacts his accuracy. Dobbs will frequently throw off balance passes which tend to hinder his accuracy and could affect his ability to hit passing windows consistently at the next level.
But this is all mechanical. There’s no perfect prospect, but one that displays high levels of intelligence, athleticism, and arm strength should definitely be on many team’s radars.
The comparisons to Dak Prescott may be a bit farfetched, but Dobbs may be able to take advantage of the so-called “Dak Effect” which has teams in search of that mid-round sleeper at quarterback and if teams play their cards right, they may in fact have just what they’re looking for.