As the college football season comes to an end, more draft sites are coming out with their draft rankings, mock draft and positional rankings. They are always a source of great debate, a chance for fans and other draft writers to examine them and debate them. After spending much of the season watching prospects and reading through rankings, there are plenty I agree with and some that I view differently. Here are my top-five overrated prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft.
5. Johnny Manziel Quarterback, Texas A&M
While he hasn’t officially declared for the 2014 NFL Draft, it’s a near certainty that Manziel will not return to Texas A&M and instead opt for the NFL. He is the most polarizing prospect in all of football, the player who people have ranging from a top-five talent to maybe not even being worth drafted. But as the season has drawn to a close, more NFL Draft writers are coming out with Manziel as a top-10 prospect and being taken in the top-10 of their mock drafts. Some have compared his situation to Russell Wilson but the truth is Wilson and Manziel aren’t the same.
I do believe Manziel has potential to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and mobile quarterbacks like Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill have helped him in that regard. But there are still a lot of issues that keep Manziel from being a first-round talent for me, let alone a top-10 selection. I do not question Manziel’s work ethic, just looking at the progression he made from the 2012 season to now, it’s clear he has made significant progress and you don’t get that without working hard every day in the offseason. I recognize his playmaking ability with his legs and improvements as a pocket passer, but he needs to be in an offense made specifically for him.
He needs a strong running game behind him and a wide receiver who has the ability to go up and get some of the wild throws he makes, like Mike Evans has done for him this year with the Aggies. Manziel’s mechanics still need work, he takes a lot of risks on throws he struggles to convert, and is already under an immense amount of scrutiny for being a Heisman winner and all of the off the field storylines that have taken place over the past two years. Adding on the pressure of being a top-10 selection with fans and the media immediately expecting you to be a star in addition to the things Manziel already needs to fix, which just isn’t worth spending a first-round pick on.
4. Loucheiz Purifoy - Cornerback, Florida
Athletes have a tendency to be drafted early in all sports, but even more so in the NFL Draft. When teams see a pure athlete with little experience and flashes of potential, they view the player as clay that they can hopefully mold into a star. As the NFL becomes more about offense thanks to the passing game and teams run more four or even five wide receiver sets, more teams are looking for athletic cornerbacks to match up with faster wide receivers.
Loucheiz Purifoy is one of those athletes, while he has starter at cornerback for the Florida Gators the reason many scouts and draft writers are attracted to him is because of his athleticism. Purifoy has the size at 6’0” and the athleticism but when watching his games he lacks discipline, his technique needs a lot of refining and many of his big plays come on special teams or once every few games when a gamble he makes finally pays off. I’ve seen him ranked by some draft writers as a first-round talent or in the top-five amongst his position. In reality he is the third best cornerback on his team, behind fellow junior Marcus Roberson and freshman Vernon Hargreaves III. He certainly has a future on special teams in the NFL and his issues can be fixed, but it would be a reach to spend a second-round pick on Purifoy.
3. Anthony Barr - Outside Linebacker, UCLA
Once again this all goes back to people falling in love with an athlete and convincing themselves that they can turn him into a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Every year there is the one physical specimen at outside linebacker who is freaky athletic and project as a top-five selection. Last year it was Dion Jordan and the Dolphins traded up to get him, this year it’s Barr.
There is a lot to like about Barr’s raw skill set, he has great size at 6’4”, outstanding athleticism and is still new to the position. There is plenty of upside with Barr and potential always sells, but investing a top-10 selection on a player with immense boom/bust potential isn’t smart. But I just don’t see the fascination with Barr, if he can’t beat the offensive tackle with speed he doesn’t have the strength, counter moves and always come high, getting pushed back by the lineman because of his high pad level. He shows flashes of brilliance as a speed rusher and does a nice job punching the ball out, but he has shown this year he is more flash than substance. I’m fine with a team limiting the risk and taking him at the end of the first round and still have him as a top-30 talent, but investing a top-10 pick in him would be a reach and an extremely risky selection.
2. Cyrus Kouandjio - Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Alabama has always been a go-to school to find top recruits and every year we see them turn out at least one top-10 selection. There will be plenty of talent rolling in this year to the 2014 NFL Draft class and linebacker C.J. Mosley has a chance to be drafted in the top 10. One other player who you will see in some top-10 rankings is Kouandjio and that’s something I just don’t get.
Kouandjio has shown plenty of physical tools to be a top-15 pick and has a lot of potential, but this year his inconsistency has been an absolute killer. There are so many problems wrong with him from a technique standpoint, he will show flashes in the running game of how powerful he can be but the instances are too far apart to warrant a high pick. Kouandjio’s hand placement is a problem, they end up high and not squared between the chest plates, instead they are up on the shoulder pads and at times he even gets away with putting his hands in the opponent’s face mask. Kouandjio also has slow feet, he doesn’t move quickly off the ball and really struggles against speed rushers on his outside shoulder because they get leverage to the outside and he is just too slow to get back in position. He has strength and size, but is still very raw and even with improved technique, looks more suited to play right tackle.
1. A.J. McCarron - Quarterback, Alabama
Another polarizing player from this year’s class is another quarterback, and McCarron is a prospect who really stirs the question about what makes an NFL quarterback and how much wins in college, teammates and coaching have to do with being a successful player in the NFL. Winning, confidence and decision-making are important factors in terms of scouting, but are those the most important traits to be a starting quarterback in the NFL?
When you talk to draft writers who believe McCarron can be successful in the NFL; confidence, leadership, poise and record are some of the major positives they will bring up. I will admit McCarron’s 36-3 record as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide is outstanding in the Southeastern Conference. McCarron has also been praised by scouts for his mental toughness and even cockiness, drawing comparisons to Tom Brady. But for all of those positive traits for McCarron the person, I don’t see the arm talent to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
It’s not just about his below average arm strength and struggling to make deep throws, forcing his wide receivers to slow down on their route and come back to the football. McCarron is praised for his low turnover ratio and decision-making. But you will see McCarron miss open wide receivers on medium throws to the outside that go out of bounds or underthrown when the wide receiver is wide open. McCarron also has benefited from playing behind top offensive line prospects and didn’t face heavy pressure often, but when he lost some of that composure and struggled to get away from the inside pressure. I believe McCarron has a chance to a good backup quarterback, someone who can play well in a pinch for his team when the starter goes down and keep the team afloat. But if I’m looking for a starting quarterback there are a lot of other prospects I will turn to and develop before I would let McCarron be a starter for my franchise.
While I don’t believe McCarron is a starting-caliber player in the NFL and not worth more than a fourth round pick, I want to be clear on one thing. Plenty of people I respect believe he is a first-round talent and will make a case why he is worth being the first quarterback selected. While I disagree with that, it is an opinion and just because I don’t agree, doesn’t make that person wrong or an idiot for having a different opinion than my own. That is what makes this all fun, discussing prospects with fellow draft lovers and hearing different opinions.