10 Biggest Draft Reaches
The Draft has come and gone and for the first time thanks to College Football Focus we had a clear picture of the kind of production prospects had to their name before it was handed to the podium. The NFL factors more in to their picks than college production, with athleticism, measurables and potential all part of their projection going forward, but it would be a mistake to look at a questionable level of college production and expect that to seamlessly reverse itself in the pros.
As PFF founder Neil Hornsby is fond of saying (or thieving from Bill Parcells…), “If they don’t bite as puppies, they probably won’t become biters”.
So let’s take a look at 10 players who were badly overdrafted based on the production they showed.
1. Shaq Thompson, LB, University of Washington
#25 Overall to Carolina
Thompson doesn’t have the worst grade we gave out for a draft pick, and he wasn’t the reach taken the highest in the first round, but the magnitude of this reach may be the biggest overall, especially when coupled with his potential fit in Carolina.
Thompson is the ultimate jack-of-all-trades player, right down to being a guy who played both sides of the ball in college. At linebacker he wasn’t poor at any one thing but most of his highlight reel surrounds recovering fumbles, which people use to claim he has a ‘nose for the football’. That kind of play is more luck than repeatable skill and the more important values to look at are his down-by-down grading, which saw him ranked 19th in the FBS among draft-eligible linebackers.
Add that to the fact his measurables were far from stellar and Carolina already has Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly entrenched at linebacker and you’re left with a player of suspect production who has no obvious fit for playing time in that defense.
2. Bud Dupree, ED, University of Kentucky
#22 Overall to Pittsburgh
If ever there was a player drafted because of potential and measurables it is Bud Dupree. In shorts he looks like a draft stud, with the size, speed and athleticism to be a devastating pass-rusher. The only trouble is so far he hasn’t been one. Dupree was 23rd among edge rushers in this draft class in Pass Rushing Productivity, a per-snap measure of the pressure he generated, a staggering lack of production for a guy as physically gifted as he is.
Seven other 3-4 outside linebackers tallied more total pressures than Dupree, despite him rushing the passer more times than all but one in this draft class. The Steelers selected Jarvis Jones in the first round in 2013 – a player who was all college production but had questionable measurables – and he has yet to succeed in the NFL. This seems to be an overcorrection in the other direction, selecting a player that ticks all the boxes athletically, but whose lack of college production raises major red flags.
3. Jeremiah Poutasi, OT, Utah
#66 Overall to Tennessee
Moving out of the first round for a moment we get to the top of the third, just 66 picks into the draft and the Titans select a player who could well be in line to start for them sooner rather than later, but has shown nothing in college to suggest he can handle that role.
Poutasi was the 70th-ranked offensive tackle in this draft class in overall CFF grade. He was a better pass protector than he was a run blocker (where he graded negatively), but even ranked by pass protection alone he was 38th. He surrendered two sacks, five knockdowns and 11 additional hurries over his season and had seven negatively-graded games.
4. Matt Jones, RB, Florida
#95 Overall to Washington.
Under Mike Shanahan, Washington was able to plug in any old running back and have success and production on the ground. That is unlikely to continue indefinitely and nothing we saw from Jones suggests he will be a productive player at the next level. For Florida this season he earned below average grades in every facet of the game; rushing, receiving and blocking.
This was a deep running back class and even far into the third round there was a lot of talent on the board, and talent that had graded significantly better than Jones had in college.
5. Eddie Goldman, DI, Florida State
#39 Overall to Chicago.
Goldman is the classic example of a player who looks like he should be fantastic, but just isn’t. You read scouting reports on him and you wonder if they have been written just by looking at his sheer physical size and whether they bothered to actually turn on any tape whatsoever. Maybe throw on a quick highlight reel just to confirm it…
The trouble is that Goldman does not play to his physical ability very often at all. He is regularly credited as a player that can ‘take on double teams’, but unless you are happy with him taking them on by being driven off the line and crushed by two blockers, then that’s not exactly a positive of his. Goldman was the 45th-ranked defensive interior player in this draft class when looking only at run defense grade. As a pass-rusher he was almost exactly average – in the entire FBS!
Even those grades are kind to him because around half of his positive grade came in one game against Louisville, who might well have the worst starting center in the nation.
6. Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
#43 Overall to Houston
This pick may have received the loudest howls of anguish in the PFF Draft War Room™. Linebacker in this draft class is a fantastic example of a position that contrasts production with athleticism. McKinney has the athleticism, but Paul Dawson, still on the board at this point, has the production. McKinney was the 42nd-graded linebacker in this class, Dawson was the first. McKinney notched 30 defensive stops over the season, Dawson notched 94. In coverage McKinney allowed a passer rating of 96.4 while Dawson just 50.7.
Even on the blitz, McKinney tallied four sacks and 11 total pressures while Dawson notched seven sacks and 28 total pressures. McKinney trounces Dawson when it comes to athleticism and measurables, but is a vastly inferior player on the field judging by college production.
7. Mitch Morse, C, Missouri
#49 to Kansas City
Any time you’re projecting a tackle inside to center with little evidence other than a hunch and the knowledge that he can’t play tackle, you’re reaching in the second round.
Morse actually graded OK as a pass protector, surrendering just one sack but seven knockdowns and 11 additional hurries in his season. Where he struggled was in the run game, where he was graded negatively and 86 other draft eligible tackles performed better. How that translates moving inside where the players are bigger, stronger and tougher to move can only be guessed at, but it doesn’t seem like a winning plan on the surface. All that before considering that there were experienced legitimate interior prospects still available.
8. Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forrest
#16 Overall to Houston
Houston’s second big reach on this list was the first pick they made, selecting Kevin Johnson mid way through the first round.
It’s easy to see on tape what people like about Kevin Johnson. He’s a smooth athlete who mirrors receivers well and can definitely play. You also see some issues, though. Despite 4.5 timed speed, he looks to struggle to keep up with receivers, even those that run 4.5 themselves. He is routinely playing with a larger cushion than his teammate in off-coverage, perhaps buying himself room against speed he can’t live with. This all results in some very iffy coverage numbers. Johnson was the 65th-ranked draft-eligible corner by coverage grade this year. He allowed almost 60% of passes thrown his way to be caught (59.6, 91st among CBs), and yielded a passer rating of 74.6.
Add in a pretty ugly 14 missed tackles over the season and you’ve got a lot of question marks for a guy who was taken mid way through the first… at least a round or two higher than we believe he should have gone based on the tape.
9. Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
#11 Overall to Minnesota
This was a pick that was seen coming a mile away, but it doesn’t excuse how bad a reach it was for a player we saw as a second-round talent at best. Waynes has a blazing forty time, and was shutdown on deep passes, allowing a passer rating of just 21.9 on those this past season, but he actually ran a faster forty time than short shuttle, an extremely rare occurrence that raises major change of direction question marks.
30 other draft eligible corners graded better in coverage this season than Waynes, who allowed a passer rating of 60.4 into his coverage (21st) while allowing 50.8% of passes thrown his way to be caught (40th). Waynes only allowed 30 receptions all season, but those catches went for an average of 14.9 yards per reception, a mark bettered by 106 other cornerbacks.
Waynes has all the tools, but he is a major project to be taken so high.
10. Philip Dorsett, WR, Miami
#29 Overall to Indianapolis
This is one where I really don’t mind the player taken. I like Philip Dorsett. Not as much as other people, sure, but I think he has the ability to be a very good player. He has speed to burn, the ability to take short passes and turn them into big gains, and while his functional strength is suspect, he understands how to get himself in the way to execute blocks, ugly as they may be at times.
The issue I have is that there is no way Dorsett was a first-round pick, especially with Devin Smith still on the board. Smith is Dorsett, but better, across the board. Even pigeon-holed as merely a deep threat; Smith is the more effective weapon. His playing speed is similar, but unlike Dorsett he has the ability to adjust well to poorly thrown deep passes and make plays above a cornerback’s head. That’s the difference between being Mike Wallace – dependent on a perfectly thrown bomb – and Larry Fitzgerald at his best, able to make plays deep down field despite the pass thrown. Smith and Dorsett were targeted deep almost the same number of times (26 vs. 27, respectively), but Smith caught 17 of those for 754 yards and 10 TDs. Dorsett caught 9 for 395 yards and 6 TDs. Obviously some of that is quarterback dependent, but the grading backs up what the tape shows, Smith making plays that Dorsett couldn’t, or didn’t.
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