5 boom-or-bust prospects in the 2016 NFL draft
Each NFL draft class possesses a handful of prospects who flash elite upside, but fail to generate the consistency required to make them sure-fire studs at the next level.
Today I’m taking a look at a handful of players in this year’s class — set to hear their name called last month — that I believe fit the boom-or-bust criteria:
1. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Nkemdiche’s projection ranges anywhere from the first to third round. The off-field indiscretions are certainly a factor, but there are on-field reasons, too, why the Ole Miss defensive tackle’s stock fluctuates so wildly. It depends whether one focuses on the positives or negatives. Nkemdiche has an outstanding first step — perhaps the best in the entire class of interior defensive lineman — which allows him to win immediately off the snap. The Mississippi product made opposing guards look foolish on occasion with how easily he beat them when rushing the passer.
That first step is useless, however, when Nkemdiche reads the play incorrectly. He lacks the instincts to quickly diagnose, frequently finding himself completely taken out of plays by misdirection. His inability to anchor against double teams is also a major concern. Every NFL defensive tackle must take on multiple blockers from time to time. Nkemdiche’s performance in those instances is best described as embarrassing. Ultimately, he could prove an impact pro, or he could be out of the league in three years.
2. Jacoby Brissett, QB, North Carolina State
Brissett’s bust potential is diminished by his low draft stock. The North Carolina State quarterback is rarely mentioned with mid-round prospects like Dak Prescott, Cardale Jones and Kevin Hogan. The likelihood is he’ll be drafted toward the backend of the selection process, if at all. Some elements of Brissett’s game, however, suggest his pro-production can exceed those alternatives. He’s capable of making outstanding downfield throws, frequently arcing passes perfectly into tight coverage for big gains.
Consistency, however, eludes Brissett. He would make an outstanding throw right on the money on one play, before following that up with a miss on a wide open receiver running behind the defense. In theory, though, making the tougher throw is more important from an evaluation standpoint. Furthermore, his arm has plenty of juice. Brissett consistently drives the ball to the perimeter with ease, along with getting it downfield in a hurry. He can also remain standing in the pocket despite taking big hits.
Brissett remains incredibly raw. He still struggles to hit shorter passes, and when he does throw on target, his placement isn’t always ideal. Brissett also needs to learn to get the ball out quicker. He took too many sacks by holding the ball for an age. Overall, Brissett remains a project, but in a few years I believe he could be one of those rare late-round QBs capable of starting.
3. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
One of the biggest advantages of Pro Football Focus is that it grades on results, rather than style. Style points win nothing in our system, which is fortunate for Emmanuel Ogbah. The Oklahoma State defensive end doesn’t display the kind of technical proficiency of some of his peers. While he may be able to get away without an array of pass rush moves at the college level, it’s doubtful the same will hold true in the pros. But then, ignoring Ogbah’s production would be a mistake. He was our fifth-ranked pass rusher amongst edge defenders in 2015.
Even his production comes with a caveat. Ogbah moved around quite a bit at Oklahoma State, but won predominantly from the left side in college, where he was able to beat up on right tackles. A left defensive end who struggles against the run is far from ideal. Ogbah barely graded positively in that facet of play, finding himself moved backwards with frequency by offensive tackles. He also took himself out of run plays, overpersuing in the backfield to leave wide open lanes. The talent is certainly there, but whether the technique and discipline develop remains to be seen.
4. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB. University of Florida
Hargreaves’ playmaking ability is unquestioned, but his regression as a junior is a concern. After recording the second-highest coverage grade in 2014, VHIII fell to 71st last season. The big plays remained (four interceptions and four pass deflections), but Hargreaves appeared to abandon his responsibility on occasion in favor of personal statistics. He gave up 380 yards on just 24 receptions, jumping routes underneath in both man and zone coverage. Hargreaves was beat with authority on a number of double moves as a junior and busted a handful of deep third coverages. The size criticism is, in many ways, the least of his concerns. Although he doesn’t always display physicality in press coverage, and when shedding blocks in the screen game, Hargreaves is capable of challenging receivers at the catch point despite his short stature.
5. Karl Joseph, S, WVU
Joseph is unique on this list, insofar as he flashed his talent on just a handful of snaps. After missing 17 of 106 attempted tackles in 2014, and recording a negative run defense grade, Joseph put 240 outstanding plays on tape. He went from our 98th overall safety to 32nd, despite getting on the field for just a quarter of the snaps. Joseph was a heat-seeking missile, destroying receivers over the middle for fun. The centre of the field was a dangerous place for opponents in West Virginia’s first four games. Joseph didn’t only make plays against the run, he also picked off five passes in his limited reps. However, the fact that Joseph played just 240 snaps is a both a positive, considering his production, and a negative. How much stock should be put into such a small sample? Will the knee injury that forced him to miss the rest of the season persist? Joseph offers a unique conundrum as the FBS’ best safety over just a four-game stretch.