NFL teams spend massive amounts of time and energy scouting the Draft. No expense is spared while trying to unearth hidden gems from college campuses across the country. So how can it be so difficult to see that big fat bust staring them right in the face? Let's take a stab at identifying some of those potential busts. I don't think all of these players will bust. In fact, I like some of them quite a bit, but they should be evaluated with caution. I'll try to keep it within the positions the 49ers are likely to be interested in on draft day.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: Crabtree had the biggest name and most hype of any prospect heading into the postseason, resulting in the #1 overall ranking on many boards. But there are a few things that don't add up. First of all, the offense he played in was a gimmicky spread system that hasn't produced any real NFL talent in the passing game despite lofty college numbers. If you're expecting Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin, the guys Crabtree is most often compared to, you might be dissapointed. His size, routes and ball skills are nowhere near where Fitzgerald was coming out. And he isn't the physical beast Boldin was. He's sort of a poor man's hybrid of those two guys.
That's not to say Crabtree isn't good, but guys like Mike Williams, Peter Warrick, Reggie Williams were held in high regard as underclassmen coming into the league and couldn't separate at the next level. Add his recent injury concerns and the potential lack of any workouts and you have a recipe for disaster. Heck, depending on how things shake out, he could actually become a steal. It would be hard not to pull the trigger if he fell to #10.
Andre Smith, OT, Alabama: There was talk Andre Smith could be in the mix for the #1 pick in the draft. The Combine squashed any of those thoughts. Smith is still a beast, but that won't overcome the major questions about his character and work ethic. Every one of these guys is supremely talented and most of them can be as good as they want to be. But you gotta want it. And that's one place the 49ers have been great at--adding high character players with a good work ethic. I'd be extremely surprised if Smith is even on McSing's draft board at this point--along with many other teams. Andre Smith could be in for a huge fall.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland: I never got the hype with DHB. He's fast--very fast. A 4.30 40 on a slow track at Indy is testament to that. To me, he's a one-trick pony whose value has always been tied to his straight-line speed. I worry about his change of direction and route running ability. I wouldn't touch him in the first round with a 40 yard pole. Former Vikings draft pick Troy Williamson and former 49er Ashley Lelie come to mind. The only saving grace for DHB would be that his offense at Maryland was less than desirable for a WR and may not have developed or showcased his talents. Compare his lack of lateral quickness and ability to break tackles to the Crabtree video above or this Hakeem Nicks reel.
Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss: Questions about Oher's intelligence and passion for the game have damped his hype as the top prospect as his position. Add that to the fact that scouts are questioning not only whether he can handle left side, but if he may end up a guard and Oher will probably find himself outside the top 10. That said, all he's done in his career is dominate opponents when he locks on. The definition of a "boom or bust" prospect.
Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State: Came out too early, plain and simple. You have to wonder about his character and maturity. This may be a case of a guy who is a legend in his own mind. I mean, he didn't even start at Penn State for a full season. He ran a poor 40 at the combine and could be in for a big fall ala Ko Simpson a few years ago who fell to the Buffalo Bills in the 4th after being touted as a 1st rounder. Another Sophomore Koren Robinson left school too soon and even though the talent was there, the team who drafted him never saw the results.
The Quarterbacks: I have to be honest, 1st round QBs scare the bejesus out of me. Is Matthew Stafford on par with the Mannings of the world as a #1 overall pick? Or is he (and his mediocre 57% completion rate at Georgia) just the highest ranked QB this year like Alex Smith was in 2005 and countless others who haven't lived up to the billing? Mark Sanchez has less film to watch than any potential 1st rounder I can remember. Josh Freeman is a case-study in how to waste a 1st round draft pick. Every mistake made at QB in the draft starts with a big kid and a rifle arm. Throwing a ball through the goal posts from the 50 yard line has nothing to do with playing NFL quarterback. The position is played from the neck up. Have I mentioned the lack of success for QBs who leave college early? How about the lack of success for QBs with a completion percentage under 60%? And the fast rising Pat White was so underrated he's become overrated. I've got no problem with White in the 3rd or later and developing him in a slash role. In fact, I thought that might be a little high when I put White there in my first mock draft. You can't deny his athletic ability, toughness, work ethic and ability to win. But it's looking now like White wont get out of the 2nd round as a pure QB. People are throwing away four years of film and judging him by how he threw one day in shorts--that's a mistake. Maybe the biggest factor with all these QBs entering the NFL is the time they have to make a decision and make a throw. Remember how easy it was torching the neighborhood kids in the backyard with your Nerf turbo when nobody was counting alligators?
Next time I'll take a look at prospects who are the safest bets in the upcoming draft. I'm interested to hear different takes on the guys I listed. Also, who redlines your bust-o-meter?
FOOCH'S NOTE: For new readers, a quick bio on briandean: He's the NFL Draft specialist here at Niners Nation. Brian currently works in sports talk radio and might be seen around the Bay Area at various indie rock hot spots--both on stage and at the bar. All you need to know about Brian is he once left his Community College baseball team to instead go on tour with his band. So he is both extremely dedicated and completely unreliable. In addition to his work at Niners Nation, Brian has worked as a freelance writer for KFFL.com, who you know for their "hot off the wire" content if you play Yahoo! fantasy sports.