Darren Page, DLD Lead Scout
Every draft cycle has prospects who flash on the college field, but on Sundays are merely a flash in the pan. Some players receive unwarranted praise as college players, while others dominate on Saturdays with skillsets that don’t translate against NFL competition. These prospects come to mind as ones that have received hype from consensus opinions that may be unwarranted.
Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
Though he may be an athletic freak, Christian Jones leaves a lot to be desired in the finer qualities needed of an NFL linebacker. Most importantly is that he’s unable to play as fast as possible because he’s slow to read his keys and react. Too often he’s frozen at the second level trying to decipher plays while teammate Telvin Smith is already at the football.
Jones also struggles to play blockers in the running game, where he tries to dip or elude them instead of using his hands to shed. He brings more to the table in pass coverage, but still lacks the high-level awareness required to cover NFL pass catchers. The Seminoles have moved Jones into an edge pass rushing role at times in 2013, where he still hasn’t truly made a big impact. Beware the workout warrior, especially at the linebacker position.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Football is the ultimate highlight tape in the college game. While he racks up Heisman trophies and taunting penalties, he’s failing to develop into a quarterback of starting caliber in the NFL. Even though he can extend the ball down the field, his arm isn’t great. Velocity on his intermediate throws is on the lower end of the spectrum, leaving many floated balls that require a receiver to bail him out of.
What’s worse is that Manziel lacks anticipation and the ability to read coverages in a fashion that is needed to make throws into tight windows, which will only get tighter against NFL coverage schemes. On top of all that, his pocket presence is undeveloped due to his reliance on athleticism. Some of the biggest plays he’s pulled off for the Aggies would have been disastrous in the NFL, which is an adjective that might be used if an NFL team trots him out as their starter in the near future.
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Purifoy has built his reputation to this point on splash plays. He’s a special teams ace and a defensive playmaker. He’s also a highly athletic cornerback with sufficient size. Those are fine traits and will give him a place on an NFL team, but they don’t justify a first round pick on a cornerback.
Purifoy lacks the discipline and refined technique to be considered that high at this point. His footwork is inconsistent, his hips are a bit stiff in transition, and he tends to give a big cushion in man coverage as a result. He has a history of arriving at the ball well and forcing fumbles, but he isn’t a consistent tackler in space. The high impact plays that Loucheiz Purifoy makes are fantastic, but at this point he isn’t the type of cornerback you can rely on in an down to down basis in coverage.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
The first sticking point on Cyril Richardson is the offense he operates in. Baylor spreads the field and is able to create more space in the box than NFL offenses are allowed. That in and of itself isn’t what makes Richardson a landmine as a prospect though.
Richardson certainly doesn’t lack the physical traits to be successful. His mentality and development of refined skills leave a lot to be desired. For a 6’5” 340 lb. guard with a strong punch, he struggles to truly dominate and control defenders at the point of attack. He can get lazy with his feet, struggles to latch defenders with his hands, and doesn’t sustain blocks the way he should.
The physical mentality needed to be a dominant run blocker who can finish on a consistent basis just doesn’t seem to be there. Even though Richardson is light on his feet as a pass blocker, he’s guilty of let-offs in concentration and footwork that get him into trouble. The raw power and movement ability of Richardson are worth drafting and developing, but an instant impact offensive guard he is not.
Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt’s sterling reputation has mostly given him a pass on some very poor play to this point in his junior season. The massive end has been plagued by the effects of off-season hernia surgery according to head coach Brian Kelly, but there certainly are underlying issues.
Tuitt put on weight since his sophomore season and hasn’t been carrying it well at all. He has struggled to fire off the ball, often left in his stance while other Irish defensive linemen are already into contact. For a 6’6” end, his pad level has been an issue. For the majority of games, he has popped straight up off the snap and been reliant on his hands to get things done.
Tuitt has also struggled with gap control, getting rooted out of plays as a run defender. That’s a big concern for a 5 technique end. It will be worth watching how Tuitt’s play changes while he returns to 100% health, but he’s never truly been the type of impact player worthy of the early first round consideration he’s being put into.