The 2008 NFL Draft provided many outstanding young players, some of which are entering Free Agency in 2012. But it also provided some hard learned lessons with some rather high pick “busts”.
1st Round, 6th Pick
At first glance Vernon Gholston was a “can’t miss” Top 10. The New York Jets would use his incredible athletic skills to convert to a 3-4 OLB taking him with the 6th overall pick. As a DE Gholston EPA’d in all 6 events at the NFL Combine. He blistered the 40 yard dash and easily exceeded peer average in the other 5.
As a LB he excelled as well, though fell short in the #2 correlating statistic to NFL success at the position, 20 Shuttle. Gholston also tested marginal to below on the HRT in areas of Dedication, Focus, Receptivity to Coaching and Mental Quickness – a prerequisite for a position change I would think.
He never recorded a sack in 3 seasons as a Jet and was released prior to 2011. The Chicago Bears picked him up and subsequently cut him as well.
Pat Kirwin and Mark Mayock had him #4 overall, the War Room #5, Mel Kiper #6, Todd McShay #8 and Sports Illustrated the FIRST pick in the draft!
2nd Round, 41st Pick
James Hardy was another Big 10 standout. Kiper and McShay slotted him as a late 1st round pick, Kirwin #33 in the 2nd. The Buffalo Bills felt fortunate when he fell to the 41st pick. Wide Receivers at 6’5” 217 lbs and 35 ½” arms are what you build your entire corps around. Hardy had turned 79 receptions into 1125 yards, 16 TD’s and a 14.24 average per catch his last season as a Hoosier.
But despite standout numbers in 4 of 6 events, he fell short in the Vertical Jump and 20 Shuttle, failing to reach the optimum of 6 EPA, and Vertical Jump and 20 Shuttle are vital to separation from defenders. Hardy tested poor on the HRT in Mental Quickness and Receptiveness to Coaching. Hardy played in 2 games his rookie season and was cut before 2010.
2nd Round, 53rd Pick
Another big WR was Limas Sweed of the University of Texas. Sweed showed great promise his junior season and elected to return his final year as a Longhorn. A wrist injury limited his play up until week six when he underwent season ending surgery. He returned to participate in the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, catching scouts’ eyes with his size and explosive movement.
Sweed limited his drills at the Combine to the 40 and vertical jump, and though his 40 EPA’d, the VJ didn’t . He chose to finish the workout at his College Pro Day and was deficient in all but the VJ and broad jump. Kirwin, McShay and Sports Illustrated had Sweed a virtual “lock” in the 1st round. Kiper placed him at #36 in the 2nd. The Pittsburgh Steelers would select him with pick #53, 9th at the position.
Optimum EPA for WR starters is 6, Sweed had 3 of 7 events. He tested poor on the HRT in Mental Quickness and Social Maturity, marginal in Dedication and Receptiveness to Coaching. Sweed struggled with injuries and other issues, eventually being released before 2011.
2nd Round, 56th Pick
Brian Brohm finished 4th in the nation in passing for the 2007 season. His 65% completion rate and 30 TD’s were captivating to many draftniks. This was the type player a team could “steal” in the 2nd round and that’s exactly where Kiper, McShay and the War Room slotted him. Pat Kirwin of NFL.com went as high as the end of the 1st round. The Green Bay Packers would take their first of two QB’s with the 56th pick.
Though no single attribute test shows major significance for the QB position to succeed in the NFL, most starters will EPA 3 of the 6 events. Brohm clipped the 40 yard dash and broad jump, but was out of range in the other 4. Even as a very high testing player on the Wonderlic and most aspects of the HRT, he was marginal in Focus and Receptivity to Coaching. Though a superior athlete to Matt Flynn, Brohm wasn’t able to surpass the Packers 7th round pick at QB and was sent to the Practice Squad, only later to be signed by the Buffalo Bills and eventually released.
Pay close attention
All four of these players came highly touted by outside sources. Their draft stock continued to climb though significant indicators pointed to the contrary. The evaluation of a young college prospect for a top NFL pick is a “1000 piece puzzle” and doesn’t hinge solely on his ability to run a 40 yard dash or his smile at a press conference. The financial implications and lost opportunity can cost a General Manager or Director of Player Personnel his job.
Take your time, look at ALL the pieces and block out the “noise”.