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Top 5 potential sleepers and busts from the 2014 NFL Draft

  • Arun Morace
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Kelvin Benjamin may not be the answer Carolina is looking for at wide receiver. Photo: Stephen M. McDowell, Orlando Sentinel

The 2014 NFL draft is officially over. While it’s impossible to project just how players will turn out this early in their careers, there’s nothing wrong with handing out a few rapid reactions as to whether a player seems like they’ll be a bust….or if they’re one of those under-the-radar sleepers who in a few years people will be wondering “how did they slip so far in the draft?”

So without further ado, here are five potential busts and five potential sleepers from the 2014 NFL Draft.

BUSTS:

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns Round 1, No. 22 overall

– This one’s almost too easy. Manziel was one of the most polarizing prospects in the entire draft, right up there with Jadeveon Clowney and Michael Sam. There were numerous questions about him, questions that likely led to his precipitous draft-day fall. His talent level was considered by many to be top-10 or even top-5, but his “partying” personality, the almost overbearing “Johnny Football” celebrity was cause for concern. Then there were his on-field issues, namely his style of play that too often has him hold on to the ball too long, running around the backfield for an inordinate amount of time, then tossing it up to one of his receivers. While that may have worked in college, holding on to the ball too long at the NFL level will get a quarterback pummeled, and could lead to injuries- a fear augmented by Manziel’s small stature (5’11”, 200 lbs). Lastly, there’s the situation Manziel just landed in. Cleveland is practically a quarterback graveyard, and Manziel likely won’t have the services of Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon, who is facing a lengthy suspension in the wake of his latest failed drug test. All in all, the pre-draft concern about Manziel (personality, playing style), and the Cleveland situation make Manziel a prime bust candidate.

2. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers Round 1, No. 28 overall

– Benjamin is one of those one-year-wonder, height-weight-speed prospects that seem to have a very, very high bust rate in the NFL. He was a good weapon Florida State, but most of his production came because of his sheer size mismatch against defensive backs. He was never asked to run many pro routes, instead often being allowed to freelance in an effort to get open. His 240-pound frame is also a bit troublesome- look no further than what happened to guys like David Boston and Mike Williams. Benjamin also failed two grades in school, leaving questions about his intelligence, and ability to learn an NFL offense. Now, given his raw package of size and skill, he also has the potential to become a dominant receiver in the mold of an Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall, but with only two years of NCAA experience (and only one year of real production), some serious coaching needed, and the fact that Carolina, out of sheer need, will likely thrust Benjamin into the No. 1 receiver role as a rookie, Benjamin has serious potential bust at the next level.

3. Aaron Donald, DT, St.Louis Rams Round 1, No. 13 overall

Donald is one of those late-riser draft prospects who also seem to have a high bust rate. Considered a Day 2 or even 3 prospect before the pre-draft process, Donald had a great Senior Bowl and tested extremely well at the Scouting Combine, making him a seeming lock for the top-15. He has the potential to be a nice interior pass rusher, but his size (6’0″, 285) makes him something of a liability as an every-down defender, particularly against the run. Donald seems like someone who would have been better suited as a rotational player, not a top-15 pick who’s going to be counted on for heavy snaps, and could be a target for opposing teams in the run game, as he’ll likely get dominated by bigger interior offensive linemen.

4. Dominque Easley, DE/DT, New England Patriots Round 1, No. 29 overall

– This is a boom-or-bust pick. Easley was thought to have top-15 potential, but suffered an ACL injury, which can be a notoriously debilitating ailment for bigger athletes. Easley’s size (6’2″, 288) makes him a bit of  tweener, and he may not be able to find a true position at the NFL level. If Easley can come back 100% from his knee injury and carve out a nice for himself, the Patriots will look quite smart for having selected Easley. However, he probably could have been drafted a round later, and the questions about his knee and ability to truly fit into an NFL defense make him a bit of  a bust risk.

5. Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, Houston Texans Round 1, No. 1 overall

– Surprise! Well, not really. Clowney is an absolute freak of nature, and could very well end up as a Hall of Fame player. However, Clowney will have to play up to his vast potential in order to liveup to his No.1 overall draft spot. He’s in a good situation in Houston, with an aggressive defensive coordinator in Romeo Crennel and the best defensive lineman on the planet, J.J. Watt, to take some pressure and blocking away from him, but remember- Clowney took a lot of plays off last year. Perhaps he was protecting himself and his draft stock, but that kind of me-first mentality raises a few doubts. Plus, there’s the last time the Texans took a pass-rusher with the first overall pick. Mario Williams, the top choice in 2006, was a good player who made a few Pro Bowls, but he didn’t exactly alter the fate of the franchise. Clowney has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Texans- the question is, will he become that?

Other potential busts: Dee Ford, DE/OLB (Kansas City Chiefs, No. 23 overall), Blake Bortles, QB (Jacksonville Jaguars, No. 3 overall), Anthony Barr, DE/OLB (Minnesota Vikings, No. 9 overall)

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Arun Morace

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