NFL draft has more questions than answers

The 2015 NFL Draft starts Thursday in Chicago. It’s a time of great joy for the league office as they dominate the news cycle and a time of great hope for both prospects and fan bases.

I know the idea of young, new, uber-talented players gets fan bases foaming at the mouth, particularly for those with the high draft picks and little recent success, but I’m here to tell you that tempering some expectations could help alleviate some heartbreak in the next two to three seasons.

At the top this year, we have Jameis Winston, Mr. Crabs himself, likely going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Physically, Winston has many of the tools to be a productive NFL quarterback. But questions about his weight and fitness, along with some debatable decision making both on and off the field (18 interceptions in his last year in Tallahassee) lead me to think that while this pick makes perfect sense for Tampa, its nowhere near what I would call a sure thing. Yeah, Winston could become Ben Roethlisberger, at least in terms of what he can do on the NFL field, and that’s a pretty high ceiling, but the floor could be as bad as Jamarcus Russell who throws interceptions like 2013 Eli Manning.

The second pick is just as much of a conundrum, because the overall consensus is that Marcus Mariota from Oregon needs to be the next guy off the board, regardless of who ends up using Tennessee’s pick here. But the questions of Mariota, primarily that he’s more of a runner and that his quality numbers come from the system he played in during his college career, and those are two very real question marks that have been major factors in the derailment factors of many a quarterback in the past.

The third pick, belonging to the Jaguars, is probably going to wind up being the massively talented defensive lineman Leonard Williams. But even taking Williams, who is considered one of the most sure things in this draft class, has its inherent risks. Williams used his physical tools to be dominant at the University of South Carolina, and has quite a way to go with his technical skills before you can declare him a finished product.

And that’s the story on a great number of the deep area of the draft classified as pass rushers. Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley, Shane Ray, Randy Gregory and Bud Dupree are all very talented football players, but good luck to teams as they try to figure out which one of them has the smarts to ply his craft in the NFL.

Full disclosure, I don’t think its Gregory. If you test positive for marijuana at an event you have planned on attending for months and you know they test at, you either have a substance abuse problem or you are just plain stupid. NOTE:This was written prior to Shane Ray getting arrested for possession of marijuana. These guys are literally sprinting to the second round right now.  

Want a good draft pick for your team? Unless you have two top end wide receivers, pray your team snags Amari Cooper from Alabama. With more than acceptable physical tools, Cooper put up outstanding numbers while matched up against some of the most talented defenses, particularly in his last season on campus. He’s coming from the Tide as much of a finished product as any wideout will ever be out of college. He may not have as high of a perceived ceiling as a Kevin White or a Breshard Perriman, but I’d say you’re getting an 85 percent chance to have a quality producer at wide receiver if you get Cooper.

These guys may have flaws, but at the end of the day, I’m a fan too. I see flaws in a lot of these top prospects, but I’m not rooting for them to fail. I want to see young guys come in and make an impact in the league as soon as they can. I’m a huge fan of new faces making big splashes. But I’ve also been burnt by enough picks that I got excited about that as this last hurdle to clear before we enter the preseason preparations approaches, I’m reminded that being at the top of the draft means the tumble down might just be a little bit further.