February 21, 2009

Roundtable: Who will struggle in the NFL?

At the College Football Roundtable, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

Today's question: The NFL Scouting Combine is under way in Indianapolis. Which college star do you think will most struggle in the NFL?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Couldn't I just say "whomever the Detroit Lions pick"? Personally, I'm not comfortable predicting guys to fail or struggle. Experts whose livelihoods depend on these determinations and have access to more information judge these guys to be worthy of a draft pick, so it's going way out on a limb to predict who will have difficulty making the transition to the next level. Still, my guess would be Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. There's no doubt he has a rifle arm and had a solid career, but it wasn't spectacular. True, he played behind a patchwork line and for most of his career his receivers were solid but not outstanding, so he could have a great upside. But so many quarterbacks who are drafted in the first round tend to struggle see JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Vince Young and Matt Leinart as examples. And if those aren't sufficient reasons to have doubts about Stafford, there always is the fact there's a good chance he'll be taken by the Lions.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I have a difficult time envisioning Florida's Percy Harvin being a star. The guy seemingly always was hurt in college. How can we expect him to stay healthy during a 16-game NFL schedule? I can't help but think Harvin is the next Reggie Bush, a mega-athlete with speed to burn who can't stay healthy. And, like Bush, I just don't see Harvin being anything more than a complementary player not a cornerstone star. Can an NFL team really afford to use a high pick on a guy like that?

David Fox's answer:
I'll say this for Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman: He doesn't lack confidence. He proclaimed himself the best quarterback in the Big 12 before last season. He might have been the only one to believe it. He has all the measurables of an NFL quarterback the size, the arm strength and a little mobility. But he never was a good college quarterback. His supporting cast wasn't strong, but he didn't win games on his own, either. He looks like he improved in his junior season, but he really just padded his stats against weaker teams. In some ways, he got worse. He was 0-5 against bowl-bound teams in 2008, completing 52.4 percent of his passes and throwing five touchdowns and six interceptions. In 2007, he was 2-5, completing 62.4 percent of his passes with 10 touchdown passes and six picks. Maybe once he gets to an NFL team and has time to learn from the sideline, he'll be a fine quarterback. But for now, I wouldn't want my NFL team to use a first-round pick on Freeman.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I'm not sold on Penn State's Aaron Maybin. He left school as a third-year sophomore following a 12-sack season. But nine of those sacks came in the first seven games, and once opponents found out about him, they paid more attention and did a nice job shutting him down. There's no question he has speed off the edge, and NFL teams crave speed off the edge. But Maybin played at about 240 pounds last season, which will not cut it in the NFL. Can he gain weight without losing his quickness? Or will he be used as an outside linebacker, which means learning a new position? I think Maybin is a boom-or-bust guy and I can see him busting.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I could take the safe answer by choosing a college star whose lack of size or speed makes him unlikely to get selected until late, if at all (e.g., Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel), but I instead wanted to pick someone who should hear his name called on the first day. That strategy made me choose a different Big 12 quarterback. Kansas State's Josh Freeman never won more than seven games in any of his three years as a starter, yet many mock drafts have him going in the first round. Freeman certainly has NFL size and an NFL arm, but his relative lack of success in college makes him a major risk as a first-round pick. Kansas State had losing seasons in each of the past two seasons with Freeman at quarterback after going 7-6 his freshman year. Freeman didn't get much help from his supporting cast, but he also showed a tendency to rack up big numbers against inferior opponents while struggling against the tougher teams on K-State's schedule. Freeman threw 12 touchdown passes with no interceptions and also ran for 10 scores last season against North Texas, Montana State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas A&M and Iowa State. But he also threw three interceptions each against Oklahoma and Kansas, and he had a completion rate of 50 percent or below against Missouri, Nebraska and Texas Tech. Freeman's huge upside make him a tempting prospect to franchises in need of a quarterback, but he's too risky to select in the first or second round.


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