The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft was Jan. 15. The economic majors who can play ball decided to take the money and run. But not every name on the list is a can’t-miss blue-chip draft stock.
These are the 10 biggest boom or bust underclassmen in the 2013 NFL Draft:
1. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Is Mingo a 6’5”, 240-pound “Freak” in the mold of Jevon Kearse or Jason Pierre-Paul? Odds are there’s a team with a top-10 pick willing to bank on that chance — especially after watching the lightning fast Mingo run and jump in neon Under Armour at the NFL Scouting Combine, where coaches and GMs will be drooling over the hybrid edge rusher like Les Miles over Bermuda grass on a Saturday afternoon. But Mingo was never able to turn that in-shorts potential into in-pads production at LSU, with just 4.5 sacks this year while playing alongside several former five-stars and future first-rounders.
2. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The big-talking big man who said the SEC, and Georgia in particular, played “old man football” has all the warning signs of a bust. All-world recruit with an ego as big as his massive frame? Check. Apparent lack of respect for authority or discipline? Check. History of shoulder injuries on a man soon to be paid to battle in the trenches? Check. Fast-rising prospect at the most bust-laden position, D-tackle? Check. Off-field issues as a cherry on top of the boom-or-bust sundae? Check yeah.
3. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
There’s no doubt about the respect Lattimore has earned from his coaches, peers and fans during his time as arguably the nation’s top high school runner at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., and collegiate back at South Carolina. The football community was emotionally crushed after watching Lattimore’s knee get physically smashed. And it was Lattimore’s second devastating knee injury in as many years. But Adrian Peterson just ran for 2,000 yards on a recently reconstructed knee, Willis McGahee bounced back from a brutal blow and Frank Gore is still a beast running on a pair of repaired legs.
4. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
Classic case of a 6’6” quarterback with a million-dollar arm and a ten-cent head. It’s hard to blame the California kid who likes to chuck beer bottles at passing cars, though. After traveling cross-country to play for Lane Kiffin in Knoxville, his West Coast bro-coach bailed on him for USC. That left Bray holding the double-D-bag and playing for Derek Dooley. Well, not necessarily playing. Bray conveniently missed games against LSU (twice), Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas and Oregon during the first two years of his injury-riddled career. His last two years, he went 2–10 in the SEC, including losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. But there’s no denying the arm; even Jeff George and Ryan Mallett are impressed by Bray.
5. Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech
Once Bray’s go-to guy at Tennessee, the 6’3” jump-baller posted a 1,000-yard, nine-TD season in the SEC as a sophomore. But Rogers’ prima donna routine became expendable when Justin Hunter returned from injury and Cordarrelle Patterson arrived from JUCO to give the Volunteers more than enough NFL talent at wideout. After failed drug tests and indefinite suspensions, Rogers went to play for Mack Brown’s brother Watson Brown at Tennessee Tech, where the Georgia native had an 800-yard, 10-TD campaign against lesser FCS competition.
6. Tyrann Mathieu, CB/PR, LSU
The “Honey Badger” went from a cult hero Heisman Trophy finalist playing in the BCS national title game to the national spokesman for Spice synthetic weed. After watching this season from the couch and occasionally the stands, Mathieu hopes teams overlook his 5’9”, 175-pound frame — as well as a stack of off-field red flags at least that big — and focus on his unique playmaking ability as a nickel corner and punt returner. There was an intangible quality to Mathieu’s game in his heyday, but the tangible reality is that “Honey Badger” don’t care, and it may have cost him a lucrative NFL career.
7. William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
The 6’7”, 280-pound “Too Tall” is the cousin of Vernon Gholston, a former All-American at Ohio State who was selected No. 6 overall by the New York Jets in 2008. Vernon was an elephant man who wasn’t a freak so much as just ugly — as a player on the field and contract on the books. Unfortunately for William, he was nowhere near as productive as Vernon was in the Big Ten but he shares the last name “Gholston,” which is now synonymous with “bust” in certain draft circles.
8. Kwame Geathers, NT, Georgia
A big Dawg at 6’6”, 355-plus-pounds, Geathers is another namesake — as the brother of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Robert Geathers, brother of South Carolina’s Clifton Geathers, son of former NFL third-round pick Robert Geathers Sr., and nephew of 13-year NFL vet and two-time Super Bowl champion “Jumpy” Geathers. With that pedigree and so few nose guards to choose from for the ever-expanding list of teams running a 3-4 defense, Kwame Geathers will get over-drafted; hopefully not as bad as Kwame Brown was.
9. Greg Reid, CB/PR, Valdosta State
After getting kicked off of Florida State’s eventual Orange Bowl-winning squad, Reid suffered a season-ending knee injury before he could suit up for Valdosta State’s eventual Division II national title-winning team. If his run of bad decisions and bad luck comes to an end, Reid is the type of return man capable of breaking Deion Sanders’ FSU career record for punt return yards — which he was on pace to do before his quick-twitch exit from Tallahassee.
10. Brad Wing, P, LSU
Look out, you’ve got company, Chris Gardocki — who, by the by, was the last punter to declare early for the NFL Draft, back in 1991. The Bayou Bengal from Australia pinned himself into a coffin corner after being suspended for Honey-Badgering a drug test. So the 6’3”, 200-pounder entered the draft, where his Sebastian Janikowski attitude and success rate could make him a highly drafted, highly volatile special teams weapon. Don’t forget to watch out for the fake punt, either.