A lot of people are high on these guys. Don't be shocked if they fail to meet expectations
We do it every year. We label guys in the NFL Draft as "can't miss" and "sure thing" — and that's rarely the case. Be that as it may, it doesn't stop us from going through the exercise of elevating successful college players to future Hall of Famers as the draft approaches every spring.
I've singled out four players who will likely be drafted fairly early the end of this month. Scouts, talking heads and fans love these guys, but the pessimist in me sees chinks in their armor that could result in them being average at best, as opposed to the elite players many project them to be. I'm officially placing these four players on "bust watch."
2017 NFL Draft Bust Watch
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
This is not so much an indictment on Trubisky's talent as it is the team he ends up with — even though his body of work is slim. He's going to go early, likely to a team looking for an immediate or sooner-rather-than-later, long-term starting quarterback. The issue with that is, the teams that fall into that category are all missing very important pieces that you'd like to already have when you plug in a young signal-caller. Look at a guy like Andrew Luck. He has as much talent as any quarterback in the league. Be that as it may, the perpetual mess that surrounds him in Indy has made him a non-factor in terms of competing for championships. If Trubisky gets stuck with the Browns, 49ers, Jets or Bears, it will be a very steep uphill climb to NFL success for him.
John Ross, WR, Washington
Ross wowed everyone at the NFL Scouting Combine with his time in the 40-yard dash. Yes, he's very quick. In the right system, he has the chance to excel and be a nice, situational, complementary weapon for an offense that already has decent pieces in place at the receiver position. The problem is, he's being projected to go to a lot of teams that don't have a No. 1 option at receiver. He would be it — all 5-foot-11, 188 pounds of him. Smaller receivers like Julian Edelman and Antonio Brown have Hall of Fame quarterbacks throwing to them in systems designed largely around their skill sets. There's no guarantee that ends up being the situation Ross finds himself in once his name is called on draft day. He can be good, but his ceiling is probably somewhere on the Brandin Cooks spectrum. I'm not sure that's worth a pick in the top half of the first round like some are projecting.
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Just like in college, Peppers is going to be one of the better overall athletes on the field in every game he participates in. That's terrific. His problem will be finally mastering one skill. He's projected as a safety, but there were plenty of instances in college where — as a safety — he was out of place against both the run and the pass. In most cases, his athleticism made up for it. That won't be the case at the next level. The team that drafts him will need to fight the urge to make him a gimmick player they use in all three phases of the game, instead focusing on making sure he masters a single craft. Unless he falls to a more stable franchise in the bottom third of the first round, that is not very likely to be the case. In the NFL, gimmicks don't last.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Fournette is a physical specimen. He's essentially a linebacker carrying the ball with some underrated breakaway speed. What will cause Fournette to fail to meet expectations at the next level is his projected role vs. his actual skill set. The modern game has almost completely moved on from the 25-30 carries per game running backs who were the focal points of their respective offenses. Championship-caliber clubs usually only utilize big, physical backs situationally, preferring smaller, quicker backs who double as virtual slot receivers in their pass-friendly offenses. That being the case, Fournette's build and playing style could actually be liabilities with the exception of first down and short-yardage plays. He simply doesn't possess that same quickness that made Ezekiel Elliott such an asset in the Cowboys' offense. Taking him with a top-10 pick like some are projecting could end up being a franchise-altering mistake.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.