Injuries and character concerns are two major reasons that prospects fall down draft boards at this time of year. Today, the National Football Post takes a look at 10 forgotten players who came into the season with a fair amount of hype but, for one reason or another, failed to meet expectations and now could end up being bargains on draft day.
RB Michael Smith, Arkansas (5-7, 180)
Smith has been one of the SEC’s most dynamic playmakers the past two seasons and has the skill set needed to create yards in chunks at the next level. However, he struggled to stay on the field during his time at Arkansas because of his lack of size and overall frail frame. But teams needing a potential third-down back with some big-play potential could look Smith’s way toward the end of the draft.
TE Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State (6-5, 253)
There isn’t anything special about Mastrud’s game, but at 6-5 and 253 pounds, he showcased the ability to block in the run game and catch the ball underneath and looked like a solid contributing reserve-type tight end at the next level. However, he struggled with a foot injury for most of the season and now might need to go the free-agent route to earn an NFL roster spot.
WR Mike Williams, Syracuse (6-2, 212)
Simply put, Williams might be the nation’s most athletically gifted wide receiver prospect. He’s big, physical, can run down the field and is as explosive a leaper as there is in the draft. But after quitting the Syracuse football team this past season, it’s anyone’s guess how low he could fall.
WR Eric Decker, Minnesota (6-3, 215)
Decker was having a phenomenal 2009 season until a foot injury caused him to miss the final five games. He still finished with 758 receiving yards in eight games, but he most likely will still be unable work out for NFL scouts this draft season. With his speed being his biggest question mark, don’t be surprised to see Decker fall a bit farther than most expect come draft day.
DE Auston English, Oklahoma (6-3, 252)
After a productive 9½-sack sophomore campaign, English had several run-ins with the injury bug, causing him to miss stretches of the past two seasons. He’s an undersized pass rusher with a good motor but could be a guy who’s already starting to wear down from the rigors of the game.
DT Arthur Jones, Syracuse (6-3, 295)
As talented as Jones is, he seems to be getting lost in the shuffle of a very talented defensive tackle class after missing the final three games of the season with a knee injury.
DT DeMarcus Granger, Oklahoma (6-2, 327)
Granger is burdened by the double whammy of character and injury concerns. The size and talent are there, but he’s a guy who was never able to put it together during his time at Oklahoma.
CB Walter Thurmond, Oregon (5-11, 182)
To me, Thurmond looked like one of the country’s top senior cornerbacks coming into the season based on his junior play. However, he never really had a chance to get going after injuring his knee in September and missing the rest of the ‘09 season. Even so, I still feel like he could end up contributing to a team at the next level and perhaps starting down the line.
DB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana, Pa. (6-1, 205)
A shoulder injury kept Owusu-Ansah from competing vs. the big boys at this year’s all-star games, so the small-schools standout is going to need to perform well during his postseason workouts to keep his name fresh in the minds of NFL evaluators.
SS Josh Pinkard, USC (6-1, 215)
You have to feel bad for a kid like Pinkard, who was a team-first player throughout his career at USC. However, after suffering his third major knee injury this season, you have to wonder if this guy is worth any kind of investment at the next level.
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