The draft’s boom-or-bust players: part 1

Talent vs. character/work ethic is one of the most debated topics in draft rooms across the country as NFL teams try to figure out if a prospect has the kind of passion needed to live up to his potential or if he’ll fall by the wayside and become someone who just didn’t want it bad enough. Here’s the first part of the National Football Post’s look at some of the top boom-or-bust prospects selected in the first three rounds of the draft:

DT Terrence Cody, Baltimore Ravens

What you have in Cody is a potential dominant two-down lineman with the ability to not only anchor at the point of attack but the kind of presence to make everyone around him better because of his ability to eat up blocks inside. Cody has the kind of upside to mature into a potential Ted Washington-type lineman who could play in the league for the next 10 years and be the centerpiece a defense can build its entire unit around. But at the same time, the biggest concern with any larger-than-life individual is making sure he doesn’t get too large. At Alabama, Cody tipped the scales at around 370 pounds at times, and in order to be the kind of player he’s capable of being, you would much rather see him closer to the 340 mark. He possesses impressive balance and body control for a nose tackle his size, and if he’s able to maintain his weight in the 340 range, not only is he going to improve his stamina as a two-down player, it will also allow him to make more plays and be a bit more disruptive inside. He could be a guy the Ravens end up building their 3-4 defense around if he pans out, but at the same time, if he can’t keep his weight under control, he could also be nothing more than a massive, underachieving backup nose.

OT Jared Veldheer, Oakland Raiders

Some saw this pick as a typical Al Davis move, selecting the ultra-talented small-school lineman with elite workout numbers earlier than anyone else would have touched him. However, that’s simply not the case with Veldheer. Although he’s from a small school and is an elite athlete, don’t be shocked to see this guy fight for a starting role at either tackle spot for the Raiders next season. Veldheer is not only a gifted athlete, he also possesses the body control to redirect in space and is a natural bender for his size. Plus, he’s also natural in the open field and has the range and coordination to get out and cut down defenders at the second level. He’s going to be coached by one of the better offensive line coaches in the NFL in Tom Cable and seems to only be scratching the surface of his potential. Although it’s tough to project a small-school, shorter-armed kid like Veldheer as an NFL left tackle, he does seem to have the perfect skill set needed to play right tackle in the Raiders’ zone-blocking scheme.

OT Anthony Davis, San Francisco 49ers

Davis was one of the toughest draft prospects I had to evaluate. He’s a kid who, at only 20 years old, possesses the type of elite skill set needed to mature into one of the better offensive tackles in the NFL. He’s a big, powerful, long-armed guy who really exhibited impressive athleticism in all areas of the game for his size. However, at the same time, he strikes me as an immature individual who simply doesn’t seem to “get it” at this stage. He not only battled his share of weight problems during his time at Rutgers, he also seems like a real passive kid who doesn’t have the type of killer instinct needed to consistently finish blocks in either the run or pass game. On tape, he isn’t technically sound and seems content to just get by, giving up way too much pressure in pass protection for someone with his size and athleticism. If the light ever goes on for him, the sky’s the limit. But I worry about him hitting his ceiling because of his passion and immaturity issues.

Others worth noting:

DE Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants

An immensely talented defensive lineman who possesses better instincts than given credit for. However, although he exhibits a rare first step for a guy his size, he’s still learning the intricacies of the position and wasn’t overly productive at the college level.

TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

Graham is a former basketball standout at Miami who made a seamless transition to football the past year. He’s a tall, long-armed athlete who runs extremely well for his size and looks natural when asked to go get the ball. He adds a really unique skill set to the Saints offense and has the ability to mature into something special in time.

QB Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos

How could we leave this guy off the list? The leadership skills, work rate, passion and overall intangibles he brings to the game are second to none. However, his ability to clean up his footwork and develop a better rhythm in the pass game is what will ultimately determine if he makes it at the next level. Still, I wouldn’t bet against him.

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