When we talk about "risk" in the draft, what do we mean? If a team takes a flyer on a guy in the middle-to-late rounds - a spread-offense quarterback with little chance to make the pro transition, a receiver with demon speed and little else, a tackle on either side of the ball with great athleticism and iffy fundamentals, or a player at any position who's already been coached to his ceiling - well, the risk is negligible. Teams are playing dice with the universe after the first couple of rounds, and they know it. It's the picks early on that can come back and haunt a franchise for years if they're made without the proper scouting and background work. Here are 10 players with first- and second-round grades who also possess major risk factors that could make them either bargains or busts.
QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: Of course, the big positive with Clausen is that he's pro-ready; his work with Charlie Weis presented him with the ability to get a head start on the intricacies of the pro game. He won't have to adjust too heavily when it comes to the verbiage of NFL play calls, and he's far more comfortable under center than any other highly-regarded quarterback in this class. However, the increase in the number of spread offenses over the last five years sometimes has NFL personnel men overrating the effects of pro-readiness, and not looking closely enough at the pure physical tools that certain coaching tactics may inflate beyond actual potential. Clausen still has many questions to answer at the next level, especially if a team overdrafts him hoping for a quick solution.
QB Tim Tebow, Florida: It's not the mechanics we're talking about here - it's common knowledge that Tebow will require at least a year of development before he's ready to remotely resemble an NFL quarterback. But that's the problem. If Tebow doesn't go to an NFL team with an established starting quarterback, every mistake made by the QBs in front of him will be amplified by a super-fawning media beyond anxious for him to get on the field so more quick stories can be written. Through no fault of his own, Tebow has the potential to rip a team apart.
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech: On the surface, Dwyer seems like a dream for any team looking to add a power back to its roster - he accounted for identical 1,395-yard rushing seasons in 2008 and 2009, bulling his way through opposing lines at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds. But when you look closer, there are concerns about Dwyer's ability to gain consistent yardage away from Paul Johnson's triple-option, not to mention his slow 40 times. Dwyer might be able to transcend schematic concerns, but those concerns are legitimate.
TE Jimmy Graham, Miami: From Tony Gonzalez(notes) to Antonio Gates(notes), NFL teams have looked to the basketball court to find tight ends. Gates has been San Diego's main playmaker for years despite the fact that he played no college football - his ridiculous athleticism and great potential for the pro game had teams falling all over him in private workouts. Graham shares a similar set of skills - he played mostly basketball for the Hurricanes, with just one season of football at the collegiate level. Still, his 4.5 speed at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds will have teams looking to take him early in the second day. Living up to Gates and Gonzalez with minimal experience will be a challenge.
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: It's not about the 10-game suspension in 2009 - Bryant was unwise to lie about his friendship with Deion Sanders, but the hypocrisy of an organization that keeps its players under ridiculous financial constraints while raking in ungodly cash is a larger issue. Still, with all his talent, Bryant has been taken off several draft boards altogether because of maturity and work ethic questions. Risky stuff for a kid who could still go in the top 15.
OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland: Campbell might be the biggest workout warrior in this year's draft class; he's gone to the Raiders with the eighth overall pick in so many mock drafts, the joke isn't even funny anymore. As chiseled as any defensive end, Campbell has only 17 starts to fall back on at the college level, and the raw technique bleeds all over his game tape. He's got a lot of work to do before he's NFL-ready; the question is whether he'll put in the work and move past being just another big, fast guy.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida: Pierre-Paul's high draft stock is based entirely on the amazing speed off the snap that allows him to flash great potential as a pass-rusher. But with only one season out of the junior college ranks, Pierre-Paul's weak points are still glaringly obvious. He's a straight-ahead dasher only, still confused on most stunts, and he can be easily washed out against the run. Pierre-Paul may be the next Jevon Kearse(notes), but he's probably got more work to do to get there than most people think.
DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida: At 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, and able to run a legit sub-4.7 40, Dunlap has the physical tools to dominate at any level. However, his tendency to rely too much on that size and not enough on technique may leave him ill-qualified to deal with NFL tackles who will be far less impressed with Dunlap's ability to lunge around a bad block. His DUI arrest four days before the SEC title game begs additional pause, and a harder look at the entire package.
DB Patrick Robinson, Florida State: Robinson's game tape can be maddening. One play will show him running with any receiver, utilizing his man-on-man speed to shut things down. Then, another will see him bail out of a zone, or slip a tackle. If he can develop consistency, Robinson can become a Pro Bowl defender. As it stands right now, he'll give his coaches an equal amount of agita for every bit of praise.
S Taylor Mays, USC: Another athletic wonder. It's not often you see a guy who can run 40s before 4-3 at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. The problem with Mays is those skills are often used in disorganized fashion. For all his straight-line speed, Mays struggles with coverage concepts. He's good in center field or close to the line, but the fifteen yards in between will decide his effectiveness at the next level.