It’s officially the heart of NFL Draft season, both in personnel departments around the league and on the Internet. At Acme Packing Company, a thought occurred this week: what players have we evaluated horribly poorly?
That became the prompt for this week’s Walkthroughs, where five APC writers discuss one player each whom they thought would be great (or at least pretty good) but...just...weren’t. Who’s your biggest miss? Drop a line below in the comments.
Evan “Tex” Western: Jerel Worthy
When the Packers landed Worthy out of Michigan State in round two of the 2012 NFL Draft, I was ecstatic. The team’s 2011 defense was a sieve, giving up massive yardage both through the air and on the ground and generally having no pass rush to speak of. Clay Matthews saw his sacks drop off a cliff from 13 to six, while inside linebacker Desmond Bishop finished second on the team with five and no other player had more than three.
One of the common refrains about the defense was that it missed Cullen Jenkins, a talented interior pass-rusher who helped distract offenses from Matthews. With Jenkins departing in free agency after Super Bowl XLV, the Packers’ attempt to replace him by committee in 2011 was an abject failure. Enter Worthy, who was a dominant force on the line in East Lansing for three years. I was excited about his ability to produce as an interior pass-rusher and believed that his athleticism -- pretty good for a 6-foot-2, 310-pound lineman -- would translate well to the NFL. In hindsight, perhaps I was just more excited by how he fit on the defense and the role that I expected him to play.
As it turned out, an interior lineman from a Big Ten school that Ted Thompson chose in that draft did indeed become the star three-technique that the Packers needed. However, that was Mike Daniels, taken 81 picks after Worthy in the fourth round. Worthy quickly played his way out of Green Bay, as he suited up for just two games in his second season before being traded midway through his third training camp with the team. (Fun fact: Worthy was still in the NFL as recently as last season; he played four games for the Buccaneers in 2018.)
Peter Bukowski: Brett Hundley
A big, physical QB who can make plays on the run and flashes tremendous arm talent, Hundley had me sold. I thought he could pick up NFL offenses faster. I still believe he could have been more productive for the Packers with more RPOs, more half-field reads, and simpler concepts, but Mike McCarthy was unwilling to provide such a template.
The reality though, is simply Hundley never processed quickly enough, never saw the field and was able to pull the trigger based off what he was seeing. No trait is more important for a QB and the offense they ran at UCLA mitigated that concern because so much was predicated on one-read throws.
I take solace knowing smart people agreed with me, including Mike McCarthy and the Packers organization. Adam Schefter reported after Aaron Rodgers went down in 2017 with the collarbone that many around the league felt Hundley could do a good job. We ran a piece that included praise from Pac-12 Network analyst and Elite 11 coach Yogi Roth and ex-scout Bucky Brooks. But they were wrong too. We all were.
Matub: Jason Spriggs
Honestly, I was not a big draft-follower until around 2013. This severely hinders my ability to look back and pick a prospect with whom I was in love with. But man...Jason Spriggs. Jason became every Combine Truther’s best friend by fitting perfectly into all the stereotypes you see on draft profiles. “Look like Tarzan, Play like Jane.” “Workout warrior.” “Winner of the Underwear Olympics.”
Jason Spriggs is a top 20 ALL TIME tackle in terms of raw athleticism:
Jason Spriggs #RAS https://t.co/FOGU6s8D7H pic.twitter.com/bOarClF6zI— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) May 18, 2017
But, sadly, football isn’t 100% athleticism. Jason has yet to live up to his draft position or his athletic profile. I’ve been referring to him as “The Human Lagspike” for quite a while now, as he always seems to be a third of a second behind everyone else on the field.
The life and times of Jason Spriggs. Created from a conversation with @BadgerNoonan. pic.twitter.com/OaePpeFCOD— My name's Matt, but call me Matub (@CallMeMatub) August 27, 2017
Paul Noonan: Brian Brohm
A brief lesson on the limits of analytics and “scouting by stats.” When Brohm was about to enter the NFL draft Football Outsiders published some findings on the college stats the correlated best to NFL success. Those stats were completion percentage, and games started, with the caveat that this applied only to players taken in the first two rounds.
There were some good reasons for this, as a player who played a lot of games and was good enough to be drafted high had selection bias working in their favor. Scouts would have seen plenty of tape on said player, and knocked him or elevated him as warranted. A player being drafted on potential after just a season or two would be more about speculation, and more nebulous. Completion percentage also seemed like a good proxy for quality - at the time. Accuracy is probably the most important attribute a quarterback can have, and completion percentage seems - on the surface - like a good measurement. It is not. Or, at least, it started to become less so as QB-friendly offenses invaded the highest levels of college football, completion percentage started to reflect scheme much more than QB talent.
Such was the case with Brohm, who checked all the right boxes, but also exposed the limits of this kind of analysis and embodied the passing revolution at the college level. It’s fine to shy away from a player struggling to complete passes, but don’t fall in love with someone based on college stats.
Jon Meerdink: Datone Jones
I am still waiting for the Datone Jones breakout season. Sooner or later, he’s going to put it all together. He just hasn’t had the right opportunity yet! It couldn’t be that I was simply wr...wr...wro...incorrect about his ability to produce at the NFL level!
Actually, it’s definitely that. And I can pinpoint the exact moment I went astray. It all started with a Bleacher Report article (first mistake!) that laid out Jones’s professionalism (he wore a suit to his Combine meetings!) and physical characteristics (he has a great build!), two characteristics that would surely lead to NFL success (they didn’t!).
From there, it was just a matter of self-justification. No evidence to the contrary would shake me from my belief that Jones was, at the very least, an eight to 10-year starter on the defensive line, perhaps a multiple-time Pro Bowler. Turns out, not so much, and as a result, I’ve cut down a lot of my pre-draft reading. Sure, the occasional rosy profile is still fun. But it’s much better to rely on tape and testing, and taking both with a significant grain of salt.