This is a guest article, written by Ned Balme. Let’s get one thing straight. When a business is willing to invest millions of dollars in an entity, you’d best believe they want that faith returned…with interest. Every player drafted has pressure to perform. If an NFL franchise didn't believe he would have a chance of making the roster then they wouldn't have picked him. There is, from the very start, an expectation. This pressure is magnified when a player is given the privilege of being drafted in the 1st round at the age of 23, becoming a virtual lock as a future millionaire. Further adding to this are outside influences from the media, current team rosters, salary issues, recent draft history, player comparisons as well as public opinion. It's clearly a high pressure situation. But some are in more pressure to perform than others. And so without further ado, the 5 draft prospects facing the most pressure to perform.
1. Robert Griffin III. QB. Baylor Likely draft destination(s): Redskins, pick 2. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="234" caption="RG3 is going to be the face of the Redskins franchise."][/caption] Granted, any quarterback taken in the top 10 faces immediate pressure and scrutiny. Just look at Blaine Gabbert.
2. Justin Blackmon. WR. Oklahoma State Likely draft destination(s): Vikings pick.3, Browns pick.4, Rams pick.6 [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="265" caption="Blackmon could find himself drafted as early as 3rd overall."][/caption] It may be that he is only 6’1. It could well be that he inevitably receives comparisons to the athletically superior Dez Bryant. It might also be that something special is expected of wide receivers drafted in the Top 10. Recent speculation has linked the Minnesota Vikings at pick no.3 to Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon. In this ever evolving pass oriented league, where great wide receivers can seemingly come out of nowhere -Victor Cruz, Jordy Nelson, Stevie Johnson- what does that say of a player when you draft him in the top 10? It says you expect him to be Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. Anything less would be a disappointment. So as a result, going on “Megatron's” last season, anything less than 1600 yards and 16 TD’s would be a disappointment. Is this a fair expectation to put on a receiver barely nudging 6’1, without explosive speed and more suited as a route runner? If Minnesota decide to give Christian Ponder a weapon in Justin Blackmon, his effectiveness as a receiver may not be on full display as Ponder would be getting blindsided as result of them passing on taking a franchise LT in Matt Kalil out of USC. If Blackmon lands in Cleveland his immediate performance will be judged as he is not only there to make plays, but also to improve the play of quarterback Colt McCoy. Also not forgetting to mention if Cleveland pass on Alabama running back Trent Richardson and he becomes the next Adrian Peterson, lets just say the Browns fans will become quite resentful of their former number 4 pick. As for the Rams, two years ago they were one win away from representing the NFC West in the playoffs. Then injuries decimated their receiving corps in 2011 which in turn led to a decline in play of promising quarterback Sam Bradford. Popular logic states: 2011 Sam Bradford + Good receiver = Rookie of the year Sam Bradford. Justin Blackmon is the victim of a pass happy league and as a result is in contemplation of a draft position much too high for his production and the general value of his position. I’d say that is just a little bit of pressure.
3. Luke Kuechly. ILB. Boston College Likely draft destination(s): Bills pick.10, Chiefs pick.11, Seahawks pick.12, Cowboys pick.14 Kuechly has some of the best credentials of any player entering the draft. Three time All-American, 2011 ACC defensive player of the year, two time Bowl Game MVP, 2011 Lombardi and Butkus award winner as well as breaking the all time Boston College and ACC tackling record. [caption id="attachment_14940" align="alignright" width="230" caption="Kuechly is universally proclaimed the number 1 MLB in the draft."][/caption] His football intelligence and instincts are off the charts, his collegiate production was nothing short of amazing and he came into the draft combine and quelled any worries about his size by weighing in at 242lbs without losing his agility. On paper, he has no flaws. On paper, he is the “safest” pick in the draft. And there lies the problem. The last linebacker to arrive in the NFL among such universal acclaim and infallibility was 2009 4th overall pick Aaron Curry out of another ACC college, Wake Forest. Curry had two underwhelming years with the Seahawks and after not being able to come to grips with the system was traded to the Raiders for 7th round and conditional draft pick in 2011. Does this in any way suggest that Kuechly will be resemblant of Curry? Not at all. But it should at least be a consideration because as we all know, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Especially in the NFL.
4. Quinton Coples. DE. North Carolina Likely draft destination(s): Jaguars pick.7, Panthers pick.9, Seahawks pick.12 The second is coming from a program that developed 2011 1st round pick Robert Quinn and arguably the most productive defensive end of the last decade, Julius Peppers. [caption id="attachment_14941" align="alignleft" width="192" caption="Pass-rushers like Coples are always in demand."][/caption] Physically, Coples stands at 6’6, weighing in at 284lbs so the comparisons to Julius Peppers are appropriate on that front. However let's not forget that Peppers came out of college as the 2nd overall pick to the Carolina Panthers. The difference in a player as a number 2 pick and one that could possibly slip into the teens is immense and speaks greatly to the different skill sets each present. In last year's draft Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers had one of the greatest draft falls in recent memory going from a consensus number 2 pick early in the process and wound up going No.51 to Tampa Bay. As a result, this immense first round talent had the pressure of a late second round pick on his shoulders. Simply put, a day one slide could be the best thing for Coples as it could slightly dip expectations on his first year production as he refines his game. Unfortunately, this doesn’t look like the case and until he proves otherwise, Coples will always draw comparisons to Julius Peppers and subsequently, management and fans alike will expect similar production.
5. Ryan Tannehill. QB. Texas A&M Likely draft destination(s): Browns pick.4, Dolphins pick.8 No quarterback in recent memory has been more victimised by hype than Ryan Tannehill. [caption id="attachment_14942" align="alignright" width="262" caption="Tannehill could easily be a Top 10 pick."][/caption] You know, the whole “I was actually a wide receiver until two years ago because I wasn’t good enough to be the starter” thing. There are three reasons why Tannehill has rocketed up the draft board this offseason: -Miami and Cleveland missing out on the Manning/Flynn sweapstakes. -The increasing importance of QB play in the NFL. -Matt Barkley’s decision to stay at USC for his senior year. In early January, Tannehill was being discussed as a 2nd round developmental pick who showed flashes of class but will need time behind a veteran to acclimatise to the NFL. There is now talk of Miami trading up with the Minnesota Vikings to acquire the number three overall pick and all but securing the services of Tannehill. If this was to come to fruition, the young Aggie would have the pressure of rebuilding a franchise that hasn’t had a quarterback since Dan Marino, putting butts in SunLife stadium and restoring the fan base's faith in GM Jeff Ireland and the front office. Not to mention if taken at pick three overall, his play would obviously be compared throughout the season to Andrew Luck as well as RG3. The slightly better prospect for Tannehill would be to land in Cleveland, in which his best offensive weapon is left tackle Joe Thomas, and would still be expected to perform in his rookie year. Good luck kid.
This is a guest article, written by Ned Balme. You can find Ned on his blog, which is where this article was originally published: http://nedbalmelives.wordpress.com/