The culmination of the 2011 college football season is not complete until Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Field host the NFL Combine. Sure players have their private pro days at their respective universities, but nothing is as observed, scrutinized and followed as the Combine. Draftniks like Mel Kiper, Jr., Todd McShay and Mike Mayock use the Combine results to build, adjust and support their projections. Spectacles like the Combine breed over-analysis and mass hype, however, that often drives up the stock of players whose body of work does not warrant such high regard. The hype is not exclusive to 2012 as it always has and always will be a part of the process of attaching objective measures to subjective situations. So who are the over-hyped players in the 2012 NFL Draft?
Robert Griffin III : Yes, that Robert Griffin III. The other franchise quarterback the Indy Colts are supposedly considering for the top overall pick. Just stop it. Griffin is an unbelievable quarterback, a game changer to say the least, but he is not the franchise quarterback Andrew Luck is. Griffin blew everyone away at the Combine, registering a taller height than most expected, running a blazing 40 to cement his status as an elite player and blowing team execs away in interviews. Griffin has immense potential, but at what cost? Let us not forget, as incredible as his junior season was, it was one year. One year against 5 of the bottom 25 defenses in the country. One year which saw injury concerns flare up and have a select few question whether or not Griffin's health will hold up in a league where smaller (but comparable in size/skill set) quarterback Michael Vick always seems one hit away from the injury report. Griffin missed part of a game in 2011 and considerable time in 2010 due to injury, which given his price, Washington cannot afford to see happen in their uniform. Griffin could very well become the franchise quarterback many expect him to be, but giving up three 1sts and a 2nd are more than rebuilding teams should pay for any unproven player. The nature of the game breeds reaching for the quarterback position and there is no better example than the Washington Redskins.
Vontaze Burfict : Following an immensely disappointing 2011 season at Arizona State, Burfict is a near complete omission from the over-hyped list as he has done nothing in 12 months to warrant the minute amount of hype that remains for the much maligned linebacker. There is no doubt Burfict is meant to be on a football field, as his crushing hits on numerous YouTube clips would suggest. However, it is his off-the-field issues combined with the lackluster 2011 campaign that has many questioning his potential. When Dennis Erickson decides you are too big of a jerk to see the field, certainly some character concerns are prevalent. Burfict cannot seem to get out of his own way and a sub-par performance on the field has all but eroded the hype surrounding Burfict.
Alshon Jeffery : Scouts cannot help but get excited at the sight of a 6'4" 230 pound specimen that can run and catch. Following Jeffery's sophomore success, scouts could not wait for him to declare. However, Jeffery's lackluster junior season, questions about his weight, and concerns about speed have some wondering. Certainly some team will be blinded by tangibles, but reaching for the Gamecock would be a mistake. Jeffery showed up lean for the Combine, but his avoidance of the 40 yard dash has some concerned. Jeffery has shown the ability to dominate and excel at times, but teams smitten with his size should be wary over-paying for the wide receiver.
Dontari Poe : Perhaps only one other invite saw his stock sky rocket during the Combine workouts more than Dontari Poe. A massive man at 6'4" and 346 pounds, Poe raised some eyebrows with his workouts and drew comparisons to Raven great Haloti Ngata. A perfect example of what a great workout at the Combine will do: analysts seemed to have forgotten Poe's production (or lack thereof) at the University of Memphis. Facing less than elite talent for 3 seasons in Conference USA, Poe never came close to dominating and only amassed 5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. It is hard for owners and GMs to not fall in love a workout, especially one as dominating as Poe's, but teams would be well served to check Poe's tape one last time before reaching for him.
Brock Osweiler : There is no greater scrutinized position for tangibles than quarterback. A line of demarcation, if you will, separating the NFL-capable quarterbacks and those who took advantage of watered down competition despite their feeble frame and measures. Standing at 6'7" and weighing 247 pounds, Brock Osweiler has more than enough to go around. His size has advantageous coaches salivating. Reading defenses and throwing motions can be taught and changed, but players' height cannot be coached up. While Osweiler certainly has the height thing down, that may be his best (and only?) attribute. An erratic throwing motion leads to inaccurate throws and even drops his throwing height down to an average 6'3". Osweiler is a project at best and teams should not expect anything more.
Michael Brockers : Another "freak athlete", Michael Brockers was a contributor on an LSU defense that dominated every opponent in 2011 and led the Tigers to the National Championship game. However, outside of defensive back Morris Claiborne, it is tough to single out another standout player on the defense. For many analysts, enter Michael Brockers. Young, raw and athletic, Brockers showed flashes in 2011, but never dominated (only amassing 2 sacks). In an age of defensive line focus (thank you New York), Brockers is perhaps receiving more attention than his production suggests he should. Teams should expect some work and time refining and tuning Brockers' game, which is not what fan bases and ownership expects from a top-20 pick.