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When production does not meet talent

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Posted April 20, 2011 @ 4:01 p.m. ET
By Nolan Nawrocki

The "underachiever" label is commonly slapped on players whose production does not meet their physical talent. The following players have the potential to be terrific NFL pros, but for it to happen, they must realize that they have coasted too much on their raw traits. They also must learn that they are no longer on scholarship and work much more diligently at their craft than they did in college to realize their potential. Players are listed in alphabetical order:

DE Christian Ballard, Iowa
Ballard has first-round athletic talent, clocking in the low 4.7s at his pro day at 286 pounds and vertical-jumping 34 inches, but on tape, it’s the overachieving Karl Klug who stands out much more often for his effort and hustle. Ballard left a lot of production on the field and too often plays small. After electing not to perform the bench-press test at the NFL Scouting Combine, he mustered only 16 reps at his pro day, indicating to evaluators that his work ethic in the weight room is not what it should be. He now is regarded as more of a third-round developmental talent than the first-rounder he flashed signs of being at the Senior Bowl. He has double-digit-type sack potential and instead finished with just three, and his production dropped considerably from a year ago. Teams are concerned that he has been too complacent just going through the motions.

OT Joseph Barksdale, LSU
A three-year starter in the Southeastern Conference, Barksdale possesses raw, brute strength and proved capable of holding ihs own. However, he plays way too passively, does not use his hands and shows no urgency in his play. The reason for his soft football temperament, many evaluators believe, is his lack of motivation, questionable work ethic and "frat" lifestyle. He is too much of a follower, easily distracted off the field and had a number of run-ins in college — including suffering a broken jaw at the hands of a teammate and a Twitter outburst — that have teams concerned about his maturity level. Based on his physical traits he could warrant looks in the third round, but it's also possible he slips to the back of the draft because of make-up concerns.

OLB Justin Houston, Georgia
When he wants to come off the edge with power, Houston clearly can, and it’s not easy to stop him at 6-3, 270 pounds moving at 4.64 speed (in the 40-yard dash). He has legitimate pass-rush potential when his hand is on the ground and he is flying at the snap. The greatest concerns that evaluators have is that he too often plays down to the level of competition. Watch him against Idaho State when he could have easily piled up five sacks and he packed it in and appeared to be saving himself for Auburn. When he is playing off the ball or asked to read and react, he is late to find it. Also, concerns still remain about his early-season suspension in 2009.

DT Terrell McClain, South Florida

McClain's pro-day workout was one of the best in the country. He looked like a young Warren Sapp going through drills, but his tape does not come close to matching. In three years as a starter, he has never recorded more than three sacks in a season. He’s not known as a worker. His toughness, effort and competitiveness are questionable. He easily loses focus and has been too much of a flash player throughout his career. He could warrant interest as early as the second round, but he will require a demanding position coach to maximize his potential and overcome the "underachiever" label.

MLB Martez Wilson, Illinois

On paper, Wilson looks like a first-round pick — he’s nearly 6-4, 250 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in the mid-4.4s. Throw on tape of him, however, and he thinks and reacts much closer to a player who runs a 4.8 40-time. He’s extremely tight-hipped, shows too much stiffness in his body and most of his production is uncontested with free lanes to the ball. He does not play to his size, struggles to clear his way through congestion and almost always seems to be in a delayed trail position instead of instinctively reading and reacting. Wilson projects as a second-round pick in a weak LB class, but grades out like an NFL backup on tape and stands to be considerably overdrafted.


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