Gabriel: The riskiest prospects in the 2018 NFL draft

Character, competitiveness or injury concerns cloud these prospects' draft status

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Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Every year there are prospects in the draft who will bring a level of risk for the club that selects them — whether because of injury or character concerns. Regardless, the risk could prevent the player from being drafted where his talent level suggests. The following are some players that fit into that category.

Maurice Hurst – DT – Michigan

Going into the combine, Hurst was viewed as a possible first-round pick. Things changed at the combine, where he was not allowed to work out before being sent home because of some heart abnormalities.

Hurst had further testing done and was cleared by a group of doctors just before the Michigan pro day, where he was allowed to compete. Though he was cleared by one group of doctors, that does not mean that all team doctors will agree. My experience tells me that there will still be some clubs that have red-flagged Hurst, and those teams won’t draft him. There will be others that feel he is good to go. How much this will affect Hurst's draft status won’t be known until draft weekend.

Antonio Callaway – WR – Florida

On pure talent alone, Callaway is one of the best receivers in this class. There is no doubt that he has talent equal to players like Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore. The problem that Callaway has is off-field issues that got him dismissed from the Florida football team. In Callaway’s case, there hasn’t been one single issue but numerous issues that have clubs concerned.

Callaway has done his best in recent weeks to try and let clubs know that these indiscretions were in the past, but clubs may see it differently. He could go as high as the second round or as low as the sixth.

Orlando Brown – OT – Oklahoma

With Brown, his medical and character check out fine. In his case, it was his workout. Brown wasn’t expected to test that well at the combine, but he tested much worse than expected. He proved to be the least athletic tackle in the draft.

At the Oklahoma pro day, Brown tested better than he did in Indy, but in comparison with others at the position, it was still poor. When we watch tape of Brown, we see a physically dominant player — and that is where the problem is. Will the team that drafts him be getting the top prospect we saw on tape or the poor athlete we saw at the combine?

Going into the combine, Brown looked like a sure first-round pick. Now, who knows where he goes, but my guess is the third round.

Nick Chubb – RB – Georgia

After his freshman season at Georgia, Chubb looked like he could potentially be a top-five selection in the draft. All that ended in 2015, when a severe knee injury ended Chubb’s season. Similar injuries have ended some players' careers, but Chubb was able to bounce back and play productively in both 2016 and 2017. Still, like with Hurst, the result of the medical could have an effect on where Chubb gets drafted, and just like with Hurst, all clubs will not carry the same opinion.

Josh Allen – QB – Wyoming

Over the last 15 years, we have seen a number of quarterbacks with cannon arms go very high in the draft, only to bust. Allen has very good overall athleticism and easily the best arm in this draft. The problem is that Allen never plays up to his great physical talent. When he goes up against better competition, he struggles. In games vs. Power-5 competition, Allen is 0-3 with a completion percentage of just 50, plus eight interceptions and only one touchdown. In his two seasons at Wyoming, he completed only 56 percent of his throws. In the last 12 years there has been no quarterback drafted high with as low a completion percentage that had any success in the NFL. If Allen is to be successful, he will be the first.

There is no question Allen will go high in the draft, perhaps the first overall pick, but no player in this draft carries as much risk. It will be very interesting to track his early career.

Tremaine Edmunds – LB – Virginia Tech

Edmunds is one of the best pure athletes in the linebacker class. He has rare size, speed and overall athleticism. That’s not the problem; instincts (or lack thereof) is. Edmunds is not an anticipator but rather a reactor, and at the NFL level that can mean the difference between making a play or not making it. At the linebacker position, instincts are one of the most important traits a player must possess.

Still, Edmunds is only 19 years old, and with experience, his reaction time will improve. The question is will he become the player his athletic traits say he should become?

Equanimeous St. Brown – WR – Notre Dame

Looking solely at his physical traits, St. Brown is one of the more gifted athletes in the wide receiver class. Following the 2016 season, he looked as if he would become a future first-round selection, as he had 58 receptions for 961 yards and 9 touchdowns.

In 2017, his production fell off — he finished the year with only 33 catches for 515 yards and 4 touchdowns. Granted, the quarterback situation at Notre Dame hurt his game, but when we watch tape, so did St. Brown's effort level. Plays and effort he showed in 2016, we didn’t see in 2017. He played as if he knew he was turning pro and wanted to protect himself. Competitive attitude is an important part of the evaluation process, and we didn’t see a winning competitive effort from St. Brown in 2017.

There is no question that St. Brown has excellent talent, but how badly does he want to maximize it? That the question exists means that St. Brown is a bit of a wild card in this draft. He could go as high as the second or as low as the fourth round. It will be interesting to see just where he finally ends up.