|Jim Brown / US Presswire|
|If Jake Locker fails to meet expectations, other members of the Titans could feel the heat.|
Three years from now, which player taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft will we look upon as a bust?
Jason La Canfora: Titan-sized challenge
I have a hard time figuring that Jake Locker becomes that much more accurate as a pro than he was in college. I just don't see it. He's a player who easily could have fallen into the late first round, perhaps even the second. The Titans will face additional scrutiny here as well since he's the first pick of the post-Jeff Fisher era. Locker comes in on the heels of Vince Young's rapid demise, and you wonder just how much he is going to do outside the pocket to offset some of his deficiencies in the pocket. The fact that six other quarterbacks went in the top 74 picks, and that some picked well after Locker could actually be better suited for success, won't make it any easier. This is a boom-or-bust pick.
Michael Lombardi: Desperate picks rarely work
Locker and Christian Ponder going where they did shows the desperation to find a QB of the future in Tennessee and Minnesota, respectively. The Titans and Vikings might say their move was more courageous than desperate -- courageous in the sense that both teams believe they can make this succeed. When we look back at both of these picks, my sense is that we will learn the choices were, in fact, an act of desperation, with both quarterbacks lacking the skills to be effective starters in the league.
Bucky Brooks: Left to wonder in Dallas
It's tough to forecast the failure of a player, but I have serious concerns about Tyron Smith's ability to become a franchise left tackle in Dallas. Although he has the size, strength and athleticism to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player, he doesn't strike me as a natural fit on the left side, and I worry about the Cowboys playing him out of position. If he plays extensively at right tackle, he has a chance to be a solid contributor. However, the temptation to use a big, physical athlete on the quarterback's blind side could ultimately derail a promising career.
Pat Kirwan: Can Cam fulfill expectations?
Cam Newton is a fine prospect and hopefully will have a great career after winning a BCS national championship at Auburn. Still, Matt Leinart and Vince Young both won national championships and have struggled to produce in the NFL. Newton is going to a team in rebuilding mode and lacking a strong supporting cast. The lockout is going to have an impact on his rookie season. Patience has never been a virtue of any fan base or the media when it comes to judging quarterbacks who play early. Had Newton fell to a place like Jacksonville that has a veteran quarterback to play for a year or two things might be better. I'm afraid Newton will have to play too early in a division with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman. That means playing from behind to often.
Vic Carucci: Too much pressure to perform
As the top overall pick, Newton already is saddled with through-the-roof expectations that would be difficult to meet even if he was a more fully developed quarterback. Newton has the added burden of being more of an athlete than a complete passer. His raw skills are going to need plenty of time to reach the point where he can become effective enough to remotely reach the potential that goes with his draft status, as well as his Heisman Trophy and BCS title. Three years simply won't be long enough.
Charles Davis: Top pick will draw spotlight
I predicted from January on that Newton would be the first pick in the draft. His credentials were considerable and, in many ways, warranted the pick. However, if he is unable to put the Panthers on his back and equal the development of recent quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco, and Josh Freeman (and the odds are against a young QB having THAT kind of success so early), he will be perceived as not worthy of his draft status.
Steve Wyche: Tough act to follow
It's hard for me to call any draft pick outside of the top 10 a bust because expectations of top-10 picks are for them to be major impact guys. I'm reluctantly rolling with Locker. He is a gamer with nice skills and an unmatched will to succeed, but some teams had him graded as a second- or even a third-round player. If that wasn't enough pressure, he's going to a team where the previous top-10 quarterback, Vince Young, didn't work, longtime coach Jeff Fisher stepped down and the top wide receiver, Kenny Britt, keeps finding trouble. The Titans have banked a lot on Locker, and if it doesn't work a whole lot of people could be on thin ice.
Elliot Harrison: Work ethic must be on par
I have some reservations about the Lions' Nick Fairley. Detroit's subtle gamble on a big-time prospect with work ethic questions reminds me of taking a date to Six Flags. It could go either way. Either the gal is going to think you're quirky cool, or an idiot. The Lions are going to look awfully smart if Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch lead through osmosis, and Fairley dominates. But with his talent, and going in the top 15, Fairley needs to be at least a second team All-Pro at some point. Unfortunately, work ethic concerns could prevent that from happening, not to mention they're the worst sort of question marks when embarking on an NFL career. This is a franchise that has a long history of busts that it just re-wrote with good picks like Calvin Johnson and Suh. If Fairley fails, it's a devastating blow for a team that's so close to turning the corner.