Skip to main content

Instant Debate

Myles Jack, Robert Nkemdiche, Cardale Jones among 2016 draft class wild cards

Despite all of the extensive work that goes into scouting prospective employees, the NFL draft is a crapshoot. Year after year, we see various first-round selections fail to live up to expectations while certain Day 3 picks and undrafted free agents provide unexpected returns. That said, there are always particular guys who carry more question marks than the average prospect, due to character concerns or health issues or limited experience at a high level of play.

All of this begs the question: Who is the biggest wild card in the 2016 draft class?

There are a lot of nominees in this draft class, but my main two have to be the two injured linebackers, Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith. The Jaguars (Jack) and Cowboys (Smith) were both quite excited to scoop up a player with elite traits on Day 2. And now we predictably hear optimism from both franchises regarding the players' medical conditions. What we have to remember is that both of these players were considered to be top-five talents -- yet nobody picking in the 20s took a chance on either.

Jack is of particular interest to me. If healthy, this guy's a certain Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Will he approach that level of play ... or be a non-factor/injured reserve candidate due to his knee issue? A high second-round pick on a team that's widely expected to break through in 2016, Jack's fate looms large for Jags coach Gus Bradley and GM Dave Caldwell. Robert Nkemdiche is a supremely talented player, but when you watch him on tape, you don't see full effort 100 percent of the time. He took plays off in college -- and we've seen others do the same -- but when he was getting after it, he was unblockable. I think Nkemdiche is with the right head coach in Bruce Arians, and I've heard positive comments coming out of rookie camp already about how Nkemdiche was giving it everything he has. But there's always a question if he will revert to his college ways. Hopefully, that's not the case. Since this is a very open-ended question, I think the top pick of the draft, Jared Goff, might be the biggest wild card in the draft class. Goff has the ability to come in and compete for a starting job right away -- and there is enough talent on defense and at the running back spot for the Rams to have some success without the rookie QB having to carry the team.

If Goff plays with confidence and gets help from the talent around him, he could become a wild card in a good way. Jaguars rookie linebacker Myles Jack was considered a top-10 pick until word spread about the lingering severity of the knee injury he sustained last fall. Nobody truly knows if Jack's health will be an issue long term, but if it isn't, this much is certain: He will be the steal of the 2016 draft.

In selecting Jack in the second round, Jacksonville acquired a versatile defender who's as comfortable banging with offensive linemen as he is blitzing and covering wide receivers in space. It's difficult to find linebackers who can do it all these days. If Jack can stay healthy, he has legit star potential. Christian Hackenberg has a legitimate chance to compete to be the Jets' starting quarterback. Without much progress in contract talks with Ryan Fitzpatrick, it looks like Hackenberg and Geno Smith could battle it out for the position. If the former Penn State signal caller can impress the coaches and earn the top job, I think he could develop into the next Russell Wilson. He is the most intriguing player in this draft class to me, but I just don't know how things will play out over the next few months. I feel like, if this were any other draft class, Joey Bosa might not have had a first-round grade on him. He was pushed up because of the lack of pass rushers in this class. Yes, Bosa is a technician, a hard worker and is disciplined, but there's nothing elite about him -- not his size, speed, explosive power or strength. With a top-10-to-15 pick, teams are looking for game changers, and I don't think he's that.

I think the Chargers passed on some players who could have fixed issues right away. They are throwing Bosa into a 3-4 defense, which he's never played in -- and training him to play in space, come off the edge and all these other things he wasn't asked to do in college. The things Bosa did do at Ohio State, I didn't think he was exceptionally great at any of them. I don't care what the stats say. It'll be interesting to see how he does in San Diego. The wildest of wild cards can only be Cardale Jones. In selecting the former Ohio State quarterback with the last pick of Round 4, the Buffalo Bills added a quarterback with first-round physical tools -- from size to athleticism to arm strength -- but one who needs lots of coaching and polish. Jones couldn't even hold onto the starting job in Columbus last year, so the amount of development needed here can't be understated.

If Jones ever closes the gap between potential and performance, though, the Bills will reap high rewards for a No. 139 overall selection. In the last few seasons, the Giants signed Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to big contracts, so I was surprised they picked up Eli Apple at the No. 10 spot. I thought Apple would've been selected late in the first round. He likely will play a role early on and will be tested from Day 1. Only time will tell if he'll be a good fit with this Giant defense. For me, Jaylon Smith is the biggest wild card because he has a major injury that could keep him off the field for his entire rookie season -- and the Cowboys knew that going into the draft. He is highly talented and has the size to be successful in the NFL, but we don't know if he's going to recover and be the same player he was before the injury. Dallas must be seeing something that shows the athletic linebacker will be able to do that. But until Smith is back on the field and I see him do it, I'm not sold on this second-round pick. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett -- the third-round pick of the New England Patriots -- has the physical tools for the position. He went to the right team, one that will do a fine job developing him. Brissett is a good athlete who can and will run. He has excellent arm strength with very good touch. He will compete, has spectacular work habits and is a great leader. Brissett can play under center and in the spread. I think you'll be hearing from this guy in the future.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content