Boom-or-bust prospects are nothing new. From each and every draft class, we see players that have immense potential, elite measurables, and eye-opening tools that fail to develop and live up to the hype and produce disappointing careers.
There is no shortage to these high-risk, high-reward prospects in 2018. While there is a huge risk that they won’t be able to overcome key flaws, whether it be technique or the mental aspect of the game, the chance of becoming a superstar is what often entices teams enough to take them early on in the draft.
4. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
The blindside protector for Josh Rosen, Kolton Miller has been garnering some hype recently in the draft process. His physical traits are intriguing; he stands at 6’8″ and 310 pounds with long arms and prevent opposing rushers from reaching his chest and gaining the edge. Miller also has surprisingly quick footwork as well for a man of that stature. The agility of his feet along with playing with a wide base allows him to maintain balance. His aggressiveness and hustle as a run blocker are great, and his leg drive through contact stands out in particular.
However, Miller has a good amount of concerns. He’s lacking in the bulk and core strength to consistently anchor well and deliver an effective punch. He hasn’t shown the hand strength to latch onto defenders and finish blocks. You’d often see guys able to break Miller’s grasp and pursue the ball carrier late. His stiffness and lack of bend caused him to struggle dealing with more athletic and flexible pass rushers. He plays with a high pad level and wide hand placement that exposes his chest, allowing pass rushers to walk him back to the quarterback.
There’s no doubting Miller’s potential and physical profile. However, the flashes of Matt Kalil that he shows are certainly worrying as well.
3. Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Bryan’s lethal first step, athleticism, and length are very appealing, and likely enough to get him drafted very early on. But he looks like more of a project than his hype warrants, and needs a lot of refinement in his game. Bryan’s instincts are below average and can be slow to locate the football. His lack of power, high pad level, and weak base gives him tremendous difficulty anchoring, and maintaining balance and leverage. He hasn’t shown counter moves when beaten initially and struggles to disengage from blocks.
Bryan has all the tools necessary to be a dominant force on the interior. Until he’s able to make huge strides early on, I don’t see him ever capitalizing on his massive potential.
2. Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State
Ballage is an athletic specimen who put everyone on notice after an 8 touchdown performance vs. Texas Tech. At 6’2″ and nearly 230 pounds, Ballage possesses ridiculous burst and top-end speed. He’s an elite route runner for the running back position with strong hands. He also has the power and lower body strength to drive through contact and lowers the shoulder to punish defenders in his path.
As naturally talented as Ballage is, he comes with concerns as well. His vision isn’t where it needs to be, runs high, and takes false steps. Ballage also lacks the ability react to offensive line play and anticipate lanes through traffic.
Ballage has all the potential in the world to become everything David Johnson has been for the Arizona Cardinals. However, his game needs refinement and until he puts it all together, Ballage will be more of a rotational back than a workhorse.
1. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Wyoming’s signal-caller has been a hot commodity in the draft community since late 2016. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is a huge fan, and cited Allen’s success as a winner of the all-important Potato Bowl as the reason for being his top-ranked QB prospect. We all know of his insane arm talent and velocity to make tight-window throws. Josh Allen’s arm is truly special, and when combined with impressive athleticism at his size, can make some ridiculous plays on the move. He flashes shades of Ben Roethlisberger in his ability to slip potential sacks and extend plays. He operated in an offense that played under center. Allen’s upside as a Big Ben is ridiculous and he’ll be a handful if he’s able to reach his potential (a big if).
And while Josh Allen has the most enticing physical traits and tools, he is well behind the other top quarterbacks in this year’s draft in some of the most crucial aspects of the position. His accuracy and decision-making deteriorate when scrambling. He has a maddening tendency to rely too much on his arm to make passes into nonexistent windows and launches passes into coverage. Allen struggles to control his velocity. He had an issue with missing open receivers due to not putting enough touch on his passes. He bails from clean pockets too often. Throwing with anticipation and field vision aren’t strong points for Allen either.
You can see why Allen might be the most hotly debated prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has the flashes of brilliance and astonishing, highlight reel plays that take your breath away. But for every one of these, there are a handful of mistakes and missed throws that just drive you insane. If Allen is able to put things together and form some consistency, we’re talking one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. If not, another big, athletic, strong-armed QB with little development and skill as a passer.