We’ve gone through all the different types of hits and misses from our five years of projecting college players to the NFL at this point, but this article is the most important one for my money. If you’re low on someone who turns out to be good, it doesn't prohibit you from drafting a different good player, but whiffing on a high draft pick can set a franchise back at a certain position for years. These are the players we never would have come close to drafting as highly as they went.
[Editor's Note: Mike Renner is the man behind PFF's Preseason 2020 NFL Draft Guide, which is scheduled for release on August 12, 2019. Subscribe to EDGE or ELITE today to make sure you don't miss out.]
S T.J. Green, Clemson
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with 4.34 speed, Green certainly looked the part of an NFL athlete. On a football field, though, we saw the opposite. Back in 2015, Green failed to record a single interception or pass breakup on 39 targets at Clemson en route to a 49.3 coverage grade. We ranked him 217th on our board before he was drafted 57th overall by the Colts. He earned a 29.8 overall grade on 478 snaps as a rookie, 64.0 overall grade on 382 snaps in Year 2, was cut in Year 3 and is now retired.
T Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
With how isolated of an interaction pass protection is, we’ve found it to be one of our most predictable aspects going from college to the pro game. The simple fact is that it doesn’t get any easier to pass protect once you get to the NFL, so if you’re not good at it against 19-year-olds, chances are things won’t change against grown men. Ifedi was the 182nd-ranked player on our draft board in large part due to an ugly 72.7 pass-blocking grade his final season at Texas A&M. In three years with the Seahawks, his highest graded season is a 55.6 overall.
DI Adam Gotsis, Georgia Tech
‘Potential’ is a tricky concept when it comes to the NFL draft that we here at PFF tend to take a pessimistic viewpoint on. We like players who already good at football. When Gotsis came out of Georgia Tech in 2016 that wasn’t quite the case. He earned a 61.5 overall grade in 2014 on 825 snaps and a 74.2 overall grade in 2015 on 364 snaps before being taken 63rd overall by the Broncos. The defensive tackle was drafted so highly, likely because of his limited background playing football growing up in Australia. We ranked him 177th on our draft board and in three NFL seasons, he’s recorded a grand total of 31 pressures.
DI Jihad Ward, Illinois
The allure of Ward was similar to Gotsis in that you heard repeatedly pre-draft how Ward never even played until his sophomore year of high school. Unfortunately, he neither produced particularly well at Illinois nor tested well athletically at the combine. We ranked him 159th overall before he was drafted 44th by the Oakland Raiders. He's now already on his third team in three seasons.
Edge Bud Dupree, Kentucky
While we didn’t have a draft board back in 2015, we still had a list of the most overrated players in the draft. Dupree was a lock for the list after he failed to produce consistently at Kentucky despite his freakish athletic traits. Over half of his 35 pressures his final season in college came in three games against Louisiana-Monroe, Missouri and Louisville while he recorded one total pressure in the South Carolina, LSU and Georgia games combined.
CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
Yet another player from the 2015 class who we didn’t have a draft board number on, but he did make our list of Buyer Beware cornerback prospects. His last full season in 2017, he earned a dreadful 38.6 overall grade while allowing a passer rating against of 137.3. After the Texans initially picked up his fifth-year option, Johnson was unceremoniously released this offseason.
LB Darron Lee, Ohio State
Sometimes you bank on athletic freaks at linebacker and they end up like Deion Jones. Other times the result is Darron Lee, who didn’t even make it through his rookie contract with the Jets before being traded to Kansas City. He played a lot of overhang for the Buckeyes and not much traditional linebacker. That, combined with some maddening balance issues in space, led to us calling the first-rounder the 81st best player in the 2016 class.
QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Back in 2016, we ranked 250 draft prospects for that year's draft and Hackenberg didn’t even make the cut. Accuracy is without a doubt our most valued trait at the quarterback position, and Hackenberg’s arm simply didn’t make the threshold. His 61.2 overall grade in 2015 was a non-starter for us, and he was most recently benched in the AAF.
QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
We thought Lynch was worth a developmental flyer on Day 2 of the draft but never would have tabbed the 55th-ranked player on our draft board as our guy in round one like the Broncos did back in 2016. Lynch had serious accuracy issues outside the numbers back at Memphis that only got exacerbated in the NFL.