Every year there are star players in college who NFL teams fall in love with. These teams pick these great players and expect that they'll play at least as good as they did in college, hopefully better. Sometimes, in cases like Calvin Johnson or Andrew Luck, that totally happens.
In other cases, like Ryan Leaf or Tony Mandarich, it totally doesn't happen.
Every year there are a few surprising busts, and this year there is potential for a few major ones.
Before the hate flows too fast, Manti Te'o is a great football player. He was a standout star at linebacker for Notre Dame and had, including the BCS National Championship Game loss to Alabama, at least 10 tackles in seven games during his final season.
How can he possibly be a bust? Easy. Obviously, the NFL is a very different monster from college football. Backs are bigger and faster, quarterbacks are smarter and stronger and offensive linemen are stronger and better. The game becomes much more difficult for a linebacker once he gets to the professional level.
Te'o is a great player, but to avoid busting, he'll have to land in the exactly perfect situation. He made a career at Notre Dame of playing with an amazing defensive line in front of him, which can make all the difference between an amazing linebacker and a mediocre one.
In the NFL he'll need to end up somewhere with great defensive linemen so he can perform at a decent level while he makes the transition from NCAA to NFL. He'll also need to improve his speed and athleticism if he's going to survive covering tight ends, wide receivers and running backs at the professional level.
Matt Barkley has a very good chance at being the next Matt Leinart or Mark Sanchez. Barkley has had moderate success at USC but has become infamous for not being able to win big games and has lost some very winnable games throughout his career.
Barkley has also had some injury issues and has had his passing abilities questioned in terms of accuracy and arm strength.
The Trojan quarterback could shake his bust potential if he has a few years to hold a clipboard behind a great quarterback. If Barkley ends up somewhere with a solid veteran quarterback like Denver or Atlanta, he may be able to avoid a similar demise to Mark Sanchez who was asked to play too quick.
Unless things go perfectly, Barkley might just be the next USC QB to disappoint in the NFL.
Geno Smith, like Manti Te'o, had a great collegiate career. He tossed 42 touchdown passes with just six interceptions this season. In his entire college career, he passed for over 11,000 yards and 98 touchdowns.
Smith has a ton of natural talent and raw potential, but his abilities might not transfer to the NFL all that well, especially if he gets picked early in the first round by teams like the Chiefs at No. 1 or Jets at No. 9.
Picking a player like Smith who played in a wide-open offense could work out for NFL teams, but taking the chance on Smith too early could be very dangerous.
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