Big Board's most volatile players
Ryan Mallett leads a group of super-talented players who could easily jump or fall
Last year, when I created my first Big Board for the 2009 season, there were players like Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy who, barring injury, seemed likely to stay. They were highly rated players with a penchant for consistency. But I would also have put Taylor Mays in that group. Mays already had three full years as a starter in a top-flight program, and his physical tools were off the charts. Yet his play suffered so much in 2009 that he fell all the way to the second round of a draft that was, unfortunately for him, loaded with good safeties.
Now that I have my first Big Board in place for the NFL draft class of 2011, I decided to take a look at players who I think could have the most volatile stock. Meaning, these are the guys who could see themselves stay high on the board as their play matches the skill set, or, like QB Jevan Snead, suffer because of inconsistency.
The bottom line is these rankings are always about more than raw performance. Some of these players don't even project to play the same position at the NFL level. So a lot of factors are involved. But these are guys who I feel have more volatile stock compared to their peers on the board.
1. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
I bring up Snead for a reason. Mallett is in that profile as a QB who currently has physical tools that far outweigh his performance. Not to scoff at his 2009 campaign, during which he had a fantastic TD-INT ratio of 30-7, but Mallett can improve in every area. He needs to develop his footwork and pocket presence, and he'll also need to prove that he can be a quarterback, not just a thrower.
Leaving Michigan for Arkansas due to a change in coaching and systems will prove to be a great decision for Mallett in terms of development for an NFL career. In 2010, he'll need to improve on that 55.8 completion percentage, and he might be able to bring that number way up simply by checking down more often. Arkansas' running backs had really low receiving totals last season, often because Mallett knows he can make every throw downfield. If he can learn when to use the fastball and when to simply dump it off, it'll be hard to fall in the 2011 draft in the manner other QBs did in 2010.
To read Mel Kiper's picks for players that have the highest level of volatility on the current 2011 Big Board, you must be an ESPN Insider.