Risk can be great with these players, reward even greater
References typically reserved for financial markets will be bandied about freely during the NFL Draft on April 25-26. The most common, of course, is the perceived rising and falling of players' "stocks."
Even the crawler at the bottom of the television screen scrolling through recent selections is just a high-tech descendant of the long-abandoned stock-market ticker tape.
As investors have discovered in recent months, those comparisons are apt because the result of any speculation is unpredictable. Even at the top of the draft, there are many players with significant risk factors that might cause them to fall down draft boards -- or fail to make an impact in the NFL -- despite their college production and/or physical attributes. In any draft class, upwards of half of the top 50 selections will fail to meet lofty expectations.
The 19 potential first- and early second-round picks listed here all have the tools to excel in the NFL but also have character red flags or concerns about their fit in the pro game that teams must consider.
Ten of the players listed chose to leave college early to pursue an NFL career. Underclassmen (denoted with an asterisk) are more likely to be considered risky prospects because they don't have a full body of work and/or they might have personal issues causing them to leave school. However, they are also among the most talented players in any draft.
That's what makes the NFL Draft more of an art than a science.
Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee (could go 9-13, best value is 25-32): Ayers really came on as a senior after earning All-SEC honors and holding his own against OT Michael Oher at the Senior Bowl. The fact he was only marginally productive before 2008 reminds scouts of former Vikings first-round pick Erasmus James (minus the injury history).
Chad Reuter is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.