In the NFL draft, expectations rarely align with results throughout the first round. For some players, that discrepancy can result in a serious letdown.
With this year’s event set to begin Thursday in Las Vegas, little is clear about the draft’s trajectory. In a class widely considered to be short on top-end talent, only so many players can consider themselves locks for the first round. For others, learning their first stop of their pro careers could be a multi-day affair.
Here’s our look at five players who have been mainstays of first-round mock drafts for some time but might not hear their names called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday:
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Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Burks was once grouped with USC’s Drake London, Alabama’s Jameson Williams and Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in the first tier of wide receivers in this draft class. Now, the 6-2, 225-pound target seems to have fallen back from that pack. Burks’ handle on the position lags behind that of his peers, as Arkansas routinely fed him easy targets, leaving his route running and releases underdeveloped. And while he drew comparisons to Deebo Samuel and AJ Brown as a hard-charging threat after the catch, his disappointing combine performance (4.55-second 40-yard dash and 33-inch vertical leap) suggested his overall athleticism might not be otherworldly. While his ball skills and physical tools might secure him a spot in the back half of the first round, Burks also risks being leapfrogged by the likes of Penn State’s Jahan Dotson or Georgia’s George Pickens if a team is looking for a more polished pass catcher with a proven track record of creating separation.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
There aren’t many offensive linemen whose resumes can match that of Linderbaum, a consensus All-American and latest in a long line of Iowa standouts. His 6-2, 296-pound frame might be disqualifying for several teams, however, as he could be exploited by rangier interior defensive linemen. And the last undersized center whose movement skills paved his way into the first round – Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury – has largely struggled and is not expected to have his fifth-year option picked up, per reports. Given that center is already a bit of a luxury for Day 1, Linderbaum might not make the cut. The Cowboys (No. 24), Titans (No. 26) and Bengals (No. 31) likely represent his best opportunities to avoid a slide.
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Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
There’s only so much a 5-11, 229-pound, off-ball linebacker can do to entrench himself in the first round, even when that player is one with the playmaking credentials of Dean. The unanimous All-American and Butkus Award winner is at his best chasing down ball carriers in the open field, but teams will be looking for a more rewarding return on investment with a premium pick. And while Dean showed off impressive skills as a blitzer (six sacks), he might be prone to being engulfed by stronger, more refined offensive linemen in the NFL. If his wait extends to Friday, he should be in high demand at the top of the second round, as his rapid recognition, extensive range and vocal leadership would be major assets to teams trying to institute a culture change on their defense.
George Karlavtis, DE, Purdue
There are plenty of different ways for pass rushers to create pressure, but NFL teams still tend to covet length, burst and bend from a position that can carry a heavy premium both in the draft and free agency. That could spell a problem for Karlavtis, a 6-4, 266-pound wrecking ball who’s more adept at beating blocks by going through them than around them. The hard-nosed approach has served him well thus far, but some might question whether he can produce comparable results at the next level through sheer force and knowhow. In a class rich with hyperathletic defensive ends, that could cost Karlaftis. There are still several landing spots in the mid-to-late first round, however, including the Packers (Nos. 22 and 28), Cardinals (No. 23) and Chiefs (Nos. 29 and 30), which could save him from a precipitous drop.
Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Booth lasting to Day 2 might represent a player being taken toward the end of his expected range rather than experiencing what some might call a fall. The one-year starter doesn’t boast the same advanced instincts of Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. and Washington’s Trent McDuffie, making him a more volatile projection than the cornerbacks expected to go off the board ahead of him. Booth also sat out combine drills due to a strained quadriceps, and he would later undergo sports hernia surgery after missing his pro day. Still, as a fluid cover corner with the size (6-0, 196 pounds) and ball skills to become an effective starter, Booth could have plenty of potential suitors late in the first round, including the Patriots (No. 21), Bills (No. 25), Chiefs (Nos. 29 and 30) and Bengals (No. 31).
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL Draft 2022: Five prospects who could fall out of the first round