clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

FSU football’s 2018 NFL Draft: Success or failure?

Should the Seminoles be happy about the weekend’s events?

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-Southern Mississippi vs Florida State Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Will Florida State’s 2018 NFL Draft be considered a success or failure? On its face, it’s a fairly simple question that will most likely elicit a definitive response one way or the other. Of course this draft was a success, look at stat X! Are you crazy, this draft was a disappointment, what about stat Y! Like anything else involving FSU’s football season in 2017, the answer is a bit more nuanced than it appears at first glance.

There a number of factors that would lead an observer to conclude that FSU’s 2018 Draft Class was nothing other than an unquestioned success. The ’Noles had six players drafted, which left the school tied at third overall with Penn State, Miami, and National Championship Game participant Georgia. Derwin James was selected in the first round by the Los Angeles Chargers, a pick that was widely celebrated by the various experts and further cements claims of Florida State as the (hotly contested) recipient of the moniker “DBU.” FSU’s six picks were equally distributed between offense and defense suggesting that the program has been developing talent on both sides of the ball.

There were inspiring stories like the tale of Josh Sweat, who, as an incoming freshman, overcame a knee injury so catastrophic that amputation was a very real possibility, whereas his future playing the sport was not. He’s now a member of the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and has the ability to make an immediate impact in his rookie year. What a great class, right?

Maybe. Two of those aforementioned six players (Ryan Izzo and Auden Tate) were drafted in Round 7. James also went later than most experts predicted and wasn’t even the first defensive back selected. Disappointing draft status relative to expectation was an ongoing theme for the ’Noles at the 2018 Draft. Outside of Rick Leonard and Izzo (two other feel-good draft stories), almost all of the players were drafted in worse spots than expected. For example, Tate, who was ranked as the 68th best player in CBSSports’ NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, was taken at the 250th pick by the Cincinnati Bengals.

This level of frustration was somewhat commonplace for FSU alumni that were drafted, and compounded exponentially for those who were not drafted at all. Take the case of Tarvarus McFadden. A talented recruit coming off an impressive 2016 season, he was considered to be a first-round possibility at this time last year. He was picked up as an undrafted free agent, as were other former blue-chip recruits like Matthew Thomas and Ermon Lane.

So, again, was Florida State’s 2018 class a success or failure? Is this even the right question to ask? One thing that should be considered when analyzing this class is the extreme and unique circumstances that these players experienced. 2017 was one of the most turbulent years in program history. Rumors, headlines, dissension, and resentment hung over this team like a dark cloud, especially as the season progressed. It’s hard to judge any player tasked with performing under these conditions without accounting for their impact.

So some players went into business for themselves during a largely lost season— can they really be blamed? Trust in the head coach and coordinators was at an all-time low, and players turned their attention toward securing their financial futures. It was a unique situation at best, and toxic at worst. Were the players even put in a position where their best could be shown? Or did they all adopt a survive-and-advance mentality as a defensive mechanism?

There’s no doubt that FSU’s 2017 team underachieved and that rubbed off, in some form or fashion, on its 2018 Draft Class. However, these same players are about to be given all of the tools and opportunities that may have been compromised last year. We’ll see in the coming years how their draft statuses was affected either by their talent, decisions, and work ethic or the environment in which they found themselves last year. Success or failure? Survival or underachievement? Answering those questions will require perspective and time.