With the season winding down, the 2017 NFL Draft starts to come to focus and here we look at each team’s biggest draft bust in the last five years
For several teams the NFL season is already over. Sadly that means many fans are upset about their franchise missing out on the ultimate goal while a small percentage is still hopefully waiting to see if their team can hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
That title may be crowned in February, but it’s really won well before that. It’s won during the spring with excellent drafting. A team is built through the draft as championship rosters are slap full of home run selections. The teams that struggle on the other hand are full of complete disappointments.
So as many fans turn their attention to the offseason, the draft once again comes to mind. Teams that just missed out on the playoffs or were eliminated in it could be just a piece away. Others who finished in the bottom tier may need a few more tweaks. No matter where your team lies currently, the hope is whatever they do this spring will make them a better team.
That doesn’t always happen though, and no team is immune to making ill advised moves. As proof we have our biggest draft bust for every NFL team over the course of the last five years.
Cleveland Brown: Johnny Manziel, QB — Texas A&M (2014)
We all know Johnny Football. Johnny Manziel burst onto the scene as a red shirt freshman for the Texas A&M Aggies and everyone fell in love. The dual-threat quarterback was making one highlight reel play after another en route to a Heisman Trophy.
Then he peeled the curtain back. The more of a spotlight Manziel was in, the bigger of a jerk he proved to be. After being selected in the first round by the Cleveland Browns Manziel became an even bigger party boy than he was rumored to be while in college. There were reports of him showing up to practice drunk, fights with fans, rolled dollar bills in bathrooms, cell phones made of money and alleged abuse against girlfriends.
He never became a full-time starter for Cleveland and he went from Johnny Clipboard to Johnny Unemployed. Unashamed of his immature ways, Manziel continued to party it up and get himself some bad press, which included his own father calling him a druggie.
Again we approach the offseason, and just like the previous two, Manziel vows to change his ways. Of course, he’s never made good on such promises, but maybe he will now that it’s Twitter official?
The biggest problem for Manziel is he wasn’t just a “douche” in 2016. He was that way in 2015, 2014, 2013, and so on. This was by far the worst pick for a team who has made a living off bad picks.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Martavis Bryant, WR — Clemson (2014)
Fortunately the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t invest too highly in wide receiver Martavis Bryant. They selected him out of Clemson in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, and he quickly looked like an absolute steal.
In his rookie season he caught just 26 passes, but went for 549 yards and eight scores. He averaged a whopping 21.1 yards per reception and was looking like a star. Then he was suspended to start the 2015 season for violating the substance abuse policy, and was called out by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“I just felt like we need him,” Roethlisberger said via the Associated Press. “I love that guy like a little brother and just wanted him to know we needed him to step up.”
Bryant returned and was explosive again for the Steelers. In 11 games played he pulled in 50 receptions for 765 yards and six touchdowns. He was also very instrumental in the team’s playoff win against the Cincinnati Bengals that season. Things were looking up.
Then Bryant again was suspended by the league for violating the substance abuse policy another time. He was not allowed to play at all in the 2016 season and thanks to his inability to follow the rules, it makes it hard to believe he can be counted on going forward.
Baltimore Ravens: Matt Elam, SS — Florida (2013)
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome earned himself quite a reputation during his time on the job. He has found talent all throughout the draft, and rarely misses with his picks. That is until 2013 when he selected safety Matt Elam in the first round of Florida.
The final pick in round one of a draft that is now known as awful, Elam started out on a good note. He was the starting safety for 15-of-16 games played during his rookie season and racked up 77 tackles and one interception. He then took a step back the next season as he started in 11-of-16 games played and had 50 tackles and zero interceptions.
Elam then missed his entire 2015 season due to injury. He missed another seven games in 2016, but even in the nine he played he became an afterthought. He started no games at all in the Ravens’ last campaign and had just four tackles on the season.
Before the year began the Ravens declined the fifth-year option on Elam’s rookie contract, which means he most likely won’t be back next year. It could be a sad end between him and the Ravens, and an unexpected one as well considering he was one of the most well regarded safeties coming into the NFL just a few seasons ago.
Cincinnati Bengals: Devon Still, DT — Penn State (2012)
This one doesn’t feel right because defensive tackle Devon Still had things going on outside of football that no one should ever have to deal with. His young daughter Leah had a battle with cancer, and thankfully she was victorious. Her story captured the hearts of everyone, and for that reason he was easy to root for.
However, he really hasn’t performed on the field. Still was taken in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012. He spent three seasons with the Bengals and recorded just 40 tackles and a half sack. His career high tackles was 19 in 2014, but that was his last year with the team that drafted him. In September of 2015 the Bengals moved on from Still and he spent that entire season out of the NFL.
In Jan. 2016 the Houston Texans decided to give him another shot at making his NFL dreams come true. It seemed to be a great fit because Houston was short on defensive linemen, and the 310-pound Still had a shot at being a starter for them. Instead he lasted long enough to record three tackles for Houston before being put on IR.
Still may never live up to his second-round status. His daughter’s victory over cancer was way more important, though. And because of that touching story there will still be millions hoping to see Still succeed one day.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, WR — Oklahoma State (2012)
Sometimes a guy is a great football player and should just stick to being that. An excellent example is former NFL quarterback Warren Moon. He was a sensational player who was a joy to watch. However, since the conclusion of his career, he’s gotten more press for saying dumb things than anything else. The dumbest yet was when he said that the fifth-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft was a smarter version of Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.
He’s a beast, isn’t he?” Moon said per NFL.com. “He’s like Dez Bryant with all of his brain cells. He’s a guy that has all those skills that Dez Bryant has, but he’s not the knucklehead that Dez Bryant has turned out to be with Dallas. And a much better route runner than Dez Bryant is, but a very tremendous talent.”
Since being selected by Jacksonville Blackmon he has been a complete disaster. He has been arrested multiple times and has been suspended by the league just as often. He was twice suspended in 2013 for substance abuse, the second time was an indefinite suspension. He then tried to gain reinstatement into the NFL, but an arrest for marijuana kept that from happening.
Another arrest for DUI occurred in 2015 and Blackmon was sentenced to one-year in prison, but that sentence was suspended as long as he could successfully complete probation. There looks to be little chance at all of him ever making good on his once promising career. But hey, at least he doesn’t sag his pants in a mall, right Warren Moon?
Houston Texans: D.J. Swearinger, SS — South Carolina (2013)
In 2013 the Houston Texans spent a second-round pick on South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger. Since then he has played for the Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals. That’s a lot of travel for a guy taken 57th overall just four seasons ago.
His time in Houston was covered in some controversy. He was called dirty by members of the Miami Dolphins for hitting tight end Dustin Keller low. The hit caused a serious knee injury for Keller, but Swearinger was not fined by the NFL. He was also the man who drew the only fine levied against NFL goody two-shoe Peyton Manning.
While a member of the Denver Broncos, Manning went after Swearinger for a hit that caused a concussion to wide receiver Wes Welker. Again Swearinger was not fined by the league, but his name did keep popping up for the wrong reasons.
In 2015 he was released by head coach Bill O’Brien, who apparently didn’t approve of the bad press Swearinger got, or his lack of coverage skills. The Bucs claimed him and he recorded 12 tackles in seven games for them. Again he was released, and finished 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals.
Last season he was a solid starter for the Cards, recording 66 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions. The problem may have been that Swearinger just didn’t fit with O’Brien’s plans, but still his early dismissal makes him the biggest bust for the team because they got nothing in return for his departure.
Indianapolis Colts: Bjoern Werner, DE — Florida State (2013)
With the 24th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts attempted to fix their ailing pass rush. The player they targeted to do so was German-born Bjoern Werner out of Florida State. The 2012 ACC Defensive Player of the Year registered 13 sacks in his final college season and then impressed at the combine before Indy gave him a shot.
Once in the NFL though, things weren’t so easy for Werner. His rookie season ended with him being credited with just 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks. His second season saw some better numbers as he had 50 tackles, but still recorded just four sacks as he struggled to show that burst he had at FSU.
His final season with the Colts was 2015 when he played in just 10 games, starting none. The demotion was a letdown as Werner had started 15 games the season before. He also had a minimal role, recording just 13 tackles before being waived by the Colts. He was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but was released before the 2016 season ever started. Werner since has announced he intends to retire due to injuries. As a side note, the Colts still have no real pass rushers.
Tennessee Titans: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR — Missouri (2015)
At least the Tennessee Titans knew it was a gamble to draft former Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. The 6-5, 237-pound receiver was highly recruited, but spent his time in Missouri getting into trouble. He had issues of being caught with marijuana, but it was a domestic dispute that finally forced the Tigers to move on from him.
Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star summarized the accusations against Green-Beckham in a 2014 article.
According to a Columbia Police report released Thursday, Green-Beckham was looking for his girlfriend around 2:30 Sunday morning when he allegedly forced his way into an apartment in the 300 block of Old Plank Road, where two 18-year-old women live. Green-Beckham remains indefinitely suspended from the MU football team by coach Gary Pinkel.
Green-Beckham was not charged, but he did get kicked off the team. He transferred to Oklahoma, but never played a down for them. The Titans still took a gamble rather early on Green-Beckham, making him the 40th overall pick in 2015.
His rookie season in Tennessee ended up being his only season in Tennessee. He was aqcuired by the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for backup offensive lineman Dennis Kelly. Obviously this was a gamble on a player the Titans regretted quickly.
New York Jets: Dee Milliner, CB — Alabama (2013)
After trading away cornerback Darrelle Revis, the New York Jets tried to take his replacement with the ninth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Alabama corner Dee Milliner was their choice, and he got off to a rough start.
Despite starting 12-of-13 games as a rookie, Milliner was benched several times during the season for poor play. He finished with 45 tackles and three interceptions, but it was the missed plays that stood out during his initial season in the league.
Injuries then slowed him down moving forward. He managed to play in just three games in 2014 thanks to an Achilles tendon tear. In 2015 he had wrist surgery and played in just five games. He was eventually waived by the team and is now currently unemployed.
The Jets reached for Milliner, and probably should have paid more attention to him before the draft. Milliner was a late climber up boards, meaning for most of his career at Bama he wasn’t considered a top talent. He then missed some of the combine workouts due to a torn shoulder labrum.
This injury wasn’t a freak thing though according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. He wrote back in 2013 about how many times Milliner went under the knife according to one NFL Insider.
So with everyone buzzing about Milliner’s medical status, Adam Schefter of ESPN offers this note: Milliner has undergone a total of five surgeries: a right knee scope, a repair of a sports hernia, a procedure for a right tibia stress fracture and one surgery on each shoulder.
The Jets ignored the signs and in the end they suffered for doing so.
Buffalo Bills: E.J. Manuel, QB — Florida State (2013)
E.J. Manuel was considered to be an intriguing prospect coming out of Florida State, but many experts had him outside of the first round due to inconsistent play as a Seminole. The Buffalo Bills were unfazed by Manuel’s off days and took him with the 16th-overall pick in 2013.
He had the size at 6-5 and 237 pounds to be an in the pocket passer, but he also posted a time 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That speed made him a dual-threat passer that the Bills thought could be their franchise quarterback.
Manuel started ten games as a rookie, and the team was 4-6 with him at the helm. Just like in college he showed some flashes of talent, but also made some costly mistakes. He finished the year with just under 2,000 yards passing with 11 touchdowns and nine picks.
In his second season Manuel started just four games before being benched in favor of Kyle Orton. In 2015 he was beat out by free agent Tyrod Taylor and has been the back up ever since. In the past two season when filling in for Taylor the team has gone 0-3 with Manuel starting. He is currently a free agent and looks to be on his way out of Buffalo.
Miami Dolphins: Dion Jordan, DE — Oregon (2013)
It was a pick that seemed rather confusing when it happened. The Miami Dolphins moved up to the third pick overall in 2013, and took Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan. The move was somewhat baffling because Jordan played for a team that featured a lot of rotational players on defense which led to questions about whether or not Jordan could be an every down defensive end.
He also wasn’t overly productive for the Ducks. Jordan never tallied more than 7.5 sacks in a season and had just five in his final year at Oregon. Those questions about his ability to perform at the next level are still unanswered thanks to his inability to get on the field at all.
Jordan has been able to play just 26 games so far and has recorded 39 tackles and three sacks in those games. He then missed all of the 2015 season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy and has yet to get back to the Dolphins lineup.
There are reports that he is again having issues, and the expectation is that Miami will cut ties with him this offseason. Certainly this is not what they expected at all when making him such a high pick.
New England Patriots: Dominique Easley, DT — Florida (2014)
It seems like New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick never makes a mistake. He finds talent all over the place and is usually a king in terms of getting good value out of the players he does draft.
Again it looked like he outsmarted the world when the Pats chose Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley late in the first round of the 2014 draft. Easley was a highly respected lineman who suffered a torn ACL during his senior season. Without the knee issues the common thought was that Easley would have been a much higher pick, but of course a team like New England could afford to use a first round selection on him and let him heal at his leisure.
Instead, he became one of the quicker first round picks to be let go. Easley played in 22 games for the Patriots in 2014 and 2015, but started just three of those games. He had 15 tackles and three sacks, as well as one interception, but was abruptly cut following the 2015 season. Rumors began to fly that something behind the scenes led to the move, but nothing was ever confirmed.
Easley has since caught on with the Los Angeles Rams. He was a rotational lineman for the Rams, recording 24 tackles and 3.5 sacks while appearing in all 16 games.
Kansas City Chiefs: Knile Davis, RB — Arkansas (2013)
Coming out of Arkansas running back Knile Davis was a nice prospect. He had an explosive season in 2010 when he had 1,282 yards and 13 touchdowns. A knee injury ended his 2011 season before it started and could have been a big reason why his 2012 campaign was one in which he managed just 377 yards and had less than four yards per attempt.
Despite not playing up to his standards, Davis entered the NFL Draft in 2013 and was selected in the third round by the Kansas City Chiefs. One of the things that made the Chiefs comfortable in drafting him was the 4.37 second time he posted in the 40-yard dash. Such a run must have meant the knee was just fine.
His career started out promising. Davis had four rushing touchdowns as a rookie behind starter Jamaal Charles. He also added another touchdown as a kick returner. His second season he again added a kick return score and six more as a running back. The problem though was that his yards-per-carry were nothing to brag about. Both seasons he averaged 3.5 yards per rush and the number dropped in 2015 to 2.6 yards per rush.
He fell behind Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware on the depth chart and even with Charles missing extended time he couldn’t crack the lineup. He was finally traded to the Green Bay Packers during the 2016 season. For Green Bay, he had five yards on five carries before they released him.
Davis was claimed by the New York Jets, but was unable to catch on there either. He eventually made his way back to the Chiefs by season’s end, but had less than two yards per carry on the year.
Denver Broncos: Montee Ball, RB — Wisconsin (2013)
In the often-insulted 2013 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos thought they found themselves a star running back. With their 58th-overall pick in the second round they grabbed Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.
Ball was a bruising back for the Badgers. As a junior he rushed for 1,923 yards with 33 rushing touchdowns. He added another six receiving touchdowns, which tied him with Barry Sanders for the most touchdowns in a single season in FBS history. That amazing year was followed up with 1,830 yards and another 22 touchdowns as a senior. He finished his collegiate career with 77 rushing touchdowns and was one of the most decorated runners in Wisconsin history.
In Denver he looked ready to take pressure off veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. Instead he just failed to meet expectations. Ball was cut after two seasons, and couldn’t even total 1,000 yards on the ground in those two years.
After his departure from Denver, he was signed by the New England Patriots. He spent the 2015 season as a member of their practice squad, but never made the active roster. He was arrested for a domestic dispute in Feb. 2016. He was released less than a week later by New England and is still unemployed by an NFL club.
Oakland Raiders: Connor Cook, QB — Michigan State (2016)
Too early for this one? Not exactly. The Oakland Raiders made a terrible move to climb up in the fourth round and select Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. The Spartans passer was considered by some to be worthy of a higher pick, but anyone paying attention during his time at Michigan State should have seen he wasn’t worth any of the hype.
For his career, Cook completed less than 58 percent of his passes and actually saw his percentage go down each of his last three seasons with the team. He always seemed to always find himself on the sideline during big games, and wasn’t even voted a captain by his teammates. That’s nearly unheard of for quarterbacks that are supposed to be NFL talent.
Still, Oakland felt they needed him to backup Derek Carr, so they made the move. Cook then underwhelmed enough that he was third-string behind Matt McGloin, who took over when Carr broke his leg. McGloin then suffered his own injury and Oakland had to turn to Cook.
His lone start came in the playoffs, where he threw three interceptions while completing 18-of-45 passes. The Raiders may still need a backup to Carr.
Los Angeles Chargers: Ladarius Green, TE — Louisiana–Lafayette (2012)
The team formerly known as the San Diego Chargers will move to a new city this season. They haven’t been a successful team as of late, so it would seem that they may have been full of busted draft picks over the last five years, but they really haven’t. Some players may not have lived up to the hype, and others have been injured often, but they aren’t really busts—yet.
One guy who was though was tight end Ladarius Green. A fourth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Green was supposed to be the successor to longtime starter Antonio Gates. He was 6-6, 240-pounds and ran in the low 4.5s. He was as athletic as you could ask for and should have been a huge target for the pass happy Chargers.
Instead he became the poster boy for untapped potential. Every year the word was Green was ready to take time from Gates. He would then go out and record four catches as a rookie, followed by 17, 19 and 37. That 37-reception season came with Gates suspended for four games, forcing Green into a bigger role.
In 2016, he moved on from the Chargers to the Pittsburgh Steelers where injuries kept him out for most of the year after another offseason of hyping how big of an impact player he would be. Green recorded 18 receptions and one touchdown for the Steelers.
Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB — Cal (2016)
The Rams moved back to Los Angeles where they belong in 2016, and hopefully soon they will go back to the right uniforms soon as well too. The gold and blue is St. Louis, the blue and yellow is Los Angeles. One day they may get it right.
After his one season in the NFL it isn’t looking promising that they got their quarterback right either. With the first overall pick in 2016 the team selected Jared Goff out of California. Unlike some other rookies, he was unable to crack the starting lineup for most of the year. With seven games remaining he finally got the nod to start, and we all saw why the team was so reluctant to put him in the game.
Goff completed as lowly 54.6 percent of his passes and had just five touchdowns to seven interceptions. The team went 0-7 with him starting under center. Of course, the players around him weren’t much help, and their coach has been fired as well—so maybe it wasn’t all his fault.
With an offensive-minded head coach on the way Goff could show some improvement. If he doesn’t improve quickly, the talk of him being a bust will only grow louder.
Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Cooper, G — North Carolina (2013)
North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper was widely considered one of the best offensive linemen coming into the NFL in 2013. His body of work was so impressive that the Arizona Cardinals took him seventh overall despite him playing a position that usually doesn’t crack the top ten.
Cooper was the highest drafted guard since Jim Dombrowski was selected sixth-overall by the New Orleans Saints in 1986. Dombrowski went on to play 151 games while registering 137 starts. Cooper on the other hand hasn’t been as solid.
His rookie season was lost to a broken leg, which immediately set him back. In 2014 he never seemed to have regained the strength that made him a top pick. He played in 10 games, but only started two. Again the following year he wasn’t a full time starter. He suited up for 14 games, while starting nine, with results on the field being less than impressive.
Before the 2016 season he was traded to the New England Patriots, but never caught on there either. He was later cut and claimed by the Cleveland Browns. After five games with Cleveland he was once again released. Currently he is a member of the Dallas Cowboys, and still hopes to turn his career around.
Seattle Seahawks: Paul Richardson, WR — Colorado (2014)
The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl with a less-than-stellar group of wide receivers. Then in 2014 they looked like they were going to become a much better passing team when they selected Colorado wide receiver with the 45th overall pick in the draft.
Instead of taking over as their top receiver, Richardson had a slow adjustment to the NFL. He had just 29 receptions as a rookie and averaged just nine yards per reception. He also only scored one touchdown during the season. After 15 games he tore his ACL, prematurely ending his season.
The following season he managed to play in just one game. He pulled down a 40-yard reception, but suffered a hamstring injury on the play. Again he finished the year on injured reserve. He was quickly becoming a forgotten man, but got his chance again in 2016 when Tyler Lockett went down with a broken leg.
Richardson made some impressive catches en route to a 29-reception season. He also dropped some rather easy ones as well. Overall, pulling in 51 receptions for 599 yards and two scores in three seasons was not what the Seahawks were expecting when they took Richardson.
San Francisco 49ers: A.J. Jenkins, WR — Illinois (2012)
Needing another receiver, the San Francisco 49ers selected Illinois wide out A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall pick. After making the First Team All-Big Ten in 2011, he looked poised to be a solid contributor for the Niners.
That never happened though. Jenkins spent just one season with San Francisco. He played in just three games, despite being healthy the whole year, and had one pass thrown his way. That pass was dropped by Jenkins.
San Francisco then traded the disappointing Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for their own disappointing wide receiver, John Baldwin. Baldwin wasn’t much better as he caught just three passes in his lone season in the Bay Area.
Although Kansas City didn’t exactly win the trade either. Jenkins spent two seasons in Kansas City and recorded just 17 receptions. He also never had a touchdown during his time with the team. He was subsequently cut by the Chiefs. In 2015 he was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys and given one more shot to revive his career. He was unable to do so as he didn’t make the final roster and hasn’t been in the league since.
Chicago Bears: Kevin White, WR — West Virginia (2015)
It seems like players out of West Virginia are never as good as the hype that precedes them. Tavon Austin was a high draft pick by the Rams, but has been only good in spurts for the team as a receiver and return man. They did recently decide to overpay him, given him money worthy of a number one receiver, but his production has been inconsistent at best.
Then there was quarterback Geno Smith. Some mock drafts had him going in the top few picks of the 2013 NFL Draft. He wound up going lower, being picked in the second round by the New York Jets. So far he has been a disappointment for them and doesn’t look like a legitimate starter in the NFL.
Then in 2015 the Chicago Bears fell victim to the hype again. Desperate to get a combination of receivers like they had with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, they selected Kevin White of West Virginia seventh overall in 2015. They believed they could pair him with Jeffery and have a duo even more explosive than they had before.
All they have gotten so far from White is 19 receptions. In all fairness, White did miss his entire rookie season due to a leg injury, but his return this season was nothing to be impressed with. He averaged fewer than 10 yards per reception and then once again injured the same leg, this time fracturing his fibula.
Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR — Ole Miss (2016)
What a fall. Most mock drafts heading into 2016 had Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell as the first receiver off the boards. Instead, he went behind Corey Coleman of the Cleveland Browns, Will Fuller of the Houston Texans and Josh Doctson of the Washington Redskins. It wasn’t until the 23rd pick that Treadwell heard his name called. despite being taken in the top 10 in most expert mocks.
Some believed the fall would be good for him. Outside of Stefon Diggs, the Minnesota Vikings were starved for pass catchers and they just got a All-SEC team member from 2015 who had 202 receptions in three seasons for Ole Miss. He looked like he had a shot to be a number one target for a team that needed him.
That’s not what happened, though. With no word of health issues, Treadwell only dressed for nine games all season. He caught just one pass all year for 15 yards. The ball only was thrown his way three times.
Maybe it was a steep learning curve and he can bounce back going forward. Maybe there’s something more to it. Or perhaps he just isn’t very good. He’s still young enough to rebound, but currently there are a ton of questions and little answers.
Detroit Lions: Ryan Broyles, WR — Oklahoma (2012)
The Detroit Lions never really got a second receiver during the prime of Calvin Johnson’s career. Near the end they had Golden Tate, but before that it was all on Megatron. In 2012 they did try and change that by using their second-round pick on Ryan Broyles out of Oklahoma.
A two-time All-American, Broyles caught 349 passes for the Sooners and crossed the goal line 45 times in four seasons. After that, his rookie year wasn’t terrible for the Lions. He played in ten games, but was named the rookie of the year for his team by their local broadcasting team after catching 22 passes and two touchdowns.
He just never seemed to earn the coaching staff’s trust though. Broyles only played in six games the following season and just eight in 2014. He caught ten passes total in those two seasons and ended up asking the team to release him after it became apparent in a 2015 preseason game that he was at the bottom of the depth chart. No one else gave him a shot in 2015 and he hasn’t been in the league since. It was an odd way to see such a promising collegiate player just fade away.
Green Bay Packers: Jerel Worthy, DT — Michigan State (2012)
The Green Bay Packers are a superbly run organization. They hit on draft picks regularly. They do such a wonderful job of it that they rarely even have to sniff around during free agency. Their key players on both sides of the ball were all homegrown talent. That doesn’t mean they haven’t had anyone not meet expectations though.
In 2012 they spent a second round pick on defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. The 300-pound defender played at Michigan State, a school known for producing defensive talent. He was also a 2011 All-American that should have had a long career in Green Bay.
Green Bay liked Worthy so much they traded a fourth round pick to move up for him and he showed some flashes as a rookie. Despite only recording 14 tackles in 14 games, Worthy did have 2.5 quarterback sacks. To this day, Worthy still has just 2.5 sacks.
In 2013 he played just two games for the Packers and was traded away to the New England Patriots after recording just one tackle all season. Worthy never played for the Patriots, as they cut him shortly after. He then spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions practice squads during 2014.
He found a home again in 2015, signing on with the Buffalo Bills, but he recorded no stats in two games. This past season was slightly better for Worthy as he appeared in 13 games and had 12 tackles.
Carolina Panthers: Cameron Artis-Payne, RB — Auburn (2014)
For the Carolina Panthers, their bust isn’t a player they drafted too high, but rather a player who they could have used on several occasions that failed them. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, running back Cameron Artis-Payne has not been able to develop into a regular contributor for a team that sorely needs some help at the position.
Current starter Jonathan Stewart has had a long history of injuries, and it would have been nice for the Panthers to turn to someone with fresher legs. After a stint in community college, Artis-Payne transferred to Auburn University, where he was a backup until his final season. That year, he topped 1,600 yards and had 13 touchdowns. He averaged more than five yards per rush for the Tigers (or War Eagles, or whatever they’re called) and looked like a steal for where he was picked.
That hasn’t been the case though as Artis-Payne has played in just ten games so far in two seasons for the Panthers. As a rookie he got action in seven games, but only had 45 rushes on the year. This season he was active for just three games, all of which were starts. While his yards per carry were decent (4.0), he only received 36 carries. So far he has rushed just 327 yards in his career.
There’s still time for Artis-Payne to make good on his potential, but Carolina may be ready to draft another young guy earlier on in the 2017 Draft.
Atlanta Falcons: Prince Shembo, LB — Norte Dame (2014)
The Atlanta Falcons are another one of those teams who haven’t made a ton of mistakes in recent seasons. Their top picks have become contributors and they’ve used them to build the foundation for a winning team. With that said, their biggest bust isn’t a high selection, but a fourth-round selection from 2014.
Linebacker Prince Shembo was selected by Atlanta out of Notre Dame. He was a talented defender who fell some thanks to some off field concerns. While in high school, he was suspended for throwing a desk at a teacher. He also continued his aggressive ways in college as he was accused of sexual assault.
The young woman who accused Shembo eventually committed suicide and questions were raised by her family about whether or not the university did enough in terms of investigating the alleged crime.
Even with his sordid past, the Falcons thought he could be a contributor. Yet after his rookie season the problems with Shembo arose yet again. The Falcons cut him in May of 2015 after learning he was accused of killing his girlfriend’s dog. He was arrested for the claim, and Atlanta decided they weren’t going to give more chances to him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Roberto Aguayo, K — Florida State (2016)
The best kickers in the NFL statistically are Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens and Dan Bailey of the Dallas Cowboys. Those two are numbers one and two for all-time field goal percentage. Both are just under 90 percent on field goal tries and any time they miss one (rare as it is), they get leap frogged by the other.
They were also both undrafted. Yet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers felt it was necessary to not only use a draft pick to solve their kicking issues, but also necessary to trade up and use a premium pick on one. With the 59th pick (acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs) they took Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo.
A three-time All-American and the winner of the Lou Groza award in 2013, Aguayo was supposed to be a sure thing as a kicker. Instead, he started out as a disaster. After five games, he was just 4-of-8 on field goals before getting a little confidence and going on a nice run. However, he finished the year once again making mistakes, going just 1-of-3 in his final game of the year.
Aguayo finished his rookie season making just 71 percent of his kicks and also missed two extra points. Head coach Dirk Koetter said there will be competition for his spot in 2017. After spending such a high pick on a kicker, that’s a really sad thing to hear.
New Orleans Saints: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB — Nebraska (2014)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste was highly touted coming out of Nebraska. He was widely considered one of the best cornerback talents, and intrigued people thanks to his size. At 6-3 and 218 pounds he had spectacular size for his position. He was lengthy enough to challenge any receiver in the NFL and had enough weight to hold up against the run as well.
The New Orleans Saints were pleased enough with his measurables and his tape as a Cornhusker to take him 58th overall. They felt they had the guy who could develop into a star as they tried to fix their struggling defense.
Instead, they got a player who never made a start for them. Jean-Baptiste played in just four games, and did pretty much nothing outside of playing special teams. After his dud of a rookie season he was cut by the Saints.
Later he was signed to the Detroit Lions practice squad, but before the 2015 season ended they released him. He later was signed by the Seattle Seahawks, again as a member of the practice squad. He spent the remainder of the 2015 season there as well as all of 2016. Jean-Baptiste still has never recorded a tackle in his career and is now out of practice squad eligibility.
New York Giants: Andre Williams, RB — Boston College (2014)
Kudos to the New York Giants. Scouring over their draft picks over the past five years yields very little mistakes. Some players like tackle Ereck Flowers may have been taken high, but he’s not a bust (yet, at least). Some could say cornerback Eli Apple was taken too high, but he too has been good enough to avoid the bust label.
So that leaves us with 2014 fourth-round pick Andre Williams. The running back out of Boston College was nicknamed “the Hammer” and was expected to be a bruising back that could dominate in short yardage situations for the Giants. Instead he averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt as a rookie, but managed seven touchdowns and 721 yards. As a sophomore, he saw that average dip to 2.9 yards in 2015 and had only one score and 257 yards.
Williams was cut before the 2016 season started and was claimed by the San Diego Chargers. He spent most of the year on their practice squad and rushed just 18 times all season, even though the Chargers lost a couple running backs during the season.
It wasn’t the worst pick ever considering it was a fourth-rounder. Still, over the past half-decade, Andre Williams has been the biggest bust for the Giants especially when you consider his drop off from year one to year two.
Dallas Cowboys: Randy Gregory, DE — Nebraska (2015)
The Dallas Cowboys needed a pass rush. Badly. So badly that they took a chance on Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory with their second-round selection in 2015. Gregory was regarded as a top-10 talent by most, but he showed up to the combine and failed a drug test. Questions about his maturity and commitment made many teams wash their hands of him.
Dallas however felt they could work with him despite his issues. Gregory was exciting during the preseason of his rookie year, recording three sacks in his first three games. Then he struggled through injuries the rest of the season and recorded just 11 tackles in 12 games. He recorded zero sacks as a rookie.
Then in the offseason it was announced Gregory was suspended four games for violation of the substance abuse policy. Then it was announced he was suspended another ten games. Then it was announced he was suspended a full calendar year.
Now it’s obvious the team simply can’t count on him. Gregory headed to rehab in the offseason, but the suspensions kept coming. He appealed the yearlong suspension, which allowed him to play in two games this season. He recorded nine tackles and one sack in those games, but was told just before the playoffs started that his appeal was lost. Gregory will now miss all of 2017 before he can even apply for reinstatement. Wasted talent. Wasted pick.
Philadelphia Eagles: Nelson Agholor, WR — USC (2015)
It seems like every single candidate for this award is courtesy of former head coach Chip Kelly. He was given final say over the roster and really had some awful moves. The worst came down to either 2014 first round pick defensive end Marcus Smith, or 2015 first round pick Nelson Agholor.
Both have been colossal disappointments, but Agholor takes the cake because more was expected of him after he had a great end to his USC career. He was also supposed to be the guy who replaced DeSean Jackson (who Kelly cut) and Jeremy Maclin (who Kelly didn’t try to re-sign).
Instead of being known for making big plays, Agholor is famous for his terrible drops. He finds ways to get open, and has the speed to be a threat, but he simply loses focus and lets his team down at the worst times possible.
Another thing that separates Agholor from Smith is that Smith seems to be getting better. He had no sacks as a rookie, but then had 1.5 his second season and 2.5 in 2016. Agholor, on the other hand, is regressing.
While he caught more passes in his second season, he did see his yards per catch dip and his drops increase. He also became a healthy scratch near the end of the season as his coaches tired of his mistakes.
The Washington Redskins mortgaged their future for Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III. The dual-threat quarterback from Baylor was set to take the league by storm, and everyone bought in when he had his huge rookie season. He threw 3,200 yards with 20 touchdowns and just five picks while running another 815 yards and seven scores.
He led Washington to the playoffs, but a knee injury made him look like a limited player in that postseason. After that he was never the same. RG3 began to bicker with his head coach and offensive coordinator, Mike and Kyle Shanahan. He also kept bringing his dad into the locker room for some weird talks and was reportedly favored by owner Dan Snyder.
Eventually RG3 and RG2 won their battle against the Shanahan family and Snyder fired both coaches. Next up was Jay Gruden as coach and, in a shocking revelation, he too was not good enough for Griffin. Eventually the team paid him a ton of money to sit on the bench in 2015. By 2016 he was off to Cleveland, where quarterbacks go to watch their careers die.
Griffin was injured immediately and went 1-4 in his five starts for Cleveland. After going 9-6 as a rookie, RG3 fell off and has won just six games since, while losing 19 that he started. The only thing worse than the pick of Griffin may have been the Rams inability to turn those draft picks they received into a decent team.
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