Drafting an offensive skill player in the NFL is a risky prospect. While we've seen some of the greatest players of their respective generations excel at the college level, we've also witnessed some of the biggest busts of all-time from that category of players as well. Players have excelled in college football at power-5 conferences, only to go on to be a massive disappointment when it matters most in the pro ranks. There's an element of "diva" to many of these players, and when the swagger needed to play a skill position turns into arrogance, it can ultimately mean their downfall as a player.
Wide receivers are some of the main culprits that embody this problem. They are inherently prone to being busts, because of the massive jump in coverage ability from the NCAA to the NFL. If they have the wrong attitude going into their pro career, they likely won't have very much success. Unfortunately, we've seen some of the biggest NFL busts of all-time be formidable pass-catchers in college, and fizzle out early in their professional career. Let's take a look at who exactly this applies to.
Ranked below are the top 15 elite college wide receivers who were NFL busts.
15 Laquon Treadwell
It's probably too early to label Treadwell as a confirmed bust at this point, but after a rookie season in which he almost didn't register a single statistic, it's definitely trending in that direction. Any 1st round pick that is a wide receiver is expected to contribute immediately, and he didn't come close to fulfilling that obligation.
So it remains to be seen what's going to come out of the rest of Treadwell's career, but it isn't looking optimal right now. After a stellar 2015 season at Ole Miss, he's been completely ineffective at the pro level. The Vikings can only hope that another year on the field can bring out the best in him, but if it can't, he's one of the biggest WR busts of this generation.
14 Ted Ginn Jr.
Ginn was considered one of the best receivers in the 2007 draft class, which prompted the Dolphins to take him at 9th-overall. It turned out to be a massive mistake. Ginn was big on speed, and lacking in just about everything else. While he's still in the league, he's become a journeyman receiver whose best days, for whatever they were worth, are completely behind him.
With poor hands and route running, and offering little else except sheer speed, Ginn is a disappointment, even if he still remains in the league. It's a far cry from his days at Ohio State, and it's one of the most botched draft picks in Dolphins history. Ginn's tenure in the league doesn't mean that he had a successful pro career.
13 Troy Edwards
Though he only played his college ball at Louisiana Tech, Edwards' numbers during the '97 and '98 NCAA seasons were off the charts. He was viewed as an elite prospect, and it manifested itself in the form of a 13th-overall selection by the Steelers in the 1999 draft. Unfortunately, Edwards was simply outmatched at the NFL level.
Despite multiple attempts throughout his seven-year career to turn him into a go-to receiver on the level of the game's best, it just wasn't in the cards. Edwards was a liability for someone in such a role, and he spent time with four different teams during those seven years, in an effort to turn his production around for the better. It never did end up happening, and all things considered, Edwards' career was underwhelming.
12 Peter Warrick
Warrick's failures in the NFL were not for the lack of opportunity. The Florida State product was coming off of two excellent college seasons where he was viewed to be one of the best prospects at any position. He was taken 4th-overall by the Bengals, and was immediately figured to be their go-to receiver who could be a difference-maker right from the start.
As it turned out, Warrick was better suited as a 3rd or 4th receiving option in the NFL. The more targets the Bengals provided him with, the more he proved that he just wasn't able to cut it at the pro level, for what a 4th-overall pick is expected to do. Warrick spent six years in the league, and was never able to turn the corner into becoming a truly great player. Considering the expectations, his career's an out-and-out bust all the way.
11 Freddie Mitchell
The selection of Mitchell in the 1st round by the Eagles was a concerted effort from the front office to provide Donovan McNabb with a certified elite receiver. Mitchell seemed to fit the bill coming out of California. His 2000 season at UCLA was one of the best in PAC-12 history, and all signs pointed towards him being a huge threat in the NFL.
Instead, Mitchell is really only known for one play, known as "4th & 26," occurring in the 2003 Divisional Round of the playoffs. Other than that, he struggled during his relatively brief time in Philadelphia, and was more of an off-the-field personality than he was a quality football player. It soon became clear that Mitchell was dead weight, and not worth keeping on the roster.
10 David Terrell
A standout in the Big 10 during his years at Michigan, Terrell has gone down as one of the best receivers that the Wolverines have ever had. It was almost a surefire conclusion that he would succeed at the NFL level, and that's why the Bears took him at 8th-overall. A top-10 pick should have guaranteed them some great production, but Terrell turned out to be woefully unreliable, and a massive bust.
With his size, he was thought to be a receiver who could high-point the ball, and make contested catches with relative ease. That never transpired, and Terrell looked inept on an NFL most of the time he was on one. The Bears powered through the disappointments for a few seasons until they got rid of him all together following the 2004 campaign. From there, his career was essentially over, and deservedly so.
9 Jon Baldwin
There were few better receivers in Pittsburgh history than Baldwin was. A cerebral deep threat who could make defenses pay in a variety of ways, he was considered to be a top talent heading into the 2011 draft. While he wasn't selected as highly as some others on this ranking, he was still taken in the 1st round by the Chiefs (at 26th overall).
Baldwin never got it going in the NFL, however, and his numbers were awful for a receiver taken so highly in the draft overall. He never even established himself as a go-to target for one season, and never proved good enough to warrant the majority of targets in the offense. Baldwin is the definition of a draft bust, and a major disappointment for Kansas City.
8 Ryan Broyles
Broyles may have been only a 2nd-round pick, but generally that should guarantee some success in the NFL. He had none, and the Lions were all the worse for it. Broyles was a standout runner at Oklahoma, and prevailing consensus was that he was going to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player in the pro ranks.
Not only did that fail to happen, but his production was generally pathetic for the three years he was in Detroit. He never fell into favor with the coaching staff to begin with, and was merely used as a chance of pace running back at best during his time in the NFL. Broyles only played those three seasons and it was abundantly clear that he didn't have what it took to excel at the next level.
7 David Boston
For a while Boston seemed to evade the bust label in the NFL. He was selected early in the 1st round and had a couple of seriously standout seasons with the Cardinals. His trajectory seemed to be climbing every year, and that he was going to be a surefire star for a long time. Then, his career completely fell off the tracks and he never regained momentum.
Questions of work ethic and attitude problems surrounded his final two years in the league, and ultimately was the catalyst that made his career a failure. Two excellent seasons may have been sufficient for a player who was taken in the 3rd round, but for Boston, who was an 8th-overall pick, that kind of limited success made his NFL career a lackluster one. After being one of the best receivers in Ohio State history, he wasn't able to translate consistently at the next level.
6 Reggie Williams
Williams should still be considered one of the best receivers in Washington history, and he was deemed as a player who had little chance of failure in the NFL. Two standout college seasons is generally reassuring, but he was nothing more than a middling player for the Jaguars at his absolute best.
Despite ample opportunity for five years in the NFL, he was never able to crack the top of the depth chart on Jacksonville's receiver corps. His struggles early on signaled an early exit from the league, and as a top-10 overall selection, that means that his career as a whole was severely underwhelming. The Jaguars have missed on receivers before (more on that in a minute), but Williams is one of the most prime examples of it.
5 Justin Blackmon
To some, Blackmon's story is tragic, and to others, he got what was coming to him. But either way, there's no denying that the former Oklahoma State product was among the best college receivers of his era. Selected at 5th-overall by the Jaguars, he was as much of a can't-miss prospect as there ever was at wide receiver, and the future looked to be limitless.
However, after a couple of seasons in the league, off the field issues surfaced, and Blackmon was out of the league in short order. Substance abuse took a major toll on his career, essentially ending it entirely, as Blackmon racked up suspensions left and right. It's one of the biggest wastes of talent there ever was in the NFL, but he was still a force in the college game.
4 Ashley Lelie
Oft-forgotten in this day and age, Lelie was probably the best receiver in the history of Hawaii's football program. While not a powerhouse program in the slightest, he was able to warrant a 19th-overall selection from Denver in the 2002 draft. While he had a couple of seasons where his production was solid, that only accounted for two years of his eight-year career.
Mostly, he was outmatched at the NFL level. This is a case where the competition level he faced in college likely had a negative impact on his development at the next level. While Lelie was able to show in part why he was a 1st-round pick, most of his NFL seasons were riddled with mediocrity. He's a bust all the same, and definitely didn't live up to the expectations that the Broncos had for him.
3 Darrius Heyward-Bey
As was often the case with the Raiders teams under the ownership of Al Davis, Heyward-Bey's speed was the first thing that caught their eye on him as a prospect. The reality was that Heyward-Bey was a good, nor great receiver at Maryland, and that Davis was only looking at his measurables, which included an out of this world 40 time.
As a result, he wasn't successful at the NFL level, though miraculously, he's somehow still in the league. What should have been a 3rd- or 4th-round selection for Heyward-Bey turned into a top-10 pick, and inflated the expectations that everybody had for him. Even as he remains in the NFL with the Steelers, he's a bust considering is draft position, though that mainly falls on the shoulders of Al Davis, who saw his speed and little else attached to his skill set.
2 Braylon Edwards
As far as Michigan wide receivers go, there were none who produced more than Edwards did during his time as a Wolverine. He was simply outstanding for three seasons at the school, and seemed like a surefire, can't-miss prospect. It was enough for the Browns to take him at 3rd-overall in the 2005 draft.
Unfortunately for them, Edwards was just one in a long line of draft misses. He had a couple of solid NFL seasons, but a 3rd-overall pick is supposed to be an elite talent for a long time. Edwards was anything but that, and spend time on multiple NFL teams (Jets, 49ers, Seahawks) before calling it quits in 2012. He was highly inconsistent, and definitely one of the biggest letdowns of his era. Most receivers with his college production and skill set would have excelled early and often in the NFL, but not Edwards.
1 Charles Rogers
In the entire history of the NFL, there has never been a bigger wide receiver bust than Charles Rogers. He went from off-the-charts college numbers at Michigan State, to an NFL career that was over just about when it started. He went from a star one year in the NCAA, to a player who barely got any playing time at the pro level.
Indeed, his two seasons with the Spartans were some of the best of his era for a college receiver, and a college player as a whole. Nobody questioned him as the 2nd-overall pick to the Lions in 2003, with most thinking he would excel immediately. Instead, he couldn't even crack the depth chart. Rogers started a mere 9 games in three seasons, and never even afforded himself the opportunity to be a go-to target. His lack of progress from the college level to the NFL level is one of the biggest shockers in league history for a rookie, and warrants being labeled the biggest NFL wide receiver bust of all-time.
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