For every NFL team that’s currently out of the playoff picture, December is a time to reflect on past decisions as an organization. Was that offseason free agent signing worth his value? Did that draft day deal go through as planned? Were injuries the main reason for our downfall? And for the Browns, the main question is ‘What future Pro Bowl quarterback will we pass on in next year’s draft?”
The NFL is full of terrible decisions, but on the other side of the coin, there are some sneaky moves that go overlooked. If each team waits patiently in the draft, and their scouts hype up a late-rounder, then the future of their franchise may be saved.
Today, we will look across the spectrum of the NFL draft. There will be top picks who never made it in the league, and fifth-rounders that already look like future hall of famers. Since 2010, there have been over 2,000 players who were drafted and every player has been dissected from the moment they declared for the draft. After eight drafts this decade, gear up for the 10 biggest draft draft busts since 2010, and the 10 biggest steals!
20. Bust: Blaine Gabbert
Gabbert has been lucky to sustain an NFL career. Highly touted out of the University of Missouri, the Jacksonville Jaguars took Gabbert 10th overall in the 2011 draft. In an unexpected move, he ended up starting 14 games of his rookie season. The Jaguars finished 5-11 and Gabbert struggled, completing only 50.8% of his passes, with a passer rating of 65.4.
Despite the dismal rookie year, coaches and experts saw potential in the former Mizzou Tiger. Unfortunately, after an injury-plagued 2012, and a disappointing 2013, Gabbert was traded to the 49ers in 2014. Nowadays, Gabbert is riding the bench as the third-stringer in Arizona, yet has had the opportunity to start due to Carson Palmer’s and Drew Stanton’s injuries. While he still still brings home a paycheck every week, he will always be considered a bust!
19. Steal: Kareem Hunt
Our first steal of the day is an overlooked running back out of the University of Toledo, Kareem Hunt. In a draft class that had star running backs such as Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery, and Dalvin Cook, Hunt flew under the radar and landed with Kansas City in the third-round. After releasing the injury-prone veteran, Jamaal Charles, in the offseason and an injury to Spencer Ware, Hunt was promoted to the starter for the season-opener against the New England Patriots.
With his first carry in the NFL, Hunt fumbled, and it seemed like he was headed for a career as a special-teamer. But, he used the mistake as motivation, and gained a total of 246 yards and 3 TDs in a 42-27 Kansas City victory. Through Week 14, Hunt has had 1,046 yards rushing on top of 389 yards receiving to go along with 7 total TDs. A true steal that has a bright future ahead of him.
18. Bust: Jonathan Baldwin
Baldwin had physical make up to be a star in the NFL: 6’4″, 230 lbs., and a sub 4.5-sec 40-yard dash. Kansas City thought they received a perfect compliment to Dwayne Bowe when they took the University of Pittsburgh receiver 26th overall in 2011. One thing you can’t measure in the combine though is composure. Baldwin got into a fight with a teammate in the locker room early in the 2011 preseason, and injured his wrist. He lost out on quality reps in practice and floundered during the season.
The Chiefs gave up on Baldwin in 2013, and he was traded to San Francisco for another wide receiver draft bust, A.J. Jenkins. Just as quickly as he entered the league, Baldwin was waived in 2014, only to finish his NFL career with 44 receptions for 607 yards and 2 TDs.
17. Steal: Tyrann Mathieu
The “Honey Badger” don’t give a sh*t! Mathieu was a versatile defensive back at LSU, shutting down receivers in the SEC, and earning the aforementioned nickname due to his small stature, but impressive physical prowess. Mathieu had a troubled past with drugs though, and head coach Les Miles dismissed him from the team in 2012 due to repeated failed drug tests. After a stint in rehab, Mathieu declared for the NFL draft in 2013.
Originally, scouts thought his drug problems would persist, and he didn’t turn too many heads in the combine, but that didn’t deter the Arizona Cardinals from taking a chance him. The “Honey Badger” was taken in the third round of the 2013 draft. He seized the opportunity and is part of a dominant secondary, along with Patrick Peterson, in the desert. Just goes to show that people can change!
16. Bust: Rolando McClain
A mixture of off-the-field issues and locker room confrontations were the downfall of McClain’s career. In 2010, the Oakland Raiders took the former University of Alabama linebacker with the 8th overall pick, hoping he could lead a weak defense. His rookie year was underwhelming, but eventually emerged as a decent linebacker in his sophomore campaign. The issues came in 2012, when he was kicked out of an official team meeting, and vented his frustrations saying he was “no longer an Oakland Raider!!”
McClain was eventually waived by the Raiders, only to be picked up by the Ravens, where he would retire at 23 years old. The Cowboys traded for his rights, he came out of retirement and McClain looked like he had a second wind, until he violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy, not once, not twice, but three times. The former college All-American is currently suspended indefinitely from the NFL, and I think we can safely rule him a bust.
15. Steal: NaVorro Bowman
Not many defensive players garner as much respect in the Bay Area as NaVorro Bowman. The 49ers took a chance on Bowman in the third round of the 2010 draft. The former Penn State linebacker instantly made an impact on the field, recording 189 tackles over his first two seasons. The four-time First-Team All-Pro has been hampered by injuries as of late, but has always made a comeback. In 2015, after coming off a torn ACL and MCL, he led the league with 154 tackles.
In 2017 though, with new GM John Lynch at the helm, the 49ers cut Bowman. At first, this seems like a bonehead move on San Francisco’s part, but when you look deeper, it was out of pure respect for the linebacker. The 49ers were rebuilding and Bowman’s steep salary was impossible to hold on to. Instead of trading him to any team, they released Bowman to give him the option to choose where he wants to play. A rare, yet classy move in the NFL, just goes to show how much Bowman has meant to the fans. Pure respect for this draft steal.
14. Bust: Jake Locker
Locker took the odd route to the NFL. Scouts thought he was going to come out in 2010 as a Junior, and was predicted to be one of the top picks. Experts loved his arm strength and some even compared him to Steve Young. But, Locker went back to college at the University of Washington for his senior campaign, and put up disappointing numbers. Even though he jeopardized his NFL career by going back to school, the Titans still took a chance on Locker with the eighth overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Early on in his career, Locker battled with veteran Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job, and struggled mightily with his accuracy. After a few seasons of mediocre quarterback play, and a litany of injuries, Locker called it quits in 2015. He simply lacked the desire to compete anymore. You have to give him props for being honest, but that doesn’t disqualify from being one of the top busts since 2010.
13. Steal : Jimmy Graham
The tight end position has changed over the past 10 years in the NFL. First, you had former basketball player, Antonio Gates, who was too undersized to play professionally as a power forward, but just the right size to tower over safeties in the end zone. This new basketball tight end phenomena paved the way for the Saints third-round pick in 2010, Jimmy Graham.
Graham played four years of basketball at the University of Miami, but decided to join the football team for one season after graduation as their tight end. The 6’7″, 265 lb. physical specimen was given a shot by New Orleans, where he quickly made an impact in Sean Payton’s pass-heavy offense. The Saints traded the tight end to the Seahawks in 2015, where he has struggled finding his role in the offense. There’s no doubt that he dominates the red zone though, and is one of Russell Wilson’s favorite targets in clutch time. A true draft steal!
12. Bust: Christian Ponder
Minnesota fans were clamoring for a quarterback savior in the post-Favre era. In 2011, the Vikings chose Ponder with the 12th overall pick. He was the fourth quarterback taken that year, and Minnesota thought they had found their guy. But, just to hedge their bet, the Vikings brought in veteran Donovan McNabb to guide the former Florida State quarterback, and to ensure he didn’t flounder in a hard transition into the NFL.
Unfortunately, after McNabb played poorly to begin the 2011 season, Ponder entered as the Vikings quarterback, and had a disappointing rookie year. Experts were still high on Ponder’s potential, and seemed to be right when he helped lead the Vikings to the playoffs in 2012, only to miss the postseason with a triceps injury. After a disappointing 2013 season, and a coaching change, Ponder’s player-option was not picked up for his fifth-year. He bounced around to the Raiders, Broncos, and 49ers, but fizzled out of the league in 2015.
11. Steal: Geno Atkins
Atkins has been a staple in Cinci’ since he came in as the 120th-overall pick in the fourth-round of the 2010 draft. The former University of Georgia defensive tackle slipped so late in the draft because experts were concerned about his size, as he was only 293 lbs. at the combine. But, the Bengals took their shot, and can now say they got a steal.
The five-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro is one of the leaders of the Bengals defense, clogging up the middle and shutting down opposing running backs. Going into Week 15 of the 2017 season, Geno Atkins is second on the all-time Cincinnati sack chart, with 59, only a few behind teammate Carlos Dunlap. Not too bad for a fourth-round steal.
10. Bust: Greg Robinson
Personally, I believe Robinson’s status as one of the top offensive linemen at the University of Auburn got to his head, and caused his downfall due to lack of work ethic. The St. Louis Rams drafted the All-SEC tackle out of the University of Auburn with the second overall pick of the 2014 draft. He never made a huge impact on the field, as a second overall pick should, but also never slipped up too much.
That is until 2016, when he reportedly came in to training camp 15 pounds overweight. After a penalty ridden, sloppy 2016 season, Robinson was benched. The Rams tried him at right tackle, and then at guard, but eventually they traded him to Detroit for a sixth round pick. Robinson was hoping to make a comeback with the Lions, but was plagued by an ankle injury and waived citing an injury designation on November 10th, 2017. He may have some fight left in him, but for now, he’s one of the top busts since 2010.
9. Steal: Dak Prescott
There’s not many nice things I have to say about Jerry Jones and the Cowboys, but I have to commend them for taking a chance on Dak Prescott. The former Mississippi State quarterback took the league by storm in 2016 after he was selected in the fourth-round. When Tony Romo went down, Dak stepped in without missing a beat. Along side of All-Pro running back, Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott lead the Cowboys to the playoffs, only to be torn up in the final seconds by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Now in his sophomore campaign, and the shadow of Romo out of the picture, the Cowboys’ are Dak’s team. Of course, he’s gone through his fair share of ups and downs, especially now that Elliott has suspended for six games. The offense has looked stagnant in his absence, and the finger’s been pointed at Dak. Whichever way you look at it though, Prescott is a great steal, and will surely look better in the future.
8. Bust: Justin Blackmon
Blackmon was nothing short of amazing at Oklahoma State University. He was presented with the Biletnikoff award, which goes to the nation’s best receiver, not once, but twice. No expert questioned the Jaguars when they took Blackmon as the fifth overall pick in 2012. Prior to the season though, the first red flag popped up when he was arrested for drunk driving. Despite this setback, Blackmon led all rookies in receiving in 2012, and was back on track to have a great career.
In 2013, Blackmon was suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. After sitting out due to a groin injury and the suspension, Blackmon returned to domination, but was quickly suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy again. After several more arrests, and his reinstatement being denied, Blackmon hasn’t played another snap in the NFL. He’s eligible to return to in 2018, but all signs point to the receiver as being one of the all-time busts.
7. Steal: Kam Chancellor
The Seahawks have a recent history of grabbing top defensive players late in the draft, and Kam Chancellor is no exception. The former Virginia Tech Hokie safety was taken in the fifth-round of the 2010 draft by Seattle, and hasn’t looked back since. He’s been to four Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl, and is an integral member of the self-proclaimed Legion of Boom, in Seattle.
Luckily for Seattle fans, Chancellor signed a three-year extension in the 2017 offseason worth $36 million. Unfortunately, the two-time Second-Team All-Pro safety will miss the rest of the season due to a neck injury he suffered in Week 10. Hopefully, by 2018, the Legion of Boom, will be at full strength, and the 12th Man in Seattle will help bring home another Super Bowl championship.
6. Bust: Trent Richardson
The former Alabama running back and two-time National Champion was poised to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. He was a freak in the weight room but underwent minor knee surgery prior to the draft, but that didn’t hurt his draft stock. Cleveland took Richardson with the third overall pick in 2012.
Despite missing the entire preseason, Richardson had a decent rookie year, scoring nine touchdowns, but only averaging 3.6 yards per carry. The Browns traded him to the Colts for a future first-rounder just two games in to the 2013 season. That’s where the decline began. Richardson under-performed at his time with Indianapolis and they eventually waived him in 2015. After bouncing around to a few squads in the NFL, the former third overall pick took his talents (or lack thereof) to Canada, where he went down with an ankle injury in the 2017 season. He will always be regarded not only as a top bust since 2010, but of all-time.
5. Steal: Richard Sherman
Remember when we said that Seattle had a history of picking great talent late in the draft? Well, Richard Sherman is the embodiment of that statement. The former Stanford Cardinal was taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Experts were wary of Sherman’s size (6’3″) since he would only be dominant in a press-heavy defense. But boy were they wrong.
Sherman has gone on to make three First-Team All-Pro, four Pro Bowls, and has held the Lombardi Trophy. He has been the leader of the Legion of Boom and continues to be a cornerback who teams try and avoid at all costs. Unfortunately, Sherman suffered an Achilles injury, and was ruled out half way through the 2017 season. There is no doubt that he is one of the top draft steals since 2010.
4. Bust: Johnny Manziel
When you think of draft busts, you think of Johnny Manziel. The former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman trophy winner entered the 2014 NFL draft with high hopes, where many experts projected him to be a top pick. But, due to his small stature at barely 6’0″, and litany of off-the-field issues, Manziel slowly fell in the first-round. But, in typical Cleveland Browns fashion, they traded back up to take Manziel 22nd overall.
Johnny Football made his first start in Week 15 of the 2014 season, creating some electric plays, but for the most part, floundering. He had lost support of the Browns locker room, some players even calling him a “100 percent joke.” But, as he was always known for, Manziel partied his way out of a job, and now we can for sure say that he was a 100 percent joke.
3. Steal: Antonio Brown
Who would have ever thought that a sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan would turn out to be the best receiver in the NFL? Apparently, the Pittsburgh Steelers did. They drafted Brown 195th-overall in 2010, and haven’t looked back. Brown never got the opportunity to showcase his skills as receiver in his rookie year, but made a name for himself in the return game.
Over the next few seasons, Brown emerged as Roethlisberger’s favorite target, and is now the second leading receiver in Steelers history, only behind Hines Ward, whom he will surely pass if he remains in Pittsburgh. He’s now had five straight 1,000-yard seasons, and is the top receiver in the NFL. Not as a Steeler fan, but as a fantasy football player, I would personally like to thank Pittsburgh for giving this draft steal a chance.
2. Bust: Robert Griffin III
Our top bust since 2010 is none other than former Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III. The Washington Redskins took the Baylor QB with the second-overall pick in 2012, and it seemed like their quarterback savior had arrived. In his rookie season, Griffin led the Redskins to the playoffs, made the Pro Bowl, and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. But, he tore his ACL and MCL, which started his injury-ridden downfall.
With the injury to his knee, RGIII’s mobility declined, which was an integral part of his success in his rookie year. The Redskins rushed him back for the season opener in 2013, but he did not live up to expectations. Griffin had lost support of his teammates and was getting sacked all of the time. Washington eventually released Griffin in 2016, and he was picked up by the Browns. But, the demons haunted RGIII, and he was released again in 2017. So much potential, yet so little to come from it.
1. Steal: Russell Wilson
From one quarterback to another, Russell Wilson is our top draft steal since 2010. The former NC State quarterback exercised his last year of eligibility at Wisconsin and put his name on many NFL scout’s radars. The Seahawks took the undersized quarterback in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. At first, Seattle received some criticism since they had just signed Matt Flynn, but that talk would all go out the window once Wilson hit the field in Week 2. He led the Seahawks to the playoffs in his rookie year.
In 2013, the sophomore was still getting some negative critics, stating that the defense was leading the team. Well, Wilson led Seattle to a Super Bowl victory and is actually the shortest QB to win a championship, at 5’11”. The following season, Wilson was one yard away from repeating as Super Bowl champion, but was picked off at the goal line. Now, Wilson is a top QB in the NFL, and despite being behind a weak o-line, is dominating the NFC.
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