The term “draft bust” is one that is often casually and inappropriately tossed out there by sports fans and even by knowledgeable supposed analysts and experts, particularly as it pertains to the National Football League. A popular adage regarding young football players is that we cannot adequately and truly evaluate any draft class until three years down the road. Thus, theoretically, one shouldn’t write any player drafted in 2016 off until at least 2019. After all, it takes time for players of different positions to adapt to life in the NFL. Quarterbacks need reps and dozens of games under their belts to get used to playing in pro systems. Offensive linemen, defensive backs and wide receivers sometimes fail to find their feet in the pros until after at least a couple of years.
With that said, we are able to make educated guesses and prognostications about which players from 2016 and 2017 already appear to be busts and could be replaced by their current clubs via either free agency or next year’s draft. Because of the nature of the sport and the importance of the position, readers likely won’t be surprised to learn that quarterbacks are largely featured in this piece. After all, there is no more vital position in team sports than pro signal-callers, and QBs are, fairly or not, expected to show that they can be leaders and possess the goods to start against top-tier opponents from day one. Even a QB selected in the third round of a draft can be seen as a bust depending on the team that drafts him and what he shows — or fails to show — in practices and preseason games.
15 Corey Davis: 2017
The Tennessee Titans have been somewhat of a weird team to watch this season, and that has been reflected in the lack of production from wide receiver Corey Davis. Davis, drafted fifth overall in 2017, has seen a ton of volume during the early stages of his pro career, but he has yet to find the end zone even once. Perhaps more worrisome is that he and quarterback Marcus Mariota sometimes seem to be reading different books, let alone not be on the same page.
It must be pointed out that an ankle injury slowed Davis’ pro career before it truly began, and that could be affecting his comfort while on the field. Still, there are some concerns that the Titans may have reached on Davis, as his best game was his debut, when he caught six passes in a losing effort.
14 Laquon Treadwell: 2016
The Minnesota Vikings have been one of the best stories in the NFL over the past two seasons. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, taken in the first round of the 2016 draft, hasn’t been a bright spot for the franchise during that time. Treadwell ended his first season with a paltry one catch in nine games, and he hasn’t shown all that much more during his second year in the league.
A year and a half into this process, Treadwell is a first-round pick in name only, as the Vikings probably wish they would’ve grabbed a different player at the position. For example, Minnesota could’ve used his pick to take New York Giants receiver Sterling Shepard, who has performed much better than Treadwell when healthy and not struggling with migraines.
13 Braxton Miller: 2016
One could easily argue that both fans and the Houston Texans carried unrealistic expectations for Braxton Miller, who made the move from quarterback to wide receiver while at Ohio State, before Houston selected him in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Miller undeniably possesses tremendous athleticism that jumps off the page and off the screen when he puts it on display, but starring at the position at the highest level requires more than speed and agility.
Through the first 19 games of his NFL career, Miller reeled-in 31 of 51 targets, and he scored a pair of touchdowns over that time. The 25-year-old was worth a flier at the time, but Texans fans will probably remember the club could’ve had Dak Prescott with this pick.
12 Mike Williams: 2017
It’s great that the Los Angeles Chargers have shown plenty of patience with wide receiver Mike Williams, who has dealt with multiple injury concerns during his first pro season. At some point, though, the 2017 version of the club has to wonder if it would’ve been better off using the seventh overall pick on a more-reliable player at a time when quarterback Philip Rivers is in the twilight of his prime.
Williams caught nine passes over the first six games of his career, and five of those receptions occurred in one game. Yes, the Chargers probably need to feature him in a bigger role, but it’s on the rookie to show he’s worthy of additional targets as Los Angeles attempts to qualify for a postseason berth.
11 Paxton Lynch: 2016
The good news for the Denver Broncos is that Paxton Lynch, the 26th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, probably isn’t the worst quarterback of his draft class. The bad news is that Lynch appears to be only slightly better than Trevor Siemian, which is saying very little considering Siemian looks like he doesn’t belong on any NFL roster when at his worst.
John Elway, the former QB and current executive responsible for finding Denver’s next franchise player at the position, is getting more wrong than right these days, and it’s not going to be long until he can no longer take credit for Peyton Manning helping the Broncos win a title. Lynch has played far more like a bust than a future All-Pro, and the Broncos will likely again address QB before May 2018.
10 Germain Ifedi: 2016
Remember when the Seattle Seahawks featured one of the better offensive lines in the NFL? The hope, probably, was that tackle Germain Ifedi would help bolster that unit after the Seahawks selected him late in the first round of the 2016 draft. Not only has Ifedi failed to live up to expectations in his first two seasons. There have been cries from fans and from local analysts for the Seahawks to sit him.
Ifedi has been a penalty waiting to happen far too often when he hasn’t failed to block or protect up front, and one shouldn’t be surprised if head coach Pete Carroll looks into replacing him with a proven product or a rookie come next summer. Carroll has no other choice than to hope the figurative light turns on for Ifedi before the upcoming playoffs start.
9 Nathan Peterman: 2017
The reality of the situation is that we should never consider any fifth-round pick, let alone a rookie, to be a draft bust, but the Buffalo Bills put Nathan Peterman in such a position when the franchise started him over Tyrod Taylor for a game against the Los Angeles Chargers in November 2017.
Peterman appeared to be completely lost on the field, and he tossed five interceptions before the Bills had no other choice than to put Taylor back into the game and into the starting lineup. There may come a time when Peterman puts that horrible outing out of our memories and shows that he was worth a fifth-round pick, but the Bills did him few, if any, favors during his rookie season. He shouldn’t have played a down this year.
8 Cody Kessler: 2016
Just as with Nathan Peterman, Cody Kessler, taken by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, was supposed to be a project who was never meant to take the field during his rookie campaign. The Browns are, well, the Browns, so of course they screwed it up and put Kessler into the lineup well before he was ready to face NFL competition.
He suffered a pair of concussions over a period of five weeks, the Browns acquired a pair of QBs during the 2017 offseason, and Kessler has largely been relegated to third on the depth chart during yet another losing season. Kessler is a bust, the Cleveland front office is a joke, and everybody needs to be fired before you are finished reading this sentence.
7 Roberto Aguayo: 2016
We're going to say this next line loudly so that those in the back can hear us: Never, and we mean never, use a second-round draft pick on a kicker, any kicker, regardless of how good he looks during his college career. Even if Roberto Aguayo eventually catches on with a team and proves his value to that franchise, the fact is that he will always be one of the biggest draft busts in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because the Bucs gave up on him after only one season.
That decision made sense, as Aguayo failed to look the part in exhibition contests and in meaningful games. It’s difficult to trust a kicker to makes only 71 percent of his field goal attempts and who turns extra points into adventures each time he takes the field.
6 Mitchell Trubisky: 2017
We don’t want to bury Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, taken second overall by the club in the 2017 NFL Draft, too much. After all, the Bears are terrible, and that would likely be the case even if Trubisky was able to sit behind a veteran as was the original plan after the club signed Mike Glennon. Glennon did little, if anything, to keep the job before the Bears put the rookie in the lineup, but nobody should pretend Trubisky has looked the part outside of a handful of moments.
Completing under 55 percent of pass attempts isn’t going to get the job done in the NFL, and neither will averaging less than one touchdown throw per game. One has to wonder if the Bears are damaging this young prospect by playing him in such a bad offense.
5 Robert Nkemdiche: 2016
You don’t have to look far and wide to notice that the Arizona Cardinals are clearly frustrated with defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, taken late in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. A lingering calf injury limited his production during his first season, which he finished with a single tackle, and it was widely suggested that Arizona coaches were left unimpressed by what they saw from him leading up to the summer of 2017.
The positive with Nkemdiche is that he accumulated five sacks in eight games for the Cardinals during the current season. The negative is that those flashes are often followed by inconsistent and downright lousy play. It’s still far too early for anybody to confidently say he has a long-term future with the Cardinals.
4 Corey Coleman: 2016
The bar is so low for Cleveland Browns wide receiver and 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman that fans and even some local beat reporters gush when he makes a routine play or manages to get separation when he is actually healthy and able to feature in the lineup. Coleman serves as yet another negative for a front office that remains in charge despite the fact the Browns have lost 27 out of 28 games as of the typing of this sentence, and players such as Will Fuller, Josh Doctson, Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas and, last but not least, Tyreek Hill would all be drafted ahead of Coleman if the 2016 selection process were to be repeated at some point in early 2018.
Coleman has time to right the ship, but his inability to stay healthy and catch passes with any regularity are problems.
3 Davis Webb: 2017
The New York Giants became one of the biggest disasters in all the NFL between August and the end of November, so it shouldn’t be a surprise a pair of Giants are featured so high in the list. Some out there may claim that it’s ridiculous to mention third-round pick Davis Webb in a list of draft busts because the quarterback hasn’t been dressed for a game as of the final weekend of November.
What does it say about Webb, or about any QB in the league these days, that Webb couldn’t get ahead of Geno Smith, who flopped with the New York Jets before signing with the Giants earlier this year, on the depth chart? We wouldn’t be shocked if Webb doesn’t play a down before the Giants use a first-round pick on a QB in 2018.
2 Eli Apple: 2016
It wasn’t all that long ago when cornerback Eli Apple, the tenth overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, seemed to be a future cornerstone of the New York Giants secondary for years to come. Apple lost his way, for whatever reasons, before the start of the 2017 season, and he’s been far more a detriment than a positive for the club since the summer.
He was benched for disciplinary reasons in October, there have been whispers he has been talking with the media “anonymously” about coaches, and it was reported he reacted negatively and maybe even walked out of a film session when his poor play was criticized. The Giants will have a new General Manager and new coaching staff before the start of the 2018 NFL Draft. Whether or not Apple will be on the roster by then is anybody’s guess.
1 Christian Hackenberg: 2016
The New York Jets used a second-round pick on quarterback Christian Hackenberg. That, right there, is quite a Jets-y statement. Not only is Hackenberg still not playing two years into his career. The Jets had no other choice than to sign journeyman Josh McCown ahead of the 2017 campaign because Hackenberg failed to even flirt with showing signs of being a pro QB.
In fairness, McCown has played better than expected for a Jets team advertised to be tanking back in August, and it’s been suggested the club could bring him back for one more season if he would be willing to play at 39 years old. Hackenberg and the Jets may part ways without him seeing the field in December 2017. That may be best for all involved.