We're over a month and a half into the 2017 NFL season and already, we're starting to have an idea of what rookies might wind up being draft busts. How is that possible, you ask? Easy: they're not Jamal Adams or Marcus Maye.
The fantastic Jets rookie duo outside, it's never fun to look back at how badly your team messed up with draft picks, but it can be fun to look them up and see what they're doing outside of football. Today, we're going to look at some of the biggest running back and receiver busts since the 2010 NFL Draft, track them down, and see where they are. Have they managed to stay in the NFL, or are they on TV?
Really, there's no essential ground rules for this list other than players who are still on active NFL rosters are indeed eligible. However, those from the 2015 NFL Draft and up are ineligible unless there's a legitimate reason they belong on this list. Also, any player that was a bust at one position and switched to these two positions (i.e. Terrelle Pryor) is ineligible, as is Josh Gordon because he's not a bust. Gordon had other issues going on, ones he recently made clear in several interviews.
If you're ready to look back at some of the biggest busts in recent memory and hope your team wasn't the one that made the pick, let's do this.
15 Justin Blackmon, WR: Off Probation
Calling former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon a bust may be a bit unfair because he did produce when on the field - not to the extent of fellow 2012 rookie Josh Gordon, but enough to where he wasn't Kevin White and never played - and he did battle substance abuse issues, but it is what it is. Blackmon had his issues, was banned by the NFL midway through the 2013 season, and hasn't popped up since.
If there's any positive news to report, it's that Blackmon's 2015 DUI was dismissed in August 2017 after the former first-rounder did 100 hours of community service and had no further issues with the authorities. Does that mean a Justin Blackmon comeback is bound for next season? So long as he doesn't kneel for the anthem, I get the feeling teams would take a chance on him.
14 Ben Tate, RB: The Spring League
In the grand scheme of things, Tate isn't quite a bust, especially not after averaging 4.4 yards per rush across 51 games in his career and 4.7 yards on 1,992 yards and ten scores in his first three seasons in the league, all of which came with the Houston Texans. However, Tate's struggles with Cleveland in 2014 that saw him cut midseason after signing a three-year deal with them and his inability to play in the league since then give him a spot on this list as a disappointment.
Too harsh? Maybe, but there's no reason Tate should have had to resort to playing in the Spring League this year as a way of showing NFL scouts he could still play. At 29 and having not taken a snap in three years, it may be safe to say Tate's time in the NFL is likely over.
13 Jordan Shipley, WR: Hunting Show Host
Was Jordan Shipley a bust, or simply overhyped coming into the NFL because of his success at the University of Texas with Colt McCoy as his quarterback? A third-round pick of the Bengals in 2010 - the same draft they landed Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Gresham, among others - Shipley caught 52 passes for 600 yards and three scores in his first year as the third option behind Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, but was limited to four catches and 14 yards his sophomore season before tearing his ACL in Week 2.
Shipley would spend 2012 in Jacksonville and Tampa Bay before retiring to, of all things, co-hosts The Bucks of Tecomate on The Outdoor Channel, a hunting show. At least Shipley has grown himself a fantastic hunter's beard over the years.
12 LaMichael James, RB: Tried out with the Seattle Seahawks
In theory, the San Francisco 49ers using a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on Oregon's LaMichael James not only seemed like a steal, but the perfect final piece to a running back group that featured future Hall of Famer Frank Gore and Pro Bowler Brandon Jacobs. With Jacobs having been a part of the "Earth, Wind, And Fire" trrio in New York alongside Amhad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward, what could go wrong?
Well, Jacobs feuded with Jim Harbaugh and James struggled to really ever get touches, only earning 29 carries across two years with the 49ers before requesting his release in 2014 and finishing his career with the Miami Dolphins. The last time we heard from James, he was considering a comeback and tried out with the Seattle Seahawks, but his best days may be long behind him.
11 Toby Gerhart, RB: Potentially considering a comeback
Like with Ben Tate, we saw Toby Gerhart - a Heisman finalist at Stanford and one of the best offensive players in Cardinal history - succeed with his initial team, averaging 4.7 yards per rush in his four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (it is worth nothing, though, that Gerhart only had 86 carries between 2012-13 after 190 in his first two seasons) before being abysmal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. How abysmal? In 21 games, Gerhart averaged 3.1 yards per carry and once was stopped in four consecutive plays at the one-yard line.
The last time we heard from the former second-round pick, he had actually tried out with the Denver Broncos last December, but nothing really came out of it. Will we see Gerhart get a tryout next spring? Given how many injuries are happening across the league this season, I wouldn't be shocked if he gets a contract within three days of this article posting.
10 Titus Young, WR: Prison
As much as I'd love to talk about Titus Young's NFL career, one that should very well still be happening with Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions, it may be better to discuss his post-NFL career and what the past five years have been like.
- Young was arrested three times in one week in May 2013 (this was after the Lions released him) for DUI, trying to retrieve the car from a towing yard, and for alleged attempted burglary that also featured him assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
- Young had another incident in 2014 that led him to plead no contest to felony battery in April 2015.
- Young was given five years probation after leaving an inpatient mental treatment facility - one that was court-ordered - in January 2016 and fighting his neighbor in LA.
- Young is now serving four years in prison for a felony battery causing serious bodily injury stemming from the street fight, one he pleaded no contest to.
Get better, Titus.
9 Cody Latimer, WR: Denver Broncos
When the Denver Broncos used a second-round pick on Cody Latimer in 2014, a year after Peyton Manning threw for 55 touchdown passes and helped the Broncos to a Super Bowl appearance, I get the feeling John Elway was expecting the legendary Indiana receiver to put up 18 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown within his first few games. Latimer has done that over four years with the Broncos, never quite breaking through regardless of who was the quarterback.
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Latimer almost seems like the type of player who could flourish in Denver's offense, so I don't get it. With Latimer a free agent at the end of this season, I do think a team will pounce on him with the size factor and the potential, but this pick has not worked out for the Broncos at all.
8 Christine Michael, RB: Indianapolis Colts Injured Reserve
Raise your hand if you're one of the many fantasy football players who took Christine Michael season after season in hopes that he would stay healthy. Raise your hand if you took him two straight seasons even with the injury risk. When Michael could stay on the field - or when he can, depending on if we see him hit the field again - he was able to rush for 4.3 yards per rush and score seven touchdowns on 254 carries, but injuries were always the problem. Michael has yet to play all 16 games in a season and the closest he came was 15 last year, a campaign that saw him run for a career-worst 3.9 yards per pop.
Michael is currently on the Colts' injured reserve and will almost certainly get a chance next year, but he'll need to stay healthy.
7 Arrelious Benn, WR: Jacksonville Jaguars
After not being on an active NFL gameday roster for three years, former second-round pick Arrelious Benn broke that trend last September with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Stints in Tampa Bay (well, no one who played under Greg Schiano really came out better than expected) and Philadelphia didn't work, so Benn wound up with the Jaguars in 2015, never played, and managed to hang around long enough to where he's still with the team now.
In 2016, Benn caught five passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, while he only caught a lone pass for 12 yards through this season's first five games. Will the Jaguars find a greater use for him if they continue to win games? Well, we just used Jaguars and winning games in the same sentence, so anything is possible.
6 Rueben Randle, WR: Free Agent
Randle's main stats in New York weren't quite unimpressive, but his demeanor and maturity cost him a long-term spot with the Giants. We'll let him explain as he was explaining why the Giants didn't like his attitude and how that was helping Randle prepare for what he was going to be a breakout 2016 season in Philadelphia:
"It kind of (seemed) like I was out of it, at some times. I'm just a laid-back guy. It doesn't mean that I'm out of it, or things like that. I wasn't really trying to do anything (insubordinate). I just gotta move on from it. I'm excited to be a part of this. This is a new path for me."
Randle was cut before the season started and is now a free agent after being released by the Bears in September.
5 Justin Hunter, WR: Pittsburgh Steelers
Not only was I genuinely surprised to know Justin Hunter is still in the league, but I was even more surprised to realize he's continuously gotten jobs despite not really doing much of anything since entering the league in 2013. While his rookie season had flashes of brilliance with him averaging 19.7 yards per catch on 18 receptions for 354 yards, Hunter's career-highs are 28 catches and 498 yards in a season, both of which came in his sophomore year.
Had Hunter stayed for his senior year of college at Tennessee and not pulled a Lane Kiffin (i.e. leaving early), the Virginia native could easily have been a first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. But, Hunter went and pulled a Lane Kiffin - which at least is working out for Florida Atlantic - and is now a backup for the crumbling Steelers.
4 Montee Ball, RB: Recovering Alcoholic
Not unlike Josh Gordon, who as we said in the intro revealed his recent struggles with substance abuse, former Wisconsin star Montee Ball went down a same path. His story, after failing to do much of anything in the NFL despite great hype, is below.
"I started to drink a lot more and it started to pour into football. If I knew we had a super-easy practice the next day, I'd go out and get drunk with a whole bunch of people. I'd wake up drunk, hit the steam room and go to practice. ... [Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville] talked about how he could smell the alcohol on me and that he thinks I may have a problem with drinking. He said if I needed any help with that he could reach out to people I could talk to. I didn't listen to him."
Ball has been sober since August 2016. We hope he can continue to be healthy!
3 Jon Baldwin, WR: Unknown
Facebook and Twitter searches, Linkedin searches, we did all of that and nothing popped up for former Kansas City Chiefs receiver Jon Baldwin. We know Baldwin had quit social media a few years ago because he had issues on there, but to find nothing about a guy that was a former first round pick and could probably still get a tryout is a bit unnerving. The most recent information we could locate on Baldwin came in the form of a 2015 tryout with the Carolina Panthers, but nothing came out of that.
With some of these "where are they now?" lists, there is some fun in seeing guys like Jordan Shipley wind up doing what they love or finding a better career than football, but these mysterious cases are something entirely different.
2 A.J. Jenkins, WR: Free Agent
While A.J. Jenkins hasn't technically retired yet, his playing days may be over after not getting even a tryout since not making the final cuts with the 2015 Dallas Cowboys. One of the worst mistakes in San Francisco 49ers history, many have said, was drafting Baldwin and teams seem to have realized just how bad the pick was, staying far, far away from giving him a shot. At 28 years old, there's still nothing he can do?
With that said, watch Jenkins somehow land onto a title contender later this month or in November, work his way up the depth chart, and shock everyone by producing down the stretch and in the postseason. They say the NFL is any given Sunday, and as we've seen in New England, the same goes for players they find in the junkyard.
1 Trent Richardson, RB: CFL
After going from the third overall pick in 2012 to out of the league last year, the still-only-27-year-old Richardson is now playing in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, actually making his league debut earlier this month. So what went wrong in the NFL for such a gifted running back?
"It's very easy to get lazy in the NFL -- not having everything scheduled and not having everything like at Alabama where it was so structured," Richardson said in 2016. "We had study hall or we had to get a workout in in between classes and had five classes a day. It was just so structured. In the NFL, everything's on your own."
If Richardson stays healthy and produces decently enough in the CFL, we may see him get a camp invite next season. A reunion in Cleveland, perhaps?
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