There's fewer spectacles in sport that are bigger than the National Football League (NFL) Draft. The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association have a two-day draft with only the first night televised nationally, while Major League Baseball has a mid-summer draft that presumably draws a smaller audience than re-runs of Fraiser. Football, however, more than any of the other major North American sports, commands year-round coverage not only on the NFL Network, but on major networks and radio stations throughout the United States - and even in Canada, where NFL off-season coverage often overshadows actual games being played in the Canadian Football League.
And where NFL coverage is ever-present throughout the summer, the draft is the pinnacle. Pundits spend months talking about prospects and where they might be drafted, while the NFL Network has even started to televise the combine - yes, you can now watch people jump, run, and lift things. It doesn't end after the three-day draft, however. Analysts and armchair General Managers spend countless hours discussing if every pick in the draft was the right choice, which leads us to this list. In the past five years, there have been some very good drafts (2014) and some abysmal ones (2013). Here are the 15 biggest busts in the past five years.
15 Corey Davis
We anticipate plenty of criticism for including players taken in the 2017 NFL Draft even though they haven't yet had the opportunity to prove themselves in the league, but there's typically at least five to ten busts in each first round and what better way to encourage debate than by predicting a failed draft pick. So let's start with fifth overall pick in 2017, Corey Davis, who also happens to be the NCAA's career receiving yards leader. Maybe not exactly the best place to start predicting busts.
However, Davis will enter the league with great expectations, which can hamper a player's ability to perform. Let's be clear, it's not as if he was in the national spotlight at Western Michigan. He's also not signed to a NFL contract yet, despite the fact Tennessee has already opened camp, so he'll be starting behind the eight ball already. Beyond that, Davis is blessed with great speed, but he's a drop machine. One review of the wide receiver noted: "Davis is pretty close to bust proof in my eyes, even with the drops. Hell, if he can't catch just give it to him on end arounds, speed sweeps, and screens." If all he can do is catch the ball on screens and end arounds, he's a bust.
14 Patrick Mahomes
Sticking with the 2017 NFL Draft, we come to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the second passer taken in the draft behind only Mitchell Trubisky. Mahomes spent the past three seasons at Texas Tech, where he compiled a 11,252 passing yards and 93 touchdowns against 29 interceptions. He's considered by scouts to have the best potential among the top quarterbacks taken in the draft, though most would acknowledge he's also the most raw quarterback in the draft class. As most headlines label Mahomes, he's a "boom-or-bust" player.
Yet, that didn't stop the Kansas City Chiefs from trading up to grab Mahomes, even with the more seasoned Deshaun Watson still on the board. A USA Today headline "Watch a retired draft bust beat QB prospect Patrick Mahomes in a throwing contest" doesn't exactly inspire confidence either. The headline refers to a head-to-head throwing speed challenge between Mahomes and former first overall pick David Carr. Mahomes clearly has more power behind his throws than Carr, but he was wildly inaccurate, while Carr, who hadn't played in five years, hit his target with each throw. Is it an overreaction to call him a bust because of that? Definitely. Is it meaningless? Nope.
13 Josh Doctson
Josh Doctson was expected to make an immediate impact in the passing game for the Washington Redskins last season. The team was retooling its wide receiving corps and the opportunity was there for Doctson, a first-round pick, to come in and become a consistent deep-threat target for quarterback Kirk Cousins. After all, he did record 1,326 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior with Texas Christian University in 2015.
Instead, Doctson played only two games last season after missing training camp and most of the year with an Achilles injury. That's no fault of his own - injuries happen - but an Achilles injury can certainly impact the running ability of someone best known for their speed. Beyond that, Doctson only had two receptions in those two games. He'll certainly be a player worth following in 2017, but if he doesn't get off to a good start he's a player that could have fans thinking bust.
12 Dante Fowler
It's much easier for the average football fan to label offensive players as busts. There's more statistics available and it's easier to discern whether or not a wide receiver or running back is doing his job well. However, busts on the defensive side of the ball are just as common, especially if they're a top-five pick who enter their first training camp with incredible fanfare. That was the case with defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who was selected third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2015 NFL Draft.
A former first-team All-SEC player, Fowler missed his entire rookie season due to an ACL injury, which is not how you want to start your career. He had a decent, but perhaps underwhelming year in 2016 with just four sacks and 32 tackles, although he'll only be 23 years old when the 2017 season starts. He hasn't done himself any favors off the field either; on July 18th, he was arrested in St. Petersburg, Florida for battery and mischief after striking a man following a traffic-related incident.
11 Kevin White
A 6-foot-2, 190-product of West Virginia University, Kevin White really only had one year to prove himself at the college level. After joining the school for his junior season, White recorded just 507 receiving yards; the following year, however, he led the team in the stat with 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. That was all the Chicago Bears needed to see to make White the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Yet, through two seasons in the league, White has caused more headaches for Bears fans than Jay Cutler - OK, that's an overstatement, but you get the point. He has been injured for almost the entire two seasons and has only played in four games, in which he recorded 187 yards on 19 receptions. He's healthy heading into what should be a make-or-break 2017 season.
10 Evan Engram
In finding the third and final potential bust of the 2017 NFL Draft, we come to tight end Evan Engram, who was selected 23rd overall in the draft by the New York Giants. Engram has an impressive combination of catching ability and athleticism and projects more as a receiving tight end than one who can block well, which is fine, but New York may not have been the best offense for him.
In New York, the former Ole Miss star, who led the nation's tight ends in 2014 with a 17.4 yards per catch average, will never be more than a third or fourth option for Eli Manning or whoever the team's quarterback is in the not-so-distant future. Rather than finding another target for Manning, the Giants needed upgrades at other positions or at least a tight end known for his blocking ability.
9 Laquon Treadwell
If you're in a fantasy football league, especially if it's a keeper league with annual rookie drafts, chances are you share our disappointment with Laquon Treadwell. The former Mississippi wide receiver was selected 23rd overall in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings and was thought of as a fantasy sleeper by many analysts and pundits. Yet, the Boston native spent the majority of the season on Minnesota's special teams unit. He only had one 15-yard reception all season.
What's even more concerning about that figure is that Treadwell wasn't exactly blocked on the depth chart by an All-Pro group of receivers. Stefon Diggs and Charles Johnson provided Minnesota with decent options, but you would have expected Treadwell to at least earn more playing time late in the season.
8 Tavon Austin
This one might be a bit divisive as Tavon Austin has been an important part of the Los Angeles Rams offense in the past few seasons, but, more than anything, that tells you just how awful the Rams' offense has been. A product of West Virginia, Austin was selected eighth overall by the Rams in the 2013 NFL Draft. The team needed a high-impact receiver and anticipated it had that in Austin, but that hasn't been the case.
Make no mistake, he's been a reliable option in the team's passing game and has been useful as a punt returner, but he's far from a game-changing player, which is what you want from a top-pick wide receiver. Instead, Austin has only topped 500 yards receiving once in his career and has yet to top 1,000 total yards in any season.
7 EJ Manuel
From a potentially divisive player to one we can all agree on - EJ Manuel. If you had expected the Buffalo Bills to draft a franchise-changing quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft, then chances are you have nobody but yourself to blame, but it doesn't take the sting away if you're a Bills fan. A Florida State alumnus, Manuel was selected 16th overall by the Bills in the abysmal 2013 draft and hasn't yet resembled the star he once was in college.
In fact, Manuel's only decent season was his rookie year, in which he posted a four and six record as a starting quarterback and threw for 1,972 yards and rushed for 186 while scoring a combined 13 touchdowns as opposed to nine interceptions. He has been relegated to backup since the middle of the 2014 season and is now moved on to Oakland where he'll backup Derek Carr.
6 Justin Gilbert
You have to feel bad for Justin Gilbert. It's not his fault he was unable to live up to the tremendous expectations that come with being the eighth overall pick in the draft or the recipient of the 2013 College Football Performance Award as the top defensive back in the country. Gilbert was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and that's all you need to know about his career. He was part of the impressive 2014 draft class, which is cited as one of the best drafts of all-time - OBJ, Aaron Donald, Mike Evans, Khalil Mack, and Sammy Watkins are just a few of the players taken in the top-15 - but is one of the few busts.
He had one big game in his rookie season, in which he returned an interception for a touchdown, but has been unable to hold down a starting job since. In fact, Gilbert was dealt to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the start of the 2016 season for a 2018 sixth-round pick. He was released at the end of the year.
5 Dion Jordan
As mentioned, defensive end Dante Fowler appears to be well on his way to being a bust, but as top-five picks go, defensive end Dion Jordan is already there. The former third overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft was a star at the University of Oregon, but has been a disaster in the NFL.
Jordan was a First-team All-American in 2012 and is a two-time First-team All-Pac-12, but through four seasons in the NFL he has just 46 tackles and three quarterback sacks - in comparison, he had 14.5 sacks during his last three seasons with Oregon. His biggest issue, however, has been staying on the field. He has been twice suspended for failing drug tests and endured a 15-month suspension between 2014 and 2015. He played in 2016, but apparently not well enough as he was released by the Dolphins after failing a physical in March. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks in April.
4 Nelson Agholor
Nelson Agholor is similar to Laquon Treadwell in that he seemed to be drafted by the perfect team in the perfect situation to thrive; however, it hasn't worked out for the former USC star. In college, Agholor finished his senior campaign with 1,313 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. He also had two punt return touchdowns. Those kind of numbers made him an attractive pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, which made him the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft.
He was discussed as a potential fantasy sleeper by many experts heading into the 2015 season, but failed to live up to that expectation with only 23 receptions for 283 yards and one touchdown. His second season wasn't much better as he recorded only 365 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
3 Greg Robinson
The Rams have made some terrible picks in recent years, but none were worse than offensive tackle Greg Robinson, who they selected with the second overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. After trading their pick to Washington two years prior allowing the Redskins to select Robert Griffin III, the Rams were blessed with an abundance of high picks in the next few drafts, but terrible asset management has the team still near the bottom of the pack.
You don't expect much flash with a second overall offensive tackle, but, at the very least, you hope it can stabilize your offense. Robinson wasn't able to do that. He started 42 of 46 games for the Rams in his four years with the team, but during that time Rams quarterbacks were among the most sacked. The team declined his fifth-year option in this past offseason and dealt him to the Detroit Lions for a sixth-round pick.
2 Johnny Manziel
You knew it was coming. Sure, Johnny Manziel wasn't a top five or ten pick like many of these players, but let's be honest, he's the name you recognize most on this list. At Texas A&M, Manziel was a star who was thought of as a dual-threat quarterback. And, although he had question marks about his arm and his off-field troubles, he was viewed as a high-potential quarterback who could one day be an impact starter. That thinking couldn't have been any more wrong.
Manziel didn't even really show much of anything in his two years in the NFL, although he did record seven touchdowns as opposed to five interceptions during the 2015 season. However, he couldn't escape his off-field issues and the Browns were unwilling to keep him around. The team cut Manziel in March of 2016. You have to be a real problem if the Browns aren't even willing to be patient.
1 Jared Goff
There's still hope in Los Angeles for Jared Goff, because that's really all they have. The team invested plenty in the quarterback when they traded up to get him in the 2016 NFL Draft, making a statement as they moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles with something they haven't had in over a decade - a decent quarterback. At least that was the hope. Goff hasn't proved himself as anything more than a backup as of yet, nor has he really been given the opportunity.
However, the fact he wasn't able to push past Case Keenum on the depth chart last season is a little concerning. Making matters worse is the play of Carson Wentz, who the Rams passed on in order to select Goff. When he did earn playing time toward the end of the season, Goff threw for 1,089 yards and scored five touchdowns compared to seven interceptions for a horrible quarterback rating of 63.6.