In the world of the NFL, the ability to draft effectively is a necessary trait for the success of any given franchise. Without this skill, a roster can be put in immediate jeopardy, as it's generally difficult to build solely from free agency. Because of this, most every team places premium importance on the draft and invests many resources into it. Despite this, draft busts are inevitable. Some players just don't end up being productive in the professional ranks, no matter how bullish a scouting department is on their ability. It's an unfortunate truth in the NFL, and no team is immune to it.
The signs of a draft bust are usually evident early in a career. We can begin to see which players will never have a long-term future in the league usually after just one season of play. Using this timeline, we can determine which once-highly touted current NFL players will soon be on their way out. The players on this list may still have a roster spot, but their time in the league is wearing thin due to a lack of productivity.
Ranked below are 15 NFL players who already look like draft busts.
18 Blake Bortles
The jury was out on Bortles for a while, but it's become pretty clear in the 2016 season, that he has major issues with accuracy. He always throws a plethora of interceptions in any given season, and just can't seem to elevate his play. Mind you, these deficiencies in his game have show themselves with a Jaguars offense that actually features numerous high-quality skill players in its ranks. It would be easier to look past this kind of thing if Bortles wasn't drafted in such a high draft position, but given that he's a third overall pick, he's been underwhelming as a professional. Perhaps not a bust in the traditional sense, but there's a good chance that he could be out as Jacksonville's starting quarterback in the next few years.
17 Kevin White
A highly touted wide receiver out of West Virginia, White was selected high in the first round by the Bears and hasn't yet flashed the ability that was seen in his college game. After an injury-riddled rookie season in 2015, he's been decidedly mediocre the year after, and hasn't really found his niche in the Bears offense. Perhaps the fact that Alshon Jeffery will most likely be leaving in free agency will help White develop with more targets, but it's increasingly looking as if his time is running out. White will have to show more than just blazing speed if he wants to stick around, and there's been little indication that he possesses anything else.
16 Breshad Perriman
Perriman was drafted by the Ravens in 2015 in an effort to bolster their receiving corps, which was (and still is) led by the aging Steve Smith. Perriman was hurt all season during his rookie year, and hasn't flashed excellence yet, despite being active for every game in the 2016 season. His numbers are pedestrian, and for a first round pick, very underwhelming overall. Perriman still has time to turn his career around, but given that he falls so far down the list of Ravens receiving targets on an offense that is middling at best, it remains a legitimate concern. If he has a similar season in the 2017 campaign, Perriman may find himself with another team in a similarly lowly position on the depth chart, or worse yet, out of the NFL all together.
15 Devin Smith
Ohio State draft picks can always be hit or miss, and in Smith's case, the latter definitely applies. A second round pick of the Jets in 2015, thus far in his NFL career, he's been a complete non-factor, and has essentially stopped seeing time on the field. Despite all the quarterback controversy and turmoil for the team, the numbers that Smith has posted so far, are extremely weak for such a high draft pick at a renowned school. He's been a clear-cut disappointment, and at this point it seems that the franchise is trying to figure out the best way to get rid of him while losing the least amount of money. Or at least they should, because it's become evident that Smith just isn't an NFL caliber player.
14 Phillip Dorsett
A curious pick by the Colts, considering they have a quality receiving corps already (and did at the time of the 2015 draft), but Dorsett simply hasn't been worth the investment. He has a mere three touchdown receptions in the past two seasons, which is inexcusable for a receiver who purports to be a deep threat on the field. Even with a high-quality quarterback in Andrew Luck throwing him the ball more often than not, Dorsett has come up short in nearly every aspect when you consider his first round draft status. Ultimately, it's unlikely that he stays in Indy, and may not even catch on anywhere else. He shows very little playmaking ability, which is needed for his style of play at his position.
13 Robert Nkemdiche
Many analysts thought that Nkemdiche was a top ten overall player in the 2016 draft, but he fell to the Cardinals at the end of the first round because of character concerns. It turns out that he wasn't good on the field either. In his first season as a pro, Nkemdiche has seen the field for just five games, and registered just a single tackle. While defensive lineman can sometimes take a couple of years to develop, that's about the worst sign a first round pick at his position could have after one season of play. We'll see if he's able to turn it around next season, but all signs are pointing to Nkemdiche being a massive bust at this point in time. The Cardinals have plenty of problems right now, so Nkemdiche's struggles may just blend in with everyone else, which could work to his advantage.
12 Laquon Treadwell
Treadwell was supposed to be one of the best receivers in the 2016 draft class, but he's barely been able to get on the field this year. Even on Minnesota's terrible offense, he hasn't been able to stand out whatsoever. Perhaps it's all part of the plan, moving him along slowly and prime him for Teddy Bridgewater's hopeful return in the 2017 season, but it's extremely doubtful that it's the case. More likely, Treadwell hasn't shown anything in the offseason or in-season practice to make it worth making him a notable piece of the gameplan. That isn't a good sign, especially for a player who was so highly touted, but from time to time it will happen with a high-profile draft pick. Treadwell may just be the next in line to suffer this fate, and with the draft picks the Vikings gave up to acquire Sam Bradford, everyone in Minneosta is holding their breath that this isn't the case.
11 Matt Elam
After two seasons as a starting safety on the Ravens following his first round selection in 2013, Elam has seen a reduced role. He's played in far less games, and taken less snaps than either of the previous two seasons, and his career looks to be on the downturn. It does make sense for him to fall out of favor. Elam put up dismal numbers as a starter, and failed to make much, if any big-play impact when he was given the chance. Now, it looks like the Ravens are ready to move on, and he'll likely fall into a depth position with another team who will sign him at a reduced price. First round picks are expected starters, and Elam has proven that he's anything but that on an NFL field. He'll most likely never get that chance again.
10 Bishop Sankey
Drafting a running back is such a tricky prospect for an NFL team. It can either go incredibly well, or incredibly poorly. Unfortunately for the Titans, when they drafted Sankey in the second round of the 2014 draft, they were doing so to acquire a three-down player that could be the long-term solution in their backfield. The pick failed miserably, and Sankey is currently mucking it up on the Vikings practice squad, unlikely to ever get another shot as a starter. His two seasons in Tennessee simply failed to produce any kind of substantial showings on the field, and he was quickly removed from the roster. This isn't the first time we've seen a running back bust like this, but it's probably one of the most hallmark examples of it in the past couple of years.
9 Paul Richardson
While there is room to be had for receivers on Seattle's roster, Richardson has failed to make his impact at that position group in his three seasons with the team. He's been consistently underwhelming, racking up neither yards or touchdowns in the many games he's played in. A second round pick out of Colorado, Richardson was slated to be a receiver that the Seahawks could count on for the long-term, as well as provide Russell Wilson with another weapon at his disposal. Though the team has retained their winning ways, Richardson doesn't have much to do with it, and it's fair to say that he's been a bust in the NFL up to this point. He's a longshot to ever be truly productive in the pro ranks, and he's been replaced by other options on the roster.
7 Jared Goff
In his first season with the Rams, Goff has remained mostly an enigmatic player, with no one really sure what his ceiling in the league will actually be. He didn't begin the season as the starter, and was only placed in that role recently. It's too small of a sample size, but quarterbacks drafted first overall in the draft who post his numbers generally don't end up panning out over the long-term. It isn't so much that his inherent skills are poor, just that he's looked lost during in-game action, and doesn't seem to be a match for NFL-caliber defenses scheming against him. It will take another season of evidence, but Goff seems to be in line as the next major quarterback draft bust, joining the dozens of other players over the years who have held that designation. Hopefully he can turn it around, but with all the turmoil currently going on in L.A., the odds seem to be against him at this point.
6 Stephone Anthony
After a reasonably successful rookie season in 2015, this first round pick out of Clemson for the Saints has taken a major step backwards. In the ten games he's played during the 2016 campaign, Anthony has been underwhelming, and hardly looks like the same player he was at this time one year ago. Sometimes a player is just a one-hit wonder on their way to a career bust, and so far, Anthony might be fitting the bill. It's questionable even further because the Saints have a truly awful defense, and Anthony has failed to really take control as a top-flight producer, and leader of the group as a whole. He's a good candidate for a draft bust, but it'll take another season or so before that's finally determined. As of now though, it doesn't look good for him.
3 Justin Gilbert
Living up to the long standing tradition of bad Browns draft picks, Gilbert was a top ten selection, and played like the complete opposite of that draft status. He spent two years in Cleveland, and simply couldn't be a starter at the pro level, despite all the praise he was given prior to the draft. His career is hanging on by a threat at this point, as he just barely occupies a space on the Steelers roster. Even then, he's unlikely to ever see time as a starter again, and his days in the NFL seem to be running short. It was a massive miss for the Browns, and decisions like that one have been plaguing the franchise for years. The fact that Gilbert couldn't beat out Cleveland's current crop of cornerbacks (minus Joe Haden) speaks volumes about how mediocre he really is.
2 Jadeveon Clowney
Strictly because he was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, Clowney has to be viewed as a bust so far. While he has improved since his rookie season, he hasn't shown the perennial Pro Bowl-selection kind of talent that the first player taken in the draft should (at any position). His production has simply been too limited and middling (10.5 sacks in total), to be considered worthy of his first overall status. He'll continue to be a starter for the Texans, and deservedly so, so there is some kind of potential for growth. However, the safer bet is just that Clowney is a reliable, but limited player that will never post the kind of production that many thought that he would at the professional level, as a first overall pick. In the world of the NFL, that qualifies as a bust, even if he isn't a "bad" player straight up. Given the context however, he leaves a lot to be desired.
1 Nelson Agholor
Without question, Agholor is the most disappointing draft pick in the league over the past several seasons. Taken in the first round of the 2014 draft by the Eagles, he was supposed to fill the void that the recently departed Jeremy Maclin had left by going to free agency. Instead, Agholor has been a problem in just about every facet of the game. Whether it's drops, poor route running, lack of confidence, or anything in between, he's been a complete let-down. Consistently ranked as one of the worst receivers in the entire league by Pro Football Focus, his struggles have been well-pronounced at this point. Something will have to give soon, and it's unlikely that Agholor will have a productive career as a number one receiver at this point. But given how hyped he was in the draft, the fact that he is essentially the league's worst receiver is that much more disappointing, and signifies him as the biggest draft bust in the past several years.