Mitchell Trubisky fans, don’t worry. Mike Williams, John Ross and Gareon Conley fans also shouldn’t fret. Why? Because even though the four players mentioned had less-than-stellar rookie seasons, you have to remember it was just their rookie season. The old adage is that you can’t really grade a player until after they’ve played three seasons so don’t @ me on Twitter about those guys until the calendar says 2020.
With that being said, this also means that we’ve now had enough time to look back at the 2015 NFL Draft class who just completed their third seasons. Unless you’re a freak like James Harrison who has seemingly aged backwards, what you see out of most NFL players by their third year is a microcosm of what you’ll see out of them for the rest of their careers.
The 2015 NFL Draft was a landmark one for a number of reasons. It was held in Chicago after the previous 50 drafts had been held in New York City and it was also the first draft to be held outdoors. When the picks started occurring, even more history was made as Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were the first two selections. That marked the first time that two Heisman winners were selected within the first two picks of a single draft.
Could we see Winston or Mariota at some point in this list? Maybe so, but of course you’ll have to scroll through to find out! Here are eight 2015 NFL Draft picks that are definitely busts and seven who can still turn it around.
15 Definitely A Bust: Kevin White
The injury bug that Derrick Rose carried with him around Chicago has now been handed off to Kevin White. As the No. 7 overall pick, White clearly has the talent to be a superstar but he also clearly lacks the durability. And as is often said, “the best ability is availability” and thus, White can be considered a bust because he lacks that ability. Ever since White left high school in 2011, he’s played in 28 games total in both college and the NFL. He missed his entire rookie season after having a rod placed in his left leg and then reinjured that same leg in 2016 after just four games. He then fractured his shoulder blade in the opening game of 2017 which put him on IR for the third straight year. It’s hard to imagine White somehow getting healthier as he ages, which is unfortunate as he appears to be a great talent.
14 Can Turn It Around: Shaq Thompson
Thompson has been a solid starter for the Panthers, but he hasn’t been a playmaker or difference-maker which is what you’re looking for in a first-round pick. But a big reason for that is that he’s been playing out of position as a strong-side linebacker. Thompson is just a two-down player while Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis play on passing downs. But Davis is retiring after the 2018 season and once he leaves, then Thompson should slide to the weakside, which is his natural position. Thompson actually began his college career as a defensive back, so he clearly has the athleticism to play the position and on passing downs. Perhaps Davis stuck around a bit longer than the Panthers thought he would, but once Thompson inherits his position, then Panthers fans will see what made him worthy of being the No. 25 overall draft pick.
13 Definitely A Bust: Breshad Perriman
Breshad’s father, Brett Perriman, was a 10-year NFL vet and also played wide receiver. Brett wasn’t as highly drafted as his son, but the elder Perriman didn’t truly break out until he was 30-years-old as he posted a 1,400 yard season after not having even a 900 yard season before that. With that being said, Brett was never as much of a disappointment at any point in his career as his son has been thus far.
Injuries, ineffectiveness and the doghouse can accurately describe Breshad’s first three NFL seasons.
He was a healthy scratch for the 29th-ranked passing offense in 2017 for crying out loud and the Ravens turned to special teams players and practice squad guys before giving Breshad a shot. Hands of stone, a lack of confidence and chronic soft-tissue injuries have Perriman’s 2018 roster spot in jeopardy.
12 Can Turn It Around: Dante Fowler
Fowler is a contributor to one of the best defenses in the NFL, but what he isn’t is a starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, he can get to the quarterback, as evident by his 12 sacks over the last two seasons, but with the third-overall pick, you are expecting a three-down player. Fowler had the misfortune of a season-ending knee injury as a rookie, was beat out for the starting job by rookie Yannick Ngakoue (a third-rounder) in 2016, and then ceded the position to Calais Campbell in 2017.
Campbell will be 32 next season and already plays inside on passing downs, so it seems to be just a matter of time until he converts to a defensive tackle full-time. That would then open up a spot on the edge for Fowler, provided he’s still with the team. He has the ability to be an every down player, I’m just not sure he’ll get to showcase that ability in Jacksonville.
11 Definitely A Bust: Cameron Erving
As the 19th overall pick, Erving is the highest-drafted player to have been traded by his rookie team. After two disastrous seasons in Cleveland, the Browns shipped him to Kansas City for a fifth-round pick in 2018. Yes, you read that correctly: the 19th overall pick in 2015 could only net a fifth-round pick in 2018. Erving played every position along the O-line in Cleveland and struggled at all of them.
Things didn’t get any better under Andy Reid with the Chiefs as Erving started just four games in 2017. He barely even saw the field on special teams as he played just 41 snaps there all season. You have to wonder how differently Erving’s career may have played out had he gone to an actual professional franchise instead of the Browns. Now it appears his NFL career will end when his contract expires after the 2018 season.
10 Can Turn It Around: Phillip Dorsett
Let’s get this out of the way first: Dorsett should have never been a first-round pick as he wasn’t even that productive in college. The Colts overreacted to his Combine showing and 4.3 speed, which led to them drafting him 29th overall. After two unproductive seasons in Indianapolis, he was traded to New England where he barely saw the field.
There is still hope for Dorsett because of the team he now plays for, and the quarterback throwing him passes.
He’ll likely never be a full-time starter, but he can carve a role as someone who can take the top off of defenses like David Patten, Bethel Johnson and Donte Stallworth before him. Dorsett doesn’t have that many NFL skills, but he has the one skill you’re either born with or not: speed.
9 Definitely A Bust: Danny Shelton
He’s a Cleveland Brown so Shelton is already going uphill, and his first three seasons have been very Browns-esque. He was asked to lose weight after his rookie year, which is unsurprising, considering that Shelton’s nickname is “Feast Mode.” He then had surgery after his second season and missed time due to two separate injuries in his third season. Through 46 games, Shelton has recorded just 1.5 sacks and all of those came in 2016. He is a run-stuffer and no one expects him to be a double-digit sack guy at the defensive tackle position, but he did show promise in that regard as he had 9 sacks in his last season at Washington.
The Browns have also allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the league since Shelton joined the team and much of that falls on his broad shoulders as plugging the run was what he was brought in for.
8 Can Turn It Around: Kevin Johnson
Injuries have beset Johnson in each of the past two seasons after a promising rookie year in which he started 10 games. Johnson has just one interception in his career and that was in his rookie season. However, he has the one thing that the two Texans cornerbacks in front of him on the depth chart don’t have: youth. Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson will both be over 30 next season while Johnson will be 26 and entering the last year of his rookie contract.
This is a make-or-break season for him and he benefits from a talented front-seven for Houston which makes any cornerback’s job easier.
A.J. Bouye had his breakout year in his fourth NFL season with Houston, and Bouye wasn’t even drafted! Johnson was the second cornerback taken in 2015 and has shown flashes when he’s been on the field.
7 Definitely A Bust: Maxx Williams
As the 55th overall pick, Williams is the lowest drafted player on this list. But the 2015 draft was incredibly shallow with tight ends, so Williams at No. 55 was the highest-drafted tight end of his class. Through three seasons, Williams has yet to combine for as many receiving yards as he had in either season in college. It’s also not a good sign when you’re getting beat out for the starting job by a 37-year-old, like Williams was with Ben Watson. Williams was also surpassed on the depth chart by Nick Boyle, who was taken in the fifth round in 2015.
There’s just not a lot to like about any position player in Baltimore’s offense which essentially only has its players run eight yard hitch routes. Despite being the top tight end of his draft class, Williams ranks just seventh at his position in terms of receiving yards.
6 Can Turn It Around: Nelson Agholor
Agholor finally had the breakout year that Eagles fans were hoping for, but he still hasn’t lived up to being a first-round pick. Later round picks from the 2015 draft like Stefon Diggs, Tyler Lockett and Devin Funchess have all outperformed Agholor, who was the fourth wide receiver selected. A move to the slot in 2017 led to the best season of his young career, but no one drafts a slot receiver in the first round.
There is hope for Agholor to reach the potential he showed at USC, because he has Carson Wentz at quarterback, and he makes everyone he plays with better.
With all due respect to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, the only people in the conversation regarding the best active USC receiver are Agholor and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
5 Definitely A Bust: Shane Ray
Ray looked like the heir apparent to DeMarcus Ware in 2016 when he posted a career-high 8.0 sacks. But he regressed in 2017, in part, due to injuries as he had just one sack in eight games. I think Shane can be an 8-10 sack guy, which is all you need opposite of Von Miller, but I also think Ray is going to struggle with injuries his entire career.
He’s already had three wrist surgeries and is just 24-years-old while the guy he’s splitting time with, Shaq Barrett, has been productive (11 sacks since 2015) and healthy (48 straight games played).
This summer will be huge in determining Ray’s future in Denver as Barrett is a restricted free agent and Ray has one more year on his deal. If the Broncos offer Barrett a long-term deal then that likely means they see him as the future OLB opposite Miller.
4 Can Turn It Around: DeVante Parker
Parker was supposed to be the big-play receiver to complement Jarvis Landry who works the intermediate level, but the No. 14 overall pick has yet to hit his stride. His yards per catch have decreased each year, but his 2017 can be blamed on Jay Cutler since everything else is blamed on Jay Cutler.
Landry may not be back in Miami because of contract demands and that would make Parker Miami’s No. 1 receiver by default.
Another plus is that Cutler won’t be back in 2018, as Ryan Tannehill will presumably resume his role as the starting quarterback.
Parker was drafted about 20 spots too high, but he has a skillset similar to other big-bodied receivers Adam Gase has coached, such as Demaryius Thomas and Alshon Jeffrey, so he should get every opportunity to live up to his draft status and could put up numbers similar to those players.
3 Definitely A Bust: Stephone Anthony
Anthony looked like a future star as a rookie as he started all 16 games at middle linebacker and made the All-Rookie Team. But then the Saints moved him to the strongside in 2016 where he struggled, eventually lost his starting job and then ended the season on injured reserve. Just a year after looking like a future Pro Bowler, the 2015 first round pick was shipped for a 2018 fifth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins. Things got no better in South Beach as Anthony didn’t start a single game and played all of 13 percent of the defensive snaps. Just two years after being a 16-game starter as a rookie, Anthony may not even be in the NFL in 2018. He’s due about $1.5 million if he makes the Dolphins but they can get rid of him with no more money due.
2 Can Turn It Around: Marcus Mariota
While many people think Jameis Winston regressed in 2017, the Heisman-winning quarterback actually posted career highs in TD:INT, completion percentage and passer rating, so at least he was better on paper. However, this Heisman-winning quarterback clearly regressed and posted more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13) in 2017. Mariota was only 27th in passer rating in the league this past season, and the only QBs with worse ratings were either Trevor Siemian, Brett Hundley or rookies. But there is hope and that hope grew when Mike Mularkey parted ways with the organization. His old-school offense didn't take advantage of Mariota’s skill set and it was a bit predictable for defensive players.
New coach Mike Vrabel should (presumably) unleash Mariota as a passer and runner and there is no way that Blake Bortles should have more rushing yards than Mariota did in 2017.
He may not be a future Hall of Famer, but Mariota should become a Pro Bowl quarterback in due time under a new staff.
1 Definitely A Bust: Dorial Green-Beckham
So much promise and so much talent, DGB wasted it all and is now out of the NFL. He is the highest-drafted player from the 2015 draft who is no longer active and the last we heard of him, he was arrested for a DUI in December. DGB was built like Calvin Johnson and even finished high school as the nation’s all-time leader in receiving yards. But Green-Beckham ran into off-field problems at Missouri and then transferred to Oklahoma where he never played. He was then drafted by the Titans and then traded to the Eagles after one year and Philly cut him last June. Thus, four schools/teams have given up on him and he’s presumably given up on football. He’s had no known visits or free agent tryouts and it appears his career finished at 23.
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