One of the most exciting parts of the NFL offseason is the draft. Even if your team is reluctant to spend the big bucks in free agency and perhaps lost some key members to the teams that have, with the right drafting (and let's be honest, some luck), your team can change everything. The teams in the league that struggle during the regular season are not just coincidentally the teams that also fail to bring in the necessary pieces during the offseason. And while the flashy names that are dominating headlines right now are easy to picture in your favourite team's jersey, the real difference maker may be Joe Schmoe from the 5th round.
Though we won't blame you for being cautiously optimistic, as nothing may make you feel worse or set your franchise back more than making an error in the draft. So perhaps we'll have to apologize ahead of time if seeing some of the biggest busts of all-time that have possibly haunted your favourite team gives you some awful flashbacks. We can only hope that your team will also be featured on the positive side so that you'll be left feeling even better going into the upcoming season.
The 2018 draft will surely feature its fair share of studs and duds, but as for the last 10 years, nobody may personify the concept of being an NFL bust (or steal) more than the 20 names you're about to read.
20 Steal: Richard Sherman (5th Round, 2011)
Seattle Seahawks fans have been fortunate to reap the benefits of some unbelievable drafts put together by John Schneider and Pete Carrol. And while Richard Sherman is currently suiting up in a 49ers jersey, his legacy will always be what was made from his time in Seattle.
When you consider the various accolades that Sherman has had throughout his career, it's amazing to think that he fell all the way to the 154th pick of the 5th round back in 2011. Though perhaps that helped explain the chip that Sherman has seemingly carried on his shoulder throughout his entire career. Something that signing with San Francisco is surely not to help with! Just this time around he'll be trying to silence the fans in Seattle. Sherman was recently asked about his thoughts on draft scouts, leading him to bluntly state "They literally spew of ton of nonsense and get paid for it. Wish they got graded and paid for how often they are right/wrong".
19 Bust: Trent Richardson (3rd Overall, 2012)
One thing that really doesn't help Trent Richardson's case is that when you look at who people were comparing him to coming into the draft, it was Adrian Peterson. Who despite being a child-beating jerk away from the field, is at least undeniably talented.
Richardson, on the other hand, was undeniably bad during his tenure in the NFL. Not even a change of environment to the Colts was enough to save Richardson's career. As of now, he's trying his hand up north playing in the CFL with reports saying he still has hopes his NFL dream isn't dead. But there is still plenty of glory to be found in the CFL, so if Richardson is smart, he won't try and overplay his hand.
18 Steal: Antonio Brown (6th Round, 2010)
If you had to list off some of the best wide receivers in the league, you wouldn't get very long before you started talking about the insane talents of Antonio Brown. But Brown definitely had to wait a long time before he got to hear his name called in the NFL Draft back in 2010.
It wasn't until the 195th pick in the 6th round that the Steelers took a shot on Brown. When asked about why he chose to wear number 84 on the field, Brown stated "Eight times four is 32. Thirty-two teams looked past me, even the Steelers. So every time I go out there it’s a little added motivation." There is no question that Brown looks plenty motivated whenever he gets out on the field!
17 Bust: Vernon Gholston (6th Overall, 2008)
The New York Jets have no shortage of players that have been drafted under the hope that they'd help turn the franchise around, only to help them reach a new platitude of inadequacy instead. But nobody may personify that more than the former defensive end, Vernon Gholston. Now to be fair, Gholston was expected to be a top 10 pick, it was just a matter of which team got stuck with him.
Gholston wasn't given many opportunities to make an impact in his rookie year and in his 2nd year, the Jets had moved on to Rex Ryan's defensive scheme who didn't seem to find a fit for Gholston. In his 3 years, he failed to record a sack. He went on to the Bears in the summer of 2011 and the Rams the following summer, but neither team was confident enough in him to ever let him see the field.
16 Steal: Russell Wilson (3rd Round, 2012)
When you look at the insane amount of success that Russell Wilson has had in his career, it may be crazy to think that people overlooked him due to his height. And while the 3rd round with the 75th pick in the draft back in 2012 isn't the biggest "steal" in the world, especially in comparison to some of these other players, when you consider the success of Wilson it's easy to see why people think Seattle had the biggest steal of the draft.
If Wilson can survive another upcoming season without being murdered behind Seattle's at times offensively, offensive line, we're sure he will have stats that continue making his case to one day get entered into the Hall of Fame.
15 Bust: Aldon Smith (7th Overall, 2011)
Aldon Smith put together 33 sacks in his first 2 years in the league. Meaning that going into his 3rd year, many people were talking about how he could go down as one of the greatest defensive players of all-time. Instead, he makes this list as a bust because of his ridiculously large amount of off-the-field scandals. This includes driving under the influence on multiple occasions.
Smith also had the brilliant idea of allegedly telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb on him. All of which meant that by the time the 2014 season rolled around, Smith was not eligible to play in 9 games. He is currently being held on $500,000 bond after violating the terms of a protective order that included wearing an ankle monitor.
14 Steal: Dak Prescott (4th Round, 2016)
The Dallas Cowboys have definitely shown in the past that they're not afraid to draft a skilled offensive position early in the draft. But when they were looking to help solidify the backup role for Tony Romo, there was perhaps a little bit less urgency. And as a result, the quarterback that the Cowboys really had their eye on back in 2016 was Dak Prescott, who they selected with the 135th pick of the 4th round.
Prescott ended up all 16 games of his rookie year following an injury to Romo and showed many people why he may be one of the most promising quarterbacks in the league. While his 2nd year saw some struggles, including a bump up in his interceptions from 4 to 13, there are still plenty of reasons to be happy with the steal the Cowboys pulled off when they drafted Prescott.
13 Bust: Johnny Manziel (12th Overall, 2014)
Johnny Manziel has recently made headlines for the fact that he has seemingly turned his life around. But before that, it definitely seemed like Manziel was destined to check out of life at a much earlier date due to his love of partying.
Manziel never managed to find a level of sustainable success with his first run in the league that was spent with the Cleveland Browns. While there were many reasons why Johnny Football turned into Johnny Bust, no blame can be placed more firmly than on Johnny himself. If he does stage a comeback this has the potential to become one of the biggest turnaround stories in NFL history, but as it stands, he's just an example of a wasted 1st round pick.
12 Steal: Josh Sitton (4th Round, 2008)
For years Josh Sitton was the personification of reliability in Green Bay. By the time his 2nd year in the league was done, he had helped bolster a line that saw the Packers take home the Super Bowl against the Steelers.
Sitton's success on the field can also be attributed to his versatility as he's played on both the left and right guard position. Despite being released from the Packers, Sitton continued to excel when signing with the Bears. A change of scenery this year places Sitton in Miami where he'll surely be another potential candidate for what would be his 5th Pro Bowl. 11 offensive lineman that were drafted before Sitton that have failed to make a pro bowl. Of the 5 drafted above him that have, he ties Duane Brown, Jake Long and Ryan Clady with 4 and surpasses Branden Albert (2) and Jeremy Zuttah (1).
11 Bust: Jason Smith (2nd Overall, 2009)
One of the most important positions on the football field is your offensive line (are you taking notes Seattle?). So nobody was going to bat an eye that the Rams were looking to bolster the position in a big way with the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 draft.
What they got instead, was one of the most disappointing high picks in recent memory with Jason Smith. Smith's rookie year was hampered by concussion issues, which while absolutely serious, definitely left fans disappointed. But not as much as when his following year when he lost his spot to the team's 33rd pick in the 2010 draft, Rodger Saffold. Smith bounced around with the Jets, then with the Saints and then back to the Jets, but none of these stops saw him playing any time on the field and his career was over by 2013.
10 Steal: Jordan Howard (5th Round, 2016)
Jordan Howard was selected with the 150th pick, in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. It wasn't like the league wasn't looking for running backs, as 10 were selected before him, but nobody clearly saw the raw talent.
In Howard's rookie season, he rushed for 1,313 yards in only 13 games started, trailing only behind Ezekiel Elliot who was drafted the same year with the 4th overall pick by the Cowboys. His sophomore year featured a bit of a slump as despite having an extra 20 carries, Howard rushed for 1,122 yards and caught 125 yards versus 298 the previous year. Despite the dip, Howard is still a promising running back who we're sure the Bears are feeling great about.
9 Bust: Aaron Curry (4th Overall, 2009)
In the 2009 draft, there may not have been a more player that people were more confident on transitioning to the professional level than Aaron Curry. This included one scout who said, "You know what you are getting with him. He plays hard every day, He doesn't have bad games, He doesn't make many mistakes".
Oof, in hindsight it turns out that Curry not only could have bad games, he had a bad career. Curry never seemed to find solid footing in Seattle. By 2011, he was traded away to Oakland for a SEVENTH ROUND DRAFT PICK. He failed to make any mark in Oakland, spending most of the year injured. He tried one more time with the Giants in 2013 but was cut as the team was trying to make the 75 man roster.
8 Steal: Telvin Smith (5th Round, 2014)
There was a long time when it seemed like being drafted by the Jaguars was a recipe for disaster. But they did a tremendous job with their scouting back in 2014 when they snagged the brilliant linebacker, Telvin Smith, in the 5th round with the 144th pick in the draft. Smith is a consummate professional on and off the field. When asked in a recent interview about his success, Myles Jack was quick to point out Smith's contributions “It took work and it took repetition. Nothing comes overnight, but at the same time, credit to my coaches and Paul [Posluszny] and Telvin [Smith]. They got me to where I was".
Smith has recorded over 100 tackles in each of his 4 NFL seasons and in 2017 was named to his first Pro Bowl, as well as second-team All-Pro. If you're confident in Jacksonville's defense next year, their linebacking core may be a big reason why.
7 Bust: Justin Blackmon (5th Overall, 2012)
Justin Blackmon could have been the type of player that had turned around the Jacksonville Jaguars. He even teased the fanbase by putting together a rookie year that saw him haul in 865 yards and 5 TDs.
But Blackmon's substance abuse addiction saw him suspended from the league on 3 separate occasions. It got extreme enough that when Blackmon tried to get reinstated in 2015, the league turned him down. When talking to ESPN.com about Blackmon, owner Shad Khan stated "I think it's an absolute tragedy... I think he's such a talented guy. The best years (are) ahead of him but after a while, it's out of your control." He was denied reinstatement again in 2017, perhaps emphatically closing the door on his NFL career.
6 Steal: Reshad Jones (5th Round, 2010)
Reshad Jones should perhaps be proof that some players just take a little bit of time to adjust to the NFL. Drafted in 2010, Jones started only 2 games (though appeared in 13) in his rookie year but steadily got better from there on as he gained more confidence in his abilities.
By 2015, he was considered one of the best safeties in the league and got nominated to his first of two Pro Bowls. An injury in 2016 sidelined him, but he came back stronger than ever in 2017 and earned another trip to the Pro Bowl. Jones signed a lucrative 5-year deal with the team back in 2017 with hopes that they can solidify the position for years to come.
5 Bust: Matt Elam (32nd Overall, 2013)
Matt Elam had big shoes to try and fill when he was taking over for Ed Reed in Baltimore. But he was drafted in the first round, so it's definitely fair that Baltimore fans expected more of him than they did. He was benched during his 2nd year and also struggled with an injury.
When Elam wasn't disappointing on the field, he was making negative headlines off of it. This includes a run in with the law over possession. Elam was also later arrested over in 2017 over what was said was an altercation over trying to grab an iPhone out of the hand of his then-girlfriend.
4 Steal: Jamal Agnew (5th Round, 2017)
Anyone who doesn't think special teams is a vital part of football isn't paying a close enough attention. And if you were looking at special teamers across the league back in 2017, nobody may have impressed you more than the rookie Jamal Agnew out of Detroit. And while you aren't going to draft an exclusively amazing "special teamer" in the first round, GMs are definitely looking for that kind of player throughout the draft.
While his skill position as a cornerback wasn't put on prominent display throughout the year, Agnew's agility and quickness on special teams still led to him being named a First-Team All-Pro. Agnew returned 2 punts for TD's in 2017 and will surely have teams game planning away from him in 2018 if they're smart.
3 Bust: Dion Jordan (3rd Overall, 2013)
If we're being honest, Dion Jordan didn't actually look that bad for the Seahawks this past year. Playing on a rotational basis, Jordan was able to create a sustainable level of pressure that we're sure the Seahawks front office was happy with as they recently re-signed him. But that doesn't downplay the level of bustitude that was written all over him, and as far as Dolphins fans are concerned, should still hold weight.
After all, it's not like he turned it around for the team that was willing to draft him with the 3rd overall pick! Part of the frustrations experienced by the Dolphins was the fact that Jordan got suspended on two different occasions in 2014 and the 3rd strike in 2015 saw him suspended for the entire year. He was released by the Dolphins in 2016 after not playing a snap for them that year.
2 Steal: Kam Chancellor (5th Round, 2010)
There may not be a more physically imposing player in the NFL than Kam Chancellor. Which may make it all the more shocking that every team in the NFL passed him over on multiple occasions back in 2010. It wasn't until Seattle rolled around on the board again in the 5th round that Kam heard his name called with the 133rd pick.
Considered by many people to be the "Boom" behind the now severely hobbled, "Legion of Boom", Chancellor has made a name for himself as a player to be reckoned with both in the run game and through the air. While the future of his career is uncertain due to an injury to his neck, nobody expected the type of legacy that he was going to leave behind when he was drafted, even if he never plays another down.
1 Bust: Reuben Foster (31st Overall, 2017)
Reuben Foster is an incredibly talented player. And while injuries plagued part of his rookie year, he still showed plenty of promise. But Foster never deserves to play another down of football if the reports against him are true. Foster has some off field issues with his girlfriend that paint him in a different light.
Do we blame the 49ers for this? No, but if Foster faces anywhere near the potential 11-years that are in front of him, you can mark his name as one of the biggest examples of wasted talent of all-time. It is another in a long line of cases of NFL players getting into trouble off the field.