About a month and a half ago, the NFL held its 2018 draft, and by now, you should know about how rich it was in quarterback talent, with five QBs getting picked in the first round. After Baker Mayfield went first overall to the Cleveland Browns, the New York Giants got their running back of the future and selected Saquon Barkley, the first of three first-round RBs this year. It wasn't until the 24th pick when someone chose a wide receiver, yet many are curious as to whether D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley, especially the latter, could live up to their first-round billing.
If all turns out as people are hoping, we could be seeing the likes of Mayfield, Barkley, and third overall pick Sam Darnold in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in about two to three decades from now. Or Mayfield could follow in the footsteps of that guy he's been compared to so frequently because of his brash personality and off-field antics – Johnny Manziel. Barkley, on the other hand, might end up as another Blair Thomas or Ki-Jana Carter. Moore and Ridley could become ultimate first-round steals at WR like Jerry Rice, or become late first-round busts like Breshad Perriman or Laquon Treadwell.
Right now, it's anybody's guess as far as the future of these draftees is concerned. But as of now, we know that the 30 players in this list who were picked in the 21st century have unequivocally flopped in the NFL, with only a slight chance of redemption for the younger ones. So here they are – this century's top 10 biggest busts at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver.
30 QB: Johnny Manziel (#22, 2013)
Many of you will probably rank Manziel as a bigger bust at quarterback, but let's consider the following – he wasn't picked that high, he's only 25-years-old as of this writing, and he appears to have made an honest effort to turn his life around and grow up for once. Besides, Johnny Football wasn't as bad as many other busts were during his one year as a starter – truly, we've seen much worse from young quarterbacks picked in the first two rounds.
Currently, Manziel is playing for the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but who knows? If he keeps his head straight, he just might have a chance of succeeding in the NFL after all.
29 RB: Cedric Benson (#4, 2005)
When you rush for 64 touchdowns while playing for a college football powerhouse in Texas, you'll surely have NFL scouts drooling all over you. Indeed, Benson got picked quite high in the 2005 NFL draft, but he ended up closer to Curtis Enis than Gale Sayers or Walter Payton as far as Bears running backs are concerned. Not once in three seasons did he rush for more than 700 yards as a Bear.
While Benson did show some improvement in Cincinnati, where he had three 1,000-yard seasons, he was mostly an average running back at best, and one that had more than his fair share of run-ins with the law.
28 WR: Freddie Mitchell (#25, 2001)
Thanks to an impressive junior campaign at UCLA, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Mitchell late in the first round in 2001, with hopes that he'd benefit from Donovan McNabb's presence behind center. Instead, "FredEx" turned out to be a career backup, and one of those mediocre NFL players only known for one big play in their career – "4th and 26" in the 2003-04 divisional playoffs, for those who may have forgotten.
When you're far more notorious for your off-the-field antics than your actual play, then you shouldn't be surprised if you only last four seasons in the pros, just like Mitchell did.
27 QB: Brandon Weeden (#22, 2012)
Brandon Weeden makes this list for the very simple reason that the Cleveland Browns didn't learn from the Chris Weinke debacle from about a decade prior – never, ever expect much from a 29-year-old rookie quarterback. Like Weinke, Weeden started as a rookie, but as you can see from his numbers (14 TD, 17 INT, 72.6 QB rating), it was a similar case as his fellow failed baseball prospect-turned NFL hopeful – his team didn't have any better choice behind center.
Weeden hasn't played in the NFL since the 2015 season, and there's a very good chance that we won't be seeing him on a regular season lineup ever again, given that he turns 35 in October.
26 RB: Darren McFadden (#4, 2008)
We'll have to admit that this list has quite a few running backs that actually had good NFL careers, as opposed to the likes of '90s flops such as Ki-Jana Carter, Curtis Enis, and Blair Thomas. The reason why they're busts, however, is the huge gap between expectations and reality, just like what happened when the Oakland Raiders picked Darren McFadden fourth overall in 2008.
Instead of getting someone who regularly delivered 1,000-yard rushing seasons, the Raiders (and the Cowboys) got someone who only topped that milestone twice, as he frequently battled injuries and inconsistency. Just when you thought he'd finally breaking out, he'd be sliding back the very next season – that's the story of McFadden's career, in a nutshell.
25 WR: David Terrell (#8, 2001)
It's remarkable that the Chicago Bears had a 13-3 season in 2001, despite having an uninspiring quarterback rotation (Jim Miller, Shane Matthews, et al.), a rookie running back (Anthony Thomas) who didn't do much after his debut season, and a wide receiver corps that included an unproductive, underachieving first-round pick named David Terrell.
Soon enough, the Bears proved that they weren't who fans thought they were and were back to their losing ways. Meanwhile, Terrell remained mediocre at best and was done after five seasons. Most recently, he was acquitted of drug and battery charges, though it appears as if he hasn't had a smooth transition to post-NFL life.
24 QB: David Carr (#1, 2002)
How good could this guy have been, had the Texans had a competent offensive line to prevent him from getting dropped time and time again? While Carr definitely had his chances with the Texans and spent several years as a starter, he just didn't have the supporting cast to back him up. All that took its toll on the Fresno State standout, who never made first-string again after he left Houston in 2007.
In 11 pro seasons, Carr had 65 TDs, 71 INTs, and a 74.9 QB rating as a former first overall pick. Fortunately, younger brother Derek's career trajectory has been the exact opposite as David's, as he's more than lived up to his second-round status as the Raiders' starting QB.
23 RB: C.J. Spiller (#9, 2010)
It took him a couple of seasons to live up to his billing as the top running back selected in the 2010 NFL draft, but C.J. Spiller proved to be worth the wait when he had a huge 2012 season for the Bills, and a decent one in 2013, where he came close to having a second straight 1,000-yard season. Sadly, he hasn't been the same since injuries began to rear their head in the 2014 season.
Despite being involved in a whopping nine transactions featuring the Kansas City Chiefs, Spiller had a paltry two carries (for zero yards) in one game in 2017. Ouch.
22 WR: Reggie Williams (#9, 2004)
Reggie Williams entered the NFL in 2004 blessed with good size (6’4”-212), good athleticism, and red flags flying all around as he soon began racking up more arrests and off-field infractions than touchdown receptions. Well, that was except for that one time when he scored 10 touchdowns in the 2007 season despite being the Jaguars’ third receiver. One year later, he was playing the worst football of his career.
After a failed attempt to return to the NFL in 2010, Williams resurfaced in the CFL in 2013, only for his stint with the Toronto Argonauts to last three short weeks.
21 QB: Christian Ponder (#12, 2011)
Despite only being an average pro prospect, Ponder was the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft, and the Vikings saw it fit to start him for two seasons. Nothing he ever did during those two seasons inspired much confidence in Vikings management, which is why he was replaced early in his third season by Matt Cassel.
Instead of reaching for Ponder, the Vikings could have had someone like Andy Dalton, who has at least had a good, if not perfect, run in the NFL. Then again, that's something you can also say about the Titans and Jaguars, who whiffed on Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert respectively before the Vikings drafted Ponder.
20 RB: Ron Dayne (#11, 2000)
Dayne may not have been drafted in the top 10 like most of the other RBs in this list, but much more was expected out of this guy, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1999 and left Wisconsin as the NCAA's all-time rushing leader. The Giants' "Thunder and Lightning" backfield duo (Dayne and Tiki Barber, respectively) was supposed to send shudders down the spine of opposing defenses, but it was only the "Lightning" half who played up to expectations.
Instead of becoming the NFL's next great power back, Dayne became a journeyman, as he also failed to make the expected impact while playing for the Broncos and the Texans.
19 WR: Troy Williamson (#7, 2005)
The Minnesota Vikings were hoping that the fleet-footed Williamson would fill the void left by Randy Moss when he joined the Raiders. Instead, they got someone who dropped a whopping 11 passes in his second NFL season and notably wanted to pick a fight with Vikings head coach Brad Childress. This got him traded (for a sixth-round pick) to the Jaguars, where he didn’t even produce sixth-rounder value in two seasons in Jacksonville.
Unlike some of the other busts in this list who are having trouble getting their act together post-NFL, Williamson has actually done quite well for himself, as he now runs a restaurant franchise in his home state of South Carolina.
18 QB: Joey Harrington (#3, 2002)
Joey Harrington should have been the quarterback leading the Detroit Lions back to playoff success (if not a first-ever trip to the Super Bowl) in the 21st century, but instead, that honor goes to Matthew Stafford, who's done pretty well for a first overall pick. Harrington, on the other hand, struggled from the get-go and never quite seemed to get better as his career went on. Worse, the Lions never won more than six games in a season while he was the team's starter at QB.
On a positive note, he's worked extensively as a college and pro football analyst in recent years, so he can at least take solace in that following his disappointing NFL career.
17 RB: Ronnie Brown (#2, 2005)
When you're picked second overall, one 1,000-yard rushing season is not enough to absolve you of bust status. At Auburn, Brown was one-half of a dominant backfield duo with Cadillac Williams (who's also in here, in case you're wondering), but when he came to the NFL, all he was good for was a few good seasons, a couple more passable ones, and a terrible second half of his career where he was essentially a role-playing goal-line back.
Sure, he played 10 seasons in the NFL, but we have to mention it once again – much, much more is expected from a top 5 running back draftee than solid and unspectacular career numbers.
16 WR: Mike Williams (#10, 2005)
It can be a bit confusing when you've got three NFL wide receivers named Mike Williams who played for the league this century, but this one is the former Detroit Lions draft pick whose size (6'5"-240) and collegiate reputation at USC made him a tantalizing pro prospect. He would soon find out that the NFL was a totally different ballgame, one that he was ultimately unprepared for after completing just two seasons in USC before declaring for the draft.
Given how Clemson's Mike Williams (#7, 2017) had a disappointing rookie year for the Los Angeles Chargers, he'll need to step it up if he wants to prevent his name from being associated with two big-time draft busts at wide receiver.
15 QB: Vince Young (#3, 2006)
His numbers in his first three NFL seasons were a train wreck, he was a regular in Titans coach Jeff Fisher's doghouse, and he lost his starting job to an aging Kerry Collins. Oh, and he made the cover of Madden NFL 08 and became yet another example of a player struck by the Madden Curse. Yet there were many fans who were hopeful that Young was finally putting it together when he replaced Collins in 2009, salvaged a bad season for the Titans, made the Pro Bowl, and had an even better start to the 2010 season.
Unfortunately, Young was just too troublesome to be productive for long, and his NFL career was over after a thoroughly disappointing 2011 campaign for the Eagles.
14 RB: William Green (#16, 2002)
Had it not been for Josh Gordon's return last season, the Browns would have made it a grand slam by having players at all of this article's three featured positions. Like Gordon, 2002 first-rounder William Green battled his personal demons, but before he became one of this century's biggest RB busts, he showed tons of promise with a strong rookie year – 887 yards rushing, 6 TDs.
Alas, that was where Green's career peaked, as he battled substance abuse issues and frequently found himself in trouble with both the NFL and the law. He attempted a comeback in 2008, three years after his last NFL game, but good luck signing a contract when you run a 4.85 at the 40 during workouts.
13 WR: Darrius Heyward-Bey (#7, 2009)
Fun fact – the Oakland Raiders are the only team in this list to have representatives at all the three positions featured in here. Truly, this was a team that had more than its share of bad luck in the draft in the past decade, and it's just about right that they've had luck in recent years with players like Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. But back in the 2000s, they had to deal with the likes of Darrius Heyward-Bey, who had one decent year for the Raiders and little else.
It can be counted as a minor miracle that DHB is still gainfully employed, as he's been playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers since the 2014 season, and naturally playing behind the likes of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and now JuJu Smith-Schuster.
12 QB: Mark Sanchez (#5, 2009)
It's really telling if your best NFL season came as a fill-in with low expectations and if your most defining moment in the pros is an epic blooper like the "butt fumble." Such is the fate that has befallen Mark Sanchez, who also followed in the footsteps of many a former University of Southern California quarterback – utter bust-hood in the NFL after a brilliant college career.
Arm strength can only get you so far in the NFL, and while Sanchez has proven he could throw with velocity, he hasn't proven on an extended basis that he could throw with accuracy. That, and the butt fumble. Try living that down as an NFL draft bust.
11 RB: Reggie Bush (#2, 2006)
If you come to think of it, Bush played 11 seasons in the NFL and was a starter in most of those years. He also had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons, was a great pass-catcher for his position, and if you consider all those achievements, that's not bad for a first-round pick. But that's also not good if you're a second overall pick, a former Heisman winner (before it got forfeited), and someone who was expected to be an all-world talent in the pros.
As an aside, Bush is the only NFL player to fall victim to BOTH the Madden Curse and the Kardashian Kurse. That's probably got to count for something.
10 WR: Kevin White (#7, 2015)
Just think about it – many felt that Kevin White had a chance to be drafted as high as fourth overall in 2015. The Raiders' gain – they drafted Amari Cooper, after all – was the Bears' loss, as White has struggled in all his three seasons thus far in the Windy City. That is, of course, assuming he's healthy, which has been very seldom thus far. Five games, 21 receptions, and 193 yards in three seasons – those are good stats for a seventh-rounder, not a seventh overall pick.
At this point in his career, White has virtually no chance to live up to his draft billing as a Bear, what with Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel having just joined the team.
9 QB: Robert Griffin III (#2, 2012)
Robert Griffin III taught NFL fans all over the world that having a great rookie season does not automatically mean you'll have a Hall of Fame career going forward. In fact, Griffin had the exact opposite, as a combination of injuries and attitude sent his career on a downward trajectory after he put up all those glowing numbers and won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with the Redskins in 2012.
Although RG3 barely has youth on his side as he heads into the 2018 NFL season, it won't be shocking if this future Hall of Famer-turned epic bust becomes the Ravens' third-string QB behind the established Joe Flacco and rookie Lamar Jackson.
8 RB: Cadillac Williams (#5, 2005)
Carnell Williams may have been nicknamed Cadillac, but he had an NFL career worthy of a Ford Prius, only with much less mileage. That wasn't how things always were, however, as Williams had a sensational rookie season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After getting hit by the sophomore jinx, things went downhill for Cadillac, as injuries shelved him for most of the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Despite a valiant effort at a comeback, Williams' injuries were just too much for him to overcome, and he was eventually reduced to third-down back duties, thanks to the emergence of an undrafted rookie named LeGarrette Blount.
7 WR: Tavon Austin (#8, 2013)
He's not quite a traditional wide receiver, and he's not quite a traditional running back. Regardless of where you put him on the field, Tavon Austin has been a huge flop in his five years in the NFL thus far, a classic "tweener" who can't seem to succeed in either one of the two positions he plays. Although 2017 was a year when almost every key player on the Rams improved along with the team, not the least of these being QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley, Rams fans still got the same old Austin – overpaid and underproductive.
With Austin having used up all his chances with the Rams, he'll have another shot to turn things around with the Cowboys, but we doubt things are going to be that different over at the Big D.
6 QB: Matt Leinart (#10, 2006)
Leinart was the epitome of a winner in college, having bagged the Heisman Trophy in 2004 and wrapped up his career at USC a year later with a 37-2 record. As such, it was seemingly a slam dunk for the Arizona Cardinals, who picked him 10th overall in 2006 and kept the aging Kurt Warner on the team so that he could have a good mentor. Leinart, as expected, took over from Warner as a rookie, but when he suffered an injury in 2007, Warner regained his starting job and instantly revived his flagging career and then some.
All told, injuries played their role in limiting Leinart to just six NFL seasons, but as you can see from his 15-21 TD-INT ratio, he wasn't that good at all, even when he was healthy.
5 RB: Maurice Clarett (#101, 2005)
No, that was not a typo – Maurice Clarett was the one-hundred-and-first pick in the 2005 NFL draft. So why does he belong in this list? One, he was a can't-miss talent as an Ohio State freshman. Two, Clarett actually sued the NFL so that he could be drafted in 2004 despite being just two years removed from high school graduation. Three, it was much ado about nothing when he was eventually drafted in 2005.
Clarett, who earned the nickname "Slow Mo" for his abysmal 40-yard times in the combine, never played a down in the NFL as the substance abuse and attitude problems that ended his college career after one season continued to hound him.
4 WR: Justin Blackmon (#5, 2012)
With 38 touchdowns combined in his sophomore and junior years at Oklahoma State, Blackmon was the epitome of can't-miss prospect when the Jaguars picked him fifth overall in 2012. And here's the reason why we can't rank him as the biggest WR bust in this list – he actually had a pretty decent rookie season. Then he found himself getting arrested and suspended for drug and/or alcohol-related reasons more often than he scored touchdowns.
Due to his frequent misadventures with the NFL's substance abuse policies, Blackmon was effectively banned from the NFL during the 2014 NFL season, and while he's applied for reinstatement a few times, he's repeatedly been denied.
3 QB: JaMarcus Russell (#1, 2007)
Despite RG3, Manziel, et al. and their "efforts" to dethrone him from his crown, JaMarcus Russell is still the gold standard by which all quarterback busts of the 2000s are measured by. Yes, Ryan Leaf missed out on this dishonor by being drafted in 1998, but as far as 21st century QB busts go, you can't get much worse than Russell, who had the size, athleticism, and arm to succeed in the pros, but not the work ethic and other intangibles.
Eighteen touchdown passes, 23 picks, and a 65.2 QB rating over three frustrating, disappointing seasons. And we haven't even told you about the weight problems he eventually had to deal with. Those were three seasons the Raiders certainly wish they could have had back.
2 RB: Trent Richardson (#3, 2012)
Andrew Luck had better hope and pray that he comes back successfully from those nagging shoulder injuries because the draft class of 2012 just might become infamous for its top three picks turning out as busts. Luck still has a solid chance of redeeming himself, but what about his ex-Colts teammate, #3 overall pick Trent Richardson? No such hope, as he's been out of the NFL since 2015.
Don't let the good rushing yardage as a rookie deceive you – Richardson, who was picked by the Browns, was mediocre as a rookie and terrible afterward, as he underachieved his way to one of the worst possible careers a high-profile college running back could have in the NFL.
1 WR: Charles Rogers (#2, 2003)
We probably shouldn't pin so much blame on the Detroit Lions for picking Rogers second in the 2003 draft, right ahead of Andre Johnson, who went to the Texans. He was a Michigan product through and through, and a big star for the Michigan State Spartans. But as the Lions soon found out, Rogers had some personal habits, shall we say, that he prioritized over playing football.
Partly because of Rogers' penchant for the "green stuff," he was only good for three NFL seasons, where he amassed totals of 36 receptions for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns. Charles Rogers/Andre Johnson is pretty much the WR equivalent of Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf, albeit with the higher draft pick flopping.
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