The bust can haunt franchises for many years, and set teams up to be bottom feeders for the foreseeable future. The most painful part about selecting these busts in the NFL draft is looking back at the players that a team passed up on. We have seen in the past a player of Randy Moss’s stature was always motivated to torch the Dallas Cowboys whenever he played against them. The Cowboys passed up on Moss even though they had made a slight commitment to him. The most damaging position to get wrong in the draft is the quarterback position, but perhaps the most often squandered picks at the top of the draft are selections used to get a wide receiver.
Wide receivers are capable of helping out a team in a variety of ways; some can run extremely fast and burn whoever is defending them, and others help in possession situations. There is also the tall athletic wide receiver. These wide receivers can jump up and grab the ball over most cornerbacks, and sometimes these types of receivers can be agile. Then there is a possession receiver, who always makes a catch even if the quarterback throws the ball a little off target. Having a good wide receiver is an important position to have occupied.
It is not uncommon to see the teams with the least amount of depth at the wide receiver position struggle overall as a team. Some teams have consistently missed on wide receivers in the draft, and some teams will be represented on this list more than once. These are the biggest wide receiver first round busts of the last fifteen drafts.
2001 – Freddie Mitchell
Freddie Mitchell was given the first opportunity to shine when drafted into the NFL in 2001. He was drafted by a team in the Philadelphia Eagles that was on the rise, but lacked depth at the ever so important wide receiver position. Donovan McNabb was proving he was capable of being a franchise quarterback. Even with a great signal caller throwing to him, Mitchell never contributed much for the Eagles.
In his four seasons with the team, Mitchell never exceeded 500 receiving yards. Mitchell was extremely cocky throughout his career. He acted as though he was a hall of fame wide receiver, but was factually below average. Mitchell had 1,263 receiving yards and five touchdowns while in the NFL.
2002 – Ashley Lelie
Ashley Lelie actually did have one good season while in the NFL, but unfortunately he never carried the momentum from his 1,000 yard season of 2004 to any of his other years in the NFL. Lelie came from a high powered offense at the University of Hawaii. The offense that he participated in during college was extremely pass happy, and this allowed Lelie to flourish. He did so well that he became a first round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.
Eight seasons is not necessarily a short career in the NFL, but much more was expected stats wise from Leleie. He had 3,749 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in his career.
2003 – Charles Rogers
Charles Rogers is one of the biggest busts in NFL history of any position. Drafted one slot above Andre Johnson, Rogers was thought by scouts as a potential star in the league. The Detroit Lions had extremely bad luck drafting wide receivers during the early and mid-2000s, and Rogers may have been the player that started this negative trend for the Lions. In total Charles Rogers only played three seasons in the NFL and only suited up for 15 games during those three seasons. Charles Rogers during his short stint in the NFL had four hundred and forty receiving yards and four touchdowns.
2004 – Reggie Williams
The German born Reggie Williams did not give the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars the major receiving threat they had hoped when they selected him early in the first round. The Jaguars did not really have dependable play at the quarterback when Reggie Williams was with the team. This may have stunted the football growth of Reggie Williams, but Williams still should have been able to warrant being a top 10 draft pick.
Williams also got a ton of starts at wide receivers in his five seasons with the Jaguars. In five NFL seasons, Reggie Williams had 2,322 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
2005 – Braylon Edwards
When a franchise selects a player in the top three of the draft, they are expecting to get a player that will change the course of their team for the better. The Cleveland Browns drafted a player in Braylon Edwards who set the team back even more. It is not a complete surprise that a young player selected by the Browns failed to reach their potential, but eventually the players also need to take some of the responsibility for failing to play well.
Braylon Edwards was a standout at Michigan. He played nine years in the league, but his play did not permit him being taken in the top three. Braylon Edwards had 5,522 receiving yards and 40 touchdowns in his career.
2006 NFL Draft – Chad Jackson
The only wide receiver selected in the first round in 2006 was Santonio Holmes. Holmes was certainly not a bust so we will look at the first wide receiver taken in the second round for this draft class. Chad Jackson was a high second round draft pick, but never produced much of anything for the teams he played for in the NFL. He only suited up for 18 games in three seasons, and is one of the rare misses that the Patriots have made during their perennial dynasty that began in early 2000s. Chad Jackson had 171 receiving yards and three touchdowns during his NFL existence.
2007 – Craig Davis
Craig Davis was the last wide receiver selected in the first round, so it can be assumed he was the most likely to be a bust of the wide receiver crop in 2007. The San Diego Chargers had a super star in the making in Philip Rivers at quarterback. Craig Davis had a great opportunity to have a great career with Rivers running the offense, but Davis never possessed the skill to be able to become a reliable receiver for the Chargers. During his five year NFL career, Craig Davis had 558 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
2008 – Devin Thomas
The 2008 NFL draft saw no wide receiver taken in the first round, so it only makes sense to examine the second round for busts. Devin Thomas was the second wide receiver taken at the top of the second round in 2008, and he under produced greatly while in the league. He began his career in Washington, who did not really have a viable quarterback that could help Thomas develop as a receiver. After struggling in Washington, he ended his career with the Giants. In six seasons Devin Thomas had 482 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
2009 – Darrius Heyward-Bey
When Darrius Heyward-Bey was drafted by the Oakland Raiders, many scouts were left scratching their heads as to why he was selected so high in the draft. The late Al Davis was known from time to time to make such absurd picks in the draft. The Oakland Raiders have even drafted a kicker in the first round in the last 20 years, but Heyward-Bay just was not highly touted coming out of the University of Maryland. The one known skill about him was his speed. Outside of this known aspect of his game, he did not have much else to offer. Darrius Heyward-Bey so far in his career has 2,727 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
2010 – Arrelious Benn
Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant were selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft, and it is fairly obvious that neither of them have been busts. The second round of this year’s draft class provides us with more bust worthy football players. Arrelious Benn was selected towards the top of the second round, and did not prove that he was capable of being a quality receiver for a floundering Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. He only managed to play three seasons in the NFL. During his NFL livelihood Benn had 862 receiving yards and did not catch a single touchdown.
2011 – Jon Baldwin
Jonathan Baldwin had an extremely short term in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs. Usually first round picks are thought as players that can help contribute for a team right away, but Baldwin failed to contribute to a growing football team. The Chiefs gave up on him after two years and traded him to San Francisco for fellow WR bust A.J. Jenkins.
Three years in the NFL is a tremendously short amount of time, and first round picks are normally players that contribute for many years. Jonathan Baldwin had 607 receiving yards and two touchdowns during his tenancy.
2012 – Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon made so many off the field decisions that were poor, and it leaves fans wondering what he could have been. He was beastly while at Oklahoma State, and looked like he would be able to carry that momentum into the NFL. Sadly he chose drugs over a professional football life. Justin Blackmon truly had a gift, and probably would not be on this list if he chose football over drugs. He is still technically a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played a full season in 2012, but only four games in 2013. Justin Blackmon had 1,280 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 20 games.
2013 – Cordarrelle Patterson
Cordarrelle Patterson electrifies Vikings fans with his skillful kick and punt returns, but frankly teams do not draft special team players in the first round. The Minnesota Vikings were desperate for wide receivers. Patterson was not the number one target that Vikings thought they were getting when they drafted him late in the first round. There is still time for Patterson to shed the bust label, but if his play does not begin to improve rapidly, he could be out of the league. Cordarrelle Patterson in his first three seasons has 863 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
2014 – Marqise Lee
Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, and Brandin Cooks were all selected in the first round in the 2014 NFL draft. None of these aforementioned players can be considered busts, and they are all major contributors to their respective teams. If we look in the second round, Marqise Lee was the first wide receiver taken in the second round and has been a disappointment for the Jaguars in his young career. Many thought he would be selected in the first round, but he slipped on draft day. Lee in two seasons has 613 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
2015 – Nelson Agholor
The Philadelphia Eagles were lacking quality wide receivers, and Nelson Agholor fell to them towards the end of the first round. Agholor failed to put together a good season, and this surprised many considering the Chip Kelly offense had jacked up average wide receivers numbers in the past. The injury bug did strike during the season for Agholor. Eagles fans still were visibly upset with the production that they got from there first round pick during the 2015 season. Nelson Agholor in his rookie season had 283 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and hopefully under Doug Pederson’s leadership, Agholor can show why he was selected in the first round.
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