At what point should a NFL team move on from a player they invested a time, energy, and money on?
Unfortunately, there is not exact timetable or growth chart that a NFL team can follow in order to monitor the progress of their young talent. All they can do is measure their success on a game-by-game basis by grading their performances and tracking them to see how things are panning out.
But the number one reason why a team moves on from a player comes down to who they are as a person. Believe it or not, talent is measurable, as well as things like height, weight, and speed. But the things that are tougher to measure are effort, attitude, and ability to handle pressure. Those three things are only revealed after a player has a chance to play in the NFL and compete with other NFL players.
So it can take time for a team to even notice that they made a mistake, and even longer to fix it. Other factors come into play like making sure they are not making another mistake first.
Let's take a look at every NFL Teams' Most Recent Young Player They've Already Given Up On.
32 Arizona Cardinals: David Johnson, RB (2015)
In 2016, David Johnson erupted in his second season in the NFL with 373 touches and 2,118 total yards from scrimmage. He led all running backs with 80 receptions and 879 receiving yards while finishing seventh in rushing yards. It was a truly remarkable second year and fans were excited because he was going to be their future. But in 2017, an injury to his wrist forced him to miss 15 games.
So when 2018 started, fans were ready to see his return as a completely healthy running back ready to take off again. However, it seems as if the coaching staff has not been able to figure out how to use him and have failed to get him anywhere close to his 2016 form. Outside of a few games, David Johnson has been all but useless.
We really hope the Cardinals are not finished with DJ just yet but when you fail to build a team around him and concentrate all your efforts on a QB, you end up with a mishandled running back that could be wishing he did not sign an extension this summer.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Jalen Collins, CB (2015)
When he was at LSU, also known as DBU (Defensive Back University), Jalen Collins emerged as a leader in the SEC and one of the nation’s toughest cornerback. He was so talented by his Junior season that he decided to leave school a year early and declare for the 2015 NFL Draft. A few months later, he was drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Falcons.
After playing in all 16 games during his rookie season, things started to change for him after off-the-field issues set him up for his first NFL suspension. He was suspended for four games to begin the 2016 season before getting injured in his first game back and being put on injured reserve.
The following year, he was suspended again. Only this time it was 10 games and upon his return, the Falcons decided it was time to part ways with the cornerback.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Breshad Perriman, WR (2015)
The Baltimore Ravens are not the only ones who made the wrong call in 2015, NFL analysts and scouts got this one wrong, too. Breshad Perriman was considered to be the next Dez Bryant after having an impressive collegiate career at UCF.
But it did not take very long before he was exposed in the NFL as one of the most overrated prospect in the draft that year. He started his rookie year with a season-ending knee injury before ever even playing a game. The next year, he battled another nagging injury before finding himself back on the injury list again in 2017. But even when healthy, he had one really big problem, he could not catch the football.
His hands became such a big problem that the Ravens parted ways with him to start the 2018 season.
29 Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins, WR (2014)
When it came to talent, Sammy Watkins was one of the most talented wide receivers to come out of college since A.J. Green in 2011. The Bills agreed and drafted him with the fourth overall selection in 2014. But he came in with a few injury problems that they already knew about from his time at Clemson. They were willing to disregard it and take the risk.
After playing in all 16 games his rookie season, his injury problems started to emerge as a real issue. By his third year, he had missed 11 games in the previous two seasons so the Bills were ready to move on and dealt him to the Rams for a draft pick.
28 Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR (2014)
The NFL saw a flurry of wide receivers enter the league in 2014, most of which ended up putting up some pretty big numbers including Kelvin Benjamin, the Carolina Panthers first round pick that same year.
The big boy from Florida State seemed to have an instant connection with Cam Newton and he quickly emerged as a serious threat in the NFL. He had 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns his rookie season. However, his catch rate was very low at 50.3% meaning he had 145 targets and only caught half of them. He tore his ACL the next season and that sparked the beginning of his decline.
He never was able to re-establish himself with the Panthers and wound up being traded in October of 2017.
27 Chicago Bears: Kevin White, WR (2015)
Kevin White’s story is all about potential. He ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, the second fastest by a wide receiver standing at least 6’3” tall in the history of the combine. That alone pushed him into the first round. But he was a great route runner that had incredible hands so it made no sense how he could end up becoming a bust.
Injuries forced him to miss his entire first year and that has caused him to continue missing time and in his four seasons in Chicago, he has only played in 13 games, total. Even when he did get into the game, he was hardly a threat. He was barely even noticed on the sidelines.
After declining his fifth-year option this past summer, the Chicago Bears are clearly stating that they are over it and ready to move on after this season. Maybe he will find a new home somewhere else but it won’t be in Illinois.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT (2015)
From the moment the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round of the 2015 draft, everyone saw this as a reach by head coach Marvin Lewis. He was talented but there were glaring reasons why he should not go that high. But no one expected him to be this bad.
Ogbuehi was benched multiple times in his first four years in the NFL including being replaced by Andre Smith, a former teammate who was cut by the Cardinals in November. His work ethic seems to be a big problem as he has given up during games many times in his career and has a reputation for giving up and not trying in blowouts. So it goes without saying that his time is up and the Bengals have finally given up on him.
25 Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB (2014)
Anyone with the nickname "Johnny Football” must be a superstar just waiting to emerge in the NFL as the next big star, right?
It was tough to watch the 2014 NFL Draft and to see the Cleveland Browns risking everything by going after Johnny Manziel, a good quarterback that makes big time plays but has many issues passing in the pocket, which is a requirement to play in the NFL since just about every single defense is going to force their opposing QB to stay there.
So after two years of trying to deal with his issues, the Browns cut him, making him the first QB in NFL history to be taken in the first round and be out of the league by his third season.
24 Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DE (2017)
When the Dallas Cowboys reached for Taco Charlton in the first round of the 2017 draft, they thought they had a sleeping giant that could emerge as a team leader on defense. But what they ended up with was a disappointing backup who has just four sacks in the course of two seasons.
They thought so little of him that they drafted Dorance Armstrong in the fourth round of this past year’s draft. By this time next year, he is probably going to be wearing a different uniform.
23 Denver Broncos: Shane Ray, LB (2015)
Just a couple days before the 2015 NFL Draft, Shane Ray was cited for possession. This caused his draft stock to plummet overnight. He was originally supposed to be a top-10 selection but started falling and when the Broncos saw an opportunity to trade up, they did so and got him at 23rd overall.
After missing most of his rookie season to a knee injury, he played all 16 games in his second season, putting up career numbers including eight sacks. However, he got injured again in 2017 and was forced to miss most of the season, again.
In May of 2018, the Broncos declined his fifth-year option. Not long after that, he had wrist surgery and has yet to return to his 2016 form. When a team declines that option, they are making it pretty clear to the player. They are ready to move on.
22 Detroit Lions: Ameer Abdullah, RB (2015)
After the Detroit Lions drafted Ameer Abdullah in the second round of the 2015 draft, they went right ahead and named him a starter in Week 2. But for that entire year, all he was able to do was rush for 597 yards and two touchdowns. He was not the answer but since he was a rookie, they gave him another shot in 2016.
However, he got injured early in the season and missed 14 games that year. When he returned in 2017, he was right back to the same running back he was in his rookie season. So when the Lions drafted Kerryon Johnson this year, it was a clear statement that Ameer might be facing an early exit. By November, the Lions waived him.
21 Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS (2014)
For the Green Bay Packers, trading away their starting free safety since 2014 was a smart move after watching him slowly regress into nothing more than an average defensive back that was in need of a new team.
So they sent him to the Redskins and got a fourth round pick next season in return. So far, it has turned out to look as if they lost on the deal as he has found success playing in Washington’s backfield. However, they were ready to move on because they knew he was never going to return to his 2016 Pro Bowl form.
20 Houston Texans: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG (2014)
When a NFL team goes after an offensive lineman in the first two rounds of a draft, they are not looking for backups. They are looking at team needs and lineman who are going to not only fill that role, but become a long-term starter while on that team.
So when the Houston Texans used their second round pick in 2014 on Xavier Su’a-Filo, they were expecting to find their next starting left guard. But in his first two seasons, he spent some time being injured and was unable to find his way into the starting lineup. After finally becoming a full-time starter in 2016 and 2017, he was still not putting up impressive numbers so the Texans were forced to let him hit the free agent market.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Phillip Dorsett, WR (2015)
After the onslaught of wide receivers drafted in 2014, twelve taken in the first two rounds, many teams were forced to draft sub-par wide receivers in 2015 just to catch up. This was the case for the Indianapolis Colts, who made a big mistake drafting Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the 2015 draft.
What they really needed was defensive help but they decided to waste a pick on a good, not great, wideout. But they were so impressed by his speed, he ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at his pro day, that they skipped the rest of the scouting report and fell in love with that part of him. But it is not easy to display your talents if you can’t get on the field or run the proper routes. They traded him to New England in 2017.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Fowler, LB (2015)
The third overall pick in any draft is rarely traded after three seasons. But that was not the case for Dante Fowler, who became the Jaguars top pick of 2015 and but tore his ACL and missed the entire season. He returned and ended up not missing another game while in Jacksonville. He even managed to mount up 14 sacks over the last three years.
But following that ACL tear, he never quite lived up to the Jacksonville Jaguars idea of a success and with his upcoming free agency in 2019, there was a great chance they would not be wasting any money on him anyways. That was evident when they decided to opt-out of his fifth year option, a clear sign of their future decision.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Marcus Peters, CB (2015)
The Kansas City Chiefs traded away their best defensive back, and one of the best in the NFL, Marcus Peters, in exchange for a 2018 fourth round pick and a 2019 second round pick. In other words, they gave away a rare talent for practically nothing. And by rare, we mean no one in the history of the NFL has ever had 19 interceptions in their first three seasons in the league.
So why did they give away the best defensive back in the NFL for pennies on the dollar? Maybe it was because of his off-the-field issues. He had been suspended by the team for throwing a referee’s flag while also getting into trouble after getting into a verbal argument with a coach. There could have been other reasons we did not know about but they did give him away for nothing and that means they were simply ready to part ways with the defensive star.
16 Los Angeles Chargers: Craig Mager, CB (2015)
For the most part, a third round pick in the NFL Draft is usually a future starter. A franchise does not waste their top three round picks, those are normally the most important. So when the Chargers drafted Craig Mager in the third round of the 2015 draft, they intended on turning him into a starter one day. But all they ended up with was a wasted talent that could never translate his game to the NFL.
One of the main reasons the Chargers never gave up on him was because he was such a high draft pick. They felt obligated to develop him into something but the more they tried, the worse things got. He battled developing his pro game with multiple injuries through the years. They eventually released him this season.
15 Los Angeles Rams: Greg Robinson, OT (2014)
Going second overall in the draft is a pretty big deal. That is the same slot that produced Hall of Famers like Lawrence Taylor, Marshall Faulk, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, and Eric Dickerson. It is also the same selection used on future Hall of Famers such as Julius Peppers and Calvin Johnson.
But it is also the same spot as some of the biggest busts ever. Busts like Greg Robinson, the offensive tackle from Auburn that was supposed to become the anchor that the Rams offensive line had been looking for over the years. He was even compared to many as being the next Orlando Pace. Unfortunately, all he ended up turning into was a vastly overpaid underachiever.
14 Miami Dolphins: Kenyan Drake, RB (2016)
What happened to Kenyan Drake this season? He is the only person on our list that made the list because of coaching, not because of any other reason. The Miami Dolphins have failed him this season by wasting away his talent on a weekly basis. He was the team’s best running back, by far, and yet only managed to get a little more than 100 rushing attempts for the season. How is that even real?
He is just 24-years-old, in his third season in the NFL, and has more potential than any other running back in South Beach. So what is going on? Did he anger the front office for some reason? Did he anger the coaches? How do the Dolphins prevent this guy from breaking out all season long?
It appears they are giving up on him and blaming the offensive’s lack of touches as a reason why.
13 Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR (2016)
During the 2016 NFL Draft, teams and scouts were mixed about Laquon Treadwell’s ability to become a NFL wide receiver worthy of a first round draft pick. He did have some amazing strengths to his game. In fact, he was a big guy that was very physical and could fight for the ball. He had great hands and long arms making him able to play as a wide receiver but also as a blocker, which is an underrated aspect to a wideouts game.
But fighting for the ball and having great hands means very little when you cannot get separation from the defenders. That was the biggest reason he has not reached his potential. He lacks the speed and acceleration to break free off the line and get open in his routes. That worked in college, but not in the NFL. He rarely even gets in the game long enough to make more than one or two receptions every few weeks.
12 New England Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (2014)
We might not ever find out the reasoning behind the trade that the New England Patriots made in 2017, sending Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second round pick. Even though the second round pick is a very strong pull, it is not enough to justify sending away a future franchise QB.
Yet, in the most surprising move of 2017, the Patriots dealt him to the West Coast where he quickly became a star with the 49ers before he tore his ACL this season. Knowing Tom Brady is going to retire any day now, there has to be a reason for this trade and the real answer should emerge one day, we just do not know when.
11 New Orleans Saints: Garrett Grayson, QB (2015)
The main reason Garrett Grayson makes this list is because the Saints thought very highly of him, which was evident when they drafted him in the third round of the draft in 2015. It was a move that showed they were preparing for the eventual departure of Drew Brees from the league. He was going to be their predecessor.
He was taken as a project that was to be groomed into a leader of the offense but instead they wound up with a player that failed to make an impact. He was more of a problem than a project. He lacked the ability to read a defense or adapt his style from college into the NFL. The many things that made him great in college, made him a liability in the NFL and the Saints gave up on him rather quickly, cutting him in 2017.
10 New York Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT (2015)
It seems that every NFL team is not immune to drafting the wrong type of player in the first round of the NFL Draft. In fact, it happens all the time. One of the few teams in the NFL that have made a few of them recently is the New York Giants. They have had a few different players turn into busts long before their time.
The one that we are going to talk about today is Ereck Flowers, the big offensive tackle from the University of Miami who struggled to understand the pro game. Many of the coaches in New York stated how he was always trying to be his best, he was just not good enough. He could not protect Eli Manning and failed to live up to the high draft selection. It could have been a combination of the bright lights of the New York market and his inability to play at this level.
9 New York Jets: Christian Hackenberg, QB (2016)
Prior to his final season at Penn State, Christian Hackenberg was considered a first round draft pick in 2016 because of his potential. He could have been the next Carson Palmer but instead, reminded everyone just how badly of a passer he was, throwing for a 53.5 completion percentage in his Junior year at Penn State.
The number one weakness has, and always was, his accuracy. That was the reason he fell so far in the draft before the Jets decided to take him in the second round, thinking they had a steal of the draft. But once he got into the NFL, he quickly reminded them why he was always a sub-par passer, it was because he was never that good to begin with.
Accuracy is the key to success for a NFL QB. It always has, and always will be. He is not even in the NFL after bouncing around from four teams in two years.
8 Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR (2015)
After Jon Gruden traded away Khalil Mack, widely considered the league's best defensive player since Lawrence Taylor, no one was really sure what he was doing. In fact, Khalil Mack became the only player in NFL history to be named an All-Pro at two different positions, in the same year. So how can Jon Gruden do that? And why?
Then he traded away Amari Cooper for another first round draft pick and it was pretty evident what he was doing. He was building a future and doing so by unloading the team's biggest stars so he could build his team from the ground up.
Amari Cooper was nothing more than a problem to a head coach with a 10-year contract that was not willing to coach players he did not hand pick.
7 Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Smith, DE (2014)
In three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Marcus Smith played in 37 games while totaling four sacks, 18 tackles, and four tackles for a loss. Over the course of three years, those numbers would be considered decent for a backup, not for a former first round draft pick.
At the time he was selected, there were many warning signs including most analysts claiming it was a reach. But after being forced to change positions in his rookie year, they moved him to inside linebacker from outside linebacker, and back again later in the year. He was struck with the unfortunate bad luck of playing for a terrible defense.
He never managed to get himself out of that funk and was eventually cut by the Eagles.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers: Martavis Bryant, WR (2014)
Martavis Bryant is still one of the most talented wide receivers on our list as far as ceilings are concerned. He is one of the fastest players in the entire NFL and has unofficially ran a 4.27 40-yard dash, and he did that in 2017 after the NFL reinstated him back into the league following his previous year's suspension.
But that was his issue and that is part of the reasons why he was traded by the Steelers to the Oakland Raiders. There was just too many league violations involving substance-abuse that the Steelers were tired of dealing with. He might still be talented but is he worth the risk?
He was suspended on December 14th for violating league policy again, so this time, it is indefinitely.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Reuben Foster, LB (2017)
The 2017 draft just might go down as the worst one in San Francisco 49ers history. They had two first round draft picks, including the third and 31st overall and they wasted them both.
Although it might be a little too soon, Solomon Thomas, the defensive end they grabbed at third has been nothing short of a disappointment to start his career. But he does not come close to the failure that Reuben Foster has been since arriving in Bay Town.
He began his second season being suspended for two games after violating the league's conduct policy. Shortly after returning to action, he lasted just six games before another off-the-field incident forced their GM John Lynch to release him immediately.
4 Seattle Seahawks: Malik McDowell, DT (2017)
Ask any Seattle Seahawks fan who their biggest disappointment was in the past ten years and you will hear an echo of the same name, Malik McDowell. The former Michigan State defensive stud was taken in the second round of the 2017 draft, 35th overall, and was going to become their star defensive lineman that was going to anchor that defense for the next five years, or more.
The reason he never got onto the field, not even once, goes back to an ATV crash that happened just a few weeks before his first ever training camp. He never even got a chance to play in a preseason game, let alone step onto the field for the regular season. The Seahawks later waived him as a result of a non-football injury designation.
3 Tampa Bay Bucs: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB (2016)
Any player drafted in the top-15 picks will have to live up to a pretty big hype that is going to surround them for the rest of their careers. For Vernon Hargreaves, it is no difference. He was drafted in 2016 with the 11th overall pick.
During his rookie season, he started the year as the third cornerback on the roster and only managed to grab one interception. So when his second season started, the expectations were very high, and very real. But he ended up becoming a part-time nickel cornerback that ended up injuring his hamstring and missing most of the season.
When 2018 began, it was his time to shine, and prove the haters wrong. But a shoulder injury in week 1 forced him to injured reserve for the rest of the year.
2 Tennessee Titans: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (2015)
Do not ever let anyone tell you that if a player is really good, he can get away with anything that happens off the field, because it simply is not true. Dorial Green-Beckham was a one-of-a-kind athlete that had the size and speed to become a Hall of Fame wide receiver in the NFL. If he got rid of his off-the-field issues, and focused on his career, he had the chance to become a guy no one could tackle.
So when the Titans "stole" him in the second round of the 2015 draft, they were ready to pretend he had no issues outside of football. It only took one season for the Titans to realize they made a big mistake and traded him to Philadelphia where he would last just one season before being released.
He has not been back on the field since.
1 Washington Redskins: Su'a Cravens, OLB (2016)
In his three years with USC, Su'a Cravens was a monster linebacker and even started every single game since his Freshman season. From the moment he got to school, he was going to be a star and that was exactly what he became. So the Redskins saw a chance in the second round of the 2016 draft and they did not think twice about it.
But after playing his first season pretty well, he was projected to begin the 2017 season as their starting outside linebacker. However, shortly before the season started, he announced he was going to retire, a surprising move that no one saw coming. It remains a mystery why he sat out all of 2017 to consider retiring but when he returned in 2018, he was quickly traded to the Denver Broncos.