Tom Brady has been defeated by the ‘Philly Special’ and the Browns have been defeated by themselves; all is right in the football world! Still, with Super Bowl LII in the books, we are itching to get our NFL fix for the next few months until a new batch of recruits populates the league. Before we can look ahead to the new class, we should reflect on last year’s rookies, and evaluate if they lived up to their preseason hype.
Now, it’s hard to judge a rookie’s performance based on one year. There are a myriad of factors involved: adjusting to the speed of the game, coping with living in the spotlight, and learning the lengthy NFL playbook. A lot of players who look like busts after year one could very well turn it around in year 2. Just look at the difference in Jared Goff between his rookie year and the 2017 season. Some of these players will have new coaches next year and can get the boost they need while others could simply get better with more experience.
Although, what fun would it be if we passed on an opportunity to dish out grades on these guys? It’s time to play the role of GM, and gauge these 8 2017 NFL Draft picks that look like busts and 8 who should have been drafted in their spot.
16 Bust: Jabrill Peppers
Drafted: 25th Overall
Coming in fifth in the 2016 Heisman Trophy voting, University of Michigan utility man , Jabrill Peppers, was poised to be a force in the NFL. But, at 5'11", 210 pounds, teams were concerned they wouldn't be able find a home for Peppers unique skill-set. He was invited to the combine as both a safety and a linebacker, posting a blazing 4.46-sec 40-yard-dash, but there were still questions surrounding his role. Cleveland decided to pick-up Peppers at the end of the first round, at 25th overall.
Peppers had a below-average season with the Browns, recording only 44 tackles and one interception. While he contributed on special teams, the former Lott Trophy winner fell short of his projected success. There's still room for Peppers to grow in the coming NFL season, but we can't help but think Cleveland regrets using their pick to draft him.
15 Replaced With: Tre’Davious White
Originally drafted: 27th Overall
Even though Peppers is being used as a safety, the Browns still need plenty of help in the secondary, and should have drafted cornerback Tre'Davious White instead.
Originally taken by the Buffalo Bills two spots after the Michigan Wolverine, at 27th overall, White has turned heads with this stellar coverage and closing speed in 2017.
With the departure of Bills cornerback, Stephon Gilmore in the offseason, the first-rounder out of LSU filled his shoes, plus more. During his rookie campaign, White recorded 69 tackles, 18 passes defended, and four interceptions, playing an integral role in Buffalo's first playoff birth in nearly two decades. I'm sure any team, especially the defeated Browns, would have loved to have Tre'Davious blanketing the outside! We aren't done with Cleveland just yet, so keep on reading.
14 Bust: Mike Williams
Drafted: 7th Overall
There is something about the name 'Mike Williams' that is synonymous with NFL bust. Being the fourth Mike Williams to lace up in the pros, the Clemson receiver was rated by many experts as the best receiver in the 2017 NFL draft. With 6'4", 220 lb. frame, in college, Williams was able to grab 50/50 balls using his long reach, but there was still room for improvement. He only recorded a 4.54-sec 40-yard-dash at the combine, leading some scouts to worry about his ability to gain separation from coverage.
That all being said, the Chargers decided to pluck the CFP National Champion receiver off the board with the seventh overall pick of the draft. But, Williams only had 11 receptions for 95 yards in 2017, which would clearly make him a bust. He has time to develop, but the LA pass catcher needs to improve his chemistry with quarterback, Philip Rivers, to be successful in his second year.
13 Replaced With: Cooper Kupp
Originally Drafted: 69th Overall
We move from a one LA receiver to another: Cooper Kupp. Even though Keenan Allen is dominant on the outside, the Charges could have utilized the former Eastern Washington receiver in their pass-heavy offense. We get it, everything from college says that the Chargers original pick, Mike Williams, was going to be so much better than Cooper Kupp. Plus, a white wide receiver in the top 10 is as likely as watching a mermaid ride a unicorn through Atlantis!
Kupp's stellar rookie year should make the Chargers think twice about their draft choice.
The Rams pass catcher reeled in 62 receptions for 869 yards and 5 TDs on his way to a selection to the 2017 NFL All-Rookie Team. Under first-year head coach, Sean McVay, LA turned their franchise, and looks to be a powerhouse in the NFC West for years to come!
12 Bust: DeShone Kizer
Drafted: 52nd Overall
Okay, we know that most busts emerge from the first round, but when you think of poor rookie performances from 2017, DeShone Kizer comes to mind. Despite a mediocre winning percentage in college, the former Notre Dame quarterback possessed the prototypical size and stature of an NFL QB, and could sling the ball down the field with the best of them.
Even though the Browns selected Kizer in the second round of the draft (52nd overall), they knew they had to coach up the rookie's footwork and mechanics for him to be successful in the NFL. Unfortunately, Cleveland threw the first-year quarterback into the deep-end without floaties, leading Kizer to sink to the bottom. The Browns went winless through the year, and with a 11-22 TD-INT ratio, and a 60.5 passer rating, DeShone clearly contributed to their downfall.
11 Replaced With: Pat Elflein
Originally Drafted: 70th Overall
So, since Kizer was selected so late in the second-round, what quarterback should the Browns have taken instead? Maybe Davis Webb out of Cal? C.J. Beathard out of Iowa? Well, who said they had to select a quarterback at all? With a myriad of future picks, and their first rounders chosen to strengthen the defense, why not beef up the offensive line? We think they should have drafted the center out of Ohio State, Pat Elflein.
Cleveland already has an above average center in J.C. Tretter, but they could have shifted Elflein over to guard, better protecting whichever mediocre QB was in the pocket.
The 300 lb. lineman, and original third round pick of the Vikings, may not ever make it to elite status, but he is fundamentally sound and anchored Minnesota's offensive front, helping them to the NFC Championship game. Oh yeah, did we mention that he made the 2017 All-Rookie Team?
10 Bust: Zay Jones
Drafted: 37th Overall
Somehow, despite benching Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie QB, Nathan Peterman, in Week 11 (who threw five interceptions ins the first half), Buffalo finally reached the postseason for the first time in nearly two decades. Propelled by their staunch defense and dominant run game, led by QB/RB tandem Taylor and McCoy, the Bills gave fans in Western New York hope for a better football future.
Still, in a league dominated through the air, the Bills were horrible, ranking 31st overall in pass offense. They were hoping their second round pick out of Eastern Carolina, Zay Jones, would have contributed down the field. His preseason hype was off the charts, but he failed to bloom during meaningful games, reeling in only 27 receptions for 316 yards and two TDs in 2017. I think the front office would have loved that pick back.
9 Replaced With: Kareem Hunt
Original Drafted: 86th Overall
Our original replacement for Jones would have been breakout star, Juju Smith-Schuster, but as you continue reading, you'll see why we haven't substituted the Pittsburgh receiver just yet. Actually, we wouldn't replace Jones with a receiver at all!
Buffalo should have snagged Chiefs star running back, and 2017 All-Rookie team selection, Kareem Hunt.
Originally selected in the third-round by Kansas City, Hunt's first carry of the season resulted in a fumble, but he recovered, posting ridiculous numbers on his way to the Pro Bowl. Although he hit a wall around November, Hunt's talent should launch him into elite RB status in the coming years.
Why the Bills then? They already have 'Shady' shaking defenders out of their boots. But, there are two ways to get better in the NFL: strengthen your weaknesses or strengthen your strengths. The two-headed monster of McCoy and Hunt would have given defenses huge match-up problem in both the run and pass games.
8 Bust: Taco Charlton
Drafted: 28th Overall
Our next bust comes courtesy of Jerry's team, the easy to hate Dallas Cowboys. In a 2016 season dominated by stellar offensive play by then-rookies, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys were looking to sure up their defense in the offseason. During the 2017 NFL Draft, they selected defensive end out of the University of Michigan, Taco Charlton, with the 28th pick of the first round.
Although Charlton possesses the physicality and aggressiveness of a prototypical NFL pass rusher, he lacks discipline on the edge, using his size and strength to mask this issue in college. Against better competition in the pros, Charlton fell far from his projected production, recording only 19 tackles and three sacks as a rookie. Pro Football Focus ranks Charlton as the 94th edge rusher in the league, setting him up to be a major bust.
7 Replaced With: Carl Lawson
Originally Drafted: 116th Overall
Typically, we would replace Taco with other late first-rounders like the Steelers' T.J. Watt, or the 49ers' Reuben Foster, but that would be too obvious. Going off rookie year production though, Charlton should be replaced with the Bengals defensive sensation, Carl Lawson.
Originally drafted in the fourth round (116th overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals, Crawford improved throughout the season, learning from dominant veterans like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
Although his tackle total doesn't scream superstar, he was able to get 59 QB pressures and 8.5 sacks, leading all first-years in the latter category.
While his health has been in question, if he can stay on the field, the 2017 All-Rookie team selection could surely be a perennial force, making several Pro Bowls in the future.
6 Bust: Joe Mixon
Drafted: 48th Overall
Unlike their fourth round selection in Crawford, Cincinnati didn't capitalize on the first two rounds of the draft. We'll get to their first pick later on, but for now we spotlight their second-round selection running back, Joe Mixon. The former Oklahoma State Sooner was projected to be gone after day one of the draft, but he was caught on camera assaulting a woman, dropping his draft stock. Mixon's character came into consideration, as he slipped into the Bengals arms at 48th overall.
All signs pointed toward success for Mixon, as Cincinnati restructured their offensive staff a few weeks into the season, hoping to spotlight the talented running back. While his stat line was decent for a rookie (913 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns), the big-play ability that was present in college was mostly stifled by opposing defenses. There had to be better option out there for the Bengals backfield.
5 Replaced With: Alvin Kamara
Originally Drafted: 67th Overall
That's where the 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and second-team All-Pro running back, Alvin Kamara, comes into play. The former Tennessee Volunteer was snatched in the beginning of the third round (67th overall) by New Orleans, and made an immediate impact on the field. Despite coach Sean Payton's tendency have Brees air the ball out downfield, he put faith in Ingram and Kamara to carry the load in the Superdome, leading the Saints to the playoffs. Their successful season came to an abrupt end, leaving them one heartbreaking Hail Mary away from the NFC Championship game.
After Adrian Peterson was traded to Arizona in Week 5, Kamara exploded as the big-play back that New Orleans desperately needed.
With over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 13 TDs, the 5'10", 215 lb. speedster became a household name, propelling fantasy owners across the world to a title.
Obviously, Kamara's production would have declined as a Bengal, but I think a perfect 100% of franchises would rather have him than Mixon!
4 Bust: Mitchell Trubisky
Drafted: 2nd Overall
The 'Bad News Bears' executed one of the most shocking moves in the 2017 NFL draft. After Cleveland selected Myles Garrett with the top pick, San Francisco was on the clock with the second selection. Worrying that the 49ers were going to snatch their top selection off the board, Chicago put in a call to GM John Lynch, swapping first round picks, while throwing in two thirds, and one fourth rounder to move up one spot, from third to second. They grabbed University of North Carolina QB, Mitchell Trubisky, thinking they found their franchise's savior.
What's even more odd is that they just signed QB Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45-million deal in free agency. After Glennon floundered in the beginning of the season, Chicago fans called for the rookie QB to lead the offense. They got their wish, but it wasn't the outcome they were looking for. Starting only 13 games in college, Trubisky's inexperience bled through, recording a dismal 7-7 TD-INT ratio and a sub-60% completion percentage. He has room for improvement, but there was one much better option out there.
3 Replaced With: Deshaun Watson
Originally Drafted: 12th Overall
While many of these replacements are a product of their respective offensive schemes, we have no doubt that Deshaun Watson would excel no matter where he ended up. Selected by the Texans at 12th overall, the CFP National Championship winning quarterback lit up the league in the first-half of the season. After head coach Bill O'Brien pulled QB Tom Savage at halftime in week 1, it was Watson's team from there on out.
Unfortunately, the former Clemson quarterback tore his ACL in practice early in November, halting his historic rookie campaign.
Although he only played in 6.5 games, Watson set multiple NFL rookie records, and even made the 2017 All-Rookie Team (who else were they going to select? Trubisky?).
With a 19-8 TD-INT, if Watson can stay healthy, he is a sure-fire Pro Bowler for years to come! Look for the Texans to compete in the AFC South under the leadership of D4!
2 Bust: John Ross
Drafted: 9th Overall
Remember when we mentioned the Bengals poor first round selection? Well, the ninth overall pick of the draft, receiver out of the University of Washington, John Ross, is by far the biggest bust of the 2017 NFL Draft (so far). Ross posted a record 4.22-sec 40-yard-dash during the combine, elevating his draft stock. With the Bengals content with Andy Dalton behind center, they wanted to provide him with a deep-threat weapon opposite of All-Pro receiver, A.J. Green.
Like many of our draft busts, Ross's career trajectory did not turn out as originally planned. Through injuries, poor play, and the Cincinnati's reworked offense, the 5'11", 190 lb. speedster only reeled in one catch for 12 yards over the entire season! We'll see what the future holds, but for now, Ross is the biggest failure of the 2017 rookie class.
1 Replaced With: Juju Smith-Schuster
Originally Drafted: 62nd Overall
Cincinnati should have replaced their bust of a receiver with AFC North rival, Pittsburgh's sensational rookie, Juju Smith-Schuster. Although, the former USC Trojan has average NFL receiver size, going into the 2017 Draft, many experts though he lacked the speed and separation ability to succeed in the pros.
The Steelers took a chance on Smith-Schuster, snagging him at the end of the second-round (62nd overall) and they haven't looked back since.
While Martavis Bryant was crying about his utilization in the offense, Juju was flourishing as Big Ben's third-option behind Brown and Bell. During his rookie campaign, he reeled in 58 receptions for 917 yards and five scores, paving his way to the All-Rookie Team. While Smith-Schuster was suspended due to a dirty block against Bengals linebacker, Vontaze Burfict, we think the best rookie receiver of 2017 would have flourished in an orange and black striped helmet.