The NFL draft is always a roll of the dice when it comes to the return price on production. The process is the same every single year. The teams that did bad the previous year have a chance to make their franchise better with a top draft pick (with the exception of making a trade for a higher draft pick, of course). Some top draft picks end up being some of the best all-time, like a Walter Payton (fourth overall in the 1975 NFL draft). Some draft picks get found later on in the draft, but still, wind up having some of the best careers football fans have ever seen like Tom Brady (199th overall in the 2000 NFL draft). Over the last few seasons, the pattern has not changed as teams like the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and others have been trying to upgrade via the draft.
The last few years of draft picks have shown some great talent with guys like Jared Goff taking over the reins in Los Angeles with the Rams. Others like Saquon Barkley seem to be adjusting to the NFL running game just fine, after being taken second overall in the 2018 NFL draft. But who have been the busts? Who have been the guys that were highly scouted, but are just somehow falling short? This is for us to decide. So why not look back at the last three drafts and see who has under-performed so far? Let's take a look at 10 NFL draft picks from 2016, 10 from 2017, and 5 from 2018 that already look like huge busts.
25 2016: Eli Apple - 10th Overall
Eli Apple was a top 10 pick for the New York Giants just a couple of years ago and in his third year, the Giants gave up on him, sending him to the New Orleans Saints for a fourth and seventh rounder. That'd be considered a disappointment for any team. While Apple has shown some signs of improvement with the Saints, he still hasn't shown that he was worthy of being a top-10 draft pick. He's in a good situation to change the perception of him, but he was nothing short of a bust for the Giants.
24 2017: Charles Harris - 22nd Overall
The Miami Dolphins went through a stretch of a few years where they were constantly seeing their first round picks disappoint. Their latest example has been Charles Harris, selected 22nd overall in 2017. With Cameron Wake getting up there in age, the Dolphins have been trying to load up on young pass rushers, but Harris has proven to be very ineffective so far in his career. On top of failing to produce when he's on the field, Harris has struggled to stay on the field, as he's battled several injuries in his young career.
23 2016: Paxton Lynch - 26th Overall
Paxton Lynch had a big final season at Memphis as he threw 28 touchdowns and four interceptions. Lynch caught the attention of the Denver Broncos as they drafted him with the 26th overall pick in the 2016 draft, and that now seems like a mistake. He loved the magical number of four as he made four starts for the Broncos in his two-year stint while throwing four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Paxton Lynch was released from the Denver Broncos in 2018 as he looks to find another NFL team to play for to continue his underwhelming career.
22 2017: Haason Reddick - 13th Overall
When we start to look at some of the Cardinals' recent first round picks and their lack of production, it starts to get easy to see why they've sunk near the bottom of their division, and the league overall. Haason Reddick was taken 13th overall in 2017, meant to be a building block for their defense. Reddick however, has seen his snaps decrease, and was even on the trading block earlier this season. He's struggled to adjust to head coach Steve Wilkes's defensive scheme and the Cards must be having their doubts about their 2017 first rounder.
21 2018: Vita Vea - 12th Overall
To be fair, Vita Vea has shown some signs of improvement as the season has gone on, but the Buccaneers were definitely expecting more out of their 12th overall pick. The selection of Vea looks even more glaring because the Bucs passed on Derwin James, a favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, who also happened to be a perfect candidate to address the team's biggest defensive need. As for Vea, he began the year injured, and hasn't really changed the outlook of this Bucs defense. Hopefully he can turn it around in year two.
20 2016: Leonard Floyd - 9th Overall
In the 2016 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears wanted to upgrade their defense with the ninth overall pick. They ultimately decided to select Leonard Floyd, a linebacker out of Georgia. He had a good rookie campaign as he made the All-Rookie team in 2016. Since then, he hasn't done much. Leonard Floyd hasn't made as big of an impact on defense as the Chicago Bears would have liked to have seen. Thankfully, the Bears adding the likes of Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith to their linebacking corps has helped mask some of Floyd's weaknesses.
19 2017: John Ross - 9th Overall
The 2017 draft is looking like one of those generational draft classes. Players from that draft, particularly at the skill positions, are already some of the best players in the NFL. However, the most glaring mistake of that first round appears to be the Bengals picking John Ross 9th overall after he broke the 40-yard dash record at the combine. While his downfield speed is evident, Ross just hasn't produced the way a first round receiver should. He just doesn't seem to have the complete skillset to be a top receiver in the NFL.
18 2016: Josh Doctson - 22nd Overall
The Washington Redskins decided to draft a wide receiver out of TCU with their 22nd pick in the 2016 draft, by the name of Josh Doctson. He was seen as one of the top receivers in the draft, coming out of TCU in 2015. So far in his NFL career, he has not been what the Redskins were hoping he would be. He has 63 career receptions and 836 receiving yards along with eight touchdowns since 2016. If the Redskins want to be serious contenders in the NFC East, they need Josh Doctson to step up and not be a bust of a first-round draft pick.
17 2017: Dalvin Cook - 41st Overall
More and more teams have grown hesitant to draft running backs in the first round, so Dalvin Cook being drafted 41st overall came with some pretty high expectations. It's part of why the Vikings let Adrian Peterson go prior to the 2017 season. However, while Cook has shown some flashes of brilliance, he's had trouble staying healthy and just hasn't been effective on a consistent basis. Some blame can go to play-calling, or the Vikings disappointing as a whole, but they definitely need to see more from Cook.
16 2018: Hayden Hurst - 25th Overall
The Ravens made some solid moves this past offseason to upgrade their offense and they surprised many when they took Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick. However, one of their other first rounders, Hayden Hurst, has been a big disappointment so far this season. The rookie tight end hasn't produced all that much, with fellow rookie tight end Mark Andrews becoming Jackson's go-to target. Hurst will definitely have to show some real progression in year two.
15 2016: Hunter Henry - 35th Overall
In the 2016 draft, the Los Angeles Chargers used their second-round draft pick to take Hunter Henry, a tight end out of Arkansas meant to be Antonio Gates's eventual replacement. Henry right now has 81 receptions in three seasons with 12 touchdowns to his credit. With this Los Angeles Chargers team trying to make a run at the playoffs, Henry has to be involved more after he comes off the Reserve/PUP list. They'll hope that Henry's production gets far more consistent.
14 2017: Garret Bolles - 20th Overall
The Denver Broncos have some good pieces and they've managed to grab some mid to late round steals in recent years. However, their recent first round selections haven't looked all that promising. One of their recent first round disappointments has been Garret Bolles, whose main problem has been discipline. In each of his first two seasons, he has been one of the most penalized offensive linemen in the NFL. Obviously, that's problematic for a team looking for their offensive identity.
13 2016: Christian Hackenberg - 51st Overall
The New York Jets were trying to find a quarterback to help get them back to where they were in 2010, competing with the Patriots in the AFC East division. With their second-round draft pick, the Jets decided to take Christian Hackenberg out of Penn State. Hackenberg has not played a down in a regular season game since he was drafted back in 2016. He has spent time on the practice squads of the Raiders, Eagles, and Bengals as well. Christian Hackenberg simply hasn't hacked it, pun intended, since he was initially drafted.
12 2017: Reuben Foster - 30th Overall
There were some off-field concerns about Reuben Foster going into the draft in 2017. While scouts felt he had the highest upside of any linebacker in the draft, he scared some teams off in interviews at the combine. So far in his career, Foster has been in the news for all the wrong reasons and the 49ers have already moved on from him. It's unknown when Foster will suit up again, but it's not a good sign that he's already on his second team in less than two pro seasons.
11 2018: Josh Allen - 7th Overall
The Buffalo Bills thought they finally had a good quarterback with Josh Allen coming out of Wyoming. The Bills valued him and ranked him very highly, considering they took him with their seventh overall pick in the 20188 NFL draft. Allen has shown some flashes that he could be a franchise quarterback but it feels like he should've been drafted far later than he was. He isn't necessarily lighting up defenses, and he still looks very raw for a top-10 draft pick.
10 2016: Laquon Treadwell - 23rd Overall
The 2016 draft isn't looking like a good class for wide receivers, at least not for those drafted in the first round. Just one pick after Josh Doctson went to Washington, the Vikings took Laquon Treadwell out of Ole Miss to bolster their receiving corps. Treadwell has worked his way into the offense a little more in 2018, but it's obvious he's not a starting wide receiver. Thankfully, the Vikings struck gold with mid-round steals in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, which has offset the disappointment they've gotten from Treadwell.
9 2017: Malik Hooker - 15th Overall
The Indianapolis Colts needed to bolster their defense and thought the 2017 NFL draft was a good place to start. With the 15th pick in the first round, they took Malik Hooker, a safety out of Ohio State. Hooker had been part of an Ohio State team in 2014 that won the National Championship. In the NFL, he has been inconsistent and is having a down season in year two. The Colts need more out of Hooker to make their defense better and to go back to Super Bowl contention in the AFC.
8 2016: Derrick Henry - 45th Overall
Alabama produces top NFL caliber talent every single year. The Tennessee Titans took the former Heisman winner in the second round of the 2016 draft, at 45th overall. Henry showed some good signs early on, as he formed quite a duo with DeMarco Murray. However, with the team releasing Murray last winter, Henry has failed to take the reins of the Titans' running game, losing snaps to free agent signing Dion Lewis. The Titans were clearly expecting more out of Henry.
7 2017: Mike Williams - 7th Overall
The Los Angeles Chargers wanted to give Philip Rivers some more weapons on offense and they tried to do that with the seventh pick in the 2017 NFL draft. They decided to go with Mike Williams out of Clemson. Williams helped Clemson win the 2016 National championship. So far in his time with the Chargers, Williams has struggled to produce on a consistent basis. The one saving grace to his game is that he's a solid red zone threat. The Chargers could have a chance at the playoffs this season. But, more production out of their first round pick would make them that much more dangerous.
6 2018: Josh Rosen - 10th Overall
The 2018 NFL draft saw the Arizona Cardinals having the 10th overall pick and looking for a quarterback to replace Carson Palmer, who retired in the offseason. They decided to take Josh Rosen out of UCLA. He was Second-Team All-Pac 12 in 2017 and was part of a quarterback-heavy recruiting class. So far for Rosen, he has not been what the Cardinals had hoped he would be. His touchdown to interception ratio is concerning and the Cardinals appear to be on track for a top-three pick. Hopefully, the future will be brighter for Rosen because right now, he's not looking very promising.
5 2016: Corey Coleman - 15th Overall
It is tough to play in the NFL when you are moving from team to team. For Corey Coleman, he has been experiencing that feeling all of this season. Coleman was the 15th overall pick in the 2016 draft by the Cleveland Browns, coming out of Baylor University. He was with the Browns from 2016 until 2017.
In 2018, he has been with the Bills, Patriots, and now is part of the Giants active roster. He has 58 receptions and five touchdowns and has first-round talent. Corey Coleman just has to find a solid home to get out of the bust category for good.
4 2017: Solomon Thomas - 3rd Overall
49ers GM Jon Lynch hasn't had the best track record for draft picks in his short tenure. The 49ers had the third pick in the 2017 NFL draft and decided to go for defense. They ultimately decided on Solomon Thomas out of Stanford University. Thomas was supposed to change the culture of the defense for the young 49ers. However, he has not answered the call since he came into the NFL. Thomas has been demoted several times, losing more and more snaps. The 49ers were hoping he would be involved with the defense more and that he'd set the tone for their pass rush. That hasn't happened.
3 2016: Robert Nkemdiche - 29th Overall
With the inclusion of Robert Nkemdiche, that makes it three straight years of disappointing first round picks for the Cardinals. Nkemdiche only played in five games in his rookie season, recording just one tackle. Last year, he managed to suit up for 12 games and recorded 11 tackles as well as one forced fumble. So far this season, Nkemdiche has managed to suit up in most games this season, and even recorded a multi-sack game, but he just hasn't shown enough for a first rounder.
2 2017: Corey Davis - 5th Overall
With the number five pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans tried to upgrade their wide receiving corps by adding Corey Davis from Western Michigan. Corey Davis has been a little confusing so far, as he's been very inconsistent. While he's shown at time that he has the skillset of a top-5 pick, he's yet to post a 10-catch game. For being a former MAC Offensive Player of the Year (2013), Davis needs to start putting up better numbers than he has shown.
1 2018: Sam Darnold - 3rd Overall
Sam Darnold was supposed to bring a lot of excitement to the New York Jets organization, considering he was the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Darnold had a big first game for the Jets as they beat the Lions on the road. But since that game, he has shown the same negative tendencies he had in college, throwing way more interceptions than he should be.
Granted, the Jets don't have a good offensive line and have a suspect receiving corps, but Darnold definitely has to show a lot more to prove he was worth a 3rd overall pick, especially since the Jets traded up to get him.