Draft picks – they’re the most valued assets in the NFL. Teams value first round picks heavily and only give them up for star players in massive roles. When the draft comes around, those first round picks are the best players in college football, the players that are expected to be future stars for the next 10-20 years. First round picks are maybe the one round where players are expected to make an immediate impact in their rookie season. However, even 2nd to mid round picks are important. Getting solid contributors in the mid rounds could be what separates a good team from a great team. Just look at the New Orleans Saints. They're reaping the benefits of absolutely nailing the 2017 draft. In one draft, they got Marshon Lattimore, Alvin Kamara and Ryan Ramczyk. The Chiefs got Patrick Mahomes and Kareem Hunt. The Steelers got T.J. Watt, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Is it a coincidence the Saints, Chiefs and Steelers are elite teams in the league now?
Now, with players that are considered draft busts of the last two drafts, aren’t necessarily done for their career. What we mean is that they haven’t performed up to expectations through their time in the NFL. Obviously, these players have plenty of time to turn things around, but this is an early evaluation of what these players have done in their young careers.
We have a better idea of which players are considered busts from the 2017 draft, but we will include a few from the 2018 draft. Prepare for an analysis of the most disappointing draft picks over the last two seasons. It may be difficult to be, but sometimes the truth is for the best. Some of the players not on this list may actually shock you, considering they may have struggled their rookie season. Here goes nothing: 15 draft busts from the 2017 draft and five from this past 2018 draft.
20 2017: Cam Robinson - Jacksonville Jaguars (OT)
Last season, Cam Robinson was up and down. According to Pro Football Focus, the Jaguars offensive line was ranked 15th in the NFL. A reason why they were lower than anticipated was that of Robinson’s play. Robinson struggled in some areas of his game but was also solid in other aspects. 2018 was expected to be the season he really took off until he tore his ACL early in September and would miss the remainder of the season.
The Jaguars haven’t fully got the worth that Robinson was as an early second-rounder. Some analysts believed that Robinson would actually be a late first rounder.
19 2017: Solomon Thomas - San Francisco 49ers (DE)
When the San Francisco 49ers traded down from no.2 to no.3 in the 2017 draft and got Solomon Thomas, many lauded the move, as they didn't feel Mitchell Trubisky was worthy of a 2nd overall pick. While we won't fault the Niners for passing on Trubisky, their selection of Solomon Thomas is looking questionable. Thomas has been solid against the run (rated over 70 on Pro Football Focus) but he's failed to make much of an impact on the pass rush. He seems to be a bad fit for the Niners defense.
As PFF’s Sam Monson explains: "The root of his struggles lie in being played out of position as a rookie. Thomas is something of a tweener when it comes to body type (just 273-pounds at the NFL combine), but is fundamentally an interior lineman, not an edge rusher."
18 2017: Curtis Samuel - Carolina Panthers (WR)
A lot of fans are going to disagree with this, and that is perfectly fine. For a wide receiver that was drafted in the second round of a draft, Curtis Samuel should be doing much more.
Samuel is seen as a potential threat on this offense because of his speed, and some may feel he's underutilized. Was he actually worth that early of a draft pick? The Panthers are in need of receivers, so one has to wonder is Samuel is the answer. The good news for him is the Panthers only expect him to be a no.2 receiver, as they used a first rounder on D.J. Moore this year.
17 2018: Kolton Miller - Oakland Raiders (OT)
Injuries have hurt multiple young players, with Kolton Miller being another as well. While Miller has a ton of potential, he hasn’t been very good this season. Part, of course, is due to the lack of strength, which causes for a mismatch in pass protection. The biggest purpose for drafting Miller was to protect Derek Carr, and he hasn’t necessarily done that this season.
Miller has a long way to go, but the rookie season isn’t what is expected of him. Once Miller gets healthy it will be much easier to criticize him, while now he’s battled injuries all season.
16 2017: DeMarcus Walker - Denver Broncos (DE)
Expectations were high for DeMarcus Walker coming out of Florida State. As the draft came closer, Walker began to drop down on analysts' draft boards. Walker was criticized for his stamina and was struggling to make tackles. This all led him to get drafted in the second round, which was a disappointment, considering he was originally projected to be a first-round draft pick.
In his first two seasons, Walker has only combined for two sacks and he has had trouble getting snaps on a consistent basis. It shows how ineffective he’s been, as the Broncos have kept Walker inactive most of the time, and went out to draft another pass rusher.
15 2017: O.J. Howard - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TE)
O.J. Howard hasn't necessarily been bad so far, but he came into the draft with very high expectations. Many expected him to be one of those game-changing tight ends when the Buccaneers spent a first round pick on him (19th overall). So far, Howard has shown an ability to find the endzone, but he's struggled to be a solid contributor on a consistent basis. Many targets have gone to fellow tight end Cameron Brate. In fairness to Howard, the quarterback play in Tampa has been incredibly inconsistent, so perhaps Howard will show some improvement if the Bucs QB play improves next year.
14 2017: Reuben Foster - Washington Redskins (LB)
You know the story, so you probably expected him to be considered a draft bust. Reuben Foster has been a troublemaker from the moment he stepped foot into the league, due to the numerous off-field incidents he was involved in. The most recent incident led to his recent release from the 49ers, which is a huge disappointment for a player only in his second year.
The Redskins claimed him off waivers, but his future in the league is uncertain. The talent is there, but the maturity is not. Overall, the 49ers' 2017 draft class isn't looking so good at the moment.
13 2018: Hayden Hurst - Baltimore Ravens (TE)
Tight ends have almost become the equivalent to adding another receiver in a lot of NFL offenses. That's what the Baltimore Ravens were looking for when they took Hayden Hurst 25th overall this year, but Hurst has not emerged as a threat at all in this Baltimore offense. The Ravens followed up their 25th overall pick by taking Lamar Jackson 32nd, so clearly, they were hoping Hurst and Jackson could grow together. Instead, third round pick Mark Andrews has outproduced Hurst for the Ravens. If the Ravens had to do it over again, they're likely regretting reaching for Hurst.
12 2017: Haason Reddick - Arizona Cardinals (LB)
When a second year linebacker who was taken in the first round (13th Overall) loses his starting job early in year two, it's never a good sign. Under first year head coach Steve Wilks, who runs the defense in Arizona, Reddick has continued to see his role dwindle, and his starting job went to Gerald Hodges earlier in the season. Reddick just doesn't seem to fit in Arizona and there were reports going around in October that he was on the trade market. We'll have to see this offseason if the Cardinals continue to shop him. For the Cardinals' sake, it looks like they whiffed on this pick.
11 2017: Garrett Bolles - Denver Broncos (OT)
We get it, Denver hasn’t done the best job in the draft over the past few seasons. Garett Bolles is another name who has struggled for the Broncos, despite showing some potential in some games. For the most part, though, he hasn’t been as well as expected.
Bolles continuously gets penalized, which may be his biggest issue. As an offensive lineman, you need to be aggressive, but smart. Penalties just set your team backward. Pass protection has also been an area he’s struggled, letting pass rushers get to Case Keenum. On the bright side, Bolles has openly acknowledged his struggles, but we have to see improvement on the field.
10 2017: Leonard Fournette - Jacksonville Jaguars (RB)
At the time of the draft, Leonard Fournette was considered the best running back in the draft. Now a season and a half later, he may not even be in the top 3 most talented backs. Guys like Christian McCaffrey, Kareem Hunt, and Alvin Kamara are on another level above Fournette, and it’s not even necessarily because of Fournette’s inability to stay healthy. Fournette’s durability concerns have to be spoken about though.
Fournette played in 18 out of 27 possible games to begin his career. Injuries have set him back, not to mention the boneheaded suspension he received for getting into an altercation during a game. The bottom line is, he’s not performing at the same level as other running backs from his draft class. It's looking like the Jags could've done a lot better with the fourth overall pick.
9 2018: James Washington - Pittsburgh Steelers (WR)
With the Martavis Bryant trade, the Steelers needed to add another receiver to fill the void. Last season, the offense looked as good as it could be, with three wide receivers with tremendous talent. This season, they have relied more so on a heavy run game with James Conner.
Maybe the Steelers didn’t expect James Washington to jump right into things. He has less than 100 receiving yards for the season. It’s clear Ben Roethlisberger has yet to build that trust with Washington. He even called Washington out recently for a big drop against he Denver Broncos in a Week 12 loss. That lack of trust from his quarterback can be problematic as it could delay his growth.
8 2017: Charles Harris - Miami Dolphins (DE)
A war daddy, that’s the perfect way to describe what Charles Harris’ role at Mizzou was. Through three seasons, Harris finished with 136 total tackles, 34.5 tackles for a loss, and 18 sacks. Harris would be what you could consider, the perfect defensive end.
He had the strength, the power, the speed, the everything a team wanted in a defensive end. Sometimes pass rushers take a few years to get adjusted to the change from college to the NFL. While that could be the case for Harris, it’s still expected that he would have gotten to the quarterback more than twice in a year and a half.
7 2017: Sidney Jones - Philadelphia Eagles (CB)
Sidney Jones was supposed to be a first-round draft pick, one of the best cornerbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft. It seemed like he would get drafted near the end of the first round, maybe. Unfortunately, we will never know what “would have happened.” Sidney Jones was carted off during his NFL Pro Day at Washington, as he hurt his leg. Since then, Jones has never been the same.
We have yet to see a healthy Jones in the NFL. Injuries have completely derailed his whole career. While it was worth the gamble for the Eagles, it’s not paying off just yet.
6 2017: D'Onta Foreman - Houston Texans (RB)
2017 was the season that would be the beginning of a new era for the Houston Texans. They drafted two potential offensive superstars in Deshaun Watson and D’Onta Foreman. Unfortunately for Houston, both players sustained injuries. Watson was able to come back and perform at a high level in 2018, where we haven’t seen that out of Foreman.
Foreman would have had so many opportunities to take over Lamar Miller’s position, but he’s not healthy enough yet. The talent is there, but the injuries are holding him back. If Foreman does ever get back to 100%, this Texans team can be scary for years to come.
5 2018: Ronald Jones II - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (RB)
Most 2018 draft picks are really difficult to attribute with the word "bust", but Ronald Jones II is a fairly easy call. Jones started off the season inactive, as reports said that he struggled to understand the playbook.
Jones has averaged just over two yards per carry. On a Buccaneers team that looks to find their running game, they’re keeping their second-round pick off the field. What makes this look worse is that other running backs like Kerryon Johnson were available. It's clear that Jones II wasn't ready for 2018 and in a league where it's commonplace for rookie running backs to hit the ground running, Jones has fell behind.
4 2017: Taco Charlton - Dallas Cowboys (DE)
Give credit where credit is due; Stephen Jones and Will McClay have done a fantastic job drafting the past few seasons. Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott, these are all Pro Bowl talents that the Cowboys drafted. The past five first-round draft picks have served the Cowboys well. All, that is, but Taco Charlton.
In the 2017 draft, the Cowboys took a different approach than usual. They drafted a position in need, rather than the best available player. It turns out, Charlton wasn’t even the best at his position. While he’s played well against the run, they’re looking for him to turn things up as a pass rusher.
3 2017: DeShone Kizer - Green Bay Packers (QB)
What the Browns are looking like in 2018 was how they expected to look last season. Their first- and second-round draft picks were praised in Cleveland, but one of them is no longer with them. DeShone Kizer was traded to the Green Bay Packers, following a 0-16 season where he threw 22 interceptions.
The statistic definitely looks worse, but Kizer has a ton of potential. With the offensive line struggling, Kizer tried to do too much, and he paid the consequences. Who knows what the Packers’ plan for Kizer is, but the former second-round pick has only played once since being a starter last season.
2 2017: John Ross - Cincinnati Bengals (WR)
A good 40-yard dash doesn’t equal a good wide receiver. The football world went crazy when John Ross broke the official record in the 40-yard dash, which helped boost his draft stock as the draft approached. Well, his speed hasn’t helped his play.
Ross missed most of his rookie season and has yet to make an impact coming back from an injury. Obviously, the injury has to have some type of impact, but he should be showing some signs of progression, especially with A.J. Green taking the attention of opposing defenders. With other talented players available, Ross looks more and more like a draft bust as other players shine.
1 2018: Josh Rosen - Arizona Cardinals (QB)
Granted, Josh Rosen could’ve been put in a much better situation to start off his NFL career, but that’s not the way the game works. What we can’t forget, is that Rosen has some pretty solid weapons, including Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson, and now possibly Christian Kirk. With those three guys, he really hasn’t moved the football that well. In fact, he’s turning the football over.
Overall, this team needs to play much better. While Sam Darnold is very close behind him, Rosen is playing the worst out of all the quarterbacks drafted in 2018. Josh Allen was originally right with him, but lately, Allen has shown that he can be a playmaker, and be really good with the right pieces.