Outside of the Super Bowl, the culmination of months of exciting plays for two teams battling it out, there are few NFL events that generate as much buzz as the Draft. For some, the Draft is a spectacle even more enjoyable due to every team being able to participate as opposed to the format of regular games. It is a place where the dreams of many collide. Young college players and their families dream of a better life. Coaches and executives dream of how they will make their ballclub better. Fans dream of what crazy things will ensue throughout the process.
No matter where one stands, the NFL Draft holds pleasure for many viewing the event. With that in mind, not all results from this exciting event turn out well for teams. The history of the Draft is littered with tales of prominent collegiate stars falling from grace once they step onto the professional level. Out of all the positions looked at coming out of the Draft, no position draws as much intrigue as the quarterback does.
For teams and fanbases clamoring for a change, the quickest way to go from a mediocre club to a relevant one in the NFL rides on drafting a franchise-caliber quarterback. That desire for a franchise-changing talent leads teams to uncertain, terrible futures if the wrong choice is made. Today, we are turning back the clock to examine some of the biggest busts at quarterback since 2008, and where they find themselves at this junction in time.
15 Jake Locker - Retired (Gym Owner)
The 2011 Draft was just a sad year for quarterbacks not named Cam Newton. As one of the top prospects in the 2011 class, Locker was lauded for his immense arm talent and athletic ability, but his erratic accuracy was deemed a concern for many teams. Falling in love with the potential of Locker, Tennessee took him at the 8th pick of the Draft. A combination of injuries, poor play, and a diminishing desire to play the game ended Locker's time in Tennessee.
Locker cited his reasoning for retiring in his prime based on a loss of the desire to play the game while having a greater desire to be the best family man he could be. Currently, Locker is a co-owner of the gym, Locker Room Fitness.
14 Pat White - Financial Representative
White had perhaps one of the shortest tenures for a quarterback drafted that high with no off the field issues. White being an experimental quarterback was no secret as he came into the 2009 draft. He possessed none of the attributes teams look for in a prototypical quarterback by being undersized and often having bouts of inaccuracy. Despite those factors, the Dolphins seemed to pull the plug on him sooner than normal for one drafted in the second round.
Project players always take multiple years to develop and there was enough intrigue in White’s abilities along with the Dolphins' obsession with the Wildcat offense to warrant more of an investment. Regardless, the Dolphins saw what they needed to see. His departure from Miami was the beginning of White bouncing from the United Football League and the CFL until his retirement from professional ball in 2015. White now works as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual in Clarksburg.
13 Sam Bradford - QB, Arizona Cardinals
Sam Bradford is the bust that just keeps on giving. In terms of ability alone, Bradford would hardly be considered a bust while posting an 85.1 QB rating (101 touchdowns and 57 interceptions) so far in his career. It’s been his injury-prone nature that allowed him to land on this list. Despite having a porous track record in terms of health, he has managed to repeatedly incur enough interest for teams to continue signing his services.
Originally thought to be the future of the Rams, Bradford has only managed to produce bits of false hope for each team that had acquired his services.
That hope from great performances quickly faded as his body succumbed to further injury. His inability to stay healthy has forced all the teams he has been on to replace him with either a top rookie or a pro bowl signal caller.
After his latest injury-plagued year, Bradford has found a home as the Cardinals’ starter barring the inevitable injury he will incur.
12 Mark Sanchez - Suspended
Once upon a time, Mark Sanchez was lauded for his grit and ability to aid the great defense of the Jets by leading the team to back to back AFC title games. Today, Sanchez's name has become synonymous with the terms bust and butt fumble. Sanchez like many failed quarterbacks that have come before him suffered at the hands of poor coaching and development.
The newest trend in NFL today is paring up potential franchise quarterbacks alongside a strong offensive-minded coach that can bring out the best of the player. The Jets failed to understand that and wrapped themselves up in the idea that a strong defense could weather any misfortune that came their way.
The lack of a proper offensive-minded coach, fresh, young talent along with the myriad of distractions caused Sanchez to crumple under the pressure and flunk out as a starter in the league. Sanchez was without a doubt a raw talent that needed the correct system to succeed like many signal callers before him.
After spending much of the 2017 season as the Bear's third-string quarterback, Sanchez has been suspended four games for a PED violation.
11 Josh Freeman - CFL QB (Montreal Alouettes)
It's sad that many fans have forgotten the once-promising blip on the radar that was Josh Freeman. After the 2009 Draft, Freeman impressed the eyes of many showing flashes of greatness during his 2009 campaign. The following year saw that faith in Freeman continue to progress as he improved his numbers considerably in every category while posting a 95.9 QB rating. The remainder of his career with the Buccaneers remains a mystery.
The arrival of new head coach Greg Schiano boosted Freeman's numbers to career highs posting 27 touchdowns and throwing for over 4,000 yards, but the new regime had set its eyes on replacing Freeman due to a growing rift between him and the head coach. That rift seemingly came to a head after a poor 2013 start for Freeman and the insertion of rookie Mike Glennon as the starter.
Mike Glennon's rise sealed the deal for Freeman's time in Tampa Bay.
His subsequent release from the league saw Freeman bounce around to several different teams over the next three years before ending up in the CFL. He recently signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes.
10 Christian Ponder - Broadcaster
Ponder stands as an excellent example of how a being desperate for a quarterback is a disservice to a team, the players, and the fanbase. Coming into the 2011 Draft, many draft experts had him pegged as a second-round talent but assumed he could go in the first based on the scarcity of the position. During his time with the Vikings, Ponder’s performance in his rookie year fluctuated at various points leaving many to believe that he was more a developmental quarterback than originally thought. His second year saw a turnaround as Ponder had his best NFL season throwing 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while leading the Vikings to a 10-6 record.
That year was not enough to fully instill confidence in Ponder for the Vikings. Struggling early on during the 2013 season along with getting some injuries prompted the Vikings to bench him in favor of Matt Cassel and then Josh Freeman (neither played well either). Ponder saw his time with Vikings come to an end after the 2014 season and hasn’t played since 2016. Currently, Ponder is still a free agent but dedicated his time to raising his family and supporting his wife’s, Samantha Ponder, ESPN career.
9 Blaine Gabbert - Backup QB (Tennessee Titans)
Looking back at the 2011 Draft class, one has to scratch his head when remembering there was a time Gabbert was in contention for the number one pick over Cam Newton. Before it became apparent that Gabbert was best utilized as a backup in the league, his physical talents had him being labeled as an ideal prototypical quarterback. The main knock on Gabbert was how well he would be able to transition from the spread style offense to a pro-style game. Those concerns turned out to be evident as he heavily struggled with handling pocket pressure during his rookie year. With Gabbert under center, the Jaguars limped to a 5-22 record while throwing 22 touchdowns to 24 interceptions.
Three years into his tenure with the Jaguars, Gabbert was traded to the 49ners where he found limited success at times from 2014-2016 and has since signed with Tennessee Titans as the backup.
8 E.J Manuel - Backup QB (Oakland Raiders)
Being the first-round pick for a team normally grants a player a fairly long leash in terms of mistakes. That was far from the case for E.J Manuel. After an up and down rookie year, Manuel was quickly benched in favor of backup quarterback Kyle Orton in 2014. The sudden retirement of Orton and departure of head coach Doug Marrone gave Manuel another opportunity to win his starting job back but ultimately lost it to Tyrod Taylor.
The quick benching of Manuel during Marrone’s time with the team essentially ended his days as a starter in the NFL.
The next few years he went to backup Tyrod Taylor and then Derek Carr when he joined the Raiders in 2017. In March of 2018, Manuel re-signed with the Raiders and continues to back up Carr.
7 Brock Osweiler - Backup QB (Miami Dolphins)
It took him some time to get here, but after a few years in Denver prepping to be Peyton Manning's successor Osweiler landed in the bust territory after a horrific year as the Texans quarterback. Osweiler's fall was stranger than most as he showed little signs of being a bust during his time in Denver. Emulating the same strategy that Packers had with Aaron Rodgers, the Broncos allowed for Osweiler to sit on the bench for over three years.
During that time, he soaked in as much as he could from the future Hall of Fame player and it seemed to pay off. The rapid decline in Manning's play prompted the Broncos to insert Osweiler in the lineup to rejuvenate the offense. That decision worked out as Osweiler went 5-2 as the starter.
The sudden benching of Osweiler in favor of Manning caused a rift prompting him to not resign with the Broncos in the 2016 season but instead with the Texans. His time with the Texans was a disaster, to say the least. Despite signing him to a four-deal worth $72 million, Osweiler was traded away to the Browns after one year of horrendous play. After being cut from the Browns, Osweiler returned to the Broncos once more in a backup role. After yet another disappointing season, Osweiler signed on with the Miami Dolphins for 2018, in what is surely his last shot as an NFL QB.
6 Brandon Weeden - Backup QB (Houston Texans)
Sadly, with age does not always come wisdom in the world of professional athletes. None exude this as well as Brandon Weeden. Among the long list of failed quarterback experiments in Cleveland, Weeden has a special spot as one of the oldest busts to come out of the NFL Draft ever back in 2012. At the age of 28, a time where many starters had at least five years of experience under their belt, his best-case scenario would be immediately adapting to the NFL so he could have a good career well into his thirties. Like many rookies, immediate success was not in the cards for him.
Weeden struggled to showcase the aptitude to work through progressions at a professional level despite the physical talent he possessed.
After only two years with the Browns, he was released and has spent the rest of his NFL career as a backup to various teams. In March 2018, he signed with the Texans again as a backup for Deshaun Watson.
5 Geno Smith - Backup QB (L.A. Chargers)
Geno Smith consistently finds himself in the headlines for stories that have little to do with his poor play on the field. From thinking the Earth is flat (sadly this has become a thing), to being punched in the jaw by teammates and unintentionally being the villain behind Eli Manning’s ridiculous benching in 2017, conversations regarding Smith focus little on his status as a bust. While one could attest that a second-round quarterback couldn’t be considered a bust, it is more about the player’s colligate history and the team’s motivation behind drafting him.
In Smith’s case, a vibrant career at West Virginia alongside the Jet’s need for a quarterback change when they drafted him placed high expectation on Smith as a rookie. Those expectations quickly evaporated as Smith failed to display consistency at the position and was benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick during his third year on the Jets.
Despite the up and down play of Fitzpatrick, Smith remained the backup until an ACL injury forced his release from the Jets in 2017 and then signed with the Giants. On April 1, 2018, Smith reached a one-year deal with the Chargers as their backup.
4 Tim Tebow - Minor League Baseball
No matter how much he may get berated as a quarterback in the NFL, Tim Tebow was without a doubt one of the most entertaining players to watch in the last decade. The former 2010 first-rounder and Heisman trophy winner experienced a mixed bag of results during his NFL tenure. Good, winning quarterbacks have been heralded as poised figures in complete control of the game whether through razor-sharp accuracy, cannon-like arm strength, or creative playing making while on the move. Tebow exuded none of that. He was unpolished in footwork, hilariously inaccurate, and seemingly devoid of the necessary skills to play quarterback at the pro level. Despite all of that, he somehow continued to win in Denver.
In the face of doubters for months, Tebow won game after game in an unorthodox manner that befuddled the minds of all. His games were captivating as he went from being one of the worst quarterbacks in history to conducting game-winning drives at the drop of a hat.
No magic lasts forever though as Tebow’s dearth of skill caught up to him and he found himself quickly expunged from the NFL after a few seasons. The last few years have seen Tebow enjoy success as a college football broadcaster, a minor league baseball player, and recently was offered to join Steve Spurrier’s AAF (Alliance of American Football) team but has yet to decide.
3 Robert Griffin III - Backup QB (Baltimore Ravens)
In hindsight, the 2012 draft just did not work out well for the Redskins between drafting Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III (RGIII). It started out well at first with RGIII being named rookie of the year. Under those accolades, it looked like their decision to trade three first-round picks for Griffin was a sound decision. Then the rest of his career happened.
Injuries just seemed to follow RGIII as he failed to play through a full 16 game season even once.
Coupled alongside those myriads of injuries, the good play of Kirk Cousins all but closed the door on RGIII's days in Washington in 2016.
Following his release from the Redskins, RGIII signed with the Browns as their starter but once more suffered through injuries which caused his release after the season. With the fear of injuries staining his name, RGIII remained unsigned throughout 2017. He recently returned to the NFL and signed with the Ravens in 2018 as the backup to Joe Flacco.
2 Paxton Lynch - Riding The Bench
One has to wonder if the Broncos will ever be able to draft a decent quarterback to lead their team. Surprisingly, the prestigious franchise has had just as many busts at the quarterback position as the Browns in the last ten years. Probably not the greatest company you want to keep. The latest of these series of busts comes in the form of Paxton Lynch, the 2016 first-round pick. Lynch was the replacement option following the unexpected loss of Brock Osweiler in free agency the same year.
Originally, the Broncos were beaming over the selection of Lynch, but after two years the small-school quarterback just seems unable to fully digest an NFL offense. Most busts can credit consistent poor play on the field to their fall from grace, but Lynch can’t even impress his coaches enough to warrant getting an opportunity to do so. Currently, Lynch stands as the backup to Case Keenum on the roster, but if the Broncos do select another QB in the 2018 Draft he could be traded.
1 Johnny Manziel - Playing In The Spring League
If there was any year that the Browns proved to the NFL world that whatever decision they make just seems to fail, then it was the 2014 Draft. Despite possessing two first-round picks once again, the Browns failed to procure solid talent as they ended up with defensive back Justin Gilbert (currently serving a suspension) and the roller coaster experience of Johnny Football.
Despite his electric collegiate career and some flashes of success at the pro level, his tenure with the Browns was overshadowed by one off the field issue after another.
Recurring injuries and late-night escapades highlighted Manziel’s time with the Browns thus prompting his release in 2016.
Since his release, Manziel has tried out for several teams but none have offered him a deal. In 2018, Manziel has played several games in The Spring League, a developmental scouting event for players to showcase their talents. His intent remains to one day return to the NFL now that he has matured and put his partying lifestyle behind him.