As the NFL has become more popular in the past few decades, the NFL Draft has received round-the-clock coverage in that time, as well. Even before one draft is over, people are already making their mock selections for the next year. It can put a lot of pressure on the college athletes that are coming out each year, and it was even more pressure when there was no rookie salary cap, making them multi-millionaires instantly.
With that said, there have been some truly exceptional draft classes over the past decade, with the most notable ones coming in 2007 and 2011. Even with bonafide studs coming out of those drafts, there have still been some huge busts. First round picks are very valuable, so owners and general managers don’t want to waste them and they can also be used as great trading pieces.
Still, it doesn’t always work out for those in the front office as you can never truly tell how a player is going to perform when making the college to NFL transition. Let’s look at some of those highly drafted players over the last decade as we show the biggest busts in each of the first 15 picks in the last 10 NFL Drafts.
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15 JaMarcus Russell
How it could it possibly be anybody else as the world first overall pick of the last decade, just barely making the cut in 2007. JaMarcus Russell was amazing at LSU and the Raiders (and many pundits) had supreme confidence that he would be a monster in the NFL. Oakland was in dire need of a franchise quarterback, but they didn’t get it in the form of Russell, passing up on perennial All-Pros Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas and Adrian Peterson.
Russell would start just 25 games for the Raiders, finishing with a career record of 7-18, 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. There have been some good quarterbacks taken with the first pick over the last decade (Luck, Newton, Stafford, Winston), but Russell is definitely not among them and is one of the biggest busts of all-time.
14 Jason Smith
Now, a lot of people are going to be quick to say the name Robert Griffin III when it comes to the biggest second overall bust in the past decade, but at least he had some flashes. After all, he did win the 2012 Rookie of the Year and helped the Redskins win the NFC East for the first time in 13 years before seemingly tearing every ligament in his body. Jason Smith would have been lucky to do any of that.
Smith went second overall in 2009, right after Matthew Stafford. You can’t really blame the Rams for trying to get their first franchise left tackle since Orlando Pace, but it just didn’t work out. It’s not like that draft was special after Stafford, anyway, with plenty more busts on the list coming from 2009.
13 Dion Jordan
Just like the second spot on the list, many people would consider the third overall pick from 2012 to be the biggest bust of the last decade, too. That pick in 2012 was Trent Richardson, but let’s not forget how good he was in his rookie year, just like RGIII. Richardson ran for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns that season before being traded for a first round pick to Indianapolis. Dion Jordan, the third pick in 2013 by Miami, has barely seen the field.
Jordan started just one game in his first two seasons with Miami and missed the 2015 season thanks to a violation of the substance abuse policy. Jordan also hasn’t played yet in the 2016 season thanks to an injury, and he has recorded just 46 tackles and three sacks in his career. At least Richardson did some good. Some of the good players taken in this spot? Joe Thomas, Matt Ryan, Gerald McCoy and Blake Bortles just to name a few.
12 Aaron Curry
Coming out of Wake Forest, Aaron Curry was one of those “sure things” you always hear about. Curry was supposed to have all of the tools needed to play linebacker, and Seahawks fans were ecstatic when he was taken fourth overall in the terrible 2009 NFL Draft. After two seasons and a small portion of a third season, Seattle was willing to part ways with Curry, shipping him to Oakland for fifth and seventh round draft picks.
A little more than a year later and the Raiders let him go. Curry then tried to make the Giants roster in 2013, but he didn’t even make it through the first round of cuts. Before the 2013 started, Curry decided that he was done pretending to be an NFL player and retired from the league, ending his career with 5.5 sacks and 190 solo tackles. Just as a reminder, here are some people taken with the fourth overall pick in the past decade: Sammy Watkins, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, A.J. Green and Trent Williams.
11 Justin Blackmon
After teasing you with the 2012 NFL Draft so far in the list, we finally have our first entrant in the form of Justin Blackmon. Blackmon bailed out mediocre lineman Levi Brown by being a complete headcase. Blackmon got off to a promising start in his career with 865 receiving yards and five touchdowns during his rookie campaign, but would play just four games the next season due to injuries and suspensions.
In 2014, Blackmon was suspended for the entire NFL season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and then did it again in 2015 by having his reinstatement shot down. After trying to make it in the CFL, Blackmon was arrested once again for a DUI, basically putting an end to his career. Blackmon doesn’t look like he’ll be back in the NFL and it’s one of the biggest cases of wasted potential in league history.
10 Vernon Gholston
The 2008 NFL Draft could be considered above average, though it did have its fair share of busts. The first one (and not the last) that makes our list is Vernon Gholston out of Ohio State. Said to be a do-it-all linebacker and defensive end hybrid, Gholston was supposed to be the anchor of the Jets defense. To say that he is the biggest bust at this spot is saying something, too, since Barkevious Mingo and Morris Claiborne (who has improved this year) were also taken in this spot in the last decade.
Gholston lasted just three seasons in the league, notching five total starts for New York. He didn’t record a single sack in those seasons and just 42 total tackles. Gholston tried to make the Bears roster in 2011 and then the Rams roster in 2012, but neither team was willing to give him a second chance.
9 Sedrick Ellis
The next entrant on the list also comes from the 2008 NFL Draft and it’s another defensive lineman (interior this time) with Sedrick Ellis. Ellis was dominant at USC as an All-American and a one-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. After being drafted by the saints, Ellis never really found his footing despite starting in 70 career games. He would finish with 12.5 sacks and 175 total tackles during his career. He lasted just five seasons before retiring when it looked like he wasn’t going to make the Bears roster.
The seventh spot hasn’t been all that bad for the NFL Draft in the past decade, Ellis just stands out as the worst ahead of offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper. Some notable players that did get drafted at the spot include Mike Evans, Joe Haden and Adrian Peterson.
8 Derrick Harvey
We’re not quite done with the 2008 NFL Draft as three duds were all lined up in a row, the next one being Derrick Harvey out of Florida, who was drafted by the Jaguars. Harvey was fresh off of a BCS National Championship MVP performance that boosted his draft stock, but his play in the SEC never translated into the NFL. Harvey would start in just 32 career games over four seasons, collecting eight sacks and 92 tackles.
Harvey would join the Denver roster after three seasons with the Jaguars, but never started a game. The eighth spot has been poison for the last decade in the NFL Draft, with names like Jamaal Anderson and Justin Gilbert just missing the cut on our list. As a matter of fact, the only player taken at this spot that hasn’t been terrible has been Ryan Tannehill.
7 Dee Milliner
Keith Rivers would have made this four straight picks from the 2008 NFL Draft if it weren’t for the comedic stylings of Dee Milliner. Milliner is one of the many defensive players to be drafted out of Alabama in the first round over the past 10 years, though it’s clear that he has been among the worst of the bunch. The Jets were hoping that they would get the next Darrelle Revis, but instead they got the next Saints-era Brandon Browner.
Milliner started 12 games in his three seasons with the Jets before getting released, recording three interceptions (all in his rookie season). Injuries have hampered him, as he will not be playing in 2016 and his 2015 season ended early. The Jets would get a better pick later in the 2013 first round with Sheldon Richardson, but it doesn’t quite make up for missing on their first pick.
6 Amobi Okoye
In 2007, the Houston Texans could have selected Patrick Willis or Marshawn Lynch, who went with the 11th and 12th overall picks that year. Instead, they went straight for the potential superstar by selecting Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. Okoye was a wunderkind that could have went to Harvard at 15 years old, so he was only 19 when he entered the 2007 NFL Draft.
Even though his ceiling was high and fans felt like he had plenty of years to develop, he never did meet expectations. Okoye played for seven seasons in the NFL, playing his final one with the Cowboys in 2014. He registered 16 sacks in that time and the 29 year old is still playing football...only it’s for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
5 Aaron Maybin
The 11th overall spot in the draft has been filled mostly with mediocrity, but you do have studs like J.J. Watt and Patrick Willis who have been taken here. One person stands above all as the worst of the group and it’s not even close. The Bills took Aaron Maybin from Penn State in 2009 to play defensive end, and he was supposedly an athletic freak.
Instead, Maybin barely made a difference in his two seasons with Buffalo, starting just one game and not recording a sack. The Jets would give him a chance in 2011 and he had a decent season with six sacks. However, those would be the only six he got and he was out of the league after the 2012 season, playing just four seasons.
4 Christian Ponder
You might think it’s a little late in the draft to find some true studs, but Odell Beckham, Jr., Marshawn Lynch and Fletcher Cox have been selected with this spot in the last decade. One player taken that didn’t meet his potential in the slightest was Christian Ponder. The best thing that Ponder has done so far in his career is marry Samantha Steele.
Ponder played for four seasons with Minnesota, finishing with a record of 14-21-1, throwing for 38 touchdowns and 36 interceptions (terrible by today’s standards). Ponder has been a backup with Denver and San Francisco since then, and is unlikely to see the field unless disaster happens for the 49ers this season as he is the third string quarterback.
3 Adam Carriker
Getting back to the 2007 NFL Draft, the Rams (then in St. Louis) had the honor of picking 13th just after Marshawn Lynch and Patrick Willis were taken. The Rams had their choice of taking players like Darrelle Revis (14th overall) and Lawrence Timmons (15th overall), but decided on Nebraska defensive lineman Adam Carriker.
Carriker didn’t make much noise in his first season and was then relegated to the bench for much of his second season. In 2009, an injury cost Carriker his season and then he was traded to the Redskins. While in Washington, Carriker had a mediocre first season, a decent second season and then played in just two games in 2012. That would be his last season in the league, finishing with just nine sacks.
2 Chris Williams
You might be thinking to yourself, “Who in the world is Chris Williams?” He is the guy that happened to be drafted immediately after Ryan Clady and Jonathan Stewart and immediately before Branden Albert and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the 2008 NFL Draft. Williams was a Bears selection out of Vanderbilt that didn’t start a game in his rookie season.
Williams would end up starting in all 16 games the next year, but didn’t do all that much afterward. All in all, Williams racked up 57 starts with the Bears and Rams, ending his career after the 2014 season. It started with a failed physical in July 2015 and he has been a free agent ever since. The Bears thought they might have their left tackle, but it turned out to be another one in a long line to not come through in the Windy City.
1 Brian Cushing
The 15th overall spot in the NFL Draft has been an interesting one, as there really haven’t been any busts, but there hasn’t been anyone that you would consider to be an elite player. Jason Pierre-Paul, Bruce Irvin, Lawrence Timmons and Branden Albert are among the players selected 15th overall, and the worst one just might be Brian Cushing. You could say Melvin Gordon after his rookie year, but it’s still a bit early to tell and he's been terrific in 2016 so far.
Cushing has been on the Texans roster ever since he’s been drafted in 2009, but he hasn’t been a consistently good player over his career like many of the other 15th overall picks. He’s been suspended for performance enhancing drugs, which isn't helping either. The injuries are mounting, and the goodwill from his PED days aren’t getting to enough to make up for what he’s bringing now, so expect the Texans to part ways.
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