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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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