The NFL Draft is a crap-shoot of potential stars and future busts. Nobody really knows how a player will pan out in the NFL, but teams do their very best to research and find out which players will succeed at the next level. No matter how much money teams spend in their research and scouting departments, however, the draft will never be an exact science. The risk of a player becoming a bust or a late round pick becoming a steal is what makes the NFL Draft such an exciting weekend for fans and franchises alike. The hope surrounding each pick is always high before the seasons starts.
Now that the 2017 regular season is over, it's time to take a look back at the 2017 NFL Draft and review which picks worked out well and which picks teams are probably regretting now. Of course, any of these players listed as "bust" on this list can bounce back in 2018 and become a superstar, just like any "star" player listed here could get overly-confident and fall back to earth next season. But as we sit here right now, there is clearly a discrepancy between some picks because some look like sure-fire superstars and others look like career back-ups. Did your favorite team fall victim to the dreaded draft day bust? Or did they pick up a future franchise cornerstone? Read below to find out.
15 Bust: Zay Jones, WR (Buffalo Bills)
It's never easy for a wide receiver to be drafted in a position where he is expected to be a starter from day one, but that is the situation that Zay Jones found himself in when the Buffalo Bills traded up seven spots in the second round to get him. Unfortunately, Jones failed to live up to the hype and had a very underwhelming rookie season by any standards.
Despite getting regular playing time as a rookie, Jones was never able to top more than 70 yards in any single game. Making matters even worse was that Jones finished the season with only two receiving touchdowns. That is alarming because for a receiver his size (6'2", 200 pounds), Jones should be making a killing inside the redzone. It was reported after the season that Jones had a lingering shoulder injury, so hopefully that was the reason for his lackluster rookie season.
14 Star: Kareem Hunt, RB (Kansas City Chiefs)
On the opposite spectrum of situations, Kareem Hunt was not expected to be a day one starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, let along be a main contributor. The Chiefs running back room seemed to be in a good place when the preseason began with Spencer Ware listed as the main back.
Once Ware went down with a knee injury in preseason, Hunt stepped up and took the lead back job and has yet to look back.
All Hunt did in his first career start was run for 148 yards and a touchdown, as well as rack up 98 yards and two touchdowns receiving... against the New England Patriots of all teams. This performance opened the eyes of everybody in the NFL and fantasy football worlds. Hunt finished the year strong and was selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. The future is bright in Kansas City with Hunt at running back and Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.
13 Bust: DeShone Kizer, QB (Cleveland Browns)
I really hate to call DeShone Kizer a bust already because it's not his fault that he got drafted by the Cleveland Browns, who are notorious for ruining rookie quarterbacks chances at success in the NFL. But it's impossible not to call Kizer a bust at this point because he still doesn't have a win on his NFL resume, despite receiving 15 starts as a rookie.
Yes, his NFL record so far is 0-15. Ouch.
Because the Browns and Kizer both failed to show any signs of improvement throughout the season, it's likely that the organization will use one of it's top two picks in the 2018 NFL Draft (#1 and #4 overall) on a new franchise quarterback. My guess is the Browns will select Sam Darnold with the #1 overall pick and have he and Kizer battle for the starting job in the preseason. Kizer just doesn't have the elite skill set to hold off the potential of Darnold.
12 Star: Reuben Foster, LB (San Francisco 49ers)
It seemed crazy when the San Francisco 49ers let Navarro Bowman go at the beginning of the season because he has been their heart and soul of the middle of their defense for years. What we didn't know was that Reuben Foster was ready to take that role and thrive in it, which is exactly what he did. Foster, who was coming off a major injury to start the season, became a beast and true leader for the 49ers in his rookie season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Foster finished the season with an overall grade of 90.7, which topped fellow rookie sensations Myles Garrett and Marcus Williams. In fact, Foster was so good in his rookie season, that many experts are expecting him to join the elite class of middle linebackers with guys like Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner by the 2018 season. He was that good. With Foster on defense and Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, the Niners could make a run at the NFC West crown as early as next season.
11 Bust: Haason Reddick, LB (Arizona Cardinals)
The Arizona Cardinals knew they were taking a risk when they drafted Haason Reddick at #13 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Although Reddick tested through the roof on character, athleticism and size, he was never a huge stat producer in college. His name was never one you heard by commentators as a guy that was capable of totally disrupting a game at the collegiate level.
He also didn't have a true position in the NFL. Would he be a defensive end? An inside linebacker? Outside linebacker? Turns out he would play just about all of these positions during his first year with the Cardinals due to injuries to other players. It's hard to declare Reddick a bust because he was often playing out of position but regardless, more was still expected out of the #13 pick. I will say, however, he did still have plays where his athleticism would make you say "wow." Hopefully he can make more "wow" plays in 2018.
10 Star: Christian McCaffrey, RB (Carolina Panthers)
The statistics themselves don't show it, but Christian McCaffrey has that "it" factor that superstars have. If you watch a Carolina Panthers game, it's easy to see why they fell in love with McCaffrey and drafted him in the first round because he is capable of making a game changing play at any second.
His home run ability was never more apparent than when he lit up the Saints for a 56 yard touchdown catch and run in the wild card round of the playoffs.
Although the Panthers still ended up losing that game, you could see the elite level of explosiveness that McCaffrey has. With Jonathan Stewart starting to age out of his prime, look for McCaffrey to make the jump into the lead back in Carolina next year. He will be a huge fantasy football steal in many drafts next season.
9 Bust: Joe Mixon, RB (Cincinnati Bengals)
Although there are several rookie running backs that made this list, 2017 wasn't kind to all of the rookie class at that position. One of those victims was Joe Mixon. It's hard to call Mixon a "bust" because he was drafted later in the second round, but all the reports about him claimed he had top 15 talent in the draft.
Mixon, as a result of his off the field violence issues, fell in the draft and landed with the Bengals. The Bengals eventually named him the starter, but Mixon never really took advantage of his playing time. There were times where he would flash signs of brilliance, but overall he lacked the consistency and toughness required to play the running back position in the NFL. He may not be a total bust, but I'm placing him on the list simply because he under-performed and his characters issues are still a concern going forward.
8 Star: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (Pittsburgh Steelers)
When I was initially putting this list together, I kept putting Cooper Kupp in the conversation and was set that he could become a future star in this league. But then I thought about the impact that Juju Smith-Schuster had on the Steelers offense this year and the bravado he brings to the position and it made me realize that Smith-Schuster is a year away from being a superstar in the NFL.
Although Kupp is solid and a great intermediate route runner, he drops too many balls to be considered an elite possession receiver at this time. Smith-Schuster, on the other hand, may never be a high reception total guy, but he can and will consistently take the top of opposing defenses. He has also shown the ability to take a short screen pass and bust it for a 60 yard touchdown at any given moment. Smith-Schuster plays hard and fast, and for that reason, I believe he is already a star in the making.
7 Bust: Taco Charlton, DE (Dallas Cowboys)
The Dallas Cowboys came into the season with expectations that Taco Charlton could be their leading pass rusher by the end of the season. Thankfully for the Cowboys, DeMarcus Lawrence exploded onto the scene with 14.5 sacks, nearly doubling his career total from the previous three seasons. While Lawrence was consistently causing havoc on opposing quarterbacks, Charlton was often looking lost and over-matched.
While his play was trending upwards toward the end of the season, Charlton was never a true factor in any game during his rookie season.
For a first round pick who came in with high pass-rushing expectations, he failed to produce much excitement for Cowboy fans. The guy is a physical freak so it's possible he turns it around at some point, but as of now Charlton looks like a bust.
6 Star: Marshon Lattimore, CB (New Orleans Saints)
The Saints, more than any other team in the league, managed a huge turnaround season that was built through their 2017 NFL Draft. In 2016, the Saints were not a very good team and had holes throughout their roster. Remarkably, the Saints were able to find steal after steal after steal in the 2017 NFL Draft and those players are the ones that helped lead them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Marshon Lattimore was one of those key draft day additions, as he was able to help revamp the Saints secondary (along with fellow rookie Marcus Williams) and turn it into one of the league's best. Not only was Lattimore a lockdown corner, he was also prone to generate turnovers as well, evidenced by his 5 interceptions as a rookie. Lattimore was named to the All-Rookie team and for good reason. He'll become a top 10 corner in the NFL within the next few seasons.
5 Bust: Mike Williams, WR (Los Angeles Chargers)
It's not fair to label somebody a bust when injuries were a major factor in their ability to make an impact during their rookie season, but in the case of Mike Williams, I'm going to go ahead and do it. Williams was drafted with the #7 overall pick in the draft and was obviously expected to help generate a passing attack in Los Angeles alongside Keenan Allen.
When Williams was actually able to get on the field, he failed to do anything worth noting.
He has one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Philip Rivers, yet could not generate more than 11 receptions for 95 yards in the 10 games he played in as a rookie. To be honest, I didn't even realize he had ever returned from his back injury because he was so quiet throughout his rookie year. The Chargers better hope he bounces back in 2018 or else this pick could haunt them for years to come.
4 Star: Alvin Kamara, RB (New Orleans Saints)
As mentioned above, the New Orleans Saints absolutely killed it in the 2017 NFL Draft. Included in their many steal selections was third round pick Alvin Kamara. Kamara's selection went widely unnoticed until he began turning heads in training camp and preseason. As the regular season commenced and Kamara continued to perform well in limited opportunity, it became apparent that he was the real deal.
Kamara eventually joined Mark Ingram in the Saints backfield to form a formidable one-two punch. Although Kamara didn't receive many carries, he made the most of every touch he got. Incredibly, Kamara was the most "productive per touch" running back in the past 25 years. He finished the season with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. Most remarkably is that he finished the season with a 6.8 yards per carry average. That is insane. Kamara is already a star but could become a top 3 running back within the next few years.
3 Bust: Jabrill Peppers, S (Cleveland Browns)
There might not have been a better all around athlete in the 2017 NFL Draft than Jabrill Peppers. During his final season at Michigan, Peppers played an astounding 933 snaps (726 on defense; 154 on special teams; and 53 plays on offense) and registered plays at 15 different positions. He was the ultimate jack-of-all-trades at Michigan and it was his elite athleticism that allowed him to play that way.
But much like Haason Reddick, Peppers was a risky pick because he didn't have a sure-fire NFL position.
The Browns decided to take that risk when they drafted him #25 overall and placed him as a safety in the NFL. Although many believe Peppers had a bad year because of the system he was placed in in Cleveland, it's undeniable that he failed to make the splash type plays that are expected of someone when that level of athleticism. Don't count him out yet, but as of now this pick, along with many other things in their organization, is looking a little shaky for the Browns.
2 Star: Tre'Davious White, CB (Buffalo Bills)
No other player immediately stepped into a big role and excelled in every single game of the season as much as Tre'Davious White. This former LSU Tiger was outstanding all season and finished the year with 4 interceptions to boot. His style of play and athleticism brings early comparisons to another LSU great, Patrick Peterson. It's always a good thing when you are being compared to arguable the greatest player in the league at your position.
White is the heavy favorite to win the Defensive Rookie-of-the-Year award and was a major reason why the Buffalo Bills were able to sneak into the playoffs in 2017. If he continues his high level of play in 2018, he will surely become king of the Bills Mafia in no-time. If you haven't seen this guy play, check out Youtube and watch some highlights because he is pretty amazing for a rookie.
1 Bust: John Ross, WR (Cincinnati Bengals)
Whenever you break the NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash record, you are going to carry some high expectations with you. Ross did just that when he ran a blazing 4.22 40-yard dash, beating the former record holder Chris "2k" Johnson. With the speed Ross has, he should strike fear in opposing corners and safeties on every snap, but this just was not the case throughout his rookie season.
Ross, who had injury issues heading into the season, remained in head coach Marvin Lewis' doghouse even when he was able to see the field.
He only played in three games, but in those three games he received only two targets and had zero catches. Ross also had a 12 yard rush, which ended with him fumbling the ball away. In short, nothing went well for Ross and there doesn't seem to be a lot of optimism surrounding him in Cincy. Given the hype surrounding him after the combine, Ross was clearly a bust in 2017.