The 15 Biggest NFL Draft Busts Of The Past Fifteen Years (And 5 Late-Round Surprises)

Each year when the NFL Draft comes around, the football world is filled with hope and excitement. Fans wonder who their favorite team will choose and if they will become a Hall of Fame player or will they be a major bust.

Players chosen early in the draft are expected to do big things in the league pretty quickly. In the eyes of scouts, general managers and fans, most of them have Hall of Fame potential before they even step foot on the field.

Players chosen in the later rounds usually come with very little expectations. Teams normally use these picks in hopes of finding someone to fill a hole on their depth chart. It’s the rare occasion that one of those late round picks ever amount to anything let alone actually make the team.

Sometimes those late round guys do turn into a diamond in the NFL and it’s always fun to follow their career as it unfolds. Probably the most famous late round pick of all time is Tom Brady. The Patriots picked him up in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft and he went on to win five Super Bowls for the Pats and he’s not done yet.

It’s a more common occurrence when a high draft pick fails to evolve into the stud that their choosing team had hoped for. It’s just as much fun to follow them as they try to live up to the hype that came with being a high draft pick.

Today we will look at those top picks that washed out and a few late picks who turned into major NFL stars.

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20 Bust: J.P. Losman (2004)

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Back in 2004, J.P. Losman showed a lot of promise as a potential franchise quarterback. During his time at Tulane and UCLA, there were plenty of scouts drooling at what he may be able to do on the NFL level.

The Bills made a key trade that year and had a pair of first-round draft picks. They used their second one (22nd overall) to select Losman and it was all downhill from there.

He was physically in Buffalo for five seasons but only played in every game just once. That wasn’t a bad year for him but nothing like you would expect from a first-round pick.

19 Bust: Maurice Clarett (2005)

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Maurice Clarett made one bad decision and it ended up costing him an NFL career. Back in 2005 he tried to enter the NFL early but was denied. Because of this attempt, he had to forgo his remaining college eligibility, effectively ending his football career.

He came to the combine the next season after a year away from the field and it showed. The Broncos waited until 101 overall  to take a chance on him and as expected, it was a wasted pick.

Denver hoped he would be a surprise because he once showed tremendous potential. It was only a pipe dream and he didn’t even make it through training camp.

18 Bust: Matt Leinart (2006)

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Matt Leinart was tagged to be the #1 overall draft pick in 2005. For some reason, he gave up the guaranteed big payday and stayed in school. This time staying in school didn’t work out as he had a very average senior season at USC and fell to the tenth overall pick the next draft when the Cardinals took him.

He was in the desert for three seasons but only the starter for one. He was picked up by the Raiders and Texans but never did anything in his career.

His decision to stay in school saved one NFL team millions of dollars. He would have made a lot more if he had gone #1 overall the previous year but the end results probably would have been the same.

17 Surprise: Richard Sherman (2011)

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During the 2011 NFL Draft, there were twenty-four cornerbacks chosen before the Seahawks picked Richard Sherman. There really wasn’t any reason for this other than he played for Stanford, a team that didn’t gather a ton of media coverage across the nation.

When Sherman joined the team as the 154th overall pick in the fifth round he had a chip on his shoulder and there was a very good reason for it. Seattle reaped the benefits of this “attitude problem” as Sherman turned into one of the very best cornerbacks in the league. After the draft was finished he called the process a “sham” and looking at the results, he may be onto something.

16 Bust: JaMarcus Russell (2007)

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When JaMarcus Russell came out of college there wasn’t an NFL team that didn’t want him. The hype for him rivaled some of the biggest hyped up #1 overall picks in NFL history. But just like has happened too many times, Russell was nothing more than a major bust.

He had a cannon for an arm but had the accuracy of a duck throwing footballs out of a pond. His career 52% completion percentage at the end of his second year was enough for the Raiders to dump him. He never played for another NFL team. He wasn’t a one and done but he was two and done.

15 Bust Derrick Harvey (2008)

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When the Jaguars grabbed Derrick Harvey with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft they thought they were getting a top defender. During his time with the then National Champion Florida Gators, he got to opposing quarterbacks quite easily. He quickly found out that things aren’t as easy in the NFL though.

He wasn’t in the starting lineup in Jacksonville for long and at the end of his third season, he was at the bottom of the depth chart. That was enough for the Jags and they dumped him, allowing him to move on to Denver.

One forgettable year with the Broncos was the end of Harvey’s career that saw a total of just eight sacks in 52 games.

14 Bust: Mark Sanchez (2009)

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The Jets have been searching for a franchise quarterback for as long as they have been in the NFL. And no Jets fans, Joe Namath wasn’t a franchise quarterback.

In 2009 they grabbed Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick and the team promptly went to the next two AFC Championship Games (losing both). It wasn’t Sanchez who led them to those games though as New York had one of the best defenses in the league at the time.

His four seasons in New York were very average and he never did anything big in his career. He is still kicking around the league and just signed to be a backup with the Redskins but don’t expect him to get any playing time.

13 Surprise: Antonio Brown (2010)

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When the Steelers picked Antonio Brown at 195 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft it wasn’t big news. Late round picks like that rarely make news at the time they are chosen. They have to make their own news on the field and let’s face it… it just doesn’t happen that often.

Brown has become one of the most feared wide receivers in the NFL and he seems to be still improving his game each week. He is quickly climbing the chart of the best receivers in the history of the NFL and his career isn’t nearly halfway over.

12 Bust: Tim Tebow (2010)

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Tim Tebow was the stereotypical system quarterback while playing college ball for the Florida Gators. He was wildly successful there but it was obvious to NFL scouts that he didn’t have what it took to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL.

That’s why he lasted until 25th overall in the 2010 draft when Denver picked him up. They hoped that all of the scouts were wrong but it turned out they weren’t. He completed only 47% of his passes over a short three-year career. Two of those were with the Broncos and one was with the Jets where he barely got onto the field. Now he plays minor league baseball in the New York Mets system.

11 Bust: Jake Locker (2011)

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Jake Locker is another guy who could have been the #1 overall pick but decided to stay in school. There is no telling if things would have been different had he joined the NFL one year earlier but it’s a good bet that he would have washed out anyway, just with a lot more in his bank account.

The Titans grabbed him eighth overall in 2011 and to say the pick didn’t pan out is an understatement. He played for the Titans for four seasons and put together a grand total of just under 5,000 yards passing in that time. After his fourth season, he quit, saying he no longer had the desire to play football.

10 Bust: Justin Blackmon (2012)

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You can say that Justin Blackmon was a one and done. Maybe a one hit wonder. It’s a sad story really as he had a tremendous amount of talent but drug and alcohol abuse got the best of him.

His problems were well documented but the Jaguars took a chance on him anyway in 2012 with the fifth overall pick. He had a great rookie season but that was it. The next year he was suspended twice by the NFL and he hasn’t been on a football field since.

Justin Blackmon is the perfect example of having Hall of Fame talent with a ten cent brain.

9 Surprise: Jared Allen (2004)

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Nobody expects to get a Hall of Fame player in the late rounds of the NFL Draft. Mostly those picks are used to fill out the depth chart and the team doing the choosing just hopes that the player can make the team to fill in a hole.

When the Chiefs picked up Jared Allen in 2004 with the 126th overall pick they hit the jackpot. He’s the epitome of finding a diamond in the rough. In 2011 he notched 22 sacks which was just a half sack away from the NFL record for a single season. The 136 sacks he got during his career put him at #11 on the All-Time list. He should be in the Hall of Fame and probably will be before long.

8 Bust: Dee Milliner (2013)

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When the Jets took Dee Milliner out of Alabama with the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, they thought they were getting another key piece to the strong defense they seem to have year after year. Unfortunately for them, they were wrong.

Milliner’s first season in New York was great with 56 tackles and three interceptions. Sadly he got hurt multiple times and only appeared in eight more games with the Jets.

He totaled three years with New York and had 63 tackles and just those three interceptions. That was the end of a very unproductive NFL career.

7 Bust: Johnny Manziel (2014)

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When it comes to wasted draft picks the Cleveland Browns seem to have a stranglehold on the market. Anything you look up that has to do with draft busts will no doubt have multiple Browns picks. “Johnny Football” was just another in the long line of what has become one of the longest running jokes in the NFL.

Johnny Manziel showed a ton of promise while playing in college but there were some red flags about his attitude. That showed when he had the audacity to text then Cleveland quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. The text read "Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there.” He should have ignored the text.

Manziel was chosen with the 22nd pick and he only got into 14 NFL games.

6 Bust: Phillip Dorsett (2015)

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Phillip Dorsett has a world of talent but for some reason, he hasn’t been able to turn that into success on an NFL field. In 2015 it was surprising to see him still on the board at #29 when the Colts picked him. They were hoping for a late first round sleeper but it just never happened.

He did two uneventful years in Indianapolis before they gave up on him. He is now in his second year with the Patriots and he has 27 catches out of 37 targets so he isn’t playing poorly, he just isn’t Tom Brady’s favorite target.

He still has time to turn it around but as far as the Colts are concerned it was a wasted pick.

5 Surprise: Kirk Cousins (2012)

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Not many fourth-round quarterbacks can play at a level to earn the starting role for their team. It took three full seasons for the Redskins to actually give him a shot after they chose him with the 102nd pick in the 2012 draft but he made the most of his opportunity.

He now plays for Minnesota because the Redskins either couldn’t afford to keep him or wouldn’t give him the money he deserved (it depends on who you ask). He’s well on his way to his fourth consecutive season with more than 4,000 yards passing and at thirty years old he looks like he has many good years left in him. His loss will sting Washington for several more years at the very least.

4 Bust: Roberto Aguayo (2016)

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This was a bust waiting to happen the minute the pick was made. Tampa Bay broke every unwritten rule there is when they traded up in the second round of the 2016 draft so they could pick up Florida State kicker Robert Aguayo with the 59th overall pick.

He only made 22 of 31 attempts and was tossed out of Tampa Bay after a single season. He has been on the roster of three other teams since then but he hasn’t stepped foot on the field for either of them.

He was deadly accurate during his time in college but hasn’t seen the same success in the NFL. Who saw that coming?

3 Bust: DeShone Kizer (2017)

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DeShone Kizer got paid by the Cleveland Browns but now has a great seat watching Aaron Rodgers do his thing in Green Bay.

Cleveland picked him up in the second round with the 52nd overall pick in 2017 and it didn’t take long at all before people realized he wasn’t starting quarterback material.

In his only season with the Browns, Kizer played in 15 games and tossed 11 touchdown passes while throwing 22 picks. He led the Brownies to an 0-16 record and was promptly traded to the Packers. He is currently one of the highest paid backups in the league.

2 Bust: Josh Allen (2018)

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The Bills grabbed Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 draft and the jury is still out on him. While there is still plenty of time for him to carve out a solid NFL career, things aren’t off to that great of a start for him in Buffalo.

He’s currently on pace to finish his rookie season with around 2,100 yards passing with seven touchdowns and twelve picks. It’s a certainty that Buffalo was looking for more out of him but he is still very young and the upside is still there for him. For now anyway.

1 Surprise: Marques Colston (2006)

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It’s a rare occasion that a defensive coordinator has to worry about an opposing seventh-round wide receiver. But Marques Colston was just that… a nightmare for any defense.

He was chosen with the 252nd overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft and with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history tossing the ball to him (Drew Brees), Colston became a legitimate NFL threat very quickly.

He holds the Saints franchise records for most catches, most receiving yards and most receiving touchdowns. Not too shabby for a guy who was passed over by countless teams before New Orleans grabbed him.

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