Every NFL franchise deals with draft regrets and buyer’s remorse. There are no exceptions. Even the New England Patriots, perceived by many within the football community as the model NFL franchise of the 2000s, has whiffed on draft picks. Unlike so many of the other clubs in the league, though, the Patriots have been able to survive making such miscues, largely because the team employs the man who is probably the greatest quarterback to ever play the position. It’s not a stretch to say that teams look for their own versions of Tom Brady each offseason. This sometimes leads to draft decisions and picks that don’t work out for different reasons.
The 2010s have produced some tremendous draft classes that have provided the NFL with a plethora of stars. Patrick Mahomes, Ezekiel Elliott, Odell Beckham Jr., and J.J. Watt immediately come to mind when thinking of some of the best draft picks of the current decade. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the most disappointing players selected by teams since the 2010 NFL Draft. Some of them remain in the league, even though they haven’t performed as advertised for their organizations, while others are footnotes and bound to be forgotten figures by the time 2025 or 2030 roll around. After all, the NFL is unquestionably a “what have you done for me lately” competition.
Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was seen as a boom-or-bust product when the Arizona Cardinals used a first-round pick to get him in 2016. Nkemdiche flashed talent during the 2018 campaign, but he ended the year on the injured reserve list after he sustained a torn ACL. Unless those running the Cardinals are feeling super generous this offseason, it’s unlikely the team will pick up the fifth-year option on Nkemdiche’s contract. It’s assumed he’ll be on the roster at the start of the 2019 season unless a different team makes an offer for him. After next fall, however, it appears the two will part ways.
The values of cornerbacks vary in the minds of observers at a time when passing attacks are more emphasized and more protected via league rules than ever. With that said, there’s no question that Jalen Collins was little more than a massive bust for the Atlanta Falcons. Taken in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Collins was suspended on three different occasions before Christmas 2017. By then, the Falcons had already moved on from him. He did catch on with the Indianapolis Colts, and the hope is that he’ll be able to remain on that team’s active roster through the offseason and the start of training camp.
Fans of the Baltimore Ravens likely don’t care that wide receiver Breshad Perriman may resurrect his career as a member of the Cleveland Browns. Selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Perriman was downed by a PCL strain before his rookie year got started, and he played in only 27 games before the team ended the experiment and moved on from him ahead of the start of the 2018 campaign. The argument could be made he’s the most disappointing first-round pick in the history of the Ravens’ franchise. Tyler Lockett, who was available when the Ravens selected Perriman, would have been a good get for Baltimore.
Eric Reid, Zach Ertz, and Le’Veon Bell are just three of the players who were on the board when the Buffalo Bills used a first-round pick to draft quarterback E.J. Manuel in 2013. Manuel struggled with completing passes to teammates far too often to be trusted as a long-term answer at the position, and the Bills happily let him leave via free agency in March 2016. Unsurprisingly to those who watched him play with the Bills, Manuel hasn’t made it as a starter for any other organization. He is unsigned as of the middle of January. Hey, the Jacksonville Jaguars could do worse than giving Manuel a workout.
Some fans of the Carolina Panthers may be worried about the shoulder of Cam Newton this winter and with good reason. They should also remember that things were much worse for their favorite team at the quarterback position not all that long ago. Back in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Panthers took Jimmy Clausen. The following year, Carolina drafted the previously mentioned Newton, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. The 31-year-old was retired and out of the league by the summer of 2017. In total, Clausen won only one of his 14 pro starts.
Some players are simply unlucky, and that may be the case for Kevin White. The wide receiver acquired by the Chicago Bears with the seventh pick of the 2015 NFL Draft missed all but four games over his first two seasons in the league because of injuries, and he was largely an afterthought when the Bears declined his fifth-year option in the spring of 2018. White not only failed to impress in what should have been a contract season. He was mostly a member of the roster in name only by Chicago’s postseason appearance. He may struggle to find a new home in the league once he hits the open market.
You know a situation is rough when a player essentially admits that he has been a bust for the team that drafted him. That’s the case with offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi, per Chris Roling of Bengals Wire, as the first-round pick from the 2015 NFL Draft understood before the end of the 2018 season that he wasn’t going to remain with the Bengals. Ogbuehi couldn’t make it work up front for the Bengals on either side of the team’s line, and there were some who believed he wouldn’t be on the team’s final roster last September. He will have to compete for a spot on the depth chart wherever he signs during the offseason.
The Cleveland Browns have a deep history of wasting first-round draft picks, but Trent Richardson was a different level of disappointing. The third overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in September 2013, a decision that baffled many Cleveland fans and outside observers. That ended up being the right call, though, as the Colts released Richardson after the 2014 season, and he hasn’t played in the regular season for any other team since his tenure with the Colts ended. The 28-year-old is reportedly looking to extend whatever is left of his career in the AAF.
Those running the Dallas Cowboys have been responsible for some solid draft classes since 2010. Trading up to take cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth pick of the 2012 NFL Draft remains a decision the front office likely regrets. Claiborne never played all 16 games of a season with the Cowboys because of injuries, and he left the team and signed with the New York Jets in March 2017. Luke Kuechly, Fletcher Cox, and Bobby Wagner are only three of the players who were available when the Cowboys drafted Claiborne, who will go down as one of the biggest busts in the history of the franchise.
Some may say that Tim Tebow is a worse draft pick than Paxton Lynch because of Tebow’s celebrity status and the fact that he couldn’t complete passes with any regularity at the highest level. At least Tebow guided the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory, something we’ll never be able to say about Lynch. Denver used a first-round pick to draft Lynch in 2016, but the franchise released him in September 2018 after realizing he no longer deserved a spot on the roster. Lynch has yet to prove the Broncos wrong, as no other team in the league gave him a roster spot through the middle of January.
The fact that tight end Eric Ebron found success with the Indianapolis Colts during the 2018 regular season makes him all the more of a disappointing draft pick for the Detroit Lions. Detroit took Ebron tenth overall in 2014, but he was little more than an average tight end, at best, during his stint with that organization. If his lackluster numbers weren’t enough to make him a regrettable pick, it likely stings Detroit fans just that much more to know that Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald were on the board when the Lions addressed a position that is often filled by players taken on the final days of drafts.
There are multiple players in the running for the most disappointing player drafted by the Green Bay Packers since 2010. Offensive tackle Derek Sherrod gets the nod here. The final pick of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft went down with a broken leg in December of his rookie year, and he missed all of 2012 while recovering from that setback. He made a handful of appearances in both 2013 and 2014, but the promise he had upon entering the league disappeared by the fall of 2014. Sherrod failed to make the final roster of the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of the 2015 season. He’s now out of the league.
Similar to the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Texans have had more hits than misses with first-round picks since 2010. Offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo, taken in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, was a considerable miss for the organization. While Su’a-Filo eventually became a starter for the Texans, he was deemed surplus to requirements following the 2017 campaign. He has played better since joining the Cowboys, but that won’t mean much to the Texans. Joel Bitonio, an excellent offensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns, was on the board when the Texans took Su’a-Filo. So were quarterbacks Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Indianapolis Colts tried to find a place for Bjoern Werner at different positions on defense. Werner simply wasn’t a great fit for the team even though he started in 15 games during the 2014 season. The 24th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft spent three seasons with the Colts before the team cut him in March 2016, and he wasn’t able to make it with the Jacksonville Jaguars later that same year. In January 2017, Werner, a German-born player, announced his retirement while commentating for a game overseas. Xavier Rhodes, DeAndre Hopkins, and Le’Veon Bell are three of the players the Colts should have drafted instead of Werner.
Blake Bortles is the subject of punchlines among those who mock the Jacksonville Jaguars these days, but drafting him looks like a stroke of genius compared to the Jags using the fifth pick of the 2012 NFL Draft on wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon had the talent to be one of the best players at the position his rookie season, but off-the-field issues and suspensions have prevented him from taking the field since 2013. Some out there may not realize that Blackmon is still technically a Jacksonville player even though he’ll probably never be eligible to return. It’s assumed at this point he has no desire to play in the NFL.
The Kansas City Chiefs spent a first-round pick on wide receiver Jon Baldwin in 2011. Baldwin was no longer playing in the NFL by the fall of 2014. He notched a pair of touchdown receptions in two seasons with the Chiefs before Kansas City traded him to the San Francisco 49ers, where he played for one year before being released. The last we heard of Baldwin as an active player, he was being cut by the Detroit Lions in August 2014 after he reportedly failed a physical. He is now viewed as one of the biggest busts in the history of the Chiefs, not to mention one of the worst picks of his draft class.
The Los Angeles Chargers have reasons to believe wide receiver Mike Williams won’t be a bust and will develop into the No. 1 wideout the club hoped he’d be when the team selected him with the seventh pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. As of January 2019, though, Williams has been more disappointing than a superstar even though he found the end zone ten times his second season in the NFL. Tallying 43 catches isn’t good enough for a receiver taken with such a high draft pick, especially knowing Patrick Mahomes, Marshon Lattimore, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Alvin Kamara were drafted after the Chargers took Williams.
Greg Robinson is destined to be one of the worst draft picks ever made by the Los Angeles Rams even if he becomes a full-time starter with the Cleveland Browns or a different team. Advertised as one of the best overall players of the 2014 NFL Draft, the second pick from that class struggled his first two years in the league, and he was reportedly overweight ahead of the 2016 season. In June 2017, the Rams were done with him, and the team traded him to the Detroit Lions. The Lions didn’t bother keeping him through the middle of November, though, and the Browns may look to upgrade the team’s line and move on from him in March.
At least fans of the Miami Dolphins can rest easy knowing their favorite team will likely never make a worse draft choice than Dion Jordan. The defensive end drafted third overall in 2013 after the Dolphins moved up to get him started a single game for the team across two seasons, and he missed the entire 2015 campaign after multiple violations of the league’s policies. He failed a team physical in March 2017, and that resulted in his dismissal from the franchise. The Seattle Seahawks signed him that spring, though, and he remained with that club through Seattle’s short playoff run in January 2019.
The Minnesota Vikings using a first-round pick on Christian Ponder serves as a reminder of how much quarterback-hungry teams are willing to spend to find a good signal-caller. To his credit, Ponder did appear ready to become a franchise QB during portions of the 2012 campaign, but a disappointing 2013 started what became the beginning of the end of his career. Minnesota drafted Teddy Bridgewater, Ponder’s replacement, in 2014, and Ponder never played for the Vikings again after that season. While he journeyed around the NFL for a couple of years, 2014 was his last year as a regular-season player for any team.
The New England Patriots were probably hoping for more than somebody who earned a Super Bowl ring just because he was drafted by the right team when the organization took linebacker Dominique Easley with the 29th pick back in 2014. Easley ended his rookie year on the injured reserve list, and the same happened in December 2015. Apparently, that was enough for Bill Belichick and company, as the Patriots surprisingly released Easley in the spring of 2016. He signed with the Los Angeles Rams in May 2016, but injuries continued to haunt him during 2017 and 2018. Easley and the Rams will probably part ways in free agency this coming March.
Fans of the New Orleans Saints can probably close their eyes and envision defensive back Stanley Jean-Baptiste getting toasted in coverage. The second-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft was an all-time miss for the Saints, as he played in only four games for the club as a rookie before the team unceremoniously released him days ahead of Week 1 of the 2015 season. Most recently, Jean-Baptiste was with the Baltimore Ravens, but he was placed on injured reserve in August 2018 after he broke his arm. His future in the league past upcoming roster cuts is in question, at best.
All things being equal, Ereck Flowers may be the worst draft pick ever made by the New York Giants. The ninth selection from the 2015 draft class, Flowers managed to get worse over three seasons with the team, and he was a liability on both sides of the line through October 2018, when the franchise finally parted ways with him to the delight of Giants fans who watched him repeatedly fail quarterback Eli Manning. Todd Gurley was taken one pick after the Giants selected Flowers, which makes this a blunder that could sting for up to a decade after the franchise made the call.
21 games. That’s all the New York Jets got out of Dee Milliner, the defensive back taken with the ninth pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. Injuries coupled with some questionable technique sunk Milliner’s career before it really got going, and he played in only five games during the 2015 campaign that ended up being his last season with the organization. The Jets weren’t the only team to deem that Milliner couldn’t go at the highest level. No organization signed him after he was released by the Jets. He is an all-time bust for a team that has been responsible for quite a bit of draft miscues over the past several decades.
Only a few years after the Oakland Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell, one of the biggest busts in NFL history, the team spent the eighth pick of the 2010 NFL Draft on linebacker Rolando McClain. McClain made more headlines for negative reasons than for stellar play from his rookie year through the 2012 campaign, and he was cut by the Raiders in April 2013. He featured for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 and 2015 before his career ended following multiple failed drug tests. He’s only 29-years-old as of the posting of this piece, meaning he should be in his physical prime and not a former player.
Those who believed that the Philadelphia Eagles reached by using a first-round pick on pass-rusher Marcus Smith II in 2014 were correct in the long run. Smith never started a single game for the Eagles, and the team didn’t even bother letting him play through the expiration of his rookie contract before cutting him in the summer of 2017. He had some good moments with the Seattle Seahawks later that year, and he played for the Washington Redskins during the 2018 campaign. Regardless of his status with the Redskins or any other team, he was a wasted draft pick for the Eagles.
Even fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers may have forgotten about Senquez Golson, the defensive back taken by the franchise in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. A shoulder operation resulted in Golson sitting all of his rookie season, and a foot injury cost him the entire 2016 campaign. A third injury he sustained in the summer of 2017 resulted in the Steelers cutting him ahead of that season, meaning he never played a down of meaningful football for Pittsburgh before the club released him. He’s a free agent this winter, but we expect his phone isn’t ringing off the hook with offers from NFL franchises.
Just seeing the name A.J. Jenkins could be enough to upset fans of the San Francisco 49ers. Drafted by the Niners late in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Jenkins played a total of three games with the organization as a rookie. San Francisco was so underwhelmed with what the club saw from him, the team traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs in August 2013. That proved to be the right call, as Jenkins caught 17 passes in two seasons before the Chiefs parted ways with him. He failed to make much an impression during a brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015, and he is now out of the NFL.
Give the Seattle Seahawks credit for being able to survive and even thrive in the NFL despite several draft whiffs over the years. Seattle selected defensive tackle Malik McDowell in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but he was involved in an ATV accident that summer which cost him his rookie season and, likely, his career. In July 2018, the Seahawks released McDowell and those of us who stopped following the situation after that transaction haven’t read or heard much about him since. While one can feel bad for him because of what happened, he is still a massive draft bust.
The good news here is that Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones should get a fresh start with a coaching staff that didn’t scout or draft him. Taken by the Bucs in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Jones failed to impress early into the campaign, and he was relegated to special teams duties well before the final Sunday of the year. He is just 21-years-old, and he should, at the very least, be given a clean slate to show what he can do in training camp. From what we witnessed his rookie year, though, it does look like he’s more of a bust than a future first-choice back.
Quarterback Jake Locker not only failed to play up to the value of the eighth overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Tennessee Titans began drafting hoped replacements for Locker in 2014, which ended up being his last season with the club and in the NFL, in general. In March 2015, Locker retired and explained that he no longer had the desire to play in the league. In April 2018, Locker told Sports Illustrated that he didn’t regret that decision and also didn’t miss the NFL. We hope that he found happiness and is at peace doing other things on football Sundays.
We end the list with quarterback Robert Griffin III, who had an excellent rookie season with the Washington Redskins in 2012 but who was also given up on by that club in March 2017. The story of Griffin’s rise and fall in the league is well-known among fans and observers. Perhaps the worst part about the Redskins drafting RG3 second overall in 2012 was that the team also landed Kirk Cousins in that draft. Had the Redskins not been fully invested in Griffin for so long, it’s possible Cousins would have become the team’s starter and franchise QB instead of somebody the organization begrudgingly paid for years until he left in free agency.