Athletes in any sport, at any level, should never be judged by a single season alone. They could be nursing an injury, mentally pushing themselves too far in a walk year, or trying too hard to live up to a new contract. They could even simply be having a bad year; an outlier. This rule is especially true for players entering their first year in the pros. There’s obviously a lot of pressure to perform, and a general adjustment period due to the change from the minor league, college, or even high school level is expected. To label anyone a bust after such a small performance sample size would be reckless, ignorant, and a bit mean as well.
Still, drafting players isn’t an exact science. Sometimes an athlete really can’t hack it in the big show. They might succumb to pressure too often, they might lose focus once they start earning real money, or the competition could simply be too fierce for players who previously excelled somewhere else. Other times, it’s completely out of a player’s control. If a nagging injury pops up again - or a new one emerges - it could spell the beginning of the end right from the get-go.
That being said, none of the following players should be labeled busts quite yet. They need more time to adapt, to learn their team’s plays, and to gel with their teammates. Sure, not all 32 players drafted in the first round will go on to be superstars; it unfortunately never works out that way. But with so many different personalities, bodies, and skill sets, the odds say there will be at least a few athletes who will dominate, and a few who will fall completely flat. Although these predictions or suspicions may not come true in the end, here are the top 15 2015 NFL Draft picks who look like busts.
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15 DeVante Parker
The biggest issue with DeVante Parker, the Miami Dolphins' 14th overall pick out of Louisville, was his lack of playing time. Sidelined throughout the entire preseason with a foot injury that carried over from college, Parker was noticeably rusty at the start of the season, and it didn’t help that coach Joe Philbin was notoriously hesitant to give playing time to rookies. When Rishard Matthews got injured in Week 12, Parker saw an opening and seized it, ending the season with a whopping six TDs in six games. He’s definitely on the upswing, but with a limited sample size, it’s difficult to get too excited just yet.
14 Andrus Peat
Andrus Peat’s first NFL season with the New Orleans Saints was a bit of a mixed bag. The 13th overall pick out of Stanford admitted his poor conditioning delayed the beginning of his season, denying him a start until Week 5. He was then slow to develop, especially in pass protection, and ended the season with a knee injury. However, when Peat was actually on the field, he looked quite good against the run, and if he improves the other side of his game, 2016 could turn out to be a breakout year. With a starting tackle job likely in his future, Peat will definitely get his opportunity.
13 Danny Shelton
Maybe 36 combined stops isn’t terrible for a rookie defensive tackle, but 10 of those came in the last three games of the season, all of which were loses. In fact, Danny Shelton’s best game with the Cleveland Browns was a four-tackle, three-assist game where his defense still managed to cough up 30 points. The 343-pound Washington product, who was drafted 12th overall, also didn’t notch a single sack the whole year. Then again, nobody really played well on the Browns in 2015, or at least not well enough to positively impact the team’s laughable 3-13 record. Are we still allowed to blame Johnny Manziel for everything?
12 Trae Waynes
As one of the top defensive backs in the draft, former Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes was expected to rack up a bit more than 26 tackles and four assists with four passes defended when he was selected as number 11 overall by Minnesota. At least one interception would have been nice as well. (In fairness, he had a pick in Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals, but the play was called back because of a flag.) Waynes finished the season better than he started it (save for a big miss on a 42-yard touchdown play), but having only started a single game as one of the least used Vikings rookies in 2015 will make next year an uphill battle for the young CB.
11 Vic Beasley
The Atlanta Falcons likely had high hopes when they drafted Clemson linebacker and 2014 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Vic Beasley eighth overall. After a decent start, Beasley went cold, and by Week 13 he had only amassed 14 tackles and two sacks. A slightly stronger finish gave the linebacker a total of 20 stops, six assists, and four sacks in 16 starts, which is clearly a lot less than the Falcons expected. The issue? Although quick, Beasley lacks a finishing move to convert pressure into sacks. As a team, Atlanta’s finishing move was putting up an mediocre 8-8 record, so they clearly have a lot more to worry about than a single player.
10 Melvin Gordon
When the San Diego Chargers drafted running back Melvin Gordon 15th overall, they were likely thinking of his 408-yard game with Wisconsin, or possibly his ranking as the second all-time single season rusher - behind only Barry Sanders. Now the team is likely thinking about how they jumped up two spots in the draft to offer a four-year, $10.66 million contract (plus a $6 million bonus) to a guy who they eventually benched in Week 7, and who ended the year on IR with a knee injury. Along the way Gordon amassed 641 yards, but averaged only 3.5 yards, failed to score a single touchdown, and fumbled six times, four of which resulted in turnovers.
9 Kevin White
As a highly-decorated player at West Virginia, the Chicago Bears probably couldn’t wait to get All-American and All-Big 12 wide receiver Kevin White on the field when they picked him seventh overall in the draft. But their hopes were dashed when White suffered a stress fracture in his shin during offseason OTAs and began the 2015 campaign on the team’s PUP list. It was later announced that he had suffered a setback in his recovery in August, and would require surgery that would sideline the WR for at least six weeks. In the end, White missed the entire year. Injuries happen, but getting a stress fracture before the season even began? That weak shin likely makes the Bears weak in the knees.
8 Laken Tomlinson
A lot of sports analysts and fans were surprised when former Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson was drafted 28th overall in the 2015 draft by the Detroit Lions. As a 2014 All-American and 52-game starter, Tomlinson clearly had talent, but maybe not first-day talent. Thus, unsurprisingly, the OG struggled out of the gate. He wasn’t terrible, even nabbing a spot on Gil Brandt’s All-Rookie Team, but Tomlinson often looked over-matched - especially on run plays, which was supposed to be his strength. This put Detroit in dead last in rushing in 2015, with only 1,335 total yards, and no doubt contributed to their disappointing 7-9 record.
7 Breshad Perriman
As previously stated, injuries can cast doubt on a player’s career when they happen right off the bat, but usually if it’s a freak injury, some slack can be cut. It’s the sneaky, longer-lasting injuries that are especially worrisome. When 26th overall pick Breshad Perriman hurt himself on the first day of full-team practice, coach John Harbaugh said it might only be a day or two before the wide receiver returned. Then a few more days. Then a few weeks. Then we saw clear frustration from the team (Harbaugh called it “one of the all-time, slowest-healing sprained PCLs ever”), followed by the announcement that Perriman would miss the entirety of the season on IR. Again, it’s hard to blame the player, but that doesn’t mean a nagging injury can’t significantly derail the beginning of a young player’s NFL career (see: Jadeveon Clowney).
6 Bud Dupree
Former Kentucky linebacker Bud Dupree notched two sacks in his first two NFL games, and four by Week 8. However, he didn’t have another for the remainder of the season. He also had a total of 19 combined tackles through Week 10, but only seven more in the last six games, and was ineffective against the run. Sure, players have their ups and downs throughout the season, but the 22nd overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers later admitted his body began to break down as the season progressed. That could simply be a sign that he needs more and better conditioning, or a much bigger issue: perhaps that his body wasn’t built to handle the grueling 16+ game NFL schedule.
5 Ereck Flowers
Despite being a standout offensive tackle at the University of Miami who earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2014, 9th overall pick Ereck Flowers was a liability for the Giants as soon as he stepped on the field. On top of a nagging ankle injury that plagued him the entire season, Flowers looked completely lost at left tackle, not providing nearly enough pass protection for Eli Manning. He did a decent job blocking the run game, but still ranked at or near the bottom of his draft class according to Pro Football Focus, even scoring an embarrassing and inexcusable -24.4 going into the final games of the season.
4 Nelson Agholor
Even though Nelson Agholor’s accomplishments as a receiver and punt/kick returner at USC were quite impressive (earning second-team All-Pac honors in 2013, first-team in 2014), it was still surprising to see the Philadelphia Eagles draft him with the 20th overall pick. But based on the 2015 performance of the receiving corps, it was probably a good idea to pick a WR, in retrospect. Unfortunately, Agholor struggled along with his teammates, amassing only 23 catches totaling 283 yards, with only one touchdown (in Week 14), but a whole lot of third-down drops, and a lost fumble. In total, Agholor had only two games with more than 50 receiving yards, and never more than 64.
3 Phillip Dorsett
A puzzling first round selection, the Indianapolis Colts were already fully stocked at the receiver position prior to picking former University of Miami wideout Phillip Dorsett 29th overall. Unsurprisingly, Dorsett rightfully spent the entire season fourth on the depth chart - when he wasn’t injured, that is. He broke his leg in Week 7 and didn’t return until Week 14, and was actually about as successful running the ball as he was catching it, which wasn’t much. Dorsett ended the season with only 18 receptions for 225 yards. It’s worth noting that Dorsett also had two fumbles, both in his very first game.
2 Cameron Erving
Cameron Erving hasn’t had much consistency when it comes to his position in football. In his first year at Florida State, Erving was a defensive tackle. In his second and third, he moved to offensive tackle. And in his senior year, he was moved to center to fill a void. Although his best years were as an OT (Erving nabbed first-team All-ACC and second-team All-American honors in 2013), he has yet to find the same success in the NFL. Drafted 19th overall by the hapless Cleveland Browns, Erving only started four games as a rookie due to the fact that when he did play, defenders were basically knocking him down just by looking at him.
1 D.J. Humphries
If a player gets a late start on the season or misses it completely due to injury, it can be worrisome, but it’s at least understandable. When the 24th overall pick of the draft doesn’t play in a single game because he was deemed not ready to compete at the pro level due to his performance during practice and preseason games, it’s an absolute tragedy. First round picks should almost immediately be contenders, but Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries hasn’t even seen a snap yet. It doesn’t really get much worse than this; at least the guys who blew it during games got to suit up and step onto the field.
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