As a televised event, the NFL Draft is loosely organized chaos, a frustrating spectacle geared towards football super fans desperate for any little bit of the sport they love during the seemingly eternal offseason months. It's an event where a pick can be in for two or more minutes, but won't be called because Mel Kiper needs more time to be wrong about 90% of everything. However, for team executives and coaches, it's the most important part of the offseason. Bad teams try to find franchise players to revitalize their stagnant operations (Or if they're the Browns, vitalize them for the first time ever) and good teams search for quality players they can get on the cheap so they can continue their winning ways while avoiding signing overly pricey free agents.
With seven rounds to work with, NFL teams have an increased chance of striking gold in the later rounds and it's fairly common for pro-bowlers to come from way down the board (For example, Tom Brady was a 6th round pick and Richard Sherman was a 5th round pick). However, the first round is still the most likely place to strike a premiere player, and while scores of legendary players have come out of the first round, there have been many busts to come from the first 32 picks as well (Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, and Johnny Manziel are basically a super-powered triumvirate of football sorrow). So, without further ado, this list sets out to identify the biggest first round draft busts currently playing in the NFL today. To qualify for this list, a player has to be currently signed to an NFL team, so players like Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, and Justin Gilbert won't be found here. RULES ARE FUN!
15 Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears
Kevin White is like the Schrodinger's Cat of wide receivers: he could be good or he could be bad, but nobody really knows because he can't get healthy enough to play football and even if he did, the Chicago Bears' dreadful passing game probably wouldn't give him a chance to be great. Does that analogy work? Let's just say it does, 'kay? Drafted 7th-overall in 2015 by the Bears, ahead of Vic Beasley, Marcus Peters, and Landon Collins, White was cursed right out of the gate, as he suffered a stress fracture in his shin during a practice and missed his entire rookie season. He finally managed to get on the field during his sophomore season, but only for the first four games, racking up 187 yards on just 19 catches, which could be an indictment on him or on the Bears' total lack of a working passing game. Unfortunately, he broke the same leg he had injured the year prior and missed the rest of the season. Is it fair to say White's a bust? Talent-wise, it's nearly impossible to say, but due to his extensive injury history and how high he went in the draft, he's more bust than not until, or if, he can get on the field and prove otherwise.
14 Mark Sanchez, QB, Chicago Bears
Now we begin the quarterback portion of this list, because a lot of highly-drafted quarterbacks don't pan out, but flounder in the league for years as backups or starters for bad teams. First up is Mark Sanchez, the Internet's favorite meme machine and the perpetrator of the Butt Fumble, possibly the single greatest flub in NFL history. Drafted 5th-overall in 2009 by the New York Jets, ahead of Alex Mack, Clay Matthews, and LeSean McCoy, Sanchez had a decent start to his career, making the AFL Championship game in both 2009 and 2010, mostly on the back of the Jets' powerhouse defense as he did the bare minimum to keep the offense running. However, once the defense broke down, he was never able to elevate his game to the level of a franchise QB. In his best statistical season, which was in 2011, he threw for 26 touchdowns against 18 interceptions, but only went 8-8. He was slowly becoming a laughingstock for his inability to hold onto the ball (84 interceptions and 27 unrecovered fumbles in his career) before the Butt Fumble made him a highlight reel in 2012, dooming him to permanent backup status and cementing his status as a bust.
13 Greg Robinson, OT, Los Angeles Rams
There's a proud and storied tradition of offensive tackles going high in the draft based on nothing more than impressive measurables rather than any real production at the college level, and while many of them succeed, many crash and burn. At the moment, one of the most disappointing additions to this trend is Los Angeles Rams OT/OG Greg Robinson. While Watkins and Tannehill have been injury-prone or just blase, Robinson has been outright bad. Drafted 2nd-overall in 2014 by the Rams, ahead of Khalil Mack, Taylor Lewan, and Zack Martin, Robinson's rookie season was standard enough fare for a young player at one of the league's premiere positions. Unfortunately, he never improved. He showed up to training camp prior to his sophomore season overweight and while he kept the starting left tackle job, he proved ineffective and prone to penalties. He's simply never proven good enough to stop even basic defenders, let alone the league's most fearsome pass rushers. As of last month, the Rams have announced they're moving Robinson to guard, which could save his career, but for now, he's a prominent bust on a team full of wayward talent.
12 Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
Okay, there should be a thousand asterisks on this entry because Sammy Watkins is by no means a bad player. When he's healthy and the Buffalo Bills actually make him a focal point of their offense, he's one of the best receivers in the NFL. However, his extensive injury history has him teetering on the edge of bust status. Drafted 4th-overall in 2014 by the Bills, ahead of Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry, the Bills traded their first rounder and a future first rounder to move up and take Watkins, genuinely one of the most promising wide receiver prospects of the decade. In his rookie season, he played all 16 games, racking up 982 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns against just 1 fumble. By his sophomore season, his injury woes started, but he still played in 13 games, registering 1,047 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns with no fumbles. Unfortunately, his 2016 season was fraught with injuries, as he only played in 8 games, catching a disappointing 430 yards and 2 touchdowns. Considering what the Bills gave up to draft him, if Watkins can't stay healthy and contribute, he'll be labeled a bust no matter how good he could be.
11 Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Much like Kevin White, Breshad Perriman has dealt with injuries throughout his similarly short NFL career. However, unlike White, Perriman plays for the Baltimore Ravens, a team with a bona fide (maybe elite?) starting quarterback in Joe Flacco, but no premiere skill position weapons for him to use. Perriman was supposed to be Flacco's go-to receiver, but has woefully failed to live up to those expectations thus far. Drafted 26th-overall in 2015 by the Ravens, ahead of Landon Collins, David Johnson, and Jay Ajayi, Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. However, he played all 16 games of his sophomore season, and only started one of those games. His play didn't exactly inspire confidence in him as a top receiver, as he only registered 33 receptions, 499 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns across the board, and in his lone start, he only caught one pass for 11 yards against the dreadful New York Jets secondary. While Perriman could certainly develop into a worthwhile NFL contributor, especially with Flacco throwing to him, his qualifications as a first round draft selection aren't looking very bright at all.
10 C.J. Spiller, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
C.J. Spiller is the first, but not the last, player on this list with a Pro Bowl appearance on his resume, but still qualifies as a bust because, aside from a single season of greatness, they've been largely disappointing and occasionally disastrous. Spiller's also the only running back on this list, because decent running backs are an easily obtainable commodity in this league and bad ones, like Trent Richardson, usually fall out of work quickly. Drafted 9th overall in 2010 by the Buffalo Bills, ahead of Earl Thomas, Dez Bryant, and Rob Gronkowski, Spiller broke out in his third pro season, racking up 1,244 rushing yards, 459 receiving yards, and 8 total touchdowns against 3 fumbles. Unfortunately, that season proved to be an outlier, as he only registered only 933 rushing yards on just 5 less carries, and only 2 touchdowns against 4 fumbles in the next. The season after that, he battled injury, and only ran for 300 yards in nine games. Since then, he's struggled with more injuries and bounced around the league, currently signed to play to his fourth team in three years. All told, the C.J. Spiller of 2012 seems to be a distant memory.
9 EJ Manuel, QB, Oakland Raiders
As ridiculous as Mark Sanchez's NFL career has been, he did show some flashes of potential to be a decent NFL starter in college, and his first round draft grade made sense at the time. EJ Manuel, on the other hand, was considered a reach when the Buffalo Bills took him in the first round. Drafted 16th-overall in 2013 (one of the worst quarterback drafts of all time), ahead of DeAndre Hopkins, Le'Veon Bell, and Tyrann Mathieu, the Bills took Manuel, despite being considered a project, because of their desperate need for a quality quarterback, a need that had existed since Jim Kelly retired in 1996. However, they threw Manuel into the fire immediately and while he had a few good moments, his rookie season was mostly defined by his obvious lack of experience and injuries. In his sophomore season, he started just four games before being replaced by Kyle Orton, a man whom no one has seen since he simply walked out of the arena and into the wilderness after being cut in 2014. In the past two seasons, Manuel has only played in three games, each time highlighting the unfortunate fact that he needed more refining and was in no way ready for the role he was rushed into.
8 Brandon Weeden, QB, Houston Texans
There aren't many funny things you can say about Brandon Weeden's NFL career; he's simply been bad. Very, very bad. Seeing Weeden on the field is the sign that some team's prospects of winning are down the drain. He's the cream of the crop of the Cleveland Browns' past decade plus of terrible decision-making. Drafted 22nd-overall in 2012 by the Browns, ahead of Dont'a Hightower, Lavonte David, and Kelechi Osemele, Weeden started right out of the gate and he showed exactly what the future held in his very first game, throwing 4 interceptions against the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished his rookie season with 3,385 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions in 15 games played, all of which he started. He extinguished any hope that he would improve in his sophomore season, throwing 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in only 8 games, eventually losing his job to third-stringer Brian Hoyer. The Browns cut him the following summer and he's been relegated to backup duty since then, aside from a disastrous stretch of starts in Dallas, where he lost all three games he played in depressing fashion.
7 Ted Ginn Jr., WR, New Orleans Saints
Like almost everyone else on this list, Ted Ginn Jr.'s entire career hasn't been a frowny face dumpster fire rolling across a football field. He's had a few good moments, most notably being Cam Newton's primary receiver during the Carolina Panthers' unexpected 15-1 season in 2015, albeit only because a knee injury dispatched Kelvin Benjamin for the entire campaign. However, his career hasn't nearly lived up to the tantalizing potential he showed at Ohio State. Drafted 9th-overall in 2007 by the Miami Dolphins, ahead of Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, and Darrelle Revis, Ginn was primarily a return specialist, only gathering 420 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns as a wide receiver, but 1,663 total return yards and one punt return touchdown in his rookie season. That was the best season he ever had as a return man, however, never hitting those yard totals again in his next nine seasons and only scoring 6 more return touchdowns in that same time frame. He's never been much of a receiver, either, only registering 4,285 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns on his career, with a glaring habit of dropping perfect, wide-open throws.
6 Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
Is bust too hot a take on Ryan Tannehill? Maybe, but maybe not. Under Tannehill's command, the Miami Dolphins haven't been either good or bad, but mostly pleasantly mediocre. They haven't won anything, but their level of success is the envy of the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars of the league. While this mediocrity isn't exactly Tannehill's fault, a lot of the blame can be attributed to the team's lackluster front office, you expect a certain level of success from a first round quarterback, especially one who has Jarvis Landry to throw to. Drafted 8th-overall in 2012 by the Dolphins, ahead of Luke Kuechly, Russell Wilson, and Kirk Cousins, Tannehill has never been truly awful, he's only ever had less touchdowns than interceptions in his rookie season, but he's never shown the results people think he has the potential to produce. He's never won more than eight games in a season and he's yet to play in a playoff game, albeit because of an injury that kept him from playing in 2016. Tannehill could break out at some point and justify his draft status, but people have been predicting that since 2013 and it's yet to happen.
5 Matt Kalil, OT, Carolina Panthers
Like C.J. Spiller earlier on this list, Matt Kalil has a Pro Bowl appearance on his resume, but still qualifies as a bust. However, unlike Spiller, who didn't make the Pro Bowl until his third season in the league, Kalil received his nod his rookie season, albeit as an injury replacement. That's a huge accomplishment for any player at any position and, rightly so, the Minnesota Vikings assumed they had a rising star on their hands. Unfortunately, his fall from grace was almost as immediate as his ascension. Drafted 4th-overall in 2012 by the Vikings, ahead of Fletcher Cox, Chandler Jones, and Alshon Jeffery, Kalil soared his rookie season, starting every game at left tackle for the Vikings. However, as the seasons pasted, his abilities as a pass and run blocker dwindled. He has yet to make another Pro Bowl, even by accident, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was getting sacked at an alarming rate before his injury last summer, including one game where the Detroit Lions took him down eight times. Bizarrely, Kalil's lack of success didn't stop the Carolina Panthers from giving him a huge, $55 million contract.
4 Barkevious Mingo, LB, Indianapolis Colts
Thanks to the Herculean efforts of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and the astounding choking excellence of the Atlanta Falcons, Barkevious Mingo is the only player on this list with a Super Bowl ring. At least he got something nice after the Cleveland Browns traded him away for pennies on the dollar last season. Drafted 6th-overall in 2013 by the Browns, ahead of Sheldon Richardson, Desmond Trufant, and Kawann Short, Mingo was a solid college player drafted high based on his potential and, to be fair, he was promising in his rookie season, registering 42 combined tackles, 5 sacks, and 4 defended passes. Unfortunately, that promise he showed turned out to be the most success he'd ever have in the NFL. He took down the quarterback 2 more times in his sophomore season and hasn't registered another sack since, despite having played in all but one game in the past three seasons. The Browns decided to cut their losses last summer and traded him to the Patriots for a 5th round pick, a meager return for the first-round pick they spent on him. He returned the Patriots investment by racking up just 11 combined tackles in 16 games.
3 Luke Joeckel, OT, Seattle Seahawks
If you've watched the Jacksonville Jaguars play football in the past few years, you may have noticed that their offense is a scrambled mess, despite having a wealth of talent on that side of the ball. That dysfunction can partially be attributed to Luke Joeckel, one of the worst offensive tackles in the league and (former) centerpiece of one of the most abysmal offensive lines in the NFL. Drafted 2nd-overall in 2013 by the Jaguars, ahead of Kyle Long, Travis Frederick, and David Bakhtiari, Joeckel was the best offensive lineman in college football in 2012, making his high selection in the draft a seemingly smart investment. However, he's simply never been a good player in the NFL. He's been plagued by injury, missing most of his rookie season with an ankle injury, but when he has found the field, he's been dreadful. Pro Football Focus rated him as the worst offensive linemen in the league in 2014 and he hasn't gotten much better. The Jags experimented with him at guard, but that reaped minimal returns. They let him walk this offseason and he's set to play for the Seattle Seahawks, a team that's really tempting fate with how bad their offensive line could be.
2 Dion Jordan, DE, Seattle Seahawks
Dion Jordan is the fourth person on this list from the 2013 NFL Draft, which should tip you off to the fact that it wasn't a very good draft. Out of the top 10 players, only one has ever made the Pro Bowl (Detroit's Ziggy Ansah) and Jordan may be the creme of the very bad crop. Drafted 3rd-overall in 2013 by the Miami Dolphins, ahead of Ezekiel Ansah, Xavier Rhodes, and Jamie Collins, Jordan was a legitimate wrecking ball in college and it made sense for him to be so high in the draft. He performed okay in his rookie season, racking up 26 combined tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 defended passes. After that, however, the problems started. He missed the first six games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy twice, only registering 20 combined tackles and a single sack in the 10 games he did see the field, then he sat out the entire 2015 season for violating the substance abuse policy a third time. Even after getting reinstated by the league, he sat out the entire 2016 season with a knee injury. The Dolphins cut him just last month for failing a physical, and he's since taken up with the Seattle Seahawks.
1 Sam Bradford, QB, Minnesota Vikings
To be fair, Sam Bradford hasn't been awful on the field. He's good at avoiding turnovers and puts the ball in his receivers' hands. However, considering that he was a first overall pick and what teams have given him/given up for his services, it's safe to say that he's been a resounding bust. Drafted 1st-overall in 2010 by the St. Louis (Now Los Angeles) Rams, ahead of Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, and Eric Berry, Bradford hasn't lived up to the potential he flashed in college, where he won the Heisman trophy. To be fair once again, he's missed close to two full seasons because of various knee injuries, but that doesn't excuse the fact that when he's on the field, he's been, at best, nothing special. His stint with the Rams was average and they never made the playoffs with him at the helm, but the Philadelphia Eagles still gave up Nick Foles and two picks for him in 2015. He almost comically under produced in Philly, but the Minnesota Vikings gave up a first round pick for his services, because of a catastrophic injury to Teddy Bridgewater. And yes, he set the NFL single season for completion percentage last season, but for a team that scored only 20.4 points per game, 23rd in the league, and saw their defense carry their scoring output through the first half of the season. He set that record mostly by completing three-yard check downs; his deep passing abilities were practically non-existent. However, despite having proved nothing through his deceptive "breakout" stats, Sam Bradford is still set to start, and will probably still have a starting job if the Vikings cut him next summer, because he fits the prototypical quarterback image and teams will never stop believing that they can get something out of him that no one else could.
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