The NFL Draft is a time for optimism. Teams and fans alike believe in their scouting and ability to discover a new wave of talent (unless you’re a Jets fan with the inherited trait of booing every draft decision ever made). Draft grades follow almost immediately, before players even see the field. The immediacy is a major rush to judgment, but how early is too early? In the case of the 2013 NFL Draft, the writing is already on the wall by 2016.
2013 produced one of the worst classes in recent memory. This offseason marked the deadline for teams to offer their former picks a fifth-year option. 12 players from the first round did not receive an extension, including five of the top ten picks. For those counting at home, you’re right. That’s not a good success rate.
The draft as a whole produced a number of solid, Pro Bowl caliber players, but the disappointments in the early rounds are resounding. The following list only includes players selected in the first 62 picks. Whether due to injury, poor play or suspension, these fifteen individuals face a long climb back from the “bust” label.
15 Jonathan Cooper (Rd 1, Pk 7)
Experts considered the draft light on skill players, but deep in help along the offensive line. Half of the top ten picks were linemen. At 7th overall, Jonathan Cooper became the fourth off the board. He joined the Arizona Cardinals as a hopeful cog in their offense but broke his leg in the team’s third preseason game. With that, Cooper missed his entire rookie season. Then, Ted Larson beat him out for left guard in 2014 and Cooper only made appearances in 24 games over the next two seasons, starting only 11 and struggling with consistency. After moving Cooper to right guard for 2015, Arizona mulled trying him at center in 2016 – a last gasp effort to rectify their fading investment. Instead, New England came calling. The Patriots traded Chandler Jones in exchange for Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick, though New England declined to pick up Cooper’s $11.9 million 2017 option. Is a bust still a bust if he nets a team Chandler Jones for them?
14 Aaron Dobson (Rd 2, Pk 59)
The Patriots involved themselves in the next bust as well. New England selected Andre Dobson (Dropson?) at the end of the second round, but ultimately failed to provide Tom Brady with another weapon. He displayed his potential as a rookie, finishing with 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns. However, Dobson’s next two seasons were plagued by injury and his career statistics currently stand at 53 receptions for 698 yards and four touchdowns. That’s a whopping 16 catches for 179 yards without reaching pay dirt over two seasons. Given he appeared in 12 games over his final two seasons in New England, he averaged 1.3 catches and just under 15 yards a game. Keep in mind, these statistics came with Brady at the helm. If a four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback cannot make Dobson look good, the receiver’s future prospects aren’t promising. The Patriots released him before the 2016 regular season. Detroit recently signed Dobson, though they've already released him.
13 Montee Ball (Rd 2, Pk 58)
The 2011 Heisman finalist and 2012 Doak Walker Award recipient went to the Denver Broncos one pick before Aaron Dobson. He was the third running back taken behind Giovani Bernard and Le’Veon Bell. They are still in the league. Montee Ball? Not so much.
At Wisconsin, Ball rushed for 5,140 career yards and scored 83 touchdowns from scrimmage. Denver hoped he would provide a steady ground threat during Peyton’s final years, à la Elway and Terrell Davis. However, Ball struggled to separate himself from Ronnie Hillman (now released) and C.J. Anderson. He appeared in 21 games between 2013-2014, rushing for 731 yards. On his career, which is almost certainly over, he has five touchdowns and four fumbles, leading the Broncos waived Ball after the 2015 preseason. He recently pleaded guilty to two charges of disorderly conduct and one charge of battery in a domestic abuse incident and a judge ordered him to serve consecutive 30-day jail sentences, which will likely serve as the final nail in his coffin as an NFL player.
12 Luke Joeckel (Rd 1, Pk 2)
Many touted the Jacksonville Jaguars as major winners in the most recent NFL Draft. Their performance thus far hasn’t matched the hype, but the season is still young. One thing that is certain is their misstep with 2013’s second overall pick. The Jaguars selected Luke Joeckel out of Texas A&M and he started his rookie season at right tackle before the team traded away Eugene Monore. Joeckel then moved to left tackle but fractured his ankle the next game. He returned next year to start in all 16 games in 2014, followed by 14 games the next year. Although serviceable, his play has never met expectations. Pro Football Focus assigned 8 sacks allowed to Joeckel for 2014 and he struggled mightily against the ferocious Texans defense in the 2015 season finale, where he allowed five sacks that day. Jacksonville signed former Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum during the offseason and they also neglected to pick up Joeckel’s option, showing their dissatisfaction with his play. Joeckel has since moved to guard in an effort to save his career with the Jags.
11 D.J. Hayden (Rd 1, Pk 12)
D.J. Hayden entered the draft with a miraculous survival story. During a November practice in his final year at the University of Houston, Hayden collided with another defensive player and took a jarring knee to the chest. The seemingly normal play was anything but. The impact hadn’t knocked the wind out of him. It had torn his heart’s main blood vessel, the vena cava, almost completely off the back of the organ. Doctors performed emergency open-heart surgery to save Hayden’s life. He made a full recovery, but several teams saw the near death experience as an impediment to a successful career in the NFL. The Raiders took a chance on him early in the first round, 12th overall and Hayden has struggled through three seasons with the Raiders. Although Hayden started 13 games in 2015, he was among the worst rated cornerbacks in the league. Oakland declined his fifth-year option for 2017 and the team also revamped their secondary. He has not started a game yet this season, operating as their nickel corner, where he's begun to show slight improvement. Despite that, he's unlikely to ever become a #1 CB in the NFL.
10 Jarvis Jones (Rd 1, Pk 17)
Out of the busts included so far, Jarvis Jones has shone the most potential to expand his role in the NFL and rewrite his negative label. Jones went 17th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers after collecting 14.5 sacks during his final season at Georgia. Although he’s shown flashes of brilliance and strength against the run, Jarvis Jones has ultimately been a letdown. He’s taken the quarterback down only five times in three seasons. At this rate, it will take him nine years to match his sack total from his breakout season at Georgia. One of the main reasons Jones has failed to meet expectations is playing time. He played 59% of snaps during his rookie year. A wrist injury limited him to 23% in his second season, and his third season only rose to 41%, as he clearly fell behind James Harrison, Bud Dupree and Arthur Moats in the pecking order. His inability to crack the main rotation of linebackers in 2015 led to Pittsburgh’s decision to decline Jones’ fifth-year option. Jones hopes to make them pay for the snub and has been on the field more this season, though he still hasn't managed a sack.
9 Justin Hunter (Rd 2, Pk 34)
When the Titans shipped Dorial Green-Beckham to the Eagles in the middle of the preseason, Justin Hunter said, “I feel like everybody is on the chopping block. We have a new GM and he didn’t draft too many people in here.” Two weeks later, the Titans waived Justin Hunter. Hunter, a University of Tennessee product with eye-popping measurables, never found sustained success with Tennessee’s professional team. His most notable season to date came in 2014, where he had 28 catches, 498 yards and three touchdowns. He failed to eclipse the 30-catch plateau in any season and has a forgettable career stat line: 68 catches, 1,116 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Miami Dolphins claimed him on waivers following the release, but he did nothing of note with them and was quickly released. It remains to be seen if another team will pick him up.
8 Matt Elam (Rd 1, Pk 32)
The Baltimore Ravens drafted Matt Elam as the heir apparent to Ed Reed. He inherited the starting strong safety position in 2013 and did his best to squander opportunities. His tackling ability was non-existent and his coverage skills were sadly lacking and players need both – or at least one – to perform effectively in the secondary. Otherwise, they become bystanders to the opponent’s success. The Ravens realized Elam could fulfill his bystander role from the bench by the middle of 2014. Will Hill took over as the starter, before Elam missed the entire 2015 season with a torn biceps. A few months after Baltimore declined his fifth-year option, Elam suffered a knee injury in the preseason. He was competing for the backup safety position behind Eric Weddle. The team placed him on IR and Elam has likely played his last game in a Baltimore uniform.
7 Barkevious Mingo (Rd 1, Pk 6)
The Cleveland Browns selected Barkevious Mingo, a former standout at LSU, with the sixth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The mere participation of the Cleveland franchise increases chances for a bust by 73%. That statistic is completely fabricated, but it probably checks out regardless. The organization is cursed and given the Browns’ natural aversion toward winning, Mingo was behind the eight ball from the start. His skills didn’t necessarily translate to a single position. He served as the Browns’ linebacker for three seasons. His combined 110 tackles, seven sacks and one interception was uninspiring. One team’s 2013 draft trash is apparently another team’s treasure – the Patriots’. New England sent a 2017 fifth round pick to the Browns in exchange for Mingo before the 2016 season. He debuted in a preseason game with six tackles, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble that was wiped out by a penalty, which shows he might have some gas left in the tank for his NFL career.
6 Cordarrelle Patterson (Rd 1, Pk 29)
The Minnesota Vikings found an electric returner in the 2013 NFL Draft. The only problem is that good teams don’t normally use a first round pick on a kick returner. Minnesota thought they were getting a wide receiver too, but it hasn’t panned out for Patterson. He has one less career kick return touchdown than receiving touchdown. It sounds great in theory, but Cordarrelle Patterson is not the second coming of Cris Carter (130 touchdowns). Patterson entered the 2016 season with 80 career receptions, 863 yards and 5 receiving touchdowns. His production has decreased in every season, culminating in two receptions for 10 yards in 2015. After two catches and 14 yards through three games this season, he’s on pace to shatter the previous year’s performance with 11 catches for 75 yards. That’s exciting. The Vikings declined Patterson’s option and drafted wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in the first round of the 2016 Draft, showing that his time might be up in Minnesota.
5 Geno Smith (Rd 2, Pk 39)
Now the Jets fans can boo. Geno Smith was the second quarterback off the board, as teams recognized the weakness of the incoming QB class and largely held off on signal callers, which left him stranded in the green room for an entire day. Only a few years later, it appears New York should have postponed the decision even longer. Geno Smith endured a challenging rookie year, as he didn’t throw a touchdown in 50% of his game and finished the year with a completion percentage of 55.8%, 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Although Geno improved his completion percentage and ball security (59.7 and 13 picks) the next year, it would prove his last as a starter. IK Enemkpali, a linebacker with the team, sucker punched Smith in the locker room during the 2015 preseason. The quarterback missed several weeks with a broken jaw, and the team released Enemkpali. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over the starting job. He never relinquished it.
4 Dee Milliner (Rd 1, Pk 9)
If Geno Smith wasn't bad enough, the Jets struck out with their first pick as well. New York selected Dee Milliner out of Alabama with the 9th overall selection. The plan was to replace the hole left by Darrelle Revis’ departure, but it never came to fruition. In fact, Revis has returned to New York and still holds a starting position. On the other hand, Milliner suffered a high ankle sprain early his rookie season and the injury plagued him throughout the year and caused poor play. Milliner’s inability to remain healthy and productive became a troubling theme. The cornerback played three games in 2014 before tearing his Achilles. He tore a tendon in his wrist the next year and he’s only managed to play just 21 games over the course of three seasons. New York recently placed Milliner on Injured Reserve for 2016, before they finally cut him. He’s done little to suggest a successful rebirth with another franchise is on the horizon.
3 EJ Manuel (Rd 1, Pk 16)
Shameless name-drop: I graduated from the same high school one year after EJ. I only knew him in passing, but I never heard a single person have a bad thing to say about him. He had tremendous leadership potential and high intelligence. I personally believe he will find greener grass and receive a better opportunity to shed the “bust” label, but public perception requires him to appear on this list. Buffalo surprised many when they made Manuel the first quarterback drafted in 2013. EJ missed parts of his up and down rookie year due to knee injuries. He had gone 2-2 with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions his second season when Doug Marrone benched him in favor of Kyle Orton. Kyle Orton threw 18 touchdowns and 10 picks while managing the team to a 9-7 record. Orton’s performance was not exceedingly better than Manuel’s and if their stats were applied to a projected 16-game season, Orton would have thrown the same number of interceptions and a few more touchdowns while providing less of a mobile threat. Tyrod Taylor took over the starting role the following year. Although Manuel has been undeniably inconsistent, he’s only started 16 games during his career. That equates to one full season. It’s an incredibly short leash for a first round pick. It remains to be seen if he’ll get a starting opportunity elsewhere in the future.
2 Bjoern Werner (Rd 1, Pk 24)
The Colts drafted against their scheme by selecting Bjoern Werner in the second half of the first round of 2013 NFL Draft. The coaching staff attempted to convert Werner from defensive end to linebacker in order to fit in Indianapolis’ 3-4 scheme. Werner appeared in 13 games and started once during his rookie campaign. He managed 2.5 sacks. He started 15 games the following year, but his numbers did not match the higher volume of snaps, as Werner got to the quarterback only four times. He lost his starting job by 2015 and logged 13 tackles with zero sacks over ten games. Indianapolis gave up on Bjoern and they released him during the recent offseason. The Jaguars signed Werner and gave him a chance to make the team at defensive end, but he failed to make an impression. He’s currently a free agent.
1 Dion Jordan (Rd 1, Pk 3)
The 2013 Draft contained a painful amount of misses, but Dion Jordan has firmly established himself as the biggest bust in the class. The Miami Dolphins traded up to select Jordan and he repaid them with two sacks over 16 games in his rookie season. He managed one sack in ten games the next year, but missed six games due to two different drug-related suspensions. His third substance abuse strike came in April 2015, as the NFL suspended him for 15 months, conditionally reinstating Jordan at the end of July 2016. He missed all of training camp before Miami placed him on the non-football injury list. Jordan will therefore miss the first six games of the regular season. His impact was miniscule even before missing over a year of football, but now Jordan will have to prove he’s skilled enough upon his return to remain in the league. Right now, his most notable statistic is compiling the same amount of suspensions as sacks – three, to match his draft position.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!