Nothing grabs our attention like a star rookie in the NFL. The Cowboys’ explosive freshman tandem of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott has captivated millions of fans. There is also Eagles quarterback, Carson Wentz, who led Philadelphia to a red hot start this season before cooling off. Other players like Austin Hooper, Sterling Sheppard, and Joey Bosa have performed well so far in their respective rookie campaigns.
What drives this fascination for NFL fans? Some of it has to do with the fact that there are no developmental leagues for college draftees, like there are for the other three major sports. Once a player is drafted, they go through training camp, battle through preseason, and either make the final 53-man roster, or get cut. This means that rookie busts are easier to spot.
Some names immediately come to mind, namely 2016 number one pick, Jared Goff. Yet, there are plenty of other newcomers who have failed to make an impact for their teams so far this year, or, due to injury, have made less of an impact than coaches and management have hoped for.
Here are 15 NFL rookies who already look like busts.
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15 Pharoh Cooper
The former two-time All-SEC wide receiver was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams. While not a much-hyped prospect, Cooper was expected to contribute to the Rams’ offense right out of the gate in 2016. Unfortunately, a late-August shoulder injury sidelined him for the season opener.
Through Week 9 of the 2016 season, the South Carolina graduate has played just two games. In those games, Cooper had one catch on two targets. That one catch didn’t come until Week 9.
He is currently third on the Rams’ wide-receiver depth chart behind Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin. The Rams employ a run-heavy offense as it is, with Todd Gurley at the running back position. It’s unclear how often quarterback Case Keenum will target Cooper going forward.
14 C.J. Prosise
The Seahawks’ running game hasn’t been the same since Marshawn Lynch retired after the 2015 season. From 2010-2015, the Seahawks' ground game averaged 135 yards per game, and 4.5 yards per carry. They average just 81.5 yards per game this season, ranking 28th in the NFL.
One reason for this drop-off has been the unavailability of rookie running back, C.J. Prosise. Prosise’s game has turned a corner in recent weeks, but the former third round pick out of Notre Dame struggled with hip, hamstring, and wrist injuries through training camp, and missed large chunks of the first half of the 2016 season. As of Week 9, he has just six carries for 21 yards, and seven catches on eight targets for 110 yards.
Pete Carroll intends to use Prosise more often over the final stretch of games this season, so his totals may improve. However, if Prosise struggles to stay healthy, he could fall out of favor in Seattle sooner rather than later.
13 De’Vondre Campbell
Rookie Austin Hooper is having great success at the tight end position for the Atlanta Falcons. I can't say the same for De'Vondre Campbell at the linebacker position. The 23-year-old fourth round pick out of the University of Minnesota missed almost a month of action in 2016 after suffering an ankle injury in Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders.
Campbell amassed 31 tackles through five games so far this season, along with one forced fumble. Those totals are respectable, but not on par with his stellar senior season at Minnesota. He recorded 92 total tackles and four sacks that season, and was expected to continue that dominance for Atlanta.
Although injuries and underwhelming play have plagued Campbell so far, there's still a chance he can improve over the season's second half.
12 Andy Janovich
The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 on the strength of Von Miller and the lights-out defense he led. With first-year starter Trevor Siemian taking the reins from Peyton Manning, and uncertainty at the running back position, analysts were unsure how potent Denver’s offense could be.
Rookie fullback, Andy Janovich, seems to quell those concerns, at least for a brief spell, when he rushed for a 28-yard touchdown on his first professional carry in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.
The rookie sixth-round pick likely wouldn’t supplant Devontae Booker as the team’s starting running back, but he could surely provide a solid second option, right? Not exactly. Janovich is currently fourth on the Broncos’ depth chart for running backs.
Since his Week 1 touchdown run, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Nebraska alum only has three receptions and one rush attempt for five total yards. The Broncos could use his size to run through defenders, much like the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs did back in the late 2000s. However, it appears they don’t trust the rookie in that role just yet.
11 Cardale Jones
The Bills took Cardale Jones with the 139th pick in the fourth round.
The former Ohio State quarterback entered the 2016 draft with a considerable amount of hype due to his rapid from the third stringer to starter in 2014. Jones led the Buckeyes to the 2014 National Championship in his Junior season.
He completed 61 percent of his passes during that span, and was a hot commodity going into the 2015 draft. However, he chose to forego the draft and finish out his Senior year. Jones was 11-0 as a starter for the Buckeyes, and threw for 2,323 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions, while completing 167 of 270 passes.
However, Jones hasn't played a single regular season snap with the Bills in 2016. He showed flashes during the preseason, displaying the arm power that propelled his success at Ohio State. Yet, he is still the backup to Tyrod Taylor.
Over the summer, an anonymous scout compared Jones to a "poor man's JaMarcus Russell." Not the best comparison if you ask me.
10 Laquon Treadwell
Things aren’t going too well for the Vikings right now. After a white-hot 5-0 start, they’ve come crashing back down to Earth, as their offensive line woes, one-dimensional running game, and shallow wide receiving core have all been exposed. The Vikings record stands at 5-3 entering Week 10.
One reason for the Vikings’ recent struggles is the disappointing play of 2016 first round pick Laquon Treadwell. The former All-SEC receiver has just one reception for 15 yards and no touchdowns in five games played this season.
It’s unclear why a team like the Vikings, who are starved for offense, would play Treadwell in just five games this year. Yes, he’s been slow to develop, but the only way for him to hone his game is to be on the field.
With offensive coordinator Norv Turner out of the picture, maybe Treadwell writes a new chapter for the second half of the 2016 season.
9 Leonte Carroo
Carroo didn’t join the Dolphins with much fanfare, as he was taken in the third round in 2016. Carroo is fourth on Miami’s wide-receiver depth chart behind Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and DeVante Parker. The Rutgers grad has just two receptions for 14 yards and no touchdowns in four games.
I understand that Dolphins are a run-heavy team, especially with the recent dominance of running back Jay Ajayi, but Carroo has only played in four of the team’s first eight games. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has targeted the six-foot receiver just four times in those games.
Is it a trust issue? I’m not sure, but whatever the reason, Carroo isn’t getting the playing time he needs to develop, and it’s showing with his unimpressive statistics so far this year. If he gets more targets, perhaps he turns his luck around.
8 Emmanuel Ogbah
The Browns had 14 total picks in the 2016 draft. The team used its second round pick to select Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. The rookie has started every game for the Browns through Week 9 and has 33 combined tackles and three sacks. Those are solid totals for a rookie, but it hasn’t translated to any wins for the Browns as yet. The team is 0-10 and ranks 31st in the NFL in rush defense, and 28th overall in pass defense. They have given up at least 30 points in six of their first eight games.
It’s clear that whatever production Ogbah is providing for Cleveland is not enough to improve their defensive ineptitude.
Analytics website ProFootballFocus.com recently ranked him as the 64th best edge player in the NFL.
Sure, one player can’t do it all, especially for a perpetual cellar-dweller like the Browns, but Ogbah needs to make more of an impact going forward.
7 Kevin Dodd
Rookie linebacker Kevin Dodd got off to a good start for the troubled Titans, recording a sack in his Week 2 debut. However, the 2016 second round pick has been a minimal contributor since then.
When the Titans selected Dodd 33rd overall, they thought they were getting a menacing pass rusher who had 12 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss during his senior season at Clemson, not to mention three sacks in the 2016 College Football National Championship Game against Alabama.
However, Dodd has just five total tackles and one sack on the season through Week 9. A foot injury kept him out of a Thursday Night Football game against Jacksonville earlier this season. The Titans hope Dodd can chip in more on the pass rush and improve the team's 16th ranked defense.
6 Cyrus Jones
The Patriots haven't had to face too much adversity so far this season. Tom Brady picked up right where he left off upon returning from his suspension, and the Pats' offense seems to be running on all cylinders heading through the month of November.
One dim spot for New England is the play of rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones. The 2016 second round pick was a star punt returner for Alabama, where he had two interceptions, and four punt return TDs in 15 games during his senior season.
Jones hasn't had the same success under Bill Belichick as he did under Nick Saban. His longest punt return this season was for a mere 13 yards, and he fumbled a punt return in Week 4 against the Bills. Worst of all, Jones was ejected for throwing a punch during the team's Week 5 matchup against the Browns.
As of Week 10, he hasn't seen the field since.
5 Josh Doctson
Doctson was supposed to be another piece to the Redskins' vaunted wide-receiving core heading into this season. Washington took the talented TCU alum with the 22nd pick in the first round in the 2016 draft. Doctson caught 79 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.
However, an early Achilles injury sidelined him for the entire preseason. Doctson returned for Weeks 1 and 2, catching two passes for 66 yards. However, he re-aggravated his Achilles injury during warm-ups for a Week 3 game against the Giants, and was placed on Injured Reserve one month later.
The Redskins have talented, proven deep threats in Jamison Crowder, DeSean Jackson, and Pierre Garcon. Doctson may be talented, but he hasn't proven anything just yet. He'll have to stay healthy to do so.
4 Eli Apple
There's no doubt 2015 was a rough season for the New York Giants. Big Blue’s defense ranked last in the league and only racked up 15 interceptions against the opposition. The Giants hoped Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple could help sure up these deficiencies, so they selected him with the 10th overall pick in 2016.
Apple got off to a decent start in Weeks 1 and 2, but groin and hamstring injuries kept him off the field for almost a month of NFL action. He has 19 total tackles, six passes defended, one forced fumble, and no interceptions. This is not the production general manager Jerry Reese thought he would get when he selected Apple earlier this year.
Apple had a solid four tackle game against the Eagles in Week Nine in early November, but has yet to record an interception.
3 Roberto Aguayo
Aguayo was a controversial pick from the start. The three-time All-ACC kicker completed 69 of 78 field goals attempts for Florida State, including all 198 extra point attempts. However, it’s rare for a kicker to go in the second round. It’s even less common for a team to trade up to get one. Yet, that’s exactly what the Buccaneers did in 2016. They traded with the Chiefs to select Aguayo with the 59th pick.
The kicker has been fairly inconsistent so far. He has made seven of 12 field goal attempts through eight games this season (57 percent) and his longest made field goal was for 43 yards. He has also made 15 of 17 extra point attempts.
Aguayo doesn’t need to be perfect, even if you consider his nearly flawless college stats. For a second round kicker, though, I’m sure the Buccaneers expected more thus far.
2 * Kevin White
*Despite being drafted seventh overall in 2015, White never played a game during his rookie season. The Bears’ wide receiver was sidelined with a stress fracture in his shin.
He hoped to make a comeback in his first true rookie campaign in 2016. However, White only lasted four games into the season before another leg injury (a fractured left fibula) landed him on Injured Reserve in October. In four career games, White has managed 19 receptions for 187 yards and no touchdowns.
That is certainly not the kind of production the Bears organization expected from their former top 10 pick. You can argue that White’s totals would improve if not for his injuries.
Unfortunately, that’s why they say “the best ability is availability,” and no matter how talented White may be, fans will never see his skill if he can’t stay healthy.
1 Jared Goff
Who else could take the top spot if not for the number one pick in 2016? Despite his pre-draft hype, as of Week 10, Goff has yet to start an NFL game for the newly-relocated Los Angeles Rams. Head coach Jeff Fisher insists on sticking with journeyman quarterback Case Keenum over the rookie gunslinger who threw 96 touchdown passes in a three-year college career at California.
Keenum has thrown nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions through eight games this season, but that disastrous performance isn’t enough for Goff to get a look. If Fisher truly believed Goff had the skill to play, he would’ve started him by now. Hall of Fame wide-receiver Cris Carter even said, “These guys know he can’t play…they messed this pick up.”
Now, it remains to be seen whether the Rams will start Goff once they are out of the playoff race. Yet, given how Keenum is struggling, why Goff hasn’t gotten a chance is puzzling. Perhaps he hasn’t shown sufficient knowledge of the team’s playbook in practice. Whatever the reason, a number one pick like Goff needs to prove he can play at the NFL level, and soon, or else he’ll join the likes of Ryan Leaf in the annals of first-round quarterback busts.
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