It pretty much goes without saying that any pick in the NFL Draft is a risky proposition, even in the first round. The front office for any given team is taking a chance on the potential on-field development, and personal character of athletes who are barely old enough to legally order a drink in the United States. While this youthful characteristic can mean a long-term return of quality play from the prospect, it also means that there have been some historically bad draft busts that NFL fans have been able to witness in recent years. It's usually entertaining to watch unfold, unless it happens to your own personal rooting interest.
However, not every draft bust is out of the league in a year or two. Some are able to stick around, for whatever reason, and contribute in a variety of ways. While none of those contributions are that of what is expected from a first round pick, they are somehow able to make it work, and can piecemeal a relatively long career together. There are a handful of players that fit that bill in the NFL right now. They may not have lived up to their first round draft status, but they're still knocking around the league in one way or another.
Ranked below are the top 15 worst first round picks in the NFL today.
15 EJ Manuel
Taken 16th overall in the 2013 draft, Manuel was the supposed new franchise quarterback for the Bills. He seemed to have all the intangibles necessary, as well as an impressive resume at Florida State that warranted a high selection in the draft. Unfortunately, Manuel bombed almost from the very beginning in 2013 as a starter, but has been able to keep the backup role in Buffalo as they've tried several different experiments at quarterback over the last four years. Now, Manuel is a free agent, and it's anyone's guess where he will end up, but the odds are that he's able to keep a backup for some team. Still, that's a horrible return on a first round quarterback selection, and Manuel hasn't lived up to the expectations that his draft status would have suggested.
14 Shea McClellin
A first round defensive end should be able to hover around the double-digit sack mark for most of their professional career. Drafted by the Bears in 2012, McClellin simply hasn't posted that kind of production, and now finds himself as a depth player with the Patriots (which is probably the best place to be for a fizzled out first round draft bust). In fact, for his entire five-year career he's posted less than double-digit sack totals, so he's been a true disappointment for the position that he plays. He could stick around a veteran defensive lineman on a variety of rosters, but for a first round pick, that's a pretty weak career outlook. Regardless, that's where McClellin finds himself, and poor first round picks like this one are the reason that the Bears are beginning to rebuild their roster for the 2017 offseason.
13 Sean Weatherspoon
While Weatherspoon had a season or two of decent productivity several years ago, it hasn't translated into the long-term output you would expect from a first round linebacker. He's spent most of his career on the Falcons, where he currently resides, other than a rogue year with the Cardinals where he didn't start a single game. As of right now, he's nothing more than a depth player, hanging on the fringes of the roster. Still, he was drafted in 2010, and has carved out a fairly long career for himself, considering he's dealt with injuries, and various shifts on the depth chart. While this is good for Weatherspoon, he still isn't the elite commodity that he was drafted to be, and in that sense, his career is a disappointment. He could be out of the league at any time, but for now, he remains on the Falcons.
12 Blaine Gabbert
As a 10th overall quarterback pick, Gabbert was a draft miss of epic proportions, and simply doesn't have what it takes to be an NFL starter. He received some time in that role last year on the 49ers, and was the definition of underwhelming. That was Gabbert's sixth season in the league after being drafted by the Jaguars in 2011, and he might be able to hang around in a backup role for the next several seasons, in San Francisco or elsewhere. But as a first round selection and starting quarterback, he's been an objective disaster, and won't have another opportunity to prove otherwise in all likelihood. Gabbert was hyped to no end during the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, but it all proved to be for nothing, as he just couldn't translate to the NFL level.
11 Laquon Treadwell
It may be a bit harsh to judge Treadwell after just one season in the NFL, but the Ole Miss product barely got on the field at all, despite being taken 23rd overall in the first round by Minnesota. It's difficult to say what exactly the setback was that he suffered during his rookie year last season, but for someone who was drafted so highly and widely considered to be the best receiver in the 2016 class, the fact that he saw just three targets all season should be troublesome to the Vikings. Until proven otherwise, Treadwell could go down as one of the biggest wide receiver busts in the history of the draft. He'll have to bounce back in a big way during the 2017 season in order to fulfill his potential, and ensure the Vikings' brass that his completely unproductive rookie season was an outlier of a year.
10 Eric Ebron
Had a tight end like Ebron been drafted in the third round or higher, the return that the Lions have gotten on him could be justified. Instead, Ebron was a 10th overall selection, and hasn't lived up to his billing. He's only shown flashes of brilliance, instead of the consistent dominance as a pass catcher that he should have, considering he was such a highly touted prospect. With a more than capable quarterback in Matt Stafford, Ebron's production is just not going to cut it. The upcoming season will be a make-or-break year for him as an NFL starter. As of right now, he still deserves a roster spot because of his relatively young age, but he'll have to step up with some better production. All in all, this is looking like a first round bust for the Lions at the moment.
9 Derek Sherrod
Sherrod was the 32nd overall pick by the Packers in 2011, and was a bust from the moment he stepped on an NFL field, for the most part. He spent four years in Green Bay, starting just a single game, definitely wasn't the offensive tackle of the future that they were hoping he might be. He's still in the league, but currently a free agent, and it's fair to wonder how long he'll go before considering retirement. He spent some time on the Chiefs roster, but was then cut, and it doesn't seem like the interest level is very high for him right now. But offensive lineman get hurt, and tackle is a premium position in the NFL. Shred may find time on another roster again, but his chances of turning his career around into a productive one are slim to none.
8 Kendall Wright
The Titans were high on Wright when they took him 20th overall out of Baylor in the 2012 draft, but he's been one of the more disappointing receivers in recent years. Posting just one season with at least 1,000 yards receiving out of five, Wright never lived up to the billing of him being a go-to wide receiver. While he's had some questionable quarterback to work with during this time span, he's actually posted worse numbers with Marcus Mariota for the past two years, who is by far the best quarterback he's ever had throwing him the ball. Wright is a free agent this offseason, and will likely be moving on from Tennessee, but wherever he goes, he's not likely to produce like a first round receiver should. Consider him to be a fringe player on any roster for the rest of his career.
7 Marcus Smith
This was always a questionable pick by the Eagles, as Smith would have likely dropped into the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. In three seasons in Philadelphia, he hasn't started a single game, and is a rotational defensive end at his absolute best. While he's been getting more playing time than he did in his first couple of seasons, there's no doubt that Smith has been an underwhelming first round pick for his position. He'll be on the Eagles for another season, and then become a free agent next year when his contract expires. It's unclear whether he'll be on a roster at that point, but for now, he's one of the biggest first round busts in the league on the defensive side of the ball. The Smith pick has been a huge detriment for the Eagles the past couple of seasons.
6 C.J. Spiller
Even though he had a couple of seasons where it appeared he was an impending star, Spiller has fallen off big-time in recent years, yet is still maintaining a spot on an NFL roster. He was a ninth overall selection with the Bills in 2010, and after leaving them in 2015, he has been a member of four NFL teams, most recently signing with the Chiefs. This pretty much ensures that Spiller is nothing more than a garden variety, change of pace running back for the rest of his career, and turns out that he wasn't worthy of his top-ten overall selection. It's been an undoubtedly strange career for Spiller, but as long as he's been able to keep it going, I guess it's hard to knock him too much. Still, a ninth overall pick is expected to be a productive player throughout his entire career, not just two seasons of it.
5 Darrius Heyward-Bey
This one was a prototypical Al Davis pick for the Raiders. Hayward-Bey struggled with route running, and the fundamental aspects of playing wide receiver, but ran a 4.3 40-yard dash at the combine before the draft. Given Davis' penchant for wanting to draft sizzle over steak, he took Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall selection in 2009. Unfortunately, the Raiders were a terrible team then, and Hayward-Bey never panned out into a go-to receiver for Oakland. He's currently on the Steelers roster, where he's serving as the fifth or sixth option at the position, and is pretty much embodies what an offensive skill player bust looks like. He's a great athlete, but hasn't been able to master the nuances of the position to be an effective NFL player, considering his top-ten selection.
4 Phillip Dorsett
The first round selection by the Colts in 2015, Dorsett has struggled mightily during his first two seasons in the NFL. He's as fast as they come, but has trouble getting off the line of scrimmage, and hasn't turned into a consistent enough deep threat to make him move up the depth chart with the likes of T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief present at the position group. In fact, Dorsett has been a disappointment in most aspects of his game during his time in Indy, and for much of the time he's struggled despite having a big-armed quarterback like Andrew Luck throwing him the ball. He'll get a couple more seasons to turn it around, but Dorsett is looking like a first round receiver bust at this point.
3 Reggie Bush
Yes, in case you've forgotten, somehow Reggie Bush is still wearing an NFL uniform on a regular basis. It seems like a century ago that he was drafted second overall in the 2006 draft coming out of USC, on the infamous Pete Carroll-coached teams. Had Bush been drafted in say, the fourth round, his career output would look a whole lot better than it does as the second overall pick. He's been on five different teams; most recently the Bills in 2016, where he rushed for -3 yards on the entire season (yes, that's "negative" three yards). This would be an indication that Bush should hang up the cleats after a long career, but he somehow keeps getting signed to one-year deals. All things considered, he's been a large disappointment for most of the teams he's played for.
2 Nelson Agholor
Agholor was supposed to give the Eagles a go-t0 option on the outside of their receiving corps, to work in tandem with slot receiver Jordan Matthews. Instead, Agholor has been consistently rated as one of the worst wide receivers in the NFL over the past two years. He simply doesn't rise to the occasion, and drops far too many passes, playing with an apathetic air that comes off as too nonchalant. As a 20th overall pick, Agholor simply has to be better if he wants to stay in the league, and the 2017 season is likely going to be his last chance to show that he can still live up to his first round selection. No one will be betting on it though. Despite a premium draft resource being invested into him, Agholor has arguably been the worst receiver on the Eagles for the past two season. Not a good look.
1 Justin Gilbert
When it comes to cornerback busts over the past five years, Gilbert stands head and shoulders above the rest. An eighth overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in 2014, Gilbert was a train wreck from the beginning. He started just three games in Cleveland over two seasons, and spent the 2016 campaign getting occasional special teams snaps on the Steelers roster. That's a certified bust any way you cut it, and Gilbert is going to have to up his game if he wants to stay in the league over the long-term. He should be on some roster for the 2017 season, but he's unlikely to actually be playing cornerback, which is the position the Browns invested in him for so highly. Instead, Gilbert seems to be looking at special teams duty for the rest of his career, which is a far cry from being the shut down corner many thought that he would develop into.
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