Each year, the NFL Draft is the source of many legendary successes, along with colossal failures. It is the prime opportunity each offseason for any given team to improve their roster, but sometimes, their picks turn into nagging detriments instead of productive assets. Over the past five years, we've seen plenty of players that most analysts and fans thought would live up to their potential, but ended up being the reason for one team's disappointment. Despite the premium resources that were invested into their talents, they bombed, and in many cases, it wasn't a gentle fall from grace.
This list highlights the failures from the first two rounds, since those are the players who were generally expected to play right away and contribute. Thus, these are also the draft picks who were actually given some form of substantial playing time. Regardless of their high draft position, these players are some of the worst to be taken in the past five years, and it didn't take long to find out that they didn't have what it takes. Players such as Johnny Manziel and Justin Blackmon are absent, because their downfall was primarily due to issues with substance abuse, not their play on the field exclusively. For the players listed here, their in-game performance was enough to give general managers plenty of nightmares.
Ranked below are the top 15 worst NFL players drafted in the last five years.
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15 E.J. Manuel
Another bad break for the Bills occurred when they selected Manuel out of Florida State in the 2013 draft. A top-20 selection, he was supposed to be the quarterback of the future for the Bills, and right now he is barely hanging on to backup QB status in the NFL. It turned out to be a huge mistake by Buffalo, and Manuel has been a disaster in just about every NFL game that he's played in with the team. He's the definition of a "college quarterback" and likely isn't going to be around the league for much longer. He's done nothing to prove that he is starter material, and there are more reliable backups to be had at a cheaper price. One of the biggest quarterback busts of all-time considering his draft position, and another massive misstep for the Bills overall.
14 Devin Smith
Ohio State products are usually a good bet to produce in the NFL, but Smith is an outlier. In the several years he's been in the league, he's done next to nothing for the Jets. Despite suffering some injuries, he's been on the field enough to know that his ceiling in the NFL is extremely limited. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Jets move on from him, and another team pick him up based on perceived potential. However, unless the new system that he plays in can help his growth exponentially, there's little chance that Smith makes it anywhere near his career-projections coming out of college. It's more likely that he ends up one of the bigger wide receiver busts in recent memory, and a failed draft pick for the Jets.
13 David Wilson
The Giants selected Wilson in 2012 in an attempt to solidify their run game by taking a running back in the first round. Wilson was a Virginia Tech product, but not really built for the NFL style of play with his smaller size. He didn't receive much playing time to begin with, and when he did, his numbers were middling at best, much to the dismay of the Giants, who had no doubt expected him to be a three-down player who could give them a layered identity on offense. Wilson retired after just two seasons in the pros due to injury concerns, but he wouldn't have lasted much longer even if those weren't a factor. He was an underwhelming selection, and one of the biggest running back busts of the 21st Century.
12 Marcus Smith
Smith was the Eagles' first round selection in 2014, and supposed to be the edge rusher that would lead them going forward. Three years down the road, and that hasn't come to fruition, as he was essentially benched during his first two seasons, and played just a limited role as a rotational player in 2016. He's a player that doesn't really fit the ideal role of either an outside linebacker, or defensive end in the NFL, finding himself caught in between the two positions. All in all, he's been a massive disappointment for Philadelphia, and won't ever live up to the first round grade that they had on him. There are late round selections around the league that have been far more productive at the same position, than he has.
11 Aaron Dobson
For as good as the Patriots have been over the long haul, they've had a terrible resume when it comes to actually drafting wide receivers. Chalk Dobson up as another name on that list. He was selected in the second round of 2013, and only scratched the surface of any kind of productivity; which only came during his rookie season. The next two seasons in New England he was almost completely anonymous, and was cut before the start of the 2016 season. Dobson was a Miami product, and considering the pedigree of the receivers that were former Hurricanes, he can be considered nothing less than an NFL bust, especially when you consider the fact that Tom Brady was throwing him the ball. Not one of Belichick's finer moments in the NFL draft.
10 Isaiah Pead
Before the Rams were building their backfield around Todd Gurley, it was Pead who was supposed to receive that distinction. Despite being drafted in the second round, and having a ton of hype coming into his rookie year, Pead was an out-and-out bust, totaling just 54 yards during his rookie season, which ended up being a career-high. The next three years, he barely got on the field at all, and fizzled out very quickly. In all, the Rams got a horrible return on Pead, who was supposed to be the kind of running back that a team could rely on for the long-term. He turned out to be anything but, and was one of the worst players selected in the 2012 class as a whole. Overall a major disappointment, and one of the worst running back picks in recent memory.
9 Phillip Dorsett
The numbers may indicate that Dorsett hasn't been a failure, and instead is just a middling receiver who is finding his way in the league. However, when you consider the fact that he's a Miami product, a first round pick for the Colts, and has had Andrew Luck throwing him the ball more often than not, it begins to become a concern that he just isn't living up to his potential. He can barely find his way on the field to begin with, starting just seven games out of a total of 26 played; not a good sign for a first round pick. For a fourth round pick this would be acceptable, but with the premium first round pick invested into him, Dorsett will have to prove that he can bring more to the table, or else it's a bust all the way around. He's in a great passing offense with a very good quarterback; there's really no reason why he shouldn't excel in this format.
8 Laquon Treadwell
Now, this one may be a bit premature, but there's no denying that when you're the consensus, highest rated wide receiver in any given draft class, a paltry one reception for 15 yards in your rookie season isn't a good sign. This is especially true considering the Vikings receiving corps, which can only be described as "meh" at best. Of course, with only one season under his belt, the jury is still technically out, but this could be shaping up to be one of the biggest wide receiver busts of all-time. Treadwell was considered a blue-chip prospect, albeit in a weak receiver class, and right now it's looking like he was a long way to go if ever hopes to fulfill that designation. Consider this one up in the air, but don't be surprised if Treadwell falls flat, and never ends up making an impact.
7 Brandon Weeden
A 26-year-old college quarterback being deemed a blue-chip prospect was always a head-scratcher, and Weeden was the beneficiary of that praise. He was taken in the first round by the Browns, in yet another attempt of finding their franchise quarterback. Long story short; it failed, and after stints in Dallas and Houston proceeding his poor play in limited time a the starter in Cleveland, he's probably on the outskirts of the league, and on his way out. The hype on him was always inexplicable, and he's unquestionably one of the most pronounced, yet strangest draft busts of all-time. Everyone knows by now that Weeden can't play, and his bust-level has reached the level of Tebow, and others with similar careers. Weeden is truly one of the worst high-round selections of all-time, at any position.
6 A.J. Jenkins
Oft-forgotten about now, but Jenkins was a highly-touted receiver out of Illinois in the 2012 draft, and the 49ers took the bait, selecting him 30th overall in that year's draft. What a miss it was, as Jenkins has barely played in the four years proceeding his draft selection, and made absolutely no impact on any of the three teams that he's been with. It's a lost cause at this point, and Jenkins deserves to be categorized as one of the biggest receiver busts in history, with some players having more receiving yards in one game, than Jenkins has had in his entire career. At least San Francisco was smart enough to cut ties with him early. Jenkins is unlikely to ever play another snap in the NFL at this point, and there's plenty of evidence (or a lack thereof, depending on how you look at it) as to why that is.
5 Dion Jordan
Jordan was a top-five overall pick, and even though his career trajectory took a massive downturn because of substance abuse, he still played one full season in the NFL, and it wasn't good. Any time a linebacker has a mere 26 tackles for an entire season is doesn't bode well for their future production, even as a rookie, and Jordan proved that he just didn't have what it took to succeed at the pro level. The Dolphins suffered a huge miss with this pick, and now Jordan is unlikely to ever play another snap in the league. Considering his draft position, he was a massive failure, and one of the least productive defensive players of all-time, considering the circumstances. Even before the suspensions started rolling in, Jordan proved his future was limited in the NFL, due to his poor play on the field.
4 Justin Gilbert
Another miscue for the Browns, Gilbert was a top-ten overall cornerback, and was supposed to be a shutdown type player at the position that could hold up for a decade or more. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as he bombed out in Cleveland, and is barely staying in the league as a special teamer for the Steelers at this point. That's an awful return on such a high pick, and Gilbert turned out to be one of the worst cornerbacks in his 2014 draft class. Everything about this pick was a disaster, and if Gilbert doesn't mark an improvement soon, he'll be out of the league and replaced by younger, faster players that are a dime-a-dozen and can play special teams. A true disappointment in every sense of the word.
3 LaMichael James
Though he is rarely brought up now, James was considered one of the better running backs in the 2012 draft, and was selected in the second round by the 49ers. What followed was one of the most unproductive careers for a top-two round pick ever. James' brief career spanned two teams (the other being the Dolphins, where he was equally unproductive), and he turned out to be a certified bust, and one of the least productive running backs in his class. Despite their several draft failures that have documented here, the 49ers ended up being a pretty successful franchise under Jim Harbaugh's reign during this era. It's just worth noting how poorly the careers of players like James and A.J. Jenkins turned out, considering their high selections.
2 Nelson Agholor
Drafted by the Eagles in the first round of the 2015 draft out of USC, Agholor has been just about as big a letdown as a first round wide receiver gets. He's been consistently ranked near the bottom of the wide receivers in the league by PFF, and he's simply a detriment to the receiving corps as a whole. He was benched during the 2016 for a game or two, and his future with the team remains murky and undefined. Whatever the case, it's looking less and less likely that he fulfills his potential of his draft status, and instead ends up being one of the biggest busts in Eagles history. There's time for him to turn it around, but no one will be betting money on it. Agholor is truly one of the worst receivers in the game right now, with little prospects for improvement.
1 Trent Richardson
Pretty much the draft busts to end all draft busts, Richardson was the number one rated running back in the 2012 class, coming out of Alabama. Selected third overall by the Browns, he was touted as a three-down back with an immense ceiling to his name. He found the end zone quite a bit during his rookie, but displayed no vision while running the ball, and demonstrated that he clearly wasn't ready to compete at the NFL level. Things went from bad, to worse. Richardson was traded during the next season to the Colts, where he showcased more mediocrity, and was soon out of the league, by the end of the 2014 season. He hasn't played a snap in the NFL since, and will go down as one of the biggest draft busts of all-time. For the investment that was placed on him, Richardson was absolutely horrible, and a serves as an indicator to future teams who may make the same mistake on a player with a similar skill-set.
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