People say that the NFL Draft is a crapshoot and. since there really isn’t a better term. that’s what we're going to go with as well. No matter where you're drafting, you never know if you’re going to be getting a Hall of Fame player or a bust that will most definitely set the franchise back several years.
The first round of the draft is when you can hardly afford to miss on a draft pick and it’s the round where you find the most long term successful players. However, the majority of first round picks will be given ‘bust’ status. We want to figure out who some of those busts are going to be in the future.
We didn't overdo it with players from the 2015 NFL Draft since they have only been in the league for one year and we only went as far back as 2012. Here are the top 20 NFL first round picks that won’t be in the league when the 2021 season rolls around.
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20 Greg Robinson
The Rams have been looking for an answer at left tackle ever since Orlando Pace retired. In that time, the Rams have drafted several offensive tackles, with their most recent first rounder being Greg Robinson, the second overall pick in 2014 out of Auburn. Just like Jason Smith before him, Robinson hasn’t shown much potential for being the anchor on the offensive line. It has only been two seasons for Robinson, but he has to improve fast if he wants to be around much longer.
19 Melvin Gordon
LaDainian Tomlinson and Ryan Mathews were both first round picks of the Chargers, but have since retired or departed. The Chargers thought they found their answer last year with Melvin Gordon out of Wisconsin with the 15th pick. While some have blamed poor offensive line play by San Diego, Gordon didn’t impress in the slightest. Gordon averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry in his rookie season and it appears he might be heading the same way as most Wisconsin running backs before him.
18 Matt Elam
The Ravens have had decent success drafting in the first round, but it appears they might have missed with Matt Elam, the final pick of the first round in the 2013 Draft. The safety from Florida has been the subject of a lot of ire from Ravens fans, after he lost playing time in his second season. So far, Elam has only one interception and 127 tackles while missing the entire 2015 season with a torn biceps. Even if it weren’t for the injury, the future doesn’t look very bright for the former Gator.
17 Morris Claiborne
With their last six first round picks, the Cowboys have selected four Pro Bowlers. One that hasn’t made it, Byron Jones, has only played one season, while Morris Claiborne has played four. Claiborne had high expectations as the sixth pick overall from LSU, but has been far from the shutdown corner that they were hoping for. Between injuries and poor play, Claiborne has only been able to start 36 games in four season, and it's only a matter of time before that number hits zero.
16 Matt Kalil
The Vikings had two first round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, and fans seem to love the guy that they took 29th overall (Harrison Smith). As for Matt Kalil, the fourth overall pick, he hasn’t been much of a fan favorite. If there is one thing Kalil has going in his favor, it’s the fact that he hasn’t missed a start yet. After flirting with the idea of letting him walk this offseason, the Vikings ended up bringing him back hoping for an improvement. In a contract year, Kalil needs to bounce back quickly or else nobody will want to sign him for the money he wants.
15 Brandon Weeden
Poor Brandon Weeden was thrown into an already tough situation in Cleveland when he was chosen to be the team's newest starter at QB after being selected 22nd in the 2012 NFL Draft. Weeden only made it two seasons before heading to Dallas and then Houston as a backup quarterback. Weeden would certainly have a future as a backup quarterback...if not for the fact that he was already 32 years old. For a first round pick that will likely be out of the league in just a couple more years, it was a head scratching pick.
14 Jadeveon Clowney
Seeing as they drafted Mario Williams and J.J. Watt in the first round of previous drafts, it's safe to say the Texans have had good first round success with pass rushers. They tried to keep it going in 2014 with Jadeveon Clowney being the first overall pick, but it hasn’t worked out yet. That's due mostly in part to the fact that he can’t stay healthy. In two seasons, Clowney has played just 17 games. It seems like the injuries will catch up with him before five more years pass.
13 Barkevious Mingo
Potentially one of the best names in football, Cleveland made Barkevious Mingo the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Mingo had a somewhat promising start when he registered five sacks in his rookie year, but it has gone downhill since then. Mingo didn’t miss a game in 2015, but was relegated to just two starts and finished the season with just 13 tackles and no sacks. Mingo is still on the roster, but he is on the fast path to being out of the league.
12 Luke Joeckel
The Jaguars have selected in the top 10 of every draft since 2008 and the closest they have gotten to the top is the number two spot. That was the spot they had in 2013 when they took Luke Joeckel, the left tackle out of Texas A&M. When healthy, Joeckel has been a good starter for the Jags, but injuries might just turn him into a bust. Joeckel is playing for his job this season and he might not have one come next offseason.
11 Dee Milliner
When Darrelle Revis left the Jets after the 2012 season, the team was certain that they found his replacement in the form of Dee Milliner with the ninth overall pick in 2013. If the past two seasons are any indication, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Milliner has started just two games in the past two years and has shown no signs of being the long term answer. The injuries are starting to pile up as well. That’s never good for a cornerback.
10 Trent Richardson
In the same 2012 NFL Draft in which they got Brandon Weeden, the Browns used the third overall pick on Trent Richardson, the stud running back out of Alabama. Richardson was very solid in his rookie season, but he has struggled since. Richardson was on the Raiders roster for a cup of coffee, but didn't get a regular season snap in 2015. Now, he finds himself lobbying for a contract with the Ravens for what appears to be his final chance in the NFL.
9 Bjoern Werner
After Andrew Luck had a successful rookie season and led a dynamic offensive unit, the Colts tried to bolster the defensive side of the ball by selecting Bjoern Werner with the 24th overall pick in 2013 out of Florida State. It’s not clear what the Colts were thinking, but 2014 was the only time Werner received significant playing time. Werner was cut in March and so far there haven’t been any takers on the German born linebacker.
8 E.J. Manuel
Buffalo had been trying to find their first franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly when they decided that E.J. Manuel out of Florida State would be the next one to get a shot at the helm. Manuel was selected 16th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Instead, Manuel was relegated to the bench multiple times, including last season when he was given the clipboard in favor of the once wayward Tyrod Taylor. Manuel is 10-12 in his 22 games under center and will likely never be more than a backup (for a couple of years at best).
7 Justin Gilbert
The Browns had two first round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft and they used the first one (eighth overall) on Justin Gilbert, a cornerback from Oklahoma State. In his two seasons, Gilbert has not been in the starting lineup much, and he has just one interception with the Browns. The media in Cleveland has said that coaches have a short leash with him this season, and it’s unlikely he will impress enough to remain on rosters for long, especially with his “aloof” attitude.
6 A.J. Jenkins
The 49ers have had varying success with their first round receivers in the past 30 years. It topped out with Jerry Rice (obviously), but the worst of the bunch has to be A.J. Jenkins, the 30th overall pick in 2012 out of Illinois. The fact that Jenkins is still technically in the league is nothing short of a miracle. Jenkins has not played since 2014 with the Chiefs and is currently a free agent. If there is one player on this list that won’t be in the league for one more year, let alone five, it will be Jenkins, who has 223 career receiving yards to show for his miserable time in the NFL.
5 Marcus Smith
In 2012, the Eagles used their first round pick on Fletcher Cox and then their 2013 pick on Lane Johnson. They couldn’t make it three successful picks in a row, however, when they selected Marcus Smith from Louisville 26th overall in 2014. Smith has yet to start a game in the NFL and his career is off to a terrible start. Bust is already a fair word to use on the defensive end that has just 1.5 career sacks and seven tackles.
4 Robert Griffin III
The Redskins have had more quarterback woes than just about any team in the NFL, and thought that their prayers were answered in 2012 when they traded up to the second overall spot to draft Heisman winner Robert Griffin III out of Baylor. Griffin showed a lot of promise by winning Rookie of the Year and taking the Redskins to a division title, but injuries and inconsistency have kept him on the sidelines. Griffin will likely get a chance to show improvement on his next team, but it will likely be his last chance.
3 Justin Blackmon
A year after taking Blaine Gabbert in the first round, the Jaguars needed a weapon for him, so they took Justin Blackmon out of Oklahoma State with the fifth overall pick in 2012. Blackmon has shown flashes of greatness on the field, but he hasn’t played since 2013 thanks to off the field issues. It’s only a matter of time before he’s out of the league for good. What a terrible way to squander such a promising career.
2 Dion Jordan
The 2013 NFL Draft (in retrospect) was very bad toward the top. The Dolphins definitely suffered a bust casualty when they drafted Dion Jordan out of Oregon with the third overall pick, after trading up to get him. Jordan was able to get just three sacks in his first two seasons, and then missed the entire 2015 season thanks to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Jordan has a spot on the roster in 2016 if he wants it, but it’s hard to see him lasting long.
1 Johnny Manziel
After the failures of Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden, the Browns decided to give a quarterback in the first round another shot in 2014 when they picked former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel out of Texas A&M with the 22nd pick. Manziel is in the same boat as Justin Blackmon at this point. He has shown that he can do some exciting things on the field, but the distraction that he creates is simply too much at this point. Whether he gets another chance at this point is a mystery, but it doesn’t look likely at this point in time.
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