With the 2016 NFL Draft fast approaching, what better time of the year to talk about draft busts? Inevitably, every football season produces the downfall of some young players that were at one time predicted to be productive assets to a given team. It is an established part of the game today, and further confirms how difficult it is to play football professionally, backing up the cut-throat nature of the league.
Of course, young players fail in the NFL for different reasons. It could be a poor scheme fit, lack of adjustments made for the pro game, or issues with substance abuse. While the NFL is technically just one step up from the division one college ranks, it is a world that is wholly different in both on-field and off-field expectations. Not every personality in the college game is cut out for a professional career in the sport, and sometimes that is for the better. Regardless, it usually spells a short career for the player in question, leaving many fans wondering, "what if?"
The players listed here do not exactly indicate a revelation in the analytical process. Most of them are fairly obvious in their lack of production, especially since they were at one time big-name prospects that seemed destined for a Pro Bowl-caliber career in the NFL. Still, that doesn't make their struggles any less noteworthy. Some of them were selected while the team was passing up prospects that ended up performing at a Hall Of Fame level. Talk about buyer's remorse. I'm sure if these teams could have had their picks back today, that none of these selections would have remained the same.
Ranked below are the top 20 young NFL players that already look like busts.
20 Johnny Manziel
19 Zach Mettenberger
18 Melvin Gordon
17 Paul Richardson
16 Darqueze Dennard
15 Justin Gilbert
Adding to the laundry list of bad Cleveland draft picks (with one already mentioned on this list, more to come later), Gilbert was selected at eighth overall in the 2014 draft to be a shutdown corner for the team, and has been anything but. In two seasons he's started just three games, and amassed just a single INT. While a productive Gilbert would have actually paired nicely alongside Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson in the Browns' secondary at the time, the experiment proved to be disastrous, and Cleveland's defense was poor as per usual.
14 Nick Fairley
13 E.J. Manuel
12 Geno Smith
Smith could actually find himself as the Jets' starting QB once again, depending on what happens with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the 39th overall selection out of West Virginia, likely isn't going to find much more success. His rookie season will truly go down as one of the worst for any QB to start all 16 games. Smith had a 55.8 completion percentage to go along with a horrible 12 TDs to 21 INTs thrown. In two seasons as the Jets starter (he only appeared in one game last season), he's fumbled the ball 16 times. Smith just isn't a starting NFL QB by any measure.
11 Dee Milliner
10 Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson was once considered a valued prospect out of Tennessee, but his pro career just hasn't panned out. Starting just 14 games in three seasons, he's be increasingly unproductive on an annual basis. He's never totaled more than 469 yards receiving in a season, or more than 4 TDs, all of which came during his rookie season in 2013, and he hasn't come close since.
9 Trent Richardson
8 Justin Blackmon
Blackmon's story is as sad, as his career stats were underwhelming. A top-10 selection out of Oklahoma St., Blackmon was drafted to give the Jaguars a legitimate number one receiver, and for his rookie season, it looked like that had a chance of happening, as he racked up nearly 900 yards and five TD receptions. During the offseason, his issues with substance abuse began to surface, and he was initially suspended four games, before another violation which ended his season after just five games played.
7 Jimmie Ward
Selected to solidify the back end of San Francisco's secondary, Ward has started just eight games in two years, and totaled a single INT. With eight passes defended, he hasn't been a completely useless player, but his draft position warrants criticism, as his production is more akin to that of a third or fourth round talent. There's still time for Ward to prove himself during next year's campaign, but the clock is ticking, and it could swing the other way, which would mean a perennial special teams role could be on the horizon as well.
6 Brandon Weeden
The fourth and final poor Cleveland Browns selection on this list, Weeden was a 28-year-old QB prospect out of Oklahoma St., which was a legitimate question mark from the beginning. He threw 17 INTs to 14 TDs in his rookie season during 2012, and never recovered from it. He spent one more year in Cleveland, starting just five games, and posting a dismal completion percentage of 52. He also fumbled 12 times in his two seasons with the team and the experiment was a disaster mainly from the start.
5 Marcus Smith
Smith was taken in the first round by the Eagles in 2014, and has barely even seen the field in his two seasons thus far. Some may blame it on a scheme fit, as Smith played in a 4-3 defense at Louisville, which was contrary to Bill Davis' 3-4 defense in Philadelphia, but Smith's sack totals are at just 1.5 in those two years, and there seems to be a clear lack of ability to pick up the game at the professional level.
4 Andre Williams
3 Jadeveon Clowney
It's truly frightening to think about the damage that J.J. Watt, combined with a potential-fulfilling Clowney could have done on Houston's defensive line, but injuries have plagued Clowney to the point where it's worth wondering if he will ever fully recover. He was the first overall selection by the Texans in the 2014 draft, and played in just four games his rookie season, without totaling a single sack. In 2015, he played in 13 games, but only amassed 4.5 sacks, and 40 tackles; a stat line that is more than underwhelming for a first overall pick from South Carolina.
2 Blaine Gabbert
Another mistake for the Jaguars, this time coming in the 2011 draft, Gabbert was a franchise QB hopeful out of Missouri, who has now been relegated to a backup role with the 49ers. In his rookie season in Jacksonville, Gabbert posted an absurdly low 50.8 percent completion percentage. He threw 12 TDs to 11 INTs, and couldn't read an NFL defense from the start.
1 Dion Jordan
Jordan is easily the biggest draft bust in the last three years. A third overall selection of the Dolphins in 2013, he was considered a surefire hit as an NFL linebacker, with sizable Pro Bowl potential in his future. As it stands today, he has accumulated just three sacks in two seasons, before missing all of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He has just 46 tackles in those two seasons, at a position that is conducive to that statistic. It's unlikely that Jordan has much of a productive future in the league, and just about any other first round selection would have panned out better for Miami that year. It goes to show that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL draft, with a bust the caliber of Jordan's always lurking on the horizon.
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