The future of the best version of the NFL we’ve ever seen has been drafted in the last five years. With the talent pool that has been drafted, the league is going to hit heights never before seen. But with the good comes the bad. There is, unfortunately, expected studs who turned out to be failed duds. There does have to be some parameters though. When looking at the highs and lows of the last five NFL Drafts, you have to account for the expectations from draft day. No one can doubt that Tom Brady was the best draft pick in history due to the general obsoleteness associated with late-round picks. Just like no one can doubt that most of the Browns first round picks in the past two decades were among the worst that the league has ever seen. So we have to factor in the draft position in terms of deciding if the athlete fits the mold of one of the best draft picks or one of the worst.
But there are certain things you cannot deny. When youg look at what some of the recently drafted have done, it’s obvious that the NFL is staged for greatness in the coming years. Some of the talent in the past five years gives us hope that the league will continue to get better and more talented. But . . . there have been a number of picks that continue to keep us dumbfounded and make us wonder what’s going on in some front offices. Here, we look at both ends of the spectrum as we take a look at the top-three best and worst picks of the last five NFL Drafts.
30 Good Pick (2013): Kyle Long
It’s really tough for an offensive guard to take claim as a great pick in hindsight given the contribution from position players, but that didn’t come from this year’s draft. This was the worst year of the draft in the past five years. At least when you look at the top talent drafted off the board. When looking at each of these five years, 2013 didn’t have a clear subset of superstar talent drafted at the top.
But Long has proved to be a true asset in the NFL. He’s a three-tie Pro Bowl selection and has been a force up front for the Bears. As Chicago works with young talent in the coming years, a veteran presence like this will become even more valuable.
29 Bad Pick (2013): Eric Fisher
Trust us, this list isn’t filled with offensive linemen. There’s just some to start the list. But when looking back, this offensive linemen was drafted way too high. Sure, Eric Fisher is still in the league and has the size and skillset to maintain a fully average career. But as the first pick in the 2013 draft, he’s not as much as the Chiefs front office would have hoped.
Yeah, he hasn’t been bad by any sense of the definition. But he also hasn’t been any type of player that could be described as a successful No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. That’s not going to change in his future, but with a couple Pro Bowl selections he could solidify himself as a great NFL offensive lineman.
28 Great Pick (2013): Latavius Murray
Latavius Murray obviously isn’t the best player on the field in most cases. But he’s one of the better running backs we’ve seen lately. This may change without Derrick Carr around, but it’s just as likely that Murray elevates his new offense. Oakland was just overloaded with youth talent. Each one of their guys looks like they’re going to thrive.
But Murray seems even more likely for success in his new city.
27 Really Bad Pick (2013): Barkevious Mingo
Out of the top-10 picks, there is just one guy who isn’t in the NFL (and we’re going to be writing about him soon). Barkevious Mingo is on a team, but he still hasn’t seemed to find the right fit. Here is one of the most moved around guys in this year’s draft, and that’s never good for a guy this young. Mingo has already played for the Browns, then the Patriots and now the Colts.
He was always a tall lengthy athlete who never seemed to have the build to make a true name in the NFL. That made a lot of people question why he was drafted so high. Maybe he’ll find a way to change their minds in the future, but that doesn’t seem likely as of now.
26 Best Pick (2013): Le’Veon Bell
This is in the running as one of the best picks in recent NFL history. Sure, Le’Veon Bell has dealt with suspensions because of the NFL’s screwed up drug policy. He hasn’t tested positive for performance enhancers. He’s tested positive for something that going to be legal in most states soon for reasons that are far less than someone who deals with bone-bruising hits daily.
But as for his skill, Bell seems to be reading the defense as if they’re moving in slow motion. He has the ability to sidestep any defender whether he’s running a route or rushing from the backfield. Oh, and he puts up some of the best numbers in the league despite the fact he’s been forced to sit because of weed multiple times.
25 Worst Pick (2013): Dee Milliner
There’s no way around this. Dee Milliner was the only top-10 draft pick of 2013 who hasn’t been able to continue his career. That’s terrible. For a lot of people, they’re still working within their first or early second contract. MillIner, however, didn’t make it passed the 2016 season with the New York Jets.
Milliner was an All-American in 2012 when he played with Alabama, but he faded into the abyss once joining the NFL. It was an unfortunate stories of suffered injuries keeping a talented athlete from the field. Unfortunately for Milliner, he was never able to really show up after the 2015 season. He was barely present during his first couple years, and it definitely did not get any better in the following years.
24 Good Pick (2014): Khalil Mack
This was a really good draft year and this is easily the best player (by far) that we’ve talked about so far. There were a bunch of guys drafted this year who are going to be the main faces in the NFL in the coming years. The 2013 draft was good, but it was nothing in comparison to this year’s draft.
Khalil Mack might possibly be the best defensive athlete in just a couple years. Mack is currently just 26, he’s only been in the NFL since 2014 and he’s already secured a Defensive Player of the Year award. With all that Mack should already be one of the league’s highest paid players. But he’s still under his rookie contract. So, he’ll get his shot one day at the huge contract he rightly deserves. And that’ll likely make him the highest paid defensive player in the league when that time comes.
23 Bad Pick (2014): Blake Bortles
Blake Bortles still has some time to change his legacy, but he’s a dud for now in Jacksonville. After this offseason, Jacksonville has a chance to finally rebound back from the awful seasons they’ve been seeing over the recent past (well, longer if you’re not just accounting for the time since Bortles has been on the team). Since Bortles has been on the Jags, they have won just 11 games. But he’ll lead the team to at least a .500 record next season.
Bortles has thrown 69 touchdowns since he’s been in the league along with 11,241 passing yards. He even had a 2015 season where he tossed 35 touchdowns. But he also threw a career-high 18 interceptions that season, but it was just his second year in the league and you shouldn’t expect anything better on a team like Jacksonville.
22 Great Pick (2014): Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell Beckham Jr. is going to continue on as one of the NLF best player’s for years to come. Plus, he has the celebrity persona, and he has the skill that crushes most of the receivers in the league. The crazy thing is that it seems like Beckham is already playing in his prime, but he’s just 24. In the coming years, he will be playing at his truly optimal form.
The only tough part is that Beckham is seemingly turning into a divisive player who will make some questionable decisions in the eyes of the public. It won’t be anything too crazy, but it will likely be the issues that we see from guys who play at his elite level. He’ll continue to miss non mandatory team practices or be out on boats when he should be resting for a playoff game. That will keep him from the top, top notch level of respect that his type of talent deserves.
21 Really Bad Pick (2014): Greg Robinson
In terms of really bad picks, this isn’t really that bad at all. Greg Robinson is still in the NFL, but to be fair, every player out of the 2014 first round is still playing in the NFL . . . well . . . there is a player who is not but we’ll get to him soon. As for the rest of the first rounders, everyone is still active in the league. But Robinson hasn’t quite lived up to what you would expect out of a top-5 first round pick.
You especially would expect more out of a No. 2 pick, like the Rams made Robinson back in 2014. But since, Robinson hasn’t done much. Sure, he’s started 40 games. But he hasn’t done what we all expected after his extremely successful collegiate career at Auburn.
20 Best Pick (2014): Derek Carr
With no surprise to many fans, Derek Carr will lead his team to the postseason again and again and again for a while to come. So it didn’t come to a shock to must of us that he received the biggest contract that a quarterback has received. It’s expected that Carr will do great, but the reality is that he’s poised to be posting near league leading numbers. Carr is one of the NFL’s young rising stars and he will be at the top of everyone’s list by the end of next season.
It was obvious what Carr means to this team after he couldn’t play in the playoffs last season because of an injury. This past season Carr led the Raiders to a 12-3 record and proved they were a contender late in the season. But then Carr was sidelined and the Raiders fell apart in their final regular season game and then barely competed in their postseason performance. Luckily for the Raiders, Carr is young and he’ll have many more chances to make a postseason run.
19 Worst Pick (2014): Johnny Manziel
Here we meet on of the worst failures in Browns draft history. And this team has quite an awful reputation in the draft. In all reality though, this experiment was doomed from the beginning. Like most of the Browns quarterback experiments since 1999, Johnny Manziel was drafted way too high and began starting way too early. Since 1999, there hasn’t been many teams that have gone through as many quarterbacks as the Cleveland Browns.
After Manziel’s run at the starting position, he flamed out of the NFL quicker than most guys who get the shot to start on Sunday. Unfortunately for Manziel, he never seemed to want to give up his partying college days … and since he’s still showing up in photos and video in a seemingly permanent vacation mode, it seems obvious that he isn’t dedicated to getting back into the NFL. Sure, he may be working out with some college quarterback also trying to make it big, but let’s be honest, Manziel’s time has passed and he’s better off moving on.
18 Good Pick (2015): Amari Cooper
Here we meet the guy who’s going to become one of the best receivers in the next few years. Because of this, it’s not likely (or even possible) that the Raiders will be able to hold onto his contract, so hopefully Derek Carr will be able to succeed without this immense talent. Amari Cooper has already proved to be one of the best receiving talents in the league. And as the guys currently at the top begin to break down, Cooper will be more than deserving to take the title as the league’s best.
With just two seasons in the NFL, it already looks like Cooper is a seasoned veteran. He has played in every game and has recorded more than 1,000 receiving yards each season. The big question here is if Cooper has been successful because of Derek Carr, or vice versa. We’re thinking it’s safe to bet that either of these guys would succeed without the other.
17 Bad Pick (2015): Todd Gurley
Some would put Marcus Mariota in this spot because of his lack of production as a result of injuries. But that kid has shown to make something out of nothing, so he’s definitely not showing up as a bad pick just yet. But in a decision that will surprise many of you, one of this year’s worst picks comes in the form of a Pro Bowl running back.
This is the first and only bad pick who has been selected as a Pro Bowler, but it has become increasingly obvious that Todd Gurley is of no help to the Rams since his rookie season. And even during Gurley’s rookie season, he didn’t create many more wins. Gurley might turn his career around if he moves to another team, but he’s been a huge failure for the team that ends up at the top of the draft year after year.
16 Great Pick (2015): David Johnson
Here we have an athlete that is within the top-3 players at his position, and because of this he’ll make sure that he’s among the NFL’s top paid running backs in five years. Currently, David Johnson is making way less than he should be. Johnson is entering his third year of a four-year rookie contract and he’s making a dismal $615,000. That’s just awful for a guy who produced more than any other running back last season. Arizona should be ashamed.
The worst part is that Johnson is playing in one of football’s most injury-prone positions and he’s got to do it for two more seasons before he can renegotiate terms. That’s an awfully long time to keep production at these levels while avoiding injury. Plus, with the season that Johnson just posted it won’t be surprising if Arizona begins to work him more and more. It’s completely awful that the Cardinals are benefiting off of Johnson’s prime years for literally just thousands of dollars. Again, Arizona … shame on you for allowing a rising star to be paid so little.
15 Really Bad Pick (2015): Dante Fowler Jr.
This is no disrespect to Dante Fowler Jr., but the Jaguars screwed this pick up. The year before the Jaguars placed a high first round pick on a quarterback named Blake Bortles. This year they ended up with the third pick. They should have been working to help out the young quarterback trying to lead the franchise, but instead the Jaguars worked on their defense.
Now, this isn’t to say they shouldn’t have worked on their defensive effort. Of course, without a defense, no team is going to win a Super Bowl. But in this case, Amari Cooper could have been paired up with Bortles. We could possibly be looking at a different highest paid quarterback in the league if this were to have happened.
14 Best Pick (2015): Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston has been great from the start, and his stock is going to keep rising. Winston will be one among the select group of guys who will be the faces of the NFL. Winston was named the Rookie of the Year and was even selected to the Pro Bowl following his first season. Winston had some issues in college, which made him a bit of a risky pick. But Tampa Bay benefited greatly from this selection.
Winston is the youngest player to reach 4,000 passing yards and the youngest player to pass for 40 touchdowns. After two seasons, Winston has tossed 50 touchdowns against 33 interceptions. He’s tossed for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, totaling 8,132 yards. And he’s rushed for seven touchdowns (six came in his rookie season). Although Winston led Tampa Bay to a 6-10 record that first year, he followed up with a 9-7 season and is on track to take his team to the playoffs this year.
13 Worst Pick (2015): Breshad Perriman
Just about every guy drafted in this year’s first round still has a shot at turning it around and proving to be a hugely valuable NFL player. They are all still active, therefore, they all still have a shot. But as of now, Breshad Perriman is struggling. Being in a skill position, that seems to happen often for a lot of young athletes.
Perriman didn’t play a game in 2015 and that really hurt his stock. Then, he only started one game last season and recorded just less than 499 yards with a few touchdown receptions. Of course, he’s playing on a Baltimore team that often struggles with the passing game, but this shows the Ravens went the wrong direction with their pick.
12 Good Pick (2016): Jordan Howard
It’s obvious that the Cowboys lucked out with their top two picks in this year’s draft. Dallas got it overwhelmingly right and there’s no doubting that. The crazy thing is how far the gap goes from those two Pro Bowl selections who are at the top. There were a couple more Pro Bowl selections from this year’s rookie class, and they both performed well. But the guy from Kansas City (Tyreek Hill) misses out.
Jordan Howard, the running back drafted with the 150th pick in the fifth round by the Bears, came from playing college ball in Indiana. Howard was the tiny bright spot in a sea of awfulness in Chicago. With nearly 1,500 rushing yards on one of the worst teams in the league, he’s poised to just go up from here.
11 Bad Pick (2016): Jared Goff
Jared Goff’s strong arm and height could have been great assets in the NFL, but he was just way too overused in a really short amount of time. There’s nothing worse for a young quarterback then going 0-7 in your first season in the NFL. Maybe Goff will turn it around with the Rams, and he’ll probably do a bit better. But no one should expect Goff a consideration for the Pro Bowl roster next season, or anytime in the near future for that matter.
As a top overall pick, Goff could easily be lower on this list as a worse pick. But he’s more poised than any of these guys to turn this around, especially given the talent surrounding him. Sure, it’ll be an insanely tough uphill battle, but greatness doesn’t come from an easy path to the top.
10 Great Pick (2016): Dak Prescott
It’s almost not fair what Dallas was able to do in this draft. Sure, it’s early in Dak Prescott’s career, but another successful season will vault him to star status. A playoff run with a rookie running back is rare. Back-to-back playoff runs to start a career is just mind blowing. But that’s what’s in store for us with Prescott leading the Cowboys. Zeke took most of the spotlight last season. This year, Dak will truly shine. You better get ready for round two of Dak Prescott in the NFL because it’s going to be better to watch than his awesome rookie season.
Prescott may not outmatch his 13-win rookie season, but he’ll likely exceed his 23 touchdown first season (though he might throw a few more than four interceptions). Prescott, though, has been through an entire regular season and has seen more success than most quarterbacks see in an entire career. But that’s not what makes a star. But this season of work will solidify him as one of the NFL’s great young quarterbacks.
9 Really Bad Pick (2016): Roberto Aguayo
This was really close to the worst pick of the year this year. Of course, Tampa Bay gets a bit of slack because this was a second-round pick. But by drafting a kicker they seem like a weird guy who’s new to your fantasy football league. It wasn’t so weird that the Buccaneers drafted a kicker, but they drafted him in the second round. Even the best kicker ever doesn’t deserve that type of honor.
It almost doesn’t seem like there’s anything that can be worse than this. But Tampa Bay made this even worse by trading up for this awful opportunity. Whoever led this con deserves a huge raise, especially since Roberto Aguayo hasn’t even proved worthy of a consistent starting job in the NFL.
8 Best Pick (2016): Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas will see the benefits from Ezekiel Elliott for years to come, especially as his skill will lead him to the MVP award in a couple seasons. For those reasons, Zeke will be the highest paid running back in the league five years from now. This year, Elliott will truly prove his talent as he will continue to succeed even as Dak Prescott begins to falter from time to time. Prescott had an equally good rookie season, but defenses will pressure him more and more.
That will provide some nice space for Elliott, who will attack as both a rusher and receiver. Elliot will not only prove to be the NFL’s best athlete in the next few years, he’ll be leading the Cowboys to multiple Super Bowl appearances. Regardless of whether or not Elliott remains with the Cowboys, he’ll be getting paid as he should since he’ll be one of the top performers in the NFL.
7 Worst Pick (2016): Christian Hackenberg
Unlike a lot of the awful picks on this list, this one comes from a later round. Sure, it’s not that late. At the 51st overall pick, Christian Hackenberg wasn’t drafted too late. But for a quarterback, a lot of the pressure is lifted if you’re not taken in the first round. A first round quarterback is often expected to start within the first year. If you get drafted outside of the first round, who knows . . . you might end up becoming a lifelong starter.
Actually, Hackenberg has seemed to be falling into a backup role in New York, yet the Jets seem to keep acting like they have a solid starter ready to go. That’s why Hackenberg shows up as the worst pick this year. He seems to be one of the main factors of the Jets delusion of having a starting quarterback.
6 Good Pick (2017): Christian McCaffrey
Chritian McCaffrey really seems to have filled a void on his new team. One of Carolina’s biggest issues in recent years has been a true top running back leading the backfield. McCaffrey might just be the answer to the Panthers issue. McCaffrey seems to have all of the tools needed to become a star in the NFL. McCaffrey, who holds the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards in a season, was the AP College Football Player of the Year and the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, too.
McCaffrey followed that up with a 2016 where he, again, led the nation in all-purpose yards. There was no reason to return for another season, so he gave up his senior eligibility. That was a good decision as he’ll now become a consistent selection for the Pro Bowl as he leads the backfield in Carolina for years to come.
5 Bad Pick (2017): Malik Hooker
Malik Hooker was drafted just way too high for a one-year starter. Hooker is going to have a tough time in the NFL, partly because he’s a one-year starter who is anticipated was drafted just a bit too high. It’s tough to justify this type of pick for a guy who has started a full season just once as Ohio State’s safety. Hooker just seems like he’ll get way too caught up in the atmosphere and a simple fake are juke will cause him to flat out miss the mark. He has struggled as a tackler in his time at Ohio State, which will be the biggest problem in the pros.
But no doubt, Hooker proved himself as the best safety and deep threat defender in collegiate football last season. Hooker was really fun to watch and the fans loved him. Some of that could transfer to the NFL. But he’s also going to have trouble his first year in the pros, and he will be riding the bench soon after seeing the field.
4 Great Pick (2017): Leonard Fournette
Leonard Fournette will be a guy who we are all talking about for a long time. It’s not too tough to imagine how far the talent and skill will take this guy. Leonard Fournette has the ability to shape an offense and possibly shape the way this position is played for years to come. Teams may begin looking at drafting around running backs after Fournette makes his mark in the league. He’s a rare talent when you account for his size and speed.
The crazy part is that Fournette was a steal in this draft, even at the fourth pick. Fournette has a shifty ability to make defenders miss. He forced 136 missed tackles in three seasons. Sure, that was college, but NFL defenders will struggle too the first few times they see Fournette.
3 Really Bad Pick (2017): David Njoku
David Njoku has a ton of pressure weighing him down for a tight end drafted late in the first round. Njoku, without fault to himself, pushed out one of the Browns most effective players in recent years. Despite countless offensive issues and a number of different quarterbacks, tight end Gary Barnidge has been a beast in Cleveland and has consistently produced for the Browns offense.
The worst part is that after this selection, Barnidge (who is such a good guy) tweeted that he couldn’t wait to begin working with Njoku … Well, the next morning Barnidge was tweeting about his departure from Cleveland as the Browns decided to drop the veteran tight end. This isn’t good for the start of a rookie’s career. Early on he’ll be compared to a veteran tight end that managed to elevate an offense. That’s impossible for a tight end. Let alone a rookie tight end. Njoku isn’t going to see another contract signing in his days with the NFL.
2 Best Pick (2017): Myles Garrett
This future Hall of Famer can easily fill in as the next big sports star in Cleveland. Everyone has been waiting for the Browns to get their equivalent to LeBron James. Fans (and us) are dying for a new defensive superstar in the league. Myles Garrett is the best talent available in the draft. Yeah, defensive ends have a tough time making an immediate impact out of college. But Garrett is extremely skilled. Although careers generally go to die with the Cleveland Browns, Garrett will finally be the guy who lifts the Browns to a winning season. The comparisons to Jadeveon Clowney are relentless, but that’s not a bad guy to be compared to. Plus, Garrett seems like he has a good locker room presence and looks to be immensely focused on honing his game.
1 Worst Pick (2017): Jonathan Allen
This defensive tackle was the second of four players drafted in the first round that played college football at Alabama. Jonathan Allen was a big part of Alabama’s National Championship appearances in the past couple of years. Allen was playing so well that he was tagged as a top-5 draft pick. But then some frightening news surfaced about his health. Allen was diagnosed with arthritis in one of his soldiers and had surgery on both prior to the combine.
In the NFL, aches and pains are a given … but this just puts Allen at a disadvantage before hitting the field. Although Allen was ranked a top defensive tackle in this draft class, these health issues are going to be too much make it in the NFL for more than a few years, and those are likely going to be a struggle given his shoulder issues.
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