The NFL Draft is one of the most intriguing times of the year, and that’s in no small part because of the biggest NFL draft busts. Some people even prefer this time of the year in football to the actual on-field football. It always creates drama because teams take risks on college talent that’s unproven in the pros. However, the last decade saw many disappointing NFL draft busts.
The reality is that nobody is even remotely near a sure thing. Some college stars have attitude problems and their temperament doesn’t fit the professional level. Others suffer cruel injuries that rob them of their athletic primes. There are many reasons why the best NFL draft prospects fail. Check out the 30 worst NFL Draft busts of the last decade via Business Insider here.
30. Christian Ponder
Ponder is one of the worst draft busts of the last decade. The Vikings brought him to Minnesota in 2011 with the No. 12 pick. But it proved to be a massive mistake because he wasn’t at the level required. Before the draft, the former Florida State quarterback was a divisive figure. That’s because he polarized analysts about his potential as a franchise-starter (via Clutchpoints).
In the end, he proved his critics correct. After a disaster of a rookie season, Ponder stabilized somewhat in his sophomore year. Then injuries took their toll and Ponder hit a wall. He threw more interceptions in his final couple of seasons than touchdown passes. Finally, the Vikings cut ties with their top pick. He bounced around the NFL as a backup but never played again.
The Giants rue the day they ranked Baker a first-round talent. They expected the former Georgia cornerback to be a key piece in their defense. But instead, he went down as one of the worst busts of the last decade. That’s because the former Bulldog only played a single season for the franchise. Then, he faced armed robbery charges and made his position untenable (via Yahoo Sports).
It’s amazing how many NFL players ruin their careers because of their off-field antics. Baker was on his way to becoming a multi-millionaire but still became embroiled in a criminal enterprise. Of course, the Giants cut him and it stung them. That’s because they traded up for the cornerback. Finally, the Chiefs gave him a second chance.
Most people agreed that Richardson was a first-round talent in 2012. The Browns drafted him after an excellent college career with the Crimson Tide. The third-overall pick carries a lot of weight. Unfortunately, so did Richardson after a torn meniscus. He ballooned following the injury and lost a step of his former pace. But Cleveland still gambled on the running back.
His rookie season wasn’t terrible but he fell off a cliff. Two games into his sophomore year they traded him to the Colts for a first-round pick. This was daylight robbery because Richardson’s decline was stark. He also had problems off the field that he struggled to deal with. His NFL career came to an end after just five seasons. No wonder, people regard him as one of the biggest busts of the last decade (via The Post Game).
It may be too early to put Jones on this list because he has another season to prove himself. After all, Eli Manning was in a similar position to his successor at the same stage of his career. However, the pair appear worlds apart. That’s because there’s very little hope of Jones inspiring the Giants to win a Super Bowl. The former Duke standout arrived at the MetLife Stadium as the No. 6 pick.
Unfortunately, the franchise was dysfunctional for most of the last decade. It didn’t help that Saquon Barkley, his most important weapon, missed so many games due to injury throughout their tenure. Jones is a turnover machine as he throws interceptions and fumbles the ball like it’s going out of fashion. Meanwhile, he suffers an average of three sacks per game. It’s not looking good for the former Blue Devil QB (via Sporting News).
Nathan Peterman doesn’t feature on this list because the Bills never expected to start him. However, his predecessor Manuel arrived from Florida State with a big reputation. They thought they had a franchise star but he fell short. Buffalo was like an alcoholic running through bottles. None of the quarterbacks they drafted were good but they couldn’t stop themselves.
Manuel completed just 58.3% of his passes during his short career in upstate New York. Meanwhile, he threw 19 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. His production was appalling until finally the Bills released him. Then he went to the Raiders and barely played in Oakland. Manuel was one of the worst draft picks of the last decade because he was so underwhelming (via New York Post).
Baldwin was nothing less than a disaster for the Chiefs. They selected him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The franchise hoped that he would bring their offense to another level. He did, but they didn’t expect him to make them worse. Baldwin was unproductive on the field and a terrible teammate off it. The wide receiver was easily one of the worst draft picks of the last decade.
In the end, he achieved just 579 receiving yards for Kansas City. He had 41 receptions and a pair of touchdowns. In his rookie year, he damaged his wrist when he punched teammate Thomas Jones. The Chiefs became tired of his antics and traded him to the Niners for another first-round bust in A.J. Jenkins. Nobody cried when he left because he was a nightmare (via 247 Sports).
Ross broke the NFL Combine record for the fastest 40-yard dash in 2017 with an electrifying 4.22 second time. However, that was probably the height of his NFL experience because he flopped for the Bengals. They made him an early-first-round pick that season. It’s a shame but it didn’t work out. Finally, Ross left and signed with the Giants as he tried to rebuild his career.
Marvin Lewis never gave Ross a proper chance in his rookie year. Things went better for the sophomore wideout as he started 13 games. But then his inconsistencies came back to life. He failed to convince his organization that he had a future at the top. They traded this first-round bust to the Giants after accepting that he was their worst draft mistake of the last decade (via Overtime Heroics).
Most of the players on this list were first or second-round picks. They carried a lot of weight on their shoulders but couldn’t deliver. However, Montgomery was a third-rounder. Despite this, he earned the status of a draft bust because he only survived a month with the Texans. It’s remarkable how efficiently he blew up his career in Houston because he was a moron.
The Texans cut Montgomery after he violated team rules on a field trip. It’s unlikely that Montgomery was ever going to become a world-beater. But he blew his opportunity of an NFL career because he never even played a game. Rumors suggest that it was related to a marijuana incident. If that’s the case, a joint sent him to the XFL (via Fox Sports).
The Titans have a pair of alumni on this list from the last decade. They made Locker the eighth pick of the 2010 NFL Draft after a great career with the Huskies. Sure, his numbers dropped in his senior year as he prioritized his media degree. That was a warning sign for watching scouts because he didn’t demonstrate full commitment. Yes, he had the raw ability, but did he have the mindset?
The on-field results say no. The highly-picked quarterback departed Tennessee after just four seasons because he fell out of love with football (via Sportscasting). He suffered injuries and a losing record and simply lost interest in the game. Locker could have millions more if he stayed in the league, even as a backup. In the end, he wanted more from life because he didn’t feel fulfilled.
Easley was another first-round disaster. The defensive lineman was great for the Gators but he suffered a major setback. He had amazing potential but then a pair of ACL tears set him back. These injuries didn’t scare off Bill Belichick. It would have been a masterstroke if it worked out. But the No. 29 of 2014 pick didn’t live up to the franchise’s hopes.
Easley wound up on the injury list twice during his short tenure with the Patriots. It was frustrating because he was a phenomenal athlete before his body failed him. Finally, after achieving bust status he went to the Rams. Then he endured a staggering fourth ACL tear and sat out again. He had one of the unluckiest injury records of the last decade (via 247 Sports).
In a mirror universe, Griffin is still tearing up the NFC East with Washington. Sadly, that’s not the reality in our world because Griffin’s decline was stark. He was brilliant in 2012 after the Redskins drafted the former Baylor signal-caller. His performances earned him the Rookie of the Year Award as well as a place in the Pro Bowl. Meanwhile, Washington even made the postseason.
But this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Griffin tore multiple ligaments in his knee toward the end of his rookie season and his career never recovered. The team rushed him back and his stats plummeted. Eventually, Griffin lost his place as a starter and never bounced back. It’s crucial to protect quarterbacks and to give them time to recover. Otherwise, a generational talent will become a dud (via CBS Sports).
It’s not Charlton’s fault that the Cowboys took a gamble on him. But fans can’t forget that T.J. Watt was waiting in the wings. They could have selected him in 2017 but ‘America’s Team’ went in a different direction. Instead of selecting a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate, they made one of their worst picks of the last decade (via Fansided).
His rookie season was average at best as he racked up three sacks and 19 tackles. Then he regressed the following season to the despair of his coaches. Meanwhile, Watt was the image of consistency for Pittsburgh. Only Aaron Donald played better than him in the entire NFL. Finally, the Cowboys cut ties with Charlton and waived him after two miserable seasons.
It wasn’t meant to be this way for Rosen as NFL writers raved about him in 2018. He was the first true freshman to start for UCLA. Everybody thought that he was destined for the top. That’s why the Cardinals moved up for the quarterback in the draft. They made him the 10th overall pick and won acclaim for their decisiveness. Many people believed that he was an NFL-ready passer (via AZ.Central).
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for the Bruins’ standout. Rosen was unlucky because the Cardinals chucked him into a starting position that he wasn’t ready for. Next season, they drafted Kyler Murray and Rosen departed for Miami. He played for four teams in four years without putting his stamp on any of them. It’s a shame but he’s one of the biggest flops of the last decade.
There have been some brilliant international NFL players over the years. Unfortunately, Werner wasn’t one of these. The Berlin native moved to Connecticut as an exchange student before winning a football scholarship to FSU. He starred for the Seminoles and even won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award. This attracted the attention of NFL scouts.
Then the Colts made him a first-round pick in 2013. Unfortunately, that’s where the happy story ends because it didn’t go well for him. Yes, he played a lot of football but injuries wreaked havoc. Werner claimed that he was never healthy from the moment he made the step up. In the end, he went down as one of the worst first-round picks of the last decade (via Sports Illustrated).
Blackmon is one of the most frustrating figures on this list. The Jaguars selected him in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft with the fifth-overall pick. They put a lot of faith in him after his performances for OSU. But he was a massive bust because of his off-field issues. Few athletes over the last decade had as many problems with alcohol and drugs (via Orlando Sentinel).
He had two DUI arrests and a suspension before he even stepped onto the field in teal. But that wasn’t the end of the matter because Blackmon didn’t learn the error of his ways. He racked up DUI arrests and abused drugs until the Jaguars gave up on him. On paper, Blackmon was the best receiver in his class. Sadly, things didn’t work out the way fans expected for this highly promising receiver.
First, injuries didn’t help him. A torn bicep cost Elam the entire 2015 season. That was extremely unfortunate but his performances on the field didn’t help. In three seasons he managed just 131 tackles. Then, he ran into serious legal problems with a pair of high-profile arrests. Finally, the Ravens gave up on him. Elam moved North to the CFL where he continues to play.
Context is always important when it comes to evaluating draft picks. It’s not just about the player’s performances in isolation but who else the franchise could have selected. The 49ers picked up Thomas with the third-overall pick in 2017. But he was one of their worst selections of the last decade. He starred at Stanford University but failed to deliver in San Francisco.
Analysts held him up as the second-best defensive tackle in the draft. Unfortunately, his production was poor as he achieved just six sacks in 48 games for the Niners. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson were still on the board when the Niners made their move. This one stings because San Fran made a terrible error (via Bleacher Report).
Before November 2021, Ruggs’ inclusion on this list would have raised eyebrows. After a tough rookie season, Ruggs became the Raiders’ most important attacking outlet. He established a great relationship with QB Derek Carr. Ruggs ran for 469 receiving yards with a pair of touchdowns and 24 receptions in seven games. In short, he was on track to have his first 1,000-yard season.
Then he drunkenly smashed his Corvette into another vehicle. His victim died in the ensuing blaze and Ruggs’ life also went up in flames. The Raiders cut their star after law enforcement arrested him. He faces up to 50 years in jail on multiple charges. It’s a massive tragedy because of the loss of life and the waste of potential, and now he must live with the consequences of his actions (via AL.com).
Some analysts think that Hackenberg is the worst second-round quarterback pick of the last decade. There’s nothing wrong with drafting a backup quarterback late in the day. But there’s a problem in making a high selection when that player never plays once. The Jets are masters of ineptitude but this was special even by their standards (via USA Today).
Nobody knows why Mike Mccagnan thought that this was the right thing to do. Hackenberg often didn’t even make the game-day roster because he was out of his depth. Yes, he was decent at Penn State but didn’t have the all-around game to cut it in the NFL. In the end, he made a fortune that he did not come close to earning playing. That’s why he’s probably a winner in this case.
The draft is always a gamble. For every Peyton Manning, there’s a Ryan Leaf. Meanwhile, some of the league’s greatest talents only emerge in the ensuing years. Tom Brady is a shining example. But Gabbert stung the Jaguars for a couple of reasons. The quarterback was a No. 10 pick in 2011. They drafted him after he starred for the University of Missouri (via Slate).
Jacksonville traded up six places to land the signal-caller. This proved to be a massive mistake because he was trash. He maintained a shoddy 53.3 passing percentage rate. Furthermore, he threw 24 interceptions with just 22 touchdowns. The team won just five of his 27 games as a starter. Meanwhile, the Houston Texans drafted future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt with the next pick.
Conley’s short NFL career serves as a warning to every college football player. It doesn’t matter if an athlete has talent if they’re in the wrong setting. That’s exactly the case for Conley after the Raiders drafted him. Conley was the No. 24 pick in the 2017 draft. As a result, he carried big expectations but never came close to achieving them (via USA Today).
To be fair, the cornerback faced terrible luck. He suffered injuries at bad times and also didn’t fit the zone-heavy scheme. It came to a head after Jon Gruden was appointed coach. Conley never had a bad attitude. It’s just unfortunate that the coach and the player weren’t compatible. The former Ohio State star didn’t force the Raiders to spend a first-round pick on him.
Peyton Manning retired after winning a second Super Bowl ring in 2016. This left the Broncos in a hole because they lacked a franchise quarterback. They turned to Lynch as they traded up to pick him at the end of the first round. Lynch barely played for the team over the next couple of seasons. But he appeared to have an affinity for the number four (via SBNation).
That’s because he only played four games with four touchdowns and four interceptions. John Elway is a Denver icon but not even his diehard fans can defend this pick. The Broncos wasted too much to acquire the former Memphis star. After leaving Denver, he joined the Steelers as a backup. In 2022, he made the move into indoor football with the USFL.
Haskins won multiple honors with the Buckeyes before he declared for the NFL Draft. Then the Redskins used a first-round pick on the quarterback. It was one of the worst decisions of the decade because he was a bust. Haskins was inconsistent on the field and had a bad attitude to boot. In his final game for the franchise, he posted a 36.9 quarterback rating.
Finally, Washington cut ties with the signal-caller out of frustration. He went to Pittsburgh where he spent time as a backup until his tragic early death in 2022. It’s a shame because this is a tale of wasted potential. Haskins still had so much to give. The NFL never saw the best of the college star before his untimely passing (via NBC Sports).
The Jets made Milliner the ninth overall pick in 2013. He bullishly claimed that he was the best cornerback in the NFL but that’s not true. He was arguably the franchise’s worst draft selection of the last decade. Milliner only feature four times in his final two seasons because he was garbage. Injuries curtailed his prospects while he had an overinflated sense of self-worth.
After the Jets declined to pick up their fifth-year option, he left the NFL. Nobody wanted to touch him because of his horrible injury record. The former Crimson Tide star was a two-time BCS champion. But he couldn’t bring his college form into the professional game. It’s a shame because he had a lot of physical talent. In the end, his body let him down (via Bleacher Report).
McDowell never even stepped onto the field for the Seahawks. The second-round pick impressed NFL scouts during his time with Michigan State. Seattle drafted him. But he spent more time in police precincts than on the practice field. First, there was the infamous ATV incident that placed him on the injury reserve list. Then there were multiple drunken arrests with various charges added in.
In short, McDowell is a garbage human being and the Seahawks waived him. After he spent 11 months behind bars, he received his release from jail. Then the Browns signed him because they have no morals when it comes to problematic signings. Police arrested McDowell again for allegedly beating a police officer while naked. Yes, all that made McDowell one of the worst draft selections of the last decade (via Beacon-Journal).
It’s almost unfair that some players carry a bust tag when it wasn’t that they didn’t try. That’s the case for White, whose body broke down after the Bears drafted him. They made him the seventh-overall pick in 2015 after a brilliant campaign with West Virginia. It appeared as though he was an instant NFL starter because he had all of the attributes to succeed (via NBC Sports).
Instead, he went down as one of the worst busts of the decades. White’s injury record was cruel because he lost his rookie year to a fractured leg. Then he suffered a broken leg in his second year and an ankle sprain. White broke down after a single game in his third season. Finally, he had a few games in Year Four but he was no longer the same athlete. It’s a real shame because luck wasn’t on his side.
Jordan is one of the worst busts of the last decade and also in history. Miami fans still shudder when they hear his name because he was so bad for them. The former Oregon standout should have been a franchise building block. But instead, he was a disaster of a pick because he spent more time suspended than on the field. It’s a shame but it’s the truth.
The defensive end suffered multiple suspensions because he took violated the NFL’s drug policy. He missed the entire 2015 season after a third test failure. It infuriated the fanbase and his coaches because they had such high expectations for him. In the end, he went to Seattle, where he had a brief renaissance before another suspension after testing positive for Adderall (via Sports Illustrated).
It’s a sad reality, but Darnold is a first-round bust. The Jets used the third overall pick of 2018 on the former USC quarterback. Many people forget how young he was when he made his debut. To put it in perspective, a rookie Joe Burrow was older than Darnold when the bust was already in his third season. Meanwhile, Darnold suffered from a lack of weapons and an awful front office (via NBC Sports).
Peyton Manning called Adam Gase a ‘quarterback guru.’ But the former Jets’ coach ruined the confidence of his young star. Darnold infamously “saw ghosts” in one game against the Patriots. However, his stat line doesn’t help him. He had a career interception rate of 3.2 in 2021. Meanwhile, he threw 54 touchdowns and 53 interceptions by the end of that season. Finally, the Jets offloaded their bust to the Panthers.
Manziel won the Heisman Trophy following a great career with Texas A&M. However, he swiftly became an incredibly polarizing figure. Some people thought that he was a future NFL Hall of Famer. Others believed that he was undersized and was too arrogant to succeed. Unfortunately for the Browns, the latter verdict sums up Manziel’s time in the NFL.
He was a complete disaster from beginning to end for Cleveland. They made him a first-round pick in 2014 but he failed to deliver on the field. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns as a turnover machine. Meanwhile, he had even more concerning problems off the field. There were domestic abuse allegations as well as issues with substance abuse. That’s why he’s one of the worst draft busts of the last decade (via Republic World).
Wilson is arguably the worst draft bust of the last decade. He’s also easily the biggest blip in Titans’ franchise recruitment history. The offensive tackle barely saw the field for Tennessee after they signed him in 2020 due to breaching NFL health regulations. Then there was a high-profile arrest after a drunken high-speed pursuit (via USA Today).
His single appearance came in Week 12 in a win over the Colts. But the Titans had enough and traded him to the Dolphins. They swapped seventh-round picks in return for the former Georgia star. However, Wilson failed to report to workouts and they waived him. He cost the Titans millions of dollars in cap money and time. In sum, he was a complete disaster.