Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. Yesterday, we revealed the best first round picks of the 2010s. Today, we will review the worst. Whether the player’s career was hampered by injuries, poor play or attitude, here are the biggest busts and reaches of the past decade based on draft position. While overall play is a major factor, we will also consider times where a team traded up to acquire a player as well.
1. Sam Bradford (QB/St. Louis Rams) – 2010
Bradford had an electric career in college at Oklahoma, but his medical history was already concerning before he was drafted, specifically his throwing shoulder, which he injured in his last season with the Sooners. The Rams, then in St. Louis, still used their top draft pick to select him and behind a horrid offensive line, Bradford was unable to stay healthy and only played a full 16 game season twice in his career. Besides Baker Mayfield, who was a rookie last season, and Kyle Murray, who was taken first overall last month, Bradford is the only top draft pick to never make a Pro Bowl.
2. Luke Joeckel (OT/Jacksonville Jaguars) – 2013
This one stung personally, as I was a big fan of Joeckel coming out of college. Joeckel was selected to be the Jaguars long-term answer at left tackle, and even traded Eugene Monroe during Joeckel’s rookie season, but Joeckel would only play five games before an ankle injury ended his season. In 2014, Pro Football Focuses graded him as the league’s worst tackle. By 2016, Joeckel was pushed inside to play left guard, lasting just four games before being placed on injured reserve. He would play just 39 out of a possible 64 games in Jacksonville before spending his final season in the league with Seattle. Rams tackle Greg Robinson is a honorable mention, but given that he is still in the league, Joeckel is the obvious choice.
3. Dion Jordan (DE/Miami Dolphins) – 2013
Miami was looking for a quality edge rusher across from Cam Wake in 2013, so they traded up with Oakland to acquire the No. 3 pick to select Jordan. Miami surrendered their first (D.J. Hayden) and second (Menelik Watson) round picks to acquire Jordan, who logged just two sacks as a rookie before missing 38 games over the next three seasons following a string of failed drug tests. Miami would release him in 2017 and he would eventually sign with Seattle. He is currently a free agent.
4. Matt Kalil (OT/Minnesota Vikings) – 2012
Kalil had a stellar rookie season that saw him receive a trip to the Pro Bowl, but everything for him went downhill from there as he was never able to replicate his rookie success. In 2014, he allowed 12 sacks and was hit with 12 penalties, both among the worst marks in the league. Minnesota let him walk in 2017 and he signed a five-year deal with Carolina. The Panthers released him last March and he is now with Houston.
5. Justin Blackmon (WR/Jacksonville Jaguars) – 2012
Technically, Blackmon is still a member of the Jaguars. Of course, he will likely never play again. Jacksonville traded up with Tampa Bay to take Blackmon, surrendering their first (Mark Barron) and fourth (later traded) round picks. When on the field, Blackmon showed why he was taken top five in the draft. He lit up the Texans for 236 yards as a rookie and led all rookies in receiving in 2012, but 2013 began with his first suspension. His season was cut short that November after he was suspended indefinitely by the league for again failing the league’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. After missing the 2014 season, the league denied his bid for reinstatement in 2015 and he still has not returned to the league.
6. Barkevious Mingo (OLB/Cleveland Browns) – 2013
The Browns needed someone who could get to the quarterback when they selected Mingo in 2013. Unfortunately, he has done the opposite of that as he has logged just 10 sacks in his career, five of which came during his rookie season. He lasted just three years in Cleveland before being traded to New England and has become a journeyman since, signing with Indianapolis and, unsurprisingly, Seattle.
7. Kevin White (WR/Chicago Bears) – 2015
Jonathan Cooper definitely deserves an honorable mention, but White takes the top spot in a career in which he has received more broken bones than touchdown catches. In fact, the closest White ever came to scoring a touchdown was a 54-year Hail Mary pass as time expired against New England last year where he was stopped a yard short. After Chicago declined his fifth-year option, White is now with Arizona hoping a change of scenery can revitalize his career.
8. Jake Locker (QB/Tennessee Titans) – 2011
While Justin Gilbert and Tavon Austin were definitely worthy of this spot, Locker takes it for a number of reasons, the biggest of which being that he was a significant bust in one of the best draft classes ever. Tennessee missed out on Tyron Smith and J.J. Watt to take the brittle Washington quarterback who would only make 23 starts across four of the worst seasons in Titans history. Locker passed for just 4,967 yards in four seasons in an era where quarterbacks eclipse that total in one year. After his contract expired, Locker retired at the age of 27, saying “”Football has always played a pivotal role in my life and I love the game, but I no longer have the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living; to continue to do so would be unfair to the next organization with whom I would eventually sign.”
9. Dee Milliner (CB/New York Jets) – 2013
One of the hardest decisions to make in this article so far was picking between Milliner and Ereck Flowers. Ultimately, I picked Milliner because while I think Flowers was a worse overall player, the Giants didn’t have to make any trades to acquire the pick while the Jets selected Milliner with the draft pick they received from Tampa Bay for Darrelle Revis. Talk about a serious downgrade, the Jets essentially gave up one of the best cornerbacks in football and drafted his replacement, who was benched three times during his rookie season and struggled to stay healthy during his career. New York declined to pick up his fifth-year option and he has been out of the league since 2016.
10. Blaine Gabbert (QB/Jacksonville Jaguars) – 2011
While Eli Apple and Chance Warmack were arguably worse, Gabbert takes the top spot because not only did Jacksonville trade up to acquire him, but he was a bust in one if the best draft classes ever. Gabbert was selected one pick ahead of J.J. Watt and the first rounder they sent to Washington in this deal was used to select Ryan Kerrigan, who has become a four-time Pro Bowler. Gabbert, meanwhile, lasted just three seasons in Jacksonville before rotating as the starting quarterback with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. He has since become a journeyman with stops in Arizona, Tennessee and now Tampa Bay. Gabbert owns a career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 48-47 and has completed just 56.2 percent of his passes.
11. Vernon Hargreaves (CB/Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – 2016
The most Hargreaves has played is his rookie season when he logged 1,038 snaps. Since then he has struggled to stay healthy, but that hasn’t stopped the cornerback-needy Buccaneers from exercising their fifth-year option on him. He was the only cornerback to surrender 1,000 receiving yards his rookie season.
12. Christian Ponder (QB/Minnesota Vikings) – 2011
In reality, Ponder was a second round prospect who went 12th overall due to positional value. Ponder began his NFL career as an understudy while Donovan McNabb, at the end of his career, began the year as the Vikings starter. Eventually Ponder would become the starting quarterback in Minnesota and show some promise in his sophomore season, operating as a game manager while the team rode on league MVP Adrian Peterson’s legs en route to a playoff berth. The following season, Ponder regressed to the point that he was getting booed at home and some fans were cheering for Matt Cassel to enter the game. Following an injury, Ponder was benched in favor of Cassel and then Josh Freeman, who was signed off of the street and ended the season in a quarterback carousel. The Vikings used a first round pick on Teddy Bridgewater in 2014, signaling that Ponder’s days in Minnesota were numbered. He has been out of the league since 2016.
13. Michael Floyd (WR/Arizona Cardinals) – 2012
Floyd was drafted to give the Cardinals another weapon across from Larry Fitzgerald and the early returns looked good. He had 1,041 receiving yards in 2014, but he was never the scoring threat he was at Notre Dame and struggled with drops throughout his career. After being arrested for DUI during the final year of his contract in 2016, Floyd was released. He has since spent time with New England, Minnesota and Washington.
14. DeVante Parker (WR/Miami Dolphins) – 2015
Four years later, we are still waiting for Parker to reach his potential. Drafted to be the No. 1 receiver for Ryan Tannehill, Parker has dealt with nagging injuries and inconsistent play in his career. Last year may have been the worst of his career as he played just 11 games and recorded 309 receiving yards and one touchdown.
15. Corey Coleman (WR/Cleveland Browns) – 2016
In Cleveland, Coleman showed potential. In his second career game, he caught five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns, but he also showed a complete lack of durability. He broke his hard twice and may be most well known in Browns history for dropping a pass in Week 17 that sealed a winless season in Cleveland. He was traded to Buffalo in 2018 for a 2020 seventh round pick before the Bills released him a month later. After spending time on the Patriots practice squad, he landed with the Giants primarily to play special teams.
16. Quinton Coples (OLB/New York Jets) – 2012
Coples failure in the NFL essentially comes down to two things, a poor attitude by him (he admitted to not giving a full effort during his final year in North Carolina) and the Jets complete misuse of him. At 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, Coples is built to be a defensive end, but instead played as an outside linebacker in the Jets 3-4 scheme. E.J. Manuel is an honorable mention.
17. Jarvis Jones (OLB/Pittsburgh Steelers) – 2013
Jones was never able to become more than a rotation piece for the Steelers pass rush, rotating with Arthur Moats, Jason Worilds, Bud Dupree and James Harrison over the years. After notching just five sacks in his first three seasons and struggling to stay on the field, his fifth-year option was declined. He would sign with the Cardinals in the offseason, but failed to make it out of training camp and has not been heard from since.
18. Calvin Pryor (S/New York Jets) – 2014
Pryor was known for his hard hitting style while at Louisville, but he failed to make an impact in the NFL, struggling in coverage and even worse, struggling to tackle. New York would spend their first two picks in the 2017 NFL Draft on safeties, and the writing was on the wall for Pryor. After his fifth-year option was declined, Pryor was traded to Cleveland, only to be released a month later after fighting with a teammate. He latched onto Jacksonville, who kept him until December. He has been out of the league since.
19. Shea McClellin (EDGE/Chicago Bears) – 2012
A reach when he went 19th overall, McClellin started off as a defensive end before being moved to linebacker and struggled to make an impact there. The Bears ultimately decided not to exercise his fifth-year option. He would spend two seasons in New England where he won a Super Bowl before he retired due to the number of concussions received during his career.
20. Darron Lee (LB/New York Jets) – 2016
An off-ball linebacker, Lee really struggled for the Jets until emerging as a solid player in coverage last season. It appears the effort, however, was too little, too late as the Jets declined his fifth-year option and have been actively shopping him. There is a chance he doesn’t make it out of training camp.
21. Cedric Ogbuehi (OT/Cincinnati Bengals) – 2015
Ogbuehi was rehabbing a torn ACL when the Bengals selected him 21st overall in 2015, delaying his NFL debut until December that year. He won the right tackle job out of training camp the following year, but struggled before tearing his rotator cuff. The next season, following the departure of Andrew Whitworth, Ogbuehi won the left tackle job and continued to struggle before spending most of 2018 as a healthy scratch on game day. Cincinnati declined his fifth-year option and he is now with Jacksonville.
22. Johnny Manziel (QB/Cleveland Browns) – 2014
Another Browns quarterback, Brandon Weeden, deserves to be named too, but he at least found footing as a backup. Manziel was a spectacular college player who won the Heisman Trophy, but his attitude and limited arm strength made it questionable that he would be successful at the NFL level. Cleveland actually traded up to select Manziel, sending the first round pick they acquired from Indianapolis the year before for Trent Richardson and a third rounder to Philadelphia. Manziel lost the training camp competition to Brian Hoyer and wouldn’t see the field until after Thanksgiving. He lasted just two seasons in Cleveland before wearing out his welcome, starting just eight games, of which he only won two. Manziel then went to the CFL where he was a backup to Jeremiah Masoli in Hamilton before being traded to Montreal. Manziel’s first start in the CFL came against his former team and things went bad immediately as he tossed four interceptions in the first half. Manziel washed out of the CFL this year and landed in the ill-fated AAF.
23. Danny Watkins (G/Philadelphia Eagles) – 2011
Already old (26) when he was drafted, Watkins immediately lost his starting job before the season began as the Eagles picked up Kyle DeVan off of waivers. He would last just two seasons with the Eagles before being released with General Manager Howie Roseman stating that he lacked the “innate toughness” he showed in college at Baylor. Watkins spent 2013 as a backup in Miami before leaving the NFL in 2014 to become a firefighter.
24. Bjorn Werner (DE/Indianapolis Colts) – 2013
Werner’s lack of athleticism is what ultimately killed his career. He lasted just three seasons in Indianapolis, and registered just 6.5 sacks, before being released. He is now retired and working on helping European talents become American football players.
25. Tim Tebow (QB/Denver Broncos) – 2010
With Jay Cutler gone, Denver traded back into the first round to select Tebow as Josh McDaniels’ guy. The fan favorite played sparingly his rookie year and lost the quarterback competition to Kyle Orton in 2011, but a 1-4 start for Denver had fans demanding Tebow take the field and finally did, going 7-4 as a starter behind one of the best defenses in football. Tebow himself wasn’t bad, finishing with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions, but it was clear why a lot of teams didn’t think he could make it as a NFL quarterback. The Broncos apparently agreed and after signing Peyton Manning, they shipped Tebow to the Jets. Tebow is now in the MLB in the Mets farm system.
26. Paxton Lynch (QB/Denver Broncos) – 2016
Tebow wasn’t the only bad quarterback taken by the Broncos in the past decade. Lynch had one key trait that John Elway loves in his quarterbacks: he is tall. But his height didn’t help him very much on the field. He lost a training camp battle to seventh rounder Trevor Siemian his rookie year and found himself inactive most of his second season. Overall, he made just four starts for Denver and didn’t look great, averaging 6.2 yards per attempt and tossing four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Broncos pulled the plug on Lynch last year, being released after the team acquired Kevin Hogan. After sitting out the entire 2018 season, Lynch signed a futures deal with Seattle. Wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin is an honorable mention.
27. Deone Bucannon (S/LB/Arizona Cardinals) – 2014
Rashaad Penny was close to being named because, surprisingly, there really haven’t been any bad players taken in this position. Bucannon, however, is easily the worst of the bunch. Functioning as a hybrid safety/linebacker, Bucannon has improved in coverage but continues to be a poor run stopper. He signed with Tampa Bay last March.
28. Joshua Garnett (G/San Francisco 49ers) – 2016
A head-scratcher of a selection when San Francisco traded back into the first round to acquire him, Garnett has done nothing to prove his naysayers wrong. He has played just 59 total snaps since his rookie season and is on the roster bubble this summer. Kansas City, who the 49ers traded with, made out like bandits, snagging Chris Jones with the 49ers second round pick.
29. Gabe Carimi (OT/Chicago Bears) – 2011
There were no shortage of options to pick from here with players like Philip Dorsett, Robert Nkemdiche and Dominique Easley all worthy of making this list, but it was Carimi who flamed out almost immediately in Chicago. He was only a starter for one season and he allowed 48 total pressures and was flagged 11 times while playing primarily at right tackle. He would be traded in the summer of 2013 to Tampa Bay for a sixth round draft pick. He last played an NFL game in 2014.
30. A.J. Jenkins (WR/San Francisco 49ers) – 2012
Despite his first round draft status, Jenkins only made three regular season appearances for the 49ers and played just 37 snaps. He dropped his only target. A year later, he was traded to Kansas City for Jonathan Baldwin, another first round bust.
31. Germain Ifedi (OT/Seattle Seahawks) – 2016
The third Texas A&M tackle to grace this list, Ifedi has struggled mightily while playing right tackle for Seattle. He was hit with an astounding 19 penalties in 2017 and 11 more last season and has average 41 pressures allowed per season since coming to the NFL. Seattle recently declined his fifth-year option.
32. Derek Sherrod (OT/Green Bay Packers) – 2011
Sherrod played sparingly as a rookie, but his career took a sudden left turn when his leg was broken in 2011 while trying to block Tamba Hali. He would miss the entire 2012 season recovering from the injury and played just six snaps in 2013. Green Bay would let him walk in 2015 and he signed with the Chiefs, but was released during training camp.