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Top 10 Biggest NFL Draft Busts of the 2010s

You hear it all the time: the best way to build an NFL team is through the NFL Draft, where teams can get talented, young players whose contracts make it easier to build around.

But sometimes, that whole strategy goes wrong, and the players that people thought would turn a franchise around wind up busting. It happens every year.

Below, you'll find the biggest busts from every NFL Draft of the 2010s, with one player listed from each draft, ranked in order of how big of a bust they are. Did we get these right? Let me know on Twitter if you agree or disagree with these picks.

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10. Clelin Ferrell - DE - Oakland Raiders - Pick 4, 2019

Ferrell is still with the Raiders at the time this is being written, and he's still seeing the field. But he has just 10 sacks across four seasons, including his career-best mark in sacks being set as a rookie.

There's still time for Ferrell to turn things around, but he mostly just looks like a depth player. There are worse outcomes, but in a draft that featured defenders like Devin White, Ed Oliver, and Devin Bush all taken after Ferrell, he goes down as a disappointment.

 

9. Solomon Thomas - DE - San Francisco 49ers - Pick 3, 2017

You might have expected Mitch Trubisky to occupy this spot. It's true that compared to the other first-round quarterbacks in 2017, he's a bust, but he's still had a solid NFL career. If Trubisky had done exactly what he did in Chicago as a second-round pick, we'd look at him a lot more favorably.

That's why I'm giving Solomon Thomas this spot. He's still in the NFL, but he's a depth piece for the Jets, just like he was a depth piece for the Raiders last year when he had a career-high 3.5 sacks. Just not the numbers you want from the No. 3 overall pick.

 

8. Dion Jordan - DE - Miami Dolphins - Pick 3, 2013

Dion Jordan, who was suspended for all of the 2015 season, ended up playing 26 games for Miami, with just three sacks and 46 tackles. He'd return to the league after a two-year absence in 2017, having a four-sack season for the Seahawks, but he never managed to live up to the hype surrounding him when he was taken third overall in 2013.

 

7. Kevin White - WR - Chicago Bears - Pick 7, 2015

There are a lot of ways you can slice the 2015 NFL Draft from a bust perspective. Quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks respectively, didn't live up to their hype. But both also started NFL games in 2022, and that kind of staying power keeps them from being busts at the same level as other players.

Kevin White has technically started a couple of games this year for the Saints, but that really says more about the Saints than it does about White.

White missed his rookie season with a stress fracture. He debuted in 2016 and posted the best numbers of his career: 19 catches for 187 yards. He still hasn't found the end zone in the NFL.

 

6. Blake Bortles - QB - Jacksonville Jaguars - Pick 3, 2014

While QB busts like Tim Tebow didn't have a very long leash in the NFL, the Jaguars stuck with Blake Bortles as long as they could, as he started 73 games for the team. And his numbers themselves aren't terrible: 103 passing touchdowns and 17,646 yards with the Jags.

But Bortles also went 24-49 as a starting quarterback, and he led the league in interceptions in 2015. In fact, he threw double-digit interceptions in all five of his seasons with the Jags.

Bortles spent 2019 as a backup with the Rams. He officially retired in 2022.

 

5. Tim Tebow - QB - Denver Broncos - Pick 25, 2010

The 2010 NFL Draft was pretty solid at the top. Sam Bradford, the No. 1 pick, can be considered a bust relative to his draft status, but he lasted in the league until 2018 and threw 103 career touchdowns.

But Tim Tebow? Yes, he sure qualifies here. While he has one really memorable postseason game, throwing a walk-off 80-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas, it was all downhill from there for the former Florida Gator. He was 9-for-26 in a 45-10 loss the next week, and he was traded to the Jets a couple of months later. After throwing eight pass attempts in 2012, Tebow's NFL career was over.

He completed just 47.9% of his pass attempts in the three seasons that he played in the league. In 2012, the Broncos replaced him with Peyton Manning.

 

4. Jake Locker - QB - Tennessee Titans - Pick 8, 2011

The 2011 class had a few quarterbacks who were picked in the first round and busted. In addition to Jake Locker, the Jags took Blaine Gabbert 10th and the Vikings took Christian Ponder 12th.

Locker never threw more than 10 touchdown passes in a season. In 23 career starts, Locker was 9-14, and his final NFL season in 2014 saw him throw five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Injuries led Locker to retire in 2015.

 

3. Paxton Lynch - QB - Denver Broncos - Pick 26, 2016

Pretty solid draft here. The top-10 picks are still active, and Pro Football Reference's Weighted Career Approximate Value stat (wAV) has the first 14 picks at 16 points or above, led by Jalen Ramsey's 63. The first real miss was Corey Coleman for the Browns at 15.

But for my answer to this question, we're heading to the same place we did in 2010: a late first-round quarterback taken by the Denver Broncos.

Tebow at least led Denver to a playoff win. Lynch started a total of four games with the Broncos. His career numbers in the NFL: 79-for-128 for 792 yards, four touchdowns, and four picks. He spent some time on the Seahawks and Steelers roster, then played a year in the CFL and a year in the USFL.

 

2. Trent Richardson - RB - Cleveland Browns - Pick 3, 2012

Yikes, this draft. The top-seven picks from it are already out of the league, and you could have also given this spot to wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who the Jaguars picked fifth overall. But off-field things impacted Blackmon, while Trent Richardson...well, let's just say that if you pick a running back in the top five, the expectations are really high because the vast majority of RBs shouldn't be picked that early.

Richardson's Browns career lasted for 17 games. As a rookie, he had 1,317 scrimmage yards but averaged 3.6 yards per carry and 3.4 yards per reception. He was traded in 2013 after two games and played 2013 and 2014 for the Colts. He bounced around practice squads and spent a year in the CFL, a year in the AAF, and now plays football in Mexico.

The Browns also doubled down on draft busts in 2012, taking 28-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick.

 

1. Josh Rosen - QB - Arizona Cardinals - Pick 10, 2018

While QBs taken higher than Rosen like Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold have also been disappointments in the NFL, those two at least have flashed some things. Rosen, meanwhile, was replaced after one season in Arizona. He completed 55.2% of his passes in that one season, throwing 11 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.

In 2019, he started three games for the Dolphins, going 0-3 and throwing just one touchdown to five picks, and in 2021, he took a handful of snaps for the Falcons, going 2-for-11 for 19 yards with two picks.

Rosen is currently on the Vikings practice squad.



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