Every team makes mistakes in the draft, and this year’s draft will be no different. Sometimes players don’t pan out because of injuries, sometimes teams just make mistakes in their evaluation process, and sometimes the transition to the NFL is too hard for a rookie.
Every team gets it right sometimes, too. But when a team misses on a draft pick, no matter the reason for a player not living up to potential, teams can take comfort in knowing it happens to everyone at some point. It’s happened to some teams — like the Browns — on a regular basis.
Some of these players have washed out of the league entirely, and some are clinging to a chance that they’ll be able to shed the bust label.
Here’s a look at the worst draft pick for every team over the past five years.
OG Jonathan Cooper, 2013 first round
Cooper broke his leg in his first preseason and never recovered. Even when he was healthy enough to take the field, he never came close to living up to his status as a No. 7 overall pick. The fact that he was a throwaway piece in the Cardinals’ Chandler Jones trade says it all.
DT Ra’Shede Hageman, 2014 second round
Hageman was a bit of a reach in the second round, but his raw athleticism and speed coupled with his size made him an appealing prospect. Since he was drafted, Hageman had a couple of heated disagreements with former defensive line coach Bryan Cox at practice and during games, and he also faced charges in 2016 stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident. He had 18 tackles and two sacks over 12 games last season, and he was a healthy game day inactive a couple of times.
S Matt Elam, 2013 first round
Ozzie Newsome normally has a golden touch with drafts, so it’s rare to see him whiff this badly on a first-round pick. Elam was supposed to be Ed Reed’s successor at safety, but utterly failed as a starter and found himself warming the bench for most of 2016.
QB EJ Manuel, 2013 first round
In a year with almost no can’t-miss quarterback prospects, the Bills made a foolish gamble reaching on Manuel in the first round. He was mediocre at best in 10 starts his rookie year, throwing 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions and recording a 77.7 QB rating. The Bills benched him for Matt Cassel and then Tyrod Taylor, and Manuel is now backing up Derek Carr in Oakland.
WR Devin Funchess, 2015 second round
Funchess wasn’t a prolific college receiver, but his 6’4, 225-pound frame helped Carolina overlook the former tight end’s average production and athleticism. While he’s used that size to become a steady red zone target (nine touchdowns in his two seasons as a pro), he has yet to develop into the No. 2 receiver the Panthers thought they were pairing with Kelvin Benjamin. The former Wolverine has only 54 receptions in the NFL.
LB Shea McClellin, 2012 first round
McClellin was a piece of a Super Bowl-winning defense — with the Patriots. The hybrid defensive end/linebacker was versatile and productive at Boise State, recording 26 tackles for a loss and three interceptions as an underclassman. However, he struggled to find a true position in Chicago, getting reps at end and on the second level but never finding the kind of pass-rushing impact he’d had in Idaho. He made four starts with New England last fall and worked as a platoon linebacker under Bill Belichick.
DE Margus Hunt, 2013 second round
The Estonian discus and shot put star was supposed to have a breakout year — or at least, that’s what the narrative has been seemingly every offseason since Hunt joined the team. Once things come together for the 6’8 giant, he’ll be impossible to stop. Did you see what he did in preseason? Unfortunately for the Bengals, it never came together, and in four years he tallied just 1.5 sacks before joining the Colts this offseason.
Almost all their first-rounders
Honestly, take your pick. Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden in 2012. Barkevious Mingo in 2013. Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel in 2014. None of those players are on the roster today. Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving in 2015 aren’t looking too hot, either, while Corey Coleman was hobbled by a hand injury in 2016. You could write a book on the Browns’ disastrous draft decisions made this decade.
DE Randy Gregory, 2015 second round
Sometimes a failed drug test can drive an elite prospect’s draft stock down and turn him into an all-time bargain. Other times, it’s just a harbinger for a career filled with bad choices. Gregory is the latter.
RB Montee Ball, 2013 second round
Coming off a storied college career at Wisconsin, Ball had a promising rookie year with 4.7 yards per carry on limited snaps. However, it was all downhill from there. A groin injury wiped out most of his 2014 season and he got supplanted by C.J. Anderson on the depth chart. The Broncos released him in 2015 and he washed out of the league after a domestic violence arrest.
TE Eric Ebron, 2014 first round
Since 2004, there have been 11 tight ends taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Seven have gone on to earn Pro Bowl honors. If Ebron continues to improve, he could push that figure to eight — but early returns on the athletic pass-catcher have been disappointing. The 250-pound red zone target has scored just seven touchdowns in his career, but has improved his overall yardage, reception, yards-per-catch, and catch rate in each of his last two seasons with the team.
What hurts about this pick are the players the Lions could’ve had instead. Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Donald, Taylor Lewan, and C.J. Mosley were just a handful of stars all taken after Ebron in the 2014 draft.
DT Jerel Worthy, 2012 second round
Worthy had promise, and the Packers saw that in him when Green Bay traded up to take him with the 51st pick in 2012. But injuries kept him from reaching that potential, and he only played in two games in 2013. The Packers cut bait and shipped him off to the Patriots, but he didn’t make it through roster cuts. Worthy is currently trying to get back up to speed with the Bills and played in 13 games for Buffalo last season.
S D.J. Swearinger, 2013 second round
Swearinger spent two seasons with the Texans, and actually didn’t play poorly. He had over 70 tackles each season, and he added 10 pass deflections, a sack and three interceptions over those two years. But his attitude left a lot to be desired, and after Swearinger refused to play special teams because he thought his second-round draft status justified skipping it, the team cut him loose.
DE Bjoern Werner, 2013 first round
It didn’t help that the Colts shoehorned Werner, a traditional 4-3 end, into a 3-4 outside role, but he still didn’t do anything to justify his draft stock, with just 6.5 sacks in three seasons. Indy released Werner in 2016 and he announced his retirement this past January.
With football done, it looks like Werner is giving pro wrestling a shot — he recently had a tryout at the WWE Performance Center.
WR Justin Blackmon, 2012 first round
Trouble was on the horizon almost right away with Blackmon, who was arrested for DUI one month after he was drafted. Still, he was a pretty good rookie with 865 receiving yards and returned from a suspension in 2013 to have 326 yards in his first two games. Then he got suspended again and never returned. Even taking a third-round punter isn’t as bad as trading up to No. 5 for that.
CB KeiVarae Russell, 2016 third round
The Chiefs drafted Russell last year, and he barely made it to mid-September. When Kansas City selected him, general manager John Dorsey raved about Russell’s toughness and his love for the game of football, but something went wrong along the way. All Andy Reid would say is that it was “the best thing for the Chiefs right now” to waive him, but throwing away a third-round pick is painful.
LB Manti Te’o, 2013 second round
Even with the bizarre fake dead girlfriend saga, Te’o was touted as a high-end prospect and the Chargers seemingly got a steal taking him in the second round. Unfortunately, his Chargers run was defined by injuries and mediocre play. Te’o tore his Achilles last year and will have to fight for a starting job in New Orleans.
OT Greg Robinson, 2014 first round
Everyone knew Robinson wasn’t a finished product coming out of Auburn, an offense that barely had him doing any pass blocking at all. But he at least had the raw potential to iron out that part of his game in the right system and with good coaching. He got neither with the Rams. Instead of being the cornerstone of a rebuilt offensive line, he was just one more crumbling building block. He’s getting moved to the right tackle spot this year.
LB Dion Jordan, 2013 first round
The Dolphins traded up to use the third overall pick on Jordan, and it turned out to be a waste. He was in Miami for four seasons, but spent six games in 2014 and the entire 2015 season suspended for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Jordan started one single game during his time in Miami and racked up three sacks. The Dolphins waived him, and he’s got another shot to live up to his potential after signing with the Seahawks.
OT Matt Kalil, 2012 first round
Kalil’s career got off to a strong start after being drafted by the Vikings with the fourth overall pick. But he went downhill from there, consistently allowing pressure and being flagged for penalties. Knee injuries may have contributed, and he had arthroscopic surgery on both knees following the 2015 season. A hip injury that required surgical repair sidelined him for most of 2016, and he’ll get a fresh start with the Carolina Panthers after signing with them in free agency.
New England Patriots
WR Aaron Dobson, 2013 second round
If you’re a wide receiver and Tom Brady can’t make you look good, you’re in trouble. Dobson was a curious pick out of Marshall University — a deep threat whose yards-per-reception decreased each year he spent in college. He never gained more than 689 yards in a single season with the Thundering Herd, but had strong measurables and looked the part of a No. 1 wideout.
Unfortunately for New England, he carried on a proud tradition of regrettable WR draft choices. Dobson had a solid rookie campaign after making nine starts, but soon fell out of favor while players like Kenbrell Thompkins and Brian Tyms usurped his spot in the lineup.
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, 2014 second round
After Richard Sherman blew up and became a household name, it seems like every tall cornerback prospect has been hyped up as “the next Sherman.” Jean-Baptiste was one of those guys, but he never did anything of note and the Saints cut him after just one year. Naturally, he’s Sherman’s teammate now, having signed with the Seahawks to compete for a roster spot in training camp.
RB David Wilson, 2012 first round
The Giants have been looking for a true No. 1 tailback since Tiki Barber’s retirement. For a hot minute, Wilson looked like he might be the guy. The Virginia Tech product started slowly in his rookie season, but finished the year averaging five yards per carry and looking like a building block for the future. Instead, he struggled through the first five games of his sophomore year before suffering a career-ending neck injury.
He’s currently re-dedicating himself to the world of track and field, where he’s a triple jumper.
CB Dee Milliner, 2013 first round
The Jets took Milliner with the ninth overall pick, hoping he could fill the void left by Darrelle Revis’s departure, but injuries kept him from ever hitting his stride. The Jets waived Milliner with an injury designation after he was only able to play in eight games over the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
CB D.J. Hayden, 2013 first round
The Raiders knew Hayden was a risk when they drafted him out of Houston in 2013. The rangy cornerback nearly died after an injury suffered in practice left him with a torn vein near his heart. He came back and performed well enough to assuage Oakland’s doubts at that year’s combine, but the team overlooked one thing: he wasn’t that good of a cornerback.
Hayden feasted on lesser offenses in two years of junior college ball and two years in Conference USA, leaving a stark transition from amateur to professional football. In four seasons with the Raiders, he made just 25 starts and hauled in three interceptions.
LB Marcus Smith, 2014 first round
Smith, a former quarterback who converted to defense while at the University of Louisville, was a force in college. He was a shadow of his college self after being drafted by Philadelphia with the 26th overall pick in 2014. Smith has zero starts for the Eagles over three seasons and has contributed just four sacks.
LB Jarvis Jones, 2013 first round
Jones was a first-round pick after leading the SEC in sacks in 2011 with 13.5, and then the nation in 2012 with 14.5. But in four seasons with the Steelers, his grand total for sacks came out to a whopping six. He developed into a decent outside linebacker in run defense, but his inability to rush the passer is the reason Pittsburgh let him walk in free agency and the reason why he only received a one-year, $2.25 million deal from the Cardinals.
WR A.J. Jenkins, 2012 first round
Just think, the 49ers could’ve had Alshon Jeffery or T.Y. Hilton, who went in the second and third rounds, respectively. Drafting receivers is always a crapshoot, but it stings when you miss on one with a precious round one pick. He was active for exactly three games as a rookie and targeted just once. The 49ers swapped disappointing, over-drafted receivers with the Chiefs a year later, sending Jenkins to Kansas City in exchange for Jonathan Baldwin, neither of whom happen to be in the league anymore.
In hindsight, the 49ers’ picks that year were a sure sign that Trent Baalke was in over his head as a general manager.
RB Christine Michael, 2013 second round
Michael was supposed to apprentice under Marshawn Lynch, then eventually step into his role as a bruising bowling-ball of a tailback after Lynch’s sudden retirement in 2016. Instead, he’s been traded once and released three times in just four seasons of NFL play. His most successful season came in 2016, where he started seven games for Seattle (who had traded him in 2015, re-acquired him, and then cut him despite solid numbers) and added valuable depth to the bombed-out cave once known as the Packers’ tailback platoon.
K Roberto Aguayo, 2016 second round
The Bucs traded up to draft a kicker in the second round. Let me repeat that: the Bucs traded up to draft a kicker in the second round. A kicker who’s already facing veteran competition because he was so bad in his rookie season. GM Jason Licht has quietly built a solid roster in Tampa, but this is some serious red on his ledger.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, 2015 second round
Green-Beckham was one of the nation’s highest-rated recruits coming out of high school, but never had the kind of NCAA impact expected of a five-star athlete. He spent two seasons at Missouri before being dismissed from the program due to legal issues, gaining fewer than 1,300 yards through the air in the process. He spent the next season on Oklahoma’s sideline due to NCAA transfer rules, then declared for the 2015 draft where the receiver-starved Titans snapped him up.
Tennessee expected him to be their next Derrick Mason. He wasn’t even Kendall Wright. Despite showing flashes of brilliance, he was traded to the Eagles for sixth-man offensive lineman Dennis Kelly in 2016. Green-Beckham may still develop into an All-Pro, but it won’t be for the Titans.
QB Robert Griffin III, 2012 first round
Washington traded up to take Griffin with the second overall pick in 2012, and his first season was promising. After being named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, injuries derailed his career and it never got back on track. Griffin lost the starting job in Washington to Kirk Cousins, and he spent a season mostly sidelined by injury in Cleveland. The Browns released him, and he’s still on the market.