When a team takes a player in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, they should be pretty sure they’re getting a superstar. Of course, that isn’t realistic.
Some guys turn into longtime solid players, and while that can be disappointing for picks this high, it is better than some of the other alternatives. There are plenty of outright busts, who are off teams just years after going in the first 10 picks in the NFL Draft.
Pro Football Focus‘ Michael Renner went through the last five NFL Drafts. He found the 10 picks that have been the biggest busts in that time frame. Now, none of these guys are too old, so some have a chance to be late bloomers. For most players, though, we have a decent idea of who they’ll be in their first few years.
Two of the 10 players come from major SEC programs. Florida’s Dante Fowler was the No. 3 pick in the 2015 Draft, and while he’s had some big years, he has bounced around the league, and is yet to become a super consistent player. The next year, Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd went No. 9 to the Chicago Bears, the team that just outright released him.
— PFF (@PFF) March 26, 2020
Fowler is probably one of the 10 selections that still has the most upside. He’s a young player, and is coming off of an 11.5 sack season for the Los Angeles Rams. This year, he’ll play for Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons.
From PFF on Fowler:
Fowler was put behind the 8-ball by tearing his ACL in rookie minicamps and missing all of 2015. He has slowly but surely improved his pass-rushing grade every year since, though, and is still only 25 years old. This past season he racked up a career-high 67 pressures and a 73.4 pass-rushing grade. For Jacksonville, that was never quite worth the number-three overall pick.
Floyd has had a much rougher go of it. His best year was his rookie season, in which he had seven sacks for Chicago. Things have trended south from there, and he has not yet been signed by another team.
Floyd had numerous red flags coming out of Georgia before he went top-10 to the Bears in 2016. One of the biggest was simply his age. Floyd was already 23 when he was drafted and would turn 24 early on in his rookie season. That’s two and a half years older than Chase Young is coming out in this year’s draft. The fact that he was still considered a raw, undersized prospect who couldn’t get his weight any higher than 244 pounds at the Combine should have been a searing bright red flag.
The other massive red flag was sample size. Floyd finally earned an elite grade as a pass-rusher his final season at Georgia (91.2), but it came on only 183 pass-rushing snaps. He dropped into coverage (155 snaps) almost as often. He’s been wholly unable to get to opposing QBs in the NFL with a career-high pass-rushing grade of only 64.8.
Hopefully both of these guys, and the other eight on the list, can continue to improve and carve out long NFL careers.