Senior expert Michael Fabiano presents the biggest fantasy busts from each year of the last 20 NFL drafts
The 2021 NFL Draft is almost upon us! It’s without question the biggest event of the league’s offseason, as the next in line of potential superstars will have their names called in Cleveland, Ohio. Success or failure in drafts all comes down to statistics these days, as the emergence of fantasy football has put a bigger emphasis on the numbers. And what are every NFL team and fantasy fan looking to avoid in the draft?
You got that right: Busts.
The ability to avoid the dreaded dud can be the difference between a championship-caliber team and a squad that’s battling for a .500 season or is set back several years if the bust comes at quarterback. Just ask the dreadful drafting New York Jets. Sam Darnold, Mark Sanchez, anyone?
So, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at the biggest fantasy busts from the last 20 NFL drafts. Some draft classes had more talent than others, but you’ll find that many of the teams that “chose poorly” (Indiana Jones!) could have had an absolute superstar had it made a different decision. One thing you’ll also notice the number of huge busts that have come out of NFL drafts is truly mind-boggling.
2020 – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Raiders (Round 1, No. 12)
It’s way too soon to call any 2020 first-rounder a bust, but Ruggs didn’t have what I would call a memorable rookie season. Despite being the first wideout picked in the draft, Ruggs finished 94th in fantasy points at the position. What’s more, many of his fellow first-round receivers finished ahead of him in terms of fantasy points in 2020.
2019 – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Football Team (Round 1, No. 15)
Haskins was the No. 15 overall pick in 2019, as Washington was hoping he became the team’s new franchise quarterback. Instead, he threw 12 touchdowns passes and had 14 interceptions in 16 games (13 starts). He was so bad, in fact, that the Football Team cut ties with him. Haskins is now the backup option to Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.
2018 – Sam Darnold, QB, Jets (Round 1, No. 3)
This shouldn’t be a surprise, as the Jets have been awful with first-round picks over the last decade. Darnold is on the list, as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft has failed to meet expectations. He’s never even been a top-30 fantasy quarterback. Now in Carolina (and away from Adam Gase), maybe a change of scenery will do the trick.
2017 – Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears (Round 1, No. 2)
The Bears traded up to land Trubisky, but the move didn’t bear fruit. While the Bears did have a winning record in games he started, Trubisky was turnover prone and didn’t put up great totals as a passer. He was also selected ahead of Patrick Mahomes (No. 10) and Deshaun Watson (No. 12), who have become fantasy superstars.
2016 – Corey Coleman, WR, Browns (Round 1, No. 15)
Coleman was the fourth offensive skill position player, and the first wide receiver picked in the 2016 draft, but he did nothing in the stat sheets during his time in the NFL. He finished his brief career with 789 receiving yards. Coleman was also selected ahead of wideouts Michael Thomas (No. 47), Tyler Boyd (No. 55), and Tyreek Hill (No. 165).
2015 – Kevin White, WR, Bears (Round 1, No. 7)
White was the major prospect coming out of West Virginia, so much so that the Bears took him as the second wide receiver off the board in 2015. He couldn’t avoid injuries in the NFL, however, finishing with a mere 25 catches. White went ahead of future fantasy stars like Tyler Lockett (No. 69), Stefon Diggs (No. 146), and Darren Waller (No. 204).
2014 – Johnny Manziel, QB, Browns (Round 1, No. 22)
Manziel was the second quarterback selected in the 2014 draft (Blake Bortles, No. 3), but he failed to meet expectations at the next level. The controversial signal-caller had just eight career starts for the Browns, and his lack of production and off-field issues cut his time in the NFL short after just two seasons. Manziel had just eight touchdowns.
2013 – Tavon Austin, WR, Rams (Round 1, No. 8)
Austin was considered the top wide receiver prospect in the 2013 draft class, and the Rams made him the No. 8 overall pick. He would never finish with more than 509 yards as a receiver in the NFL, and he was rarely a fantasy factor. Austin went ahead of DeAndre Hopkins (No. 27), Robert Woods (No. 41), and Keenan Allen (No. 76).
2012 – Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars (Round 1, No. 5)
I could have gone in a few directions, as Robert Griffin III (No. 2) and Trent Richardson (No. 3) also busted in the NFL. However, they each had one strong fantasy season while Blackmon finished just 29th in points as a rookie and played in just four games the rest of his career due to off-field issues. Obviously, Blackmon didn’t meet expectations.
2011 – Jake Locker, QB, Titans (Round 1, No. 8)
Remember the Sports Illustrated cover that featured Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, and Locker, suggesting picking one of the three was the “toughest call in football?” Well, it wasn’t. Newton became a league MVP and fantasy star, while Locker and Gabbert did nothing at the next level. Locker was the worst of the trio; thus, he’s my biggest bust.
2010 – C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills (Round 1, No. 9)
The 2010 draft had several first-round busts, including Sam Bradford (No. 1), Jermaine Gresham (No. 21), and Tim Tebow (No. 25). I went with Spiller, however, as he had just one big season in the league and was more often a fantasy disappointment. Just about every single running back was a bust in this draft class, though, so Spiller wasn’t alone.
2009 – Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders (Round 1, No. 7)
The Raiders’ love of speedy wideouts was on full display in the 2009 NFL Draft, as the team traded Heyward-Bey ahead of Michael Crabtree (No. 19), Jeremy Maclin (No. 19), and Percy Harvin (No. 22). DHB went on to produce just one season with more than 975 receiving yards, and he was rarely fantasy-relevant despite being a high pick.
2008 – Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys (Round 1, No. 22)
Jerry Jones’ love of all things Arkansas might have played a part in the selection of Felix Jones, who was the fifth offensive skill position player selected in 2008. He ended up in a committee with Marion Barber and never rushed for more than 800 yards in a season. Dallas could have ended up with Chris Johnson (No. 24) and Jamaal Charles (No. 73).
2007 – JaMarcus Russell, QB, Raiders (Round 1, No. 1)
Russell wasn’t only the biggest bust of the 2007 NFL Draft, but he might have been the biggest bust in the history of NFL drafts. He lasted two seasons in the league, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Here’s a crazy stat: Trent Edwards threw for the most yards (6,033) among the 11 quarterbacks selected in this draft.
2006 – Matt Leinart, QB, Cardinals (Round 1, No. 10)
This draft had many first-round busts, including Vince Young (No. 3), Laurence Maroney (No. 21), and Marcedes Lewis (No. 28). Leinart was the biggest dud though, as he went No. 10 overall and went on to lose his starting job to Kurt Warner. He finished with more interceptions (21) than touchdown passes (15) in his 33 career NFL contests.
2005 – Troy Williamson, WR, Vikings (Round 1, No. 7)
The first round of the 2005 draft was loaded with players who didn’t live up to their draft position, including Alex Smith (No. 1), Ronnie Brown (No. 2), Braylon Edwards (No. 3), and Cedric Benson (No. 4). However, those players did have some fantasy appeal during their careers, but Williamson never had more than 455 yards in a single season.
2004 – Reggie Williams, WR, Jaguars (Round 1, No. 9)
Williams was the ninth overall selection in the 2004 draft and the second wideout (Roy Williams) to come off the board. The Washington product would fail to have more than 629 yards in a single season with the Jaguars. In all, nine wide receivers in the 2004 draft class, including Patrick Crayton (No. 216), had more career yards than Williams.
2003 – Charles Rogers, WR, Lions (Round 1, No. 2)
Rogers came out of Michigan State as the top wide receiver prospect in the 2003 draft, but he went down as one of the biggest busts of all time. Injuries and off-field issues limited him to just 15 NFL games, and he finished with 440 career yards. He went ahead of Andre Johnson (No. 3), Anquan Boldin (No. 54), and Brandon Lloyd (No. 124).
2002 – David Carr, QB, Texans (Round 1, No. 1)
Talk about a dud quarterback class. The 2002 NFL Draft saw 15 signal-callers come off the board, and none made a major fantasy impact. Carr was the first overall pick of the Texans, an expansion team that did him few favors on the offense. I could have also gone with Joey Harrington (No. 3), Donte’ Stallworth (No. 13), or William Green (No. 16).
2001 – David Terrell, WR, Bears (Round 1, No. 8)
The 2001 NFL Draft birthed several fantasy stars, including Michael Vick (No. 1), LaDainian Tomlinson (No. 5), Reggie Wayne (No. 30), and Drew Brees (No. 32). Terrell wasn’t among them, however. Despite being the first wideout picked, he finished 13th in career, receiving yards (1,602) among receivers selected from the 2001 draft class.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for all of the latest breaking fantasy football news and the best analysis in the business!
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