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Projected 2015 NFL Draft Busts – Revisited (2016)

Synopsis: Before I provide my assessment of this year’s draft, it’s only fair that I revisit my evaluation of potential 2015 NFL Draft busts. At this point, there don’t appear to be any likely Top 10 Busts from last year’s draft. However, two players seem to be on their way to becoming stars. As the only two rookies selected to the 2016 Pro Bowl, #1 pick Jameis Winston and #10 pick Todd Gurley have started their careers very solidly. I’ll take credit for calling Gurley a worthy top ten pick. Then again, I have to admit that I thought Winston would be a bust. Overall, I give myself a B- for my predictions. Just like most of the top picks in the 2015 Draft, I had moments to remember and moments to forget.


 PROJECTED 2015 NFL DRAFT BUSTS – REVISITED (2016)

The following table summarizes my assessment of potential 2015 NFL Draft busts from the top 10 overall picks.

 Pick Player Position Prediction Yr 1 Grade*
#1 Jameis Winston QB Bust / Potential Top 10 Bust D-
#2 Marcus Mariota QB Not a bust / Not a star B
#3 Dante Fowler Jr. DE None (Injured) I
#4 Amari Cooper WR Not a bust / Not a star B
#5 Brandon Scherff OG Star A-
#6 Leonard Williams DT Not a bust / Not a star B-
#7 Kevin White WR More bust-worthy than Cooper I
#8 Vic Bealey DE Not a bust / Not a star B
#9 Ereck Flowers OT Not a bust / Not a star B-
#10 Todd Gurley RB Downside risk – but worth top 10 pick A-

I- Incomplete due to injuries

Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts (Quarterbacks): #1 Pick Jameis Winston and #2 Pick Marcus Mariota
ORIGINAL ASSESSMENT:
  • Quarterbacks taken with a top ten overall pick succeed 30% of the time, but fail 30% of the time as well.
    • Based on those odds, there’s a 50% chance that at least one of these QBs will be a bust and an equal chance that at least one will become a star.
  • As detailed in my post regarding the questionable track record of Jameis Winston (e.g. character issues, regression in performance from one year to the next, and proneness to interceptions), I predicted that Winston is likely to become a bust.
    • I understand that analysts, who know much more about evaluating college football players than I ever will, believe he has the skills to succeed in the NFL; however, I disagree.
    • Even though Winston only has a 30% chance to fail, I’m predicting that he will as if he’s a #5 seed that’s about to be upset by a #12 seed.
  • Given that I’ve predicted that Winston will be a bust, I’m giving Mariota a pass because the chance that they’re both busts is only 10%. On the other hand, QBs from the University of Oregon (at least since Dan Fouts retired in 1987) have not fared well in the NFL, so I’m not about to declare him a star either.
UPDATE:

I remember Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season as if it were yesterday. While still maintaining the false hope that the Cleveland Browns might beat the New York Jets en route to a long-awaited playoff appearance, I eagerly watched the updates from the Tampa Bay / Tennessee game. Of note, that game showcased the first career starts of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

Barely three minutes into the game, the Titans had a 14-0 lead. Of note, Mariota had thrown a 52-yard touchdown pass while Winston had thrown a pick-six (on his first career passing attempt!). Mariota continued to shine throughout the game and finished with a total of four touchdown passes. For his efforts, the Titans’ rookie QB won the AFC Offensive Player-of-the-Week Award.

Through the first four games of the year, Mariota outshone the player taken immediately ahead of him. In particular, the former Oregon Duck had eight touchdowns, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 99.7. Meanwhile, the former Florida State Seminole had six touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 71.2. Fortunately, I didn’t jump on Twitter and tweet something like, “@Top10Busts called it. #Winstonbust.” Winston steadily improved during the year, whereas Mariota couldn’t maintain his fast start. Regardless, both rookie QBs put up impressive numbers.

2015 ROOKIE YEAR STATS – JAMEIS WINSTON & MARCUS MARIOTA
Pick Player Team WAV Record Yards TD INT Rating Rank* Other
#1 Jameis Winston Buccaneers 13 6-10 4,402 22 15 84.2 13 All-Pro / Rookie of the Year
#2 Marcus Mariota Titans 9 3-9 2,818 19 10 91.5 21  

* Pro Football Focus rank relative to all NFL quarterbacks.

In addition to being selected as an injury replacement to the Pro Bowl, Winston won the Pepsi Rookie-of-the-Year Award. Based on those accolades, I admitted in another post that my assessment of the 2015 #1 overall pick appears to be wrong. Furthermore, it appears that I might have underestimated Mariota as well.

While it’s still possible for either player to become a bust, it’s virtually impossible for either to become a Top 10 Bust. In particular, both QBs should surpass the career totals from #9 Bust David Klingler by Week 4 of the 2016 season. 

2015 ROOKIE STATS FOR JAMEIS WINSTON & MARCUS MARIOTA VS. DAVID KLINGLER
Player Draft Pick Record Passing Yards TDs INTs Passer Rating Additional Information
Jameis Winston #1 (2015) 6-10 4,042 22 15 84.2 11th in passing yds / 5th in INTs / Rookie of the Year
Marcus Mariota #2 (2015) 3-9 2,818 19 10 91.5 2x AFC Offensive Player of the Week / 17th in passing rating
David Klingler #6 (1992) 4-20 3,994 16 22 65.1 #9 on list of Top 10 Busts – “best”  QB in countdown
VERDICT:

At this point, my prognostication skills don’t appear to be particularly good. Then again, I still have eight more picks to validate my projected 2015 NFL Busts.

OVERALL GRADE:
  • Winston: D- 
    • My grade arguably could be an F given Winston’s strong rookie season. However, he showed glimpses of being careless with the ball. As such, it’s still possible that he regresses next year just like he did after his sensational freshman year at Florida State.
  • Mariota: B
    • Even though my assessment of Mariota was accurate (i.e. not a bust / not a star), I don’t deserve more than a B for making such a broad prediction
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts (Defensive Linemen): #3 Pick Dante Fowler Jr. and #6 Pick Leonard Williams
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts - Williams Safety
Jets DT Leonard Williams with a pre-season safety
ORIGINAL ASSESSMENT:
  • With respect to defensive linemen taken with a top ten overall pick, 15% succeed while 6% fail.
    • Based on those odds, there’s better than a 1 in 4 chance that at least one of these DEs will become a star and a 1 in 10 chance that at least one will become a bust.
  • Given that Fowler is lost for the season, I’m sure that Jacksonville is already lamenting its decision to take him over Williams. Regardless, it’s still unlikely that either one will become a bust.
UPDATE:

Barely two weeks after being taken with the #3 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Dante Fowler Jr. tore his ACL during rookie mini-camp. Due to the injury, Fowler missed the entire 2015 season. As such, it’s impossible to evaluate him as an NFL player. Good news, he just made it through his first day of OTAs unscathed after a one-year layoff. Bad news . . . well you can imagine the bad news. Fowler has been out of the game for a year so he has a lot of work ahead of him.

As of now, it appears that Leonard Williams will beat the odds and become a star. To start, the Pro Football Writers of America named him to their 2015 All-Rookie Team. Furthermore, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 12th best interior defensive lineman in the entire NFL (i.e. not just among rookies). While PFF uses a subjective ranking, it’s better than any evaluation that I can provide. Perhaps more indicative of Williams performance, PFF labeled him “an unqualified success.” As shown by the following table, he put up some impressive numbers in his first year in the league.

2015 ROOKIE STATS FOR DANTE FOWLER JR. & LEONARD WILLIAMS
Pick Player Team WAV Games Snap % Sacks Tackles Assists Rank* Other
#3 Dante Fowler Jr. Jaguars 0 0 0 0 0 0 N/A Out for season with injury
#6 Leonard Williams Jets 9 16 76.9% 3 29 34 12 PFWA All-Rookie Team

* Pro Football Focus rank for Leonard Williams relative to all NFL interior defensive linemen

VERDICT:

It’s still to early to tell for Fowler, but I’ll take some credit for Williams (i.e. declaring that he wouldn’t be a bust). After my failure with Winston, I’ll take whatever I can get.

OVERALL GRADES:
  • Fowler: I
    • Incomplete due to Fowler’s season-ending injury
  • Williams: B-
    • My broad prediction (i.e. not a bust / not a star) seems reasonable for now, but I lowered my grade from a B to a B- because he could develop into a star.
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts (Wide Receivers) – #4 Pick Amari Cooper and #7 Pick Kevin White
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts - Amari Cooper
Raiders WR Amari Cooper
ORIGINAL ASSESSMENT:
  • With respect to wide receivers taken with a top ten overall pick, 10% succeed while 14% fail.
    • Based on those odds, there’s a 1 in 5 chance that at least one will become a star and 1 in 4 chance that at least one will become a bust
  • Relative to the two receivers, Cooper is more accomplished, but White has greater size and speed.
    • I value on-field accomplishments much more than combine results so I believe Cooper will be more successful in the NFL.
    • In addition, White was only a one-year wonder at West Virginia (it was quite a year, however, with 109 receptions and 1,447 yards), which is a red flag for potential busts.
    • Odds are the neither one will be a bust, but White is more likely than Cooper.
UPDATE:

Originally put on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list last summer with a shin ailment, Kevin White ultimately underwent season-ending surgery. Similar to Fowler, sat out the entire season so he can’t be evaluated yet. As of last month (April 2016), White appears to be healthy again. More importantly, he looks as quick as ever. I’m sure the Bears and their fans liked hearing that news.

Interestingly, White’s injury appears to have been caused by excessive training for the combine. The 2015 #7 overall pick certainly put up some impressive numbers during the annual beauty pageant (e.g. 4.35 in the 40-yard dash). However, his preparation for the event may have done more harm than good.

With over 1,000 yards receiving and six TDs, Amari Cooper had a strong rookie season. For his efforts, the PFWA selected him to the 2015 All-Rookie Team. Interestingly, Pro Football Focus didn’t view Cooper’s season as favorably due to the 18 passes he dropped. That’s a lot of dropped balls, but PFF’s ranking for him (i.e. 72nd for all wide-outs) seems awfully low. In particular, I’m sure that all 32 teams would by happy to have him as their #1 or #2 receiver.

2015 ROOKIE STATS FOR AMARI COOPER & KEVIN WHITE
Pick Player Team WAV Games Rec Yds TD Drops Rank* Other
#4 Amari Cooper Raiders 9 16 72 1,070 6 18 72 PFWA All-Rookie Team
#7 Kevin White Bears 0 0 0 0 0 0 N/A Missed entire season due to an injury

* Pro Football Focus rank relative to all NFL wide receivers

VERDICT: 

At this point, it’s unfair to critique Kevin White relative to Amari Cooper due to White’s season-ending injury. Until proven otherwise, my preference for Cooper has been validated. If Cooper learns how to hold on to the ball, he’ll be on his way to becoming a star.

OVERALL GRADES: 
  • Cooper: B
    • The jury is still out on Cooper. It seems equally likely that he could break out and become a star or turn into Troy Williamson (i.e. a top 10 pick who had trouble holding on to the ball). In either case, my grade would suffer. In the meantime, I’ll take the B.
  • White: I
    • Similar to Fowler, White missed the entire 2015 season. As such, my prediction cannot be evaluated yet.
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts (Offensive Linemen): #5 Pick Brandon Scherff and #9 Pick Ereck Flowers
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts: Brandon Scherff
Washington RG – Brandon Scherff
ORIGINAL ASSESSMENT:

With respect to offensive linemen taken with a top ten overall pick, 22% succeed while 4% fail. As such, I don’t think either player will be a bust.

  • I’ve been hyping Scherff since mid-November 2014, so I won’t stop now. In fact, I predict Scherff will be the most accomplished player (based on career WAV) of the first ten picks of the draft.
UPDATE:

After the first month of the 2015 season, my positive assessment of Brandon Scherff seemed questionable. First, Washington Head Coach Jay Gruden moved Scherff from left tackle to right tackle during the preseason. Then, Gruden moved him to right guard after a slow start to the regular season. However, any concerns about the picks were short-lived. For the entire season, Washington’s top pick only gave up two sacks while being assessed three penalties. As a result, the PFWA named him to their 2015 All-Rookie Team.

Despite being a top 10 overall pick, Ereck Flowers couldn’t handle the demands of being a starting left tackle in the NFL. Regardless, the Giants put him in that spot due to a season-ending shoulder injury to Will Beatty. After the season, Pro Football Focus ranked Flowers as the NFL’s 76th best offensive tackle based on him giving up five sacks, 17 hits and 47 hurries. As a qualitative assessment, PFF commented that Flowers did better as a rush blocker than a pass protector. Interestingly, pro-football-reference.com rated him as more valuable than Scherff. Apparently, they value a starting left tackle more than a right guard. 

2015 ROOKIE STATS FOR BRANDON SCHERFF & ERECK FLOWERS
Pick Player Team WAV Games Snap % Sacks Hits Hurries Rank* Other
#5 Brandon Scherff Washington 7 16 99.9% 2 8 26 31 All-Rookie Team
#9 Ereck Flowers Giants 9 15 86.5% 5 17 47 76  

* Pro Football Focus rank for Scherff relative to all NFL guards. PFF rank for Flowers relative to all NFL offensive tackles.

VERDICT: 

Even though Scherff has been moved to RG, it seems that he’s on track to become a future All-Pro at that position. Despite Scherff’s slow start, I still maintain that he’ll be the most accomplished top ten pick from the 2015 Draft. Flowers has a longer way to go (assuming he stays at LT), but it’s premature to call him a bust.

OVERALL GRADE:
  • Scherff: A-
    • Perhaps I’m biased, but I thought Scherff did better than reflected by either of the summary stats provided by Pro Football Focus (Rank) or pro-football-reference.com (WAV).
  • Flowers: B-
    • Flowers is still safely in the “not a bust / not a star” zone but with a negative bias (ergo, the reduction from a B to a B-).
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts – #8 Pick Vic Beasley
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts - Vic Beasley
Falcons DE Vic Beasley
ORIGINAL ASSESSMENT:
  • As a linebacker taken with a top ten overall pick, Beasley has a 17% chance of being a star and a 6% chance of being a bust.
    • With a 3 in 4 chance of being somewhere between a star and a bust, Beasley most likely will be just that.
UPDATE:

Although drafted as a linebacker, Beasley lined up mostly as a defensive end. He finished his rookie season with four sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception. Based on his performance, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 45th best edge defender in the NFL. According to PFF, he did well against rookie tackles but not so much against experienced pass rushers.

2015 ROOKIE STATS FOR VIC BEASLEY
Pick Player Team WAV Games Snap % Sacks Tackles Assists Rank* Other
#8 Vic Beasley Falcons 7 16 51.2% 4 20 6 45 1 INT / 2 forced fumbles

* Pro Football Focus rank relative to all edge defenders in the NFL.

VERDICT: Even though Beasley has moved to DE, it appears that my assessment is spot-on.

OVERALL GRADE: B

  • Similar to Mariota, Beasley seems to be solidly in the “not a bust / not a star” zone.
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts – #10 Pick Todd Gurley
Potential 2015 NFL Draft Busts - todd gurley
Rams RB Todd Gurley
ORIGINAL ASSESSMENT:
  • As a running back taken with a top ten overall pick, Gurley has an equal 1 in 6 chance of becoming a star or a bust.
    • While the odds of either option is not great (and therefore unlikely), I believe he has more downside than upside potential.
  • Separating my analysis from my emotions, I hope Gurley succeeds simply because of his tribulations this season (i.e. the suspension and ACL injury) and the humility he demonstrated at the draft.
  • Regardless of his success or failure, Gurley certainly was worth a top ten pick based on his potential.
UPDATE:

In my original post regarding potential 2015 NFL Draft busts, I disagreed with Mel Kiper by arguing that top running backs deserve to be taken with a top 10 overall pick. In contrast, Dr. Kiper argued that no running back should be a first round pick, much less a top 10 pick. Despite only playing in 13 games, Gurley earned Pro-Bowl status. Relative to all NFL rushers, he finished the season 3rd in yards and 5th in touchdowns.

2015 ROOKIE STATS FOR TODD GURLEY
Pick Player Team WAV Games Carries Yds TD Y/C Rank Other
#10 Todd Gurley Rams 8 13 229 1,106 10 4.8 22 All-Pro / All-Rookie

* Pro Football rank relative to all NFL running backs.

VERDICT: It’s still early, but it looks like Gurley deserved to be a top 10 overall pick.

OVERALL GRADE: A-

  • I deserve credit for declaring Gurley worthy of a top 10 pick. Then again, a discount is warranted because I argued that he had more downside risk than upside potential.
 PROJECTED 2015 NFL DRAFT BUSTS – REVISITED (2016)
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