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.
Prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, I identified Jameis Winston as a potential Top 10 Bust. In particular, I labeled him as an interception-prone QB lacking the maturity needed to lead an NFL franchise. Winston proved me wrong by having a productive rookie year on the field and avoiding problems off of it. Of note, he earned a spot in the Pro Bowl and became the inspirational leader of the significantly improved Buccaneers. If his career stalls for whatever reason (e.g. over confidence, decline in work ethic), Winston still may end up being a bust. For now, however, it appears that Tampa Bay made a good choice with its #1 overall pick.
Throughout the opening night coverage of the 2015 NFL Draft, Mel Kiper continually stated that teams should avoid running backs such as Todd Gurley and Mel Gordon in the first round even though they were top prospects. Kiper is well known for making bold speculative predictions, but it seemed like this one could be analyzed. In response, I reviewed drafts from 1977-2007 to evaluate top ten draft picks by position. I’ve already written two posts (one focused on offense and the other on defense) discussing the upside and downside associated with those draft picks. In this post, I’ll use that analysis to evaluate the first ten overall picks in the 2015 Draft to try to identify the most likely future Top 10 Busts.
In the 2015 Rose Bowl, Florida State’s chance for a second consecutive FBS title ended with a humiliating 59-20 loss to Oregon. Although only a semifinal game in the first College Football Playoff, the match-up between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will provide an interesting backdrop as these two Heisman Trophy winners move on to the NFL. As a college superstar who likely will be a top 10 overall pick, Winston will be eligible for consideration as a Top 10 Bust when his career ends. Should I start the betting at five years?
Since quarterbacks are the most important players on a football field, their successes and failures get magnified. In contrast, the performances of players at other positions can get muddled more easily. As the only running back in the countdown, Lawrence Phillips’ failures were too glaring to hide. Unlike most busts who excelled in college but lacked the talent to succeed for the NFL, Phillips had the talent. Unfortunately, his downfall was based completely on an inability to stay on the field because he had severe anger issues off the field. With Ray Rice as a comparison, Phillips was a more talented runner but a much worse person. Depending on what you already know, to the extent you believe that Phillips sabotaged his football career because of some legal problems, then you probably believe that O.J. Simpson sabotaged his broadcasting career because of a disagreement with his ex-wife. In other words, Phillips was one bad dude (and not in a good way). As a talented player who failed miserably in the NFL (and in life), he has been named the #6 NFL Draft Bust.
[Note: Since I first wrote this post in October 2014, Phillips has been charged with first-degree murder for strangling his cellmate while in state prison. So much for thinking he couldn’t sink any lower.]