Draft picks are highly valuable commodities in the NFL, but when teams choose poorly, it’s like lighting money on fire. Here are some of the future busts to watch out for in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Their names litter the annals of NFL history like shipwrecks off the coastline. JaMarcus Russell. Ryan Leaf. Tony Mandarich. Charles Rogers. All highly talented college football players who went on to accomplish very little in their pro careers. Hey, nobody said playing in the NFL was easy. But when you get drafted early in the first round, with all the hype and politicking and money that’s involved, you’d better be turning water into wine from Day One. Otherwise, your name will be etched in stone, next to all the other draft busts.
What can NFL teams do to avoid embarrassing themselves and picking “the wrong guy”? Draft busts usually come in the form of quarterbacks or other skill players, but mostly quarterbacks. They’re the ones with the most riding on their shoulders, and also the ones who have to make the biggest transition from college to the pros. But as Mandarich proved over 20 years ago, even an offensive lineman can become a bust. Here are some of the most likely players to follow the same ignominious path out of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Might as well get this three-headed monster out of the way. Most of the teams at the top of this year’s draft list are in dire need of some quarterback help, including the No. 1 Houston Texans, the No. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars, and the No. 4 Cleveland Browns. But scouts are grumbling about all three of these players. Johnny Manziel is the biggest potential bust of the three because he’s Johnny Football, and because he’s 5-foot-11 with dubious arm strength. He could turn out like Joe Theismann, or he could turn out more like Cade McNown. And Lord knows what damage playing for the Browns would inflict on Manziel’s developmental curve.
Relative anonymity can only protect the other two guys for so long. Bortles is 6-foot-5, but his arm is even weaker and his accuracy needs work. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, meanwhile, is the most NFL-ready quarterback of this trio and least likely to bust. There’s been a lot less hype about Bridgewater over the past six months or so, and there’s not so much pressure on him now that the 2014 NFL Draft is no longer just the Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes. But fans will turn on him quickly if he doesn’t deliver right out of the box.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
There’s a sizeable gap between Carr and the three quarterbacks at the top of our list, but if a quarterback-hungry team decides to reach for Carr with a high enough draft pick, there’s a good chance he’ll get slapped with the “bust” label. He could be this year’s Blaine Gabbert or Brandon Weeden, in other words. One report from NFL.com has 17 coaches preferring Carr over Manziel, by the way. And yes, he’s the younger brother of David Carr, the former No. 1 overall pick by the Texans. Many consider him one of the biggest draft busts of all time.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
While most of the top defensive linemen are NFL-ready coming out of college, it can take a while to get your bearings if you’re a defensive back – and this league isn’t very patient. There aren’t any truly elite prospects at safety this year, so Clinton-Dix could find himself in the same predicament as some of these quarterbacks, drafted higher than his natural talents would suggest by a team with a specific need. A team like the Dallas Cowboys at No. 16. Jerry Jones and his minions have made some good picks in recent years, but when they whiff, Cowboys haters love to pile on. Just ask Bobby Carpenter.