Scouting players for the NFL Draft is an inexact science. There are always players who slip through the cracks and aren’t selected until the sixth round or later (if they get drafted at all) — and then they become superstars. And there are always players chosen during the first two days of the draft who wind up having wildly disappointing NFL careers.
Today, we look at 10 prospects selected in the 2017 NFL Draft who, in our eyes, have the potential to eventually be labeled as NFL Draft busts. Every player has a different backstory, and they each have reasons why they ended up on our list. While we hope they can all prove us wrong, history suggests that more than one of the following players will ultimately earn the infamous title of NFL Draft bust.
1. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
- NFL team: Cleveland Browns
- Drafted: second round, No. 52 overall
College football coaches are notorious for overhyping the pro potential of their former players. So when one of them publicly declares that a player should have stayed in school (the way Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly did in regards to DeShone Kizer), there is a major cause for concern.
When it comes down to it, Kizer has most of the physical traits he needs to be a franchise NFL quarterback. However, at this point, his accuracy just isn’t where it needs to be to succeed in the NFL. Additionally, his overall maturity level may cause problems in an NFL locker room. The Browns have had nothing but positive things to say about Kizer, but the only way we see him being successful is if Cleveland brings him along slowly. If he gets thrown to the wolves right away, the 21-year-old quarterback could have a short NFL career.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
- NFL team: Carolina Panthers
- Drafted: first round, No. 8 overall
We’re torn on Christian McCaffrey. On one hand, he looks like he could be an absolute game-changer in the NFL. The former Stanford star has the ability to play running back and wide receiver, as well as return kicks at a high level.
On the other hand, McCaffrey isn’t the ideal size to be an every down back in the NFL. We’re also deeply concerned with the workload he carried during his final two college seasons (he had a whopping 748 touches in 2015 and 2016 combined). In the right system, McCaffrey could be an NFL star. If the Panthers don’t use him correctly (or if he’s asked to do too much), he could have a disappointing and short-lived professional career.
3. Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
- NFL team: Arizona Cardinals
- Drafted: first round, No. 13 overall
We are always a little wary of players who come out of nowhere to dominate their competition at the NFL Combine. Haason Reddick, one of this year’s Combine superstars, falls into that category.
At 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, the former Temple Owl tested off the charts with a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, a 36.5-inch vertical jump, a 133-inch broad jump, a 7.01-second 3-cone drill, and 24 bench press reps. With his performance, he went from being a player most scouts pegged as a third- or fourth-round pick to the No. 13 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. While we are confident that he will have a long-lasting NFL career, we aren’t as sure that he will live up to the expectations that come with his draft status.
4. Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
- NFL team: Chicago Bears
- Drafted: first round, No. 2 overall
Depending on who you ask, Mitchell Trubisky may or may not be the best quarterback prospect in this year’s draft class. We are among those who aren’t sure he will pan out as a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
First off, there is a lot to like about the former North Carolina Tar Heel. He’s extremely athletic; he has a quick release; he has above average accuracy inside and outside of the pocket; and he does a good job of taking care of the ball. On the flip side, Trubisky has minimal starting experience (he started only one full season in college); he spent most of his time playing in a shotgun-centric offense; and he played in a quarterback-friendly offense at North Carolina.
All said, Trubisky will need time to develop at the NFL level. He has the physical tools to succeed, but nobody really knows how well he will adjust to playing under center in a complex pro-style offensive system. And in a city like Chicago, the pressure will be on to play Trubisky as a rookie.
5. Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama
- NFL team: Baltimore Ravens
- Drafted: third round, No. 78 overall
When it comes to pure pass-rushing ability, Tim Williams is one of the best prospects in the 2017 draft class. When it comes to off-field issues, though, the only big-name player with more red flags than Williams may be Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon.
During his time at Alabama, Williams failed multiple drug tests and faced a gun charge in 2015. While we admire his willingness to own up to his mistakes, it’s also hard to overlook the fact that he was a repeat offender. If the off-field concerns weren’t enough, Williams’ struggles against the run at the college level indicate that he is unlikely to ever develop into a true three-down NFL defender. That said, he should have an opportunity to play early for the Ravens.
6. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
- NFL team: Kansas City Chiefs
- Drafted: first round, No. 11 overall
Patrick Mahomes may be the most physically talented quarterback in the 2017 draft class. But there is no doubt that he absolutely needs a “redshirt year” at the professional level, which he should get with Alex Smith already in place in Kansas City.
Like most quarterbacks who come out of Texas Tech’s air raid offense, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Mahomes is a true gunslinger. He has a huge arm, can make all the throws, plays with swagger, and is an above-average athlete. That said, playing in Texas Tech’s offense hasn’t exactly prepared Mahomes for life in the NFL.
Not only must the 21-year-old quarterback adjust to playing under center (which won’t be easy), but he also must adapt to the complexities of an NFL offense. If the Chiefs can be patient in bringing him along, Mahomes could be a perennial Pro Bowler. If not, he could end up being the next Jay Cutler.
7. Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn
- NFL team: Oakland Raiders
- Drafted: second round, No. 56 overall
We are always skeptical of players who fly up draft boards based on their performances in shorts and t-shirts at the NFL Combine. Obi Melifonwu is one of those players. The former UConn safety should have a lengthy NFL career. However, we just don’t see him ever being truly worth a second-round pick for the Raiders. Don’t be surprised if Melifonwu winds up being a standout special teams player and an average safety in the NFL.
8. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
- NFL team: Washington Redskins
- Drafted: first round, No. 17 overall
Jonathan Allen made this list strictly because of concerns regarding the long-term health of his shoulders. The 2016 SEC Defensive Player of the Year has All-Pro ability and may be the most technically refined defensive lineman in this year’s draft class. However, Allen had surgery on both of his shoulders during his time at Alabama. There is no telling if he’ll be able to have a long-lasting career in the NFL.
9. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
- NFL team: Seattle Seahawks
- Drafted: second round, No. 35 overall
Malik McDowell reminds us a lot of former Ole Miss and current Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. There were times during each of their respective college careers when McDowell and Nkemdiche took games over and looked unblockable. There were also times when both players looked disinterested and completely disappeared on film.
McDowell landed with the perfect coaching staff to help him live up to his potential in Seattle. If Pete Carroll and company can do a good job with him, McDowell could develop into a Pro Bowler. If not, the former Michigan State Spartan will likely go down as a bust.
10. Jalen “Teez” Tabor, CB, Florida
- NFL team: Detroit Lions
- Drafted: second round, No. 53 overall
At one point, Jalen Tabor was widely viewed as a likely first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. After a hugely disappointing pre-draft process, Tabor eventually came off the board toward the end of the second round.
The former Florida Gator had a highly productive college career, and his press and coverage skills are undeniably advanced. That said, Tabor’s speed (4.62 in the 40) and maturity issues are major red flags in our eyes. He’ll likely have a nice NFL career, but we just don’t see the two-time All-SEC selection ever developing into a lockdown cornerback in the NFL.