NFL Power Rankings: Picking Each Team's Biggest 2011 Draft Bust
What an incredible season it has been for rookies!
If I had told you in April that A.J. Green, Andy Dalton and the Bengals would make a serious push for the playoffs in 2011, it would have likely destroyed my credibility. Yet Cincinnati is very much in the mix for a wild card in the AFC and it is largely due to the rapid maturation of the young quarterback-wide receiver duo.
By the same token, had I told you Cam Newton would be a prolific passer during his rookie season, many would have dismissed me completely. Here we are, however, Week 12 and the first overall pick ranks sixth in the NFL in terms of passing yardage. Though the Panthers remain in the cellar of the NFC South, Carolina fans have an excellent future to look forward to with Newton at the helm.
Former Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller has been a revelation for the Denver Broncos defense, recording 9.5 sacks through his first 11 games. Evoking comparisons to the late Derrick Thomas, Miller shows explosiveness and a pass-rushing prowess rare for his position.
As is the case with every draft, however, several players have failed to reach expectations in their rookie campaigns. Some players will spend the first season of their NFL careers riding the bench or on injured reserve. Many will rebound and carve out a niche in the league, but others are destined to fail and be labeled as a draft "bust" forever.
In the following slideshow, I'll take you through a list of every team's biggest 2011 draft bust.
Drafted second round, 38th overall.
After a nagging hamstring issue plagued his junior season at Virginia Tech, it took only five carries in the preseason for Ryan Williams to sustain an injury that ended his rookie year.
In camp it looked as if Williams may separate himself from the incumbent, Beanie Wells, and establish himself as the primary ball-carrier for the Cardinals. The physical, slashing rookie looked to be the more natural runner of the two and, if healthy, he clearly would have been counted on to play a significant role in Arizona's offense for the 2011 season.
When Williams suffered a ruptured patella tendon in the August game, however, his hopes of being a starting running back as a rookie ended.
The future looks bleak for the former Hokie. While Williams once was an aggressive, explosive back, he now will be coming off two consecutive seasons cut short by injuries. Whether he can maintain his running style without aggravating his knee or hamstring remains to be seen and, for now, his career as a professional football player could be in jeopardy.
Drafted third round, 91st overall.
Backup to tackling-machine Curtis Lofton inside, rookie Akeem Dent has not seen the field much on defense during his rookie campaign. Though he has been active for nine games, he has recorded only seven tackles thus far.
Though Dent finished his college career with a very productive senior season at Georgia, many feel he lacks the necessary size, speed and natural athleticism needed to hold up at middle linebacker in the NFL.
While he should not be written off as a potential starter, it certainly looks as if he will struggle to crack the Falcons' defensive rotation any time in the near future. It is likely Dent will never live up to the third-round pick Atlanta used to select him. For now, expect most of his action to be on special teams.
Drafted fourth round, 123rd overall.
A Baltimore Ravens rookie receiver has electrified the NFL with his speed and knack for the explosive play, but it certainly has not been fourth-round pick Tandon Doss.
Doss, seen as more of a possession receiver, has been thoroughly outshined by second-round pick Torrey Smith to this point. While Smith is pushing 600 yards receiving, five touchdowns and 20 yards per catch, Doss has yet to catch a pass during his rookie season.
Playing primarily on special teams, Doss has been active for only four of the Ravens' games this season. It is unclear whether he will ever carve out a role in the slot for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense, but it appears as if, for now, he is destined to watch from the sideline.
Drafted third round, 68th overall.
Though it has been cornerback and second-round pick Aaron Williams that caught the injury bug, I am choosing Kelvin Sheppard as the Bills' 2011 draft bust.
Sheppard was somewhat of a polarizing prospect coming out of LSU. Many liked him to become a solid starter in the NFL, while others saw him as an effective backup at best. While the jury is still out, he has faced his fair share of struggles during his rookie season.
As a member of the active roster all season, Sheppard has started the past four games. Unfortunately, it has been an ugly stretch for Buffalo. In their last three outings, the Bills defense is giving up an average of over 35 points per game while going 0-3 over the stretch.
Now, I will not put the blame solely on Sheppard, but the rookie has been less than stellar thus far. As Buffalo fights for a wild-card spot in the AFC, the last six weeks figure to be very telling.
Drafted third round, 97th overall.
It is not often that you will have a rookie that has started all season on a list of draft busts. However, the fact that Sione Fua is starting for the Panthers is more a testament to their lack of talent at the position than his effectiveness as a player.
Fua, a run-stopper by nature, is playing in the trenches for a Carolina team that ranks 30th in the NFL in rushing defense. On the year, he has accumulated a grand total of only eight tackles and zero sacks.
While injuries and a lack of depth at the position certainly do not help his case, Fua has not given fans or coaches reason to believe he belongs in an NFL starting lineup. With the 2012 NFL draft approaching, expect the Panthers to explore options at defensive tackle early.
Drafted first round, 29th overall.
Gabe Carimi's story is really an unfortunate one. With a slew of offensive line problems and injuries to their quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears made it a priority to select the best available trench player when they were on the clock. When 29 rolled around, Chicago was ecstatic to land the big man from Wisconsin.
Carimi, who won the Outland Trophy during his senior season for being the best offensive lineman in the nation, showed a lot of promise throughout preseason and his first two regular-season games. Unfortunately, in Week 2, he went down with a knee injury.
Though once thought to be capable of returning in 2011, Carimi suffered a setback and was forced to undergo season ending surgery. Now quarterback Jay Cutler is once again hurt for the Bears, and offensive line is likely to be the team's priority once again next April.
Drafted third round, 66th overall.
Dontay Moch gained notoriety in February when he put in one of the NFL Combine's most memorable performances. The college defensive end from Nevada blazed the 40-yard dash in a remarkable 4.44 seconds and turned heads with his vertical (42") and broad jumps (10'8").
Upon arriving in Cincinnati, however, the workout warrior has seen only limited action. Moch has been sidelined with a foot injury for most of the preseason and regular. Due to missing time in camp, he has been unable to find his place of defense and figures unlikely to play much on that side of the ball this year.
Largely seen as a project, Moch will play exclusively on special teams as a rookie. Eventually, the Bengals envision him as a strong-side linebacker with high pass-rushing potential, but first he will have to prove he can stay healthy. Due to his lack of experience and instincts at the position, it would not be a surprise if Moch failed to emerge as a starting-caliber linebacker.
Drafted fourth round, 102nd overall.
Despite a lack of college football experience and polish at the tight end position, Jordan Cameron was made a fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns. While Cameron, a former basketball player much like New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, certainly is an intriguing athlete, he lacks the physicality at the point of attack needed to become an every-down tight end in the NFL.
As of now, Cameron is buried on the Browns' depth chart. Behind veterans Evan Moore and Ben Watson, the rookie stands little chance of receiving snaps, even in Cleveland's struggling offense. He has been active in four games to date and has hauled in just one pass for seven yards.
Browns fans need not fret, however, because their draft class has looked terrific as a whole with five rookies starting every game. It remains to be seen whether Cameron, a project at the tight end position, can stick in the NFL where he will be required to block as well as catch the ball.
Drafted fifth round, 143rd overall.
It is not a bad sign for the Cowboys when their worst pick occurred in the fifth round. Thomas, a little-known cornerback out of Buffalo, showed promise at January's East-West Shrine Game.
While it looked at first as if Dallas may have had selected a sleeper to contribute in nickel and dime packages, Thomas, along with seventh-round pick Shaun Chapas, was cut from the team prior to the season.
This will not be particularly damaging to the Cowboys' future, but it goes down as essentially a wasted pick with some talent left on the board.
Worth noting: Second-round pick Bruce Carter has battled injuries and has only recently returned to the lineup. Once he is fully healthy and able to assume a significant role on defense, we will be able to determine if he is a capable NFL starter.
Drafted second round, 45th overall.
In a weak safety class, Rahim Moore was billed to be the top player available for the 2011 draft. Many were skeptical of his abilities, however. While he led the country in interceptions as a sophomore, Moore took a step back as a junior, looking ordinary in the UCLA defensive backfield as a junior.
When the Denver Broncos selected him with their second pick in April's draft, they wondered which Moore they were getting. Would it be the ball-hawking playmaker seen on tape in 2009 or the inconsistent player seen just a year later?
So far it appears as if Moore is the latter. In his young NFL career, he has already been fined $20,000 for a preseason hit on Bills' receiver Donald Jones and been benched in favor of fellow rookie Quinton Carter. In Week 10, Moore sustained a concussion that could put his first season in jeopardy. It appears unlikely we will ever see the ball-hawk that dominated college football as a sophomore.
Drafted first round, 13th overall.
When he made himself available for the NFL draft last January, few were as critical of Auburn's Nick Fairley as myself. While he definitely was not short on ability, I worried he would battle work ethic and durability issues at the next level.
So far, it looks as if my predictions about Fairley have been spot on. He has battled left foot injuries throughout camp, preseason and the regular season. Active for only five games, he has zero starts, only five tackles and has been held without a sack in his rookie campaign.
Fairley fit the definition of a "boom-or-bust" prospect and, for now, the jury is still out. Do not be surprised, however, if he fails to live up to his reputation as a disruptive, game-altering force.
Also of note, second-round pick Mikel Leshoure was hurt in the preseason and will miss his entire rookie season. Detroit's 2011 draft class is looking awfully shaky at this point in time.
Green Bay Packers
Drafted first round, 32nd overall.
February's Super Bowl victory is still being celebrated in Green Bay, Wis.. The beloved Packers have yet to lose a game since last December and fans have dynasty on their minds.
So, Mike McCarthy has been making all the right decisions in Green Bay, right? Well, maybe not necessarily. With the last pick of the draft's opening round, McCarthy opted for Mississippi State left tackle Derek Sherrod.
Entering camp, Sherrod was penciled in as the team's starter at left guard. After being throughly outplayed by T.J. Lang during preseason, however, the rookie was sent to the bench where he has been ever since. Active in only three games, Sherrod has not started once. It appears as if the Packers may have really missed on this one.
Drafted second round, 60th overall.
Many, myself included, considered Miami's Brandon Harris to be one of the best cornerbacks in man coverage available in the 2011 draft. Even after addressing the position in the first round in 2010, the Houston Texans decided to add another potential starter when they selected Harris.
When the team signed marquee free agent Johnathan Joseph, however, Harris lost his chance to see significant playing time as a rookie. He has been active for only four games during his first season and has just one tackle all year.
While he appears to be more than an adequate athlete at the position, Harris' size and inability to stick bigger receivers has him buried on Houston's depth chart. Perhaps he comes around in later years, but for now it looks as if the Texans have a bust in this second-round pick.
Drafted second round, 49th overall.
Much like the Chicago Bears, upgrading the offensive line to protect their star quarterback was a top priority of the Indianapolis Colts heading into the 2011 draft. If he wanted to extend the playing life of Peyton Manning, Colts vice chairman Bill Polian knew he must make some serious investments in the trenches.
After nabbing tackle Anthony Castonzo in the first round, Indianapolis wasted no time in filling more spots along the offensive front, selecting Villanova's Ben Ijalana in the second round.
Ijalana was on the verge of receiving a full-time job for the Colts, but was shelved for the season when he tore his ACL early in the season in a Monday night loss to Tampa Bay. Since his injury, Indianapolis' line continues to struggle mightily. With the draft coming up in April and Manning's health still a question, it would be no surprise if the team once again targeted the line early.
Drafted first round, 10th overall.
I was among Gabbert’s biggest critics heading into the 2011 draft, but maintained he had the ability to develop into a good starting QB if given time to sit and learn.
Well, so much for that! When the Jaguars released starting quarterback David Garrard just days before the start of the season, it became increasingly evident that rookie Blaine Gabbert would be thrown to the wolves.
To date, Gabbert is completing only 48.9 percent of his passes. He is averaging a league-worst 5.26 yards per attempt. His passer rating is a mediocre 64.4 and, through eight starts, he has thrown only six touchdowns. He is the face of the worst passing offense in the NFL, averaging a pathetic 129.4 yards per game this season.
Making matters even worse for Gabbert and Jaguars fans, fellow rookie quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Cam Newton have been terrific. Jacksonville will need to go out this offseason and find a few weapons for their young signal-caller, but it may not prevent him from becoming one of 2011's marquee draft busts.
Kansas City Chiefs
Drafted third round, 85th overall.
Miami's Allen Bailey was another one of the more polarizing prospects for the 2011 draft. While he is sculpted like Adonis and obviously has incredible athleticism and strength for his size, his play in college was very inconsistent due to sloppy technique.
Bailey has not found a way to transfer all those weight-room accomplishments to the field. He figures to be a developmental prospect that may never get his chance in Kansas City or fit its 3-4 scheme.
Right now, he is firmly behind former top-five pick Tyson Jackson on the depth chart. While he has been active for every game this season, Bailey has recorded only five tackles. It may never click for this workout warrior.
Edmund "Clyde" Gates
Drafted fourth round, 111th overall.
As you can tell from the picture, Gates is a blur on the football field. The former Abilene Christian receiver has a track background and was able to steal the show at Indianapolis' NFL Combine with his speed.
When the Dolphins drafted him in the fourth round, they expected an explosive, big-play receiver; Gates has been anything but. While he does have the speed to stretch the field, he has trouble beating the jam and must add strength if he is to ever become an effective player at this level.
So far this season, Gates has been active for eight games. His role on offense, however, has been very limited. With just one reception for eight yards, Gates has failed to establish himself as a player to be feared. He may simply take some time to get it together, but as of now, he is the bust in Miami's 2011 draft class.
Drafted fourth round, 106th overall.
Seen as a versatile player with intriguing athleticism and the ability to play multiple positions on the defensive front, it surprised many draft analysts when Iowa's Christian Ballard fell all the way to the Vikings in the fourth round.
It looks, however, as if most teams knew something Minnesota did not know about Ballard. He does not fit particularly well at defensive end, nor is he a traditional 3-technique in a 4-3 front. The feeling is that he may be too much of a "tweener" to succeed at the NFL level.
So far, Ballard has been active all season long for the Vikings, even starting one game. Still, he is seeing limited snaps on defense and has accumulated just six tackles and no sacks. He may need to find a home where he can operate at 5-technique in a 3-4 defense if he is to be an effective pro.
New England Patriots
Drafted second round, 33rd overall.
If there is any team around the league that could use help in the defensive backfield, it is the New England Patriots. The once-proud defense is currently last in the NFL in terms of defending the pass.
The Patriots certainly seemed to know they were wearing thin at cornerback when they made Ras-i Dowling the first pick of the second round last April. Unfortunately, like so many others, Dowling fell victim to the injury bug that plagued him at Virginia.
Recently Dowling was placed on injury reserve after tearing a tendon in his leg during Week 8. Prior to that, he had been battling a thigh injury he sustained in week three. During his rookie campaign, he played in and started two games, finishing his first season with a mere three tackles.
Though Dowling has the tools to be a starter in the NFL, he has been riddled with injuries the past two years and must prove he is capable of staying healthy.
New Orleans Saints
Drafted third round, 72nd overall.
Scouts were mixed on Illinois outside linebacker Martez Wilson. Though he tested through the roof at the NFL Combine, many felt he was a bit too stiff for a role at strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.
While it is obviously still very early, the concerns about Wilson seem valid.
He has been part of the Saints' active roster eight times this season, starting once. Despite receiving some time on defense, Wilson has recorded only three tackles on the year. Truth be told, he looks a bit lost at this level. It appears as if it will be some time before he is able to contribute in the NFL and there is a good chance he may never catch on in a 4-3 scheme.
New York Giants
Drafted second round, 52nd overall.
Among the most polarizing draft prospects seen in 2011, Marvin Austin entered the draft after being ruled ineligible to play the 2010 college football season. While some graded Austin as a first-rounder, I maintained he was not worth the risk until the fourth-round area.
He certainly is one of the finer physical specimens to play the position. At roughly 6'3" and 310 pounds, Austin displayed rare athleticism at February's Combine. Still, on tape his play was inconsistent, he was a character concern, and he had not been on the field for a year.
Unfortunately for the New York Giants, Austin will not see the field this year either. He is currently on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. By the time he returns in 2012, he will not have seen game action in almost three years. To me, Austin screams bust.
New York Jets
Drafted fourth round, 126th overall.
Rex Ryan's primary emphasis is to win football games by running the football and controlling the clock. While he was able to having success doing so in his first two seasons as Jets head coach, Ryan is not getting the same kind of production from his backs this season. In fact, New York ranks just 26th in the league in rushing offense in 2011.
Shonn Greene was thought to be the future at running back for the Jets, but he's struggled mightily this season behind subpar play from his offensive line. As he falters, you would imagine some playing time may open up at the position.
Bilal Powell was a prolific college back in the Big East, widely considered a steal in the fourth round. Still, he was active for just the first time Thursday night when the Jets lost in Denver. In the game, he carried the ball seven times for just 11 yards.
It looks as if New York's search of a bell-cow running back has not ended yet.
Drafted third round, 92nd overall.
The Oakland Raiders were the only NFL team in the 2011 draft to not have a first-round pick. In the second round they made Penn State guard Stefen Wisniewski their top pick. A round later, they addressed the offensive line once again when they drafted LSU's Joseph Barksdale.
Though Barksdale looks the part—big, thick and surprisingly athletic—his football career has been plagued by inconsistency and sloppy technique.
He has been active for all 10 of the Raiders' games but does not see much action as the backup to right tackle Khalif Barnes. It would come as a surprise to few if Barksdale never started a game in his NFL career. Oakland reached on this one.
Drafted second round, 54th overall.
There may be no team in the league quite as disappointing as the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only are they not reaping the expected benefits of a bountiful free-agent harvest, they also are getting very little help from their rookie class.
First-round pick Danny Watkins lost the starting left guard position in training camp to unknown Kyle DeVan before finally regaining his spot on top of the depth chart just six weeks ago. However, it has been second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett who has been most disappointing so far.
Jarrett was slow to pick up Juan Castillo's defensive scheme. He was bypassed for a starting job on multiple occasions as the Eagles struggled at the position. Finally, he has started to see some action.
So far, he has been active for only seven games. He started one game this season: Philadelphia's embarrassing home loss to the Arizona Cardinals in which Larry Fitzgerald made several big plays. Jarrett has recorded only 11 tackles as a rookie and may never be the steady player the Eagles are looking for at the position.
Drafted third round, 95th overall.
Part of a trio of Texas cornerbacks that were drafted in April's draft, Curtis Brown looks to be a bust at the NFL level. While the Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled to generate interceptions this year, they cannot expect much from their rookie. After all, Brown intercepted just two passes in his college career.
Listed fifth on Pittsburgh's depth chart, Brown has yet to earn significant playing time for a team that frankly does not have a whole lot at the cornerback position. On the year, he has been active nine times and has accumulated eight tackles. It remains to be seen if he can be physical enough to hold up in man coverage on the outside.
The jury is still out on the Steelers' top two picks, defensive end Cameron Heyward and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert.
San Diego Chargers
Drafted first round, 18th overall.
San Diego certainly had some analysts scratching their heads when they selected Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget with their first pick in April. It was not because it was a reach per se, but a strange fit.
Liuget was very effective in college playing the 3-technique in the Illini's 4-3 front. The Chargers, of course, run a 3-4 scheme. So, banking on him moving to the end in their three man front, San Diego made him its choice at 18th overall.
It would be hard to argue for the move now. While Liuget has started eight games, he has only nine tackles thus far and has been held without a sack. The move outside to end in the 3-4 seems to nullify his quickness off the snap and ability to penetrate the pocket. Until he moves from San Diego's defensive scheme, consider Liuget a bust.
San Francisco 49ers
Drafted second round, 36th overall.
Let me start by saying: I don't think you can consider Colin Kaepernick a bust.
It would appear as if this pick was a bust, however. Under Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith has transformed into one of the NFL’s most efficient passers.
Smith is seventh in the NFL in terms of passer rating and with a 9-1 record as a starter this season, he boasts a remarkable 13:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He is excelling right now as a game manager and is playing with the confidence he sorely lacked in past years.
Credit Harbaugh with an excellent draft, but essentially this may have been a wasted pick as the Niners sprung for a developmental option to groom behind the previously underwhelming first pick.
Drafted first round, 25th overall.
The Seahawks shocked the crowd at Radio City Music Hall when they bypassed on a quarterback and selected Carpenter, who was graded by many draft experts and analysts as a late second-, third-round pick, with their selection in the opening round.
While their offensive line clearly needs all the help it can get, this pick was undoubtedly one of the biggest reaches on draft night. Carpenter has the ability to become a solid starter in the NFL at the right tackles position, but will never live up to his draft position.
Part of a Seattle offensive line that has given up the second most sacks in the NFL (34), Carpenter started every game until this past week. Unfortunately for he and the Seahawks, his rookie season ended when suffered a torn ACL during last Wednesday's practice.
St. Louis Rams
Drafted first round, 14th overall.
Coming into the season many considered the St. Louis Rams a potential playoff contender. Unfortunately, injuries, poor offensive line play and underwhelming performances by some young players have led to a lowly 2-8 record.
First-round pick Robert Quinn got off to a slow start with the Rams. He is showing flashes as a pass-rusher, but not enough to justify a high first-round pick. It remains unclear whether he has the ability to become an every-down defensive end in the NFL. So far, his lack of strength at the point of attack and inability hold his ground in the running game have made him a one-dimensional player.
Quinn has been active in nine games for St. Louis, but has started zero. He currently has 14 tackles and four sacks on the season, including three in his last three games. While he certainly has shown that athleticism and upside as a pass rusher, the former Tarheel has a long way to go.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Drafted second round, 51st overall.
Once billed as a top-five pick, injury concerns led to Da'Quan Bowers’ draft-day free fall. Finally, in the late second round, Tampa Bay put out the net and ended the All-American's tumble.
While he has been healthy as a rookie, he has not truly found his way as a pro. Bowers was unable to beat out Michael Bennett for the starting job on the left end. Following the injury to Gerald McCoy, he was moved from end to tackle, so he will finish out his rookie season playing primarily out of position.
So far, in 2011, he has been active every game for the Buccaneers but has yet to start a game. Bowers has only registered 10 tackles and after leading the nation a year ago, has been held without a sack to this point.
Drafted fourth round, 130th overall.
When he was drafted, it appeared as if it was the Titans’ intention to make Jamie Harper the battering ram in the offense to complement the speed and agility of Chris Johnson. A strong preseason helped reinforce that, as he led the team in rushing and scored three touchdowns.
Harper stopped getting touches once Tennessee got to the regular season, however. The Titans' running game has struggled mightily this year as "CJ2K" has not looked like the same player seen in past years.
Much like Johnson, Harper has failed to live up to expectations thus far. While he has been listed as active for nine game, he has only seven carries in his rookie season for 16 yards in the NFL's lowest-ranked rushing offense.
Drafted second round, 46th overall.
This one is a shame.
Jarvis Jenkins had looked very promising throughout camp and preseason while he made the switch from inside in a 4-3, out to 5-technique in a 3-4 scheme. Washington looked to have a real winner with this pick; however, late in the preseason, Jenkins suffered an ACL injury and was lost for the year.
Before the injury, Jenkins had locked down a starting job on the Redskins’ front. He figures to compete for that job once again when camp opens next summer, but that knee will have to be watched closely.