10 biggest NFL rookie busts in 2015

By Rachel Wold
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

After 13 games, it has become quite clear which NFL rookies are performing beyond expectations and which ones are still struggling to get used to life playing the big boys.

Some teams are saddled with underperforming rookies, suggesting the franchise should have chosen a different direction and addressed other team needs.

From the Indianapolis Colts spending their first round pick on another wide receiver to waiting for Melvin Gordon to ultimately never break out to the Cleveland Browns drafting dead weight, here are 10 of the biggest NFL rookie busts for 2015.

Vic Beasley, defensive end, Atlanta Falcons (No. 8 overall)

When the Atlanta Falcons drafted Vic Beasley, the 2014 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, the team appeared to be selecting an impact player who would bolster a lagging pass rush.

After a successful showing in organized team activities, the telltale signs of Beasley’s current struggles were unfortunately starting to become apparent at training camp. Fast forward 13 games, and the word “bust” has been associated with the Clemson product.

After registering sacks in Weeks 2 and 3, it took until Week 14 for Beasley to strike again. Furthermore, the defensive end has tallied only 16 tackles, of which only four have come since Week 9.

As a result, he ranks 29th at the position, according to Pro Football Focus, (subscription required). NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked Beasley as one of the poorer rookie pass rushers.

“Impressive quickness off the edge, but he’s still in need of a second move. He stalls when he tries to convert speed to power and he needs to do a better job of finishing … a.k.a. convert pressures into sacks.”

Granted, Beasley’s shortcomings are only a drop in the bucket compared to what has gone horribly wrong for the Falcons in 2015.

Trae Waynes, cornerback, Minnesota Vikings (No. 11 overall) 

Entering the 2015 NFL Draft, Michigan State corner Trae Waynes was one of the top defensive back prospects.

“Trae has a real natural feel and good eye discipline when it comes to shadowing guys,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said, per USA Today. “He has good ball skills. What he does really well is know when to turn and locate the ball.”

After a lackluster season that has seen the cornerback register 16 tackles and zero interceptions, Waynes was given his first opportunity to start in Week 13 against the Arizona Cardinals. Waynes fought a uphill battle, highlighted by a busted coverage on Michael Floyd’s 42-yard touchdown.

Waynes did show some spark when he picked off Carson Palmer, but an offside penalty negated the play.

With the Vikings defense trending downward, a concentrated effort from Waynes would be helpful down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Danny Shelton, defensive tackle, Cleveland Browns (No. 12 overall)

After ranking 10th in total tackles in the Pac-12 in 2014, Danny Shelton was drafted by the Browns to boost their ailing defensive line and help fill holes in their porous rush defense.

Though after 13 starts, the Washington product has produced only 26 total stops and zero sacks. What good is having a 343-pound player on the team when he’s not getting his hands on anybody?

Shelton ranks 49th among his fellow tackles. At least Shelton recognizes he must step up for a team that has a multitude of issues to address, per Matthew Florjancic of WKYC.

“You always have some loyal fans that’ll stick it out, but I don’t blame them. We’ve just got to play better.”

Melvin Gordon, running back, San Diego Chargers (No. 15 overall)

The Chargers went all-out to secure one of the top running back prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft when they moved up from 17 to 15 to acquire Melvin Gordon out of Wisconsin.

However, after a stellar 2014 season when Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards at a hearty pace of 7.5 yards per carry and scored 29 touchdowns, the running back has been anything but explosive in San Diego.

So far through 13 games, he’s only tallied 600 yards and has failed to reach the end zone. In 169 attempts, Gordon has managed just 3.6 yards per carry.

NFL Media’s Dan Hanzus notes Gordon has faith in himself for a bounce-back season in 2016.

“It sucks every time; it’s never good. But I guess you’ve got to have some bad, to make some mistakes to learn from it. I’m going to be better. This whole team is going to be better. I can promise you that.”

Not only is Gordon having a terrible season, but the three-win Chargers match the terminology Gordon used about the down year: They suck.

Cameron Erving, left guard, Cleveland Browns (No. 19 overall)

Unfortunately, we are going to have to again kick the Browns while they are down due to another poor draft pick in Cameron Erving out of Florida State.

After primarily playing center in college, Erving is struggling immensely as a guard. Opposing defenders are knocking him down as simply as one would blow on a feather to tip it over.

He got the nod to start in Week 13 due to an injured Joel Bitonio, but the Browns staff benched Erving before the end of the game and didn’t play him in Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers.

Casey Drotter of Rant Sports says of Erving’s performance this season.

“Unfortunately, when on the field this year, Erving has been bad. Not ‘he missed an assignment here or there’ bad. It’s been more along the lines of ‘I’m pretty sure a toddler could push him over’ bad.”

Erving is committed to getting stronger and will be spending extra time in the weight room, according to teammate Bitonio. Cleveland needs that desperately.

Nelson Agholor, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles (No. 20 overall)

Leading up to the 2015 NFL draft, drama surrounded Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. He reportedly was in contact with other teams to try and trade up to select quarterback Marcus Mariota.

That never happened, however, and the Eagles surprisingly selected USC’s Nelson Agholor with their first pick. Ever since that head-scratching move, Agholor has struggled to find his niche with the team.

Drops are a serious issue, and the rookie has only 19 receptions in 10 games for a total of 225 yards and one touchdown, which finally arrived in Week 14. Agholor has shown the Eagles few magical plays, which are overshadowed by poor performance anyway.

Agholor was a prolific producer at USC, but so far he’s a bust as a member of an Eagles receiving corps, which has underwhelmed all season as a whole.

Phillip Dorsett, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts (No. 29 overall)

With the Colts quite stacked at the wide receiver position, it was somewhat puzzling to see the powers-that-be select Miami’s Phillip Dorsett to add to their crowded mix.

Following the draft, McShay weighed in on the team’s decision to select Dorsett versus address other areas that needed attention.

“I would have liked for the Colts to address offensive line with one of their early picks, as it was the top need I had for them coming into the draft.”

Dorsett hasn’t lived up to whatever those expectations were when the Colts picked him last spring. In seven games before breaking his leg in Week 7, Dorsett saw limited snaps. He returned in Week 14 for the blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and saw two targets.

To date, Dorsett has only 11 catches for 167 yards and one touchdown. With an explosive T.Y. Hilton, and up-and-coming Donte Moncrief, a veteran in Andre Johnson and a pair of capable pass-catching tight ends, Dorsett has had minimal opportunity to showcase his talent on the field.

The Colts’ first-round pick only adds to the laundry list of things that have failed in Indy this year.

Ameer Abdullah, running back, Detroit Lions (No. 54 overall)

When the Lions rookie running back debuted preseason and ripped off 67 rushing yards on seven carries — including a fabulous 45-yard rushing touchdown against the New York Jets — he received a comparison to Barry Sanders.

However, that seems like about five years ago. Through 13 games, Abdullah has yet to impress, tallying a meager total of 592 yards and two touchdowns. One 104-yard kick return is the only significant highlight of Abdullah’s season, but four fumbles limit the excitement.

The Lions have given Abdullah many opportunities but relied on veterans Joique Bell and Theo Riddick in order to sustain drives.

At this time, Abdullah is treading on that dreaded bust title due to his inability to deliver a breakout performance.

Maxx Williams, tight end, Baltimore Ravens (No. 55 overall)

With tight end Dennis Pitta’s availability in question for the Ravens in heading into 2015, the team set their sights on a top tight end prospect and traded up to acquire Maxx Williams out of Minnesota.

But in a Ravens season gone bad, the selection of Williams only adds to the heartache the team has suffered so far.

Williams, who has appeared in 11 games, has only seen 27 targets, amounting to 19 receptions for 168 yards and one touchdown. Considering Williams’ success at Minnesota, he’s nowhere near expectations.

Prior to the start of the season, Williams drew comparison to Dallas Cowboys veteran tight end Jason Witten for his as ball skills and athleticism.  We’re still waiting for Williams to show those attributes.

Duke Johnson, running back, Cleveland Browns (No. 77 overall)

The Browns don’t make the best decisions when it comes to drafting, but they’ve put the bust label on Duke Johnson themselves.

Coming from an impressive 2014 season at Miami where Johnson managed 2,073 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns, Cleveland has only given him 88 attempts. He’s registered 296 rushing yards and zero rushing scores while an ineffective Isaiah Crowell has handled the majority of carries.

Johnson has proven capable in the receiving department with 49 receptions for 446 yards and two touchdowns, but the Browns still haven’t made him a featured part of the game plan.