Projecting busts in the NFL Draft requires casting doubt on talented players who could just as easily turn into stars as they could disappoint. If you call a potential third- or fourth-rounder a bust, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time. The “busts” fans remember are first- and sometimes second-round picks, especially the players who flop after getting selected in the top 20.
The 2021 NFL Draft features plenty of tantalizing prospects who have red flags for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s experience, size, level of competition, or injury history, there are several factors that cause certain players to stand out as particularly risky.
With that in mind, Sporting News takes a closer look at some of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.
2021 NFL Draft bust candidates
Every first-round QB
We’d like to highlight one QB in particular, but given how high the top-five signal-callers are expected to be drafted, they all have red flags. Trevor Lawrence has been the projected first-overall pick in 2021 since he stepped foot on the Clemson campus, but recent reports about his passion for the game are (very) minor concerns. It’s likely people are making too much of this story because everything is overly scrutinized leading up to drafts, but it’s still worth mentioning since Lawrence is expected to go first overall.
The rest of the top QBs have other worries. Zach Wilson is a bit undersized and has only had one good year playing in a non-Power 5 conference. Few thought Mac Jones would go in the top 15 until about a month ago because of his limited athleticism. Justin Fields has been dogged by commitment and leadership issues in addition to dealing with epilepsy. And Trey Lance isn’t allowed to legally drink yet and started just 17 career games, all against FCS competition.
Based simply on experience and competition level, many would tab Lance as the riskiest, but his overall skill set is as good as anyone in this draft. Wilson doesn’t seem to be getting much scrutiny right now, as he’s been the de facto No. 2 pick for a while now, but he’ll face more heat once the season starts, especially playing in New York. Jones will also hear more “bust” whispers if he goes No. 3 like many expect. Ditto for Fields. Even worse, these players will be compared to each other, so even if the third-drafted QB is decent, he could be considered a bust if the fifth-drafted QB is significantly better.
Ultimately, quarterbacks will always be under more pressure, and if their new teams don’t help them with adequate offensive lines or weapons in the receiving game, all could disappoint, especially if they’re drafted in the top 15 like these five players figure to be.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
While many are focused on teammate DeVonta Smith’s slight frame (6-0, 170 pounds), Waddle isn’t much bigger (almost 5-11, 180 pounds). Waddle also never matched Smith’s overall production. He was posting big yards last year before his ankle injury, but he hadn’t been a consistent TD producer in his career. We’ve seen plenty of big-play speedsters struggle with consistency at the NFL level, and with Waddle coming off a serious ankle injury, he’s even more at risk for a slow start and future health issues. Waddle has plenty of talent and could easily excel with the right QB in the right offense, but considering he’s expected to be a top-10 pick and possibly go ahead of his Heisman Trophy-winning teammate, he also has bust potential.
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
It’s tough to be confident when you draft a player that’s already retired once, right? That will be the case for whoever selects Phillips, who’s battled ankle, wrist, and head injuries during his short college career. After sitting out 2019, Phillips transferred to Miami and put up stellar numbers (eight sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss), so once again we see obvious upside…if he can stay healthy.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Toney is a bit undersized (just under 6-0, 193 pounds), and he didn’t really produce much in his first three years at Florida. He broke out last year as an all-around threat — catching passes, lining up in the backfield, and returning kicks — but he’s the type of player who needs the right fit to really pay off. We’ve seen these versatile “athletes” struggle mightily in the past, so it’s all about landing in the right situation for Toney.
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Moore is similar to Toney, though he’s even riskier given his smaller frame (5-7, 180 pounds) and extensive injury history (hamstring, ankle, knee). He’s an explosive athlete with a lot of upside, so his bust potential really comes down to where he’s drafted. If he goes earlier than expected, then expect some scrutiny; if he falls to the third or fourth round, he’ll be considered a high-upside value pick. Also, like Toney, landing in the right situation will be key.
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Oweh wowed in his workouts, putting up freak measurables that always get scouts drooling. However, he didn’t start playing football until 2016, and he wasn’t particularly productive in college last year, registering zero sacks in seven games. Obviously, Oweh has plenty of room for growth, but if a team falls in love with potential and overdrafts him, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him disappoint.
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley was a stud producer in his two years at V-Tech, but with a torn ACL and two back surgeries under his belt, there are obvious red flags. His talent is such that someone will take a chance on him early in the first round, but his health will be a constant worry.
Landon Dickerson, OL, Alabama
Dickerson had a decorated college career, but after tearing both ACLs and dealing with multiple ankle injuries, it will be tough for any team to trust him. Dickerson has first-round talent if he can stay healthy, but even as a second-round pick, he’ll be risky.
Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Bolton was a steady producer for Mizzou, posting at least 95 tackles and eight sacks in each of the past two seasons. His speed off the edge is well suited for modern NFL defenses, but at just over 5-11, 237 pounds, Bolton might also have issues because of his size, making him a worrisome pick even in the second round.
Source: Read Full Article