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Hanging the ‘bust’ label on a player before his NFL career even gets going is kind of nasty. What it really says is that a guy didn’t or won’t live up to the expectations of his contract, or where he was drafted.
Sometimes, a guy is a bust because his play sucks. Sometimes, it’s because he never finds a way onto the field due to injuries or a bad system fit. Every time, there is a GM who spends a draft pick on a guy who will end up facing the fire from fans, the media, and their owner.
Here are five guys that I think, for various reasons, will turn out to be NFL Draft Busts in 2023.
QB Tanner McKee, Stanford
If you watched Tanner McKee’s performance at the recent NFL Combine, you may have some idea why I chose to lead with him here. Yes, the dude throws a nice long ball. The oohs and ahhs in the Go passing drill among those gathered in Indianapolis were palpable. But did you watch his ball placement on nearly every other route? There is not a receiving core in the league with the range to catch this guy’s balls. He is a turnover machine waiting to happen. Some QB-needy team is going to burn a draft pick on this guy, and I mean burn it. McKee will not survive his rookie contract in the NFL. He has Starting 2024 XFL QB written all over him. You’d be better off drafting a kicker, seriously. Next.
QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
DTR is a successful college QB coming off a career with 48 starts and 116 total TDs. UCLA was a surprise team in ‘22, and DTR was a big part of that — props. The problem is, he reminds me of another all-time great UCLA QB, namely Cade McNown, who was a bust of epic proportions in the NFL after being taken #12 overall by the Chicago Bears in 1999. McNown was a middling athlete with questionable arm strength who heard footsteps against a decent pass rush. That’s a match for DTR, who also suffers from bad decision-making against Zone D and poor throwing mechanics. He had a nice college career, but DTR rates out no higher than a QB3 or practice squad guy, ideally in an NFL system that favors quick, precise passing.
WR Antoine Greene, North Carolina
Antoine has decent size at 6’2” 199 lbs, but below average speed for the position, having posted a 4.47 40 with a slow 1.54 10-yard split, along with one of the worst WR vertical jumps at the combine (33.5”). Despite this, he is heralded as a deep threat and explosive athlete — maybe in college, at NC, but not in the NFL, my friend. 4.47 is not getting by an NFL CB covering a vertical threat, and a 33.5” vertical with short arms isn’t going above the defender. Greene gives away his routes with inconsistent footwork and has difficulty challenging for the ball when his catch radius is crowded. He’s going to get drafted on Day 3, but I can’t see him ever climbing above the role of WR4 and special-teamer.
WR Michael Wilson, Stanford
Here’s where labeling guys a bust starts getting tough. I like Michael Wilson. The kid plays the game with a high motor and his effort as a run blocker is off the charts. When he is on the field, he has been pretty good as a receiver, too. The problem is, Wilson has only played in only 14 games over the last three seasons due to injuries, including a pretty serious one to his foot. As a draft prospect, you love the kid’s character and effort level, but red flags are waving everywhere around his health. When you come into the league with that label, the pressure is high to defeat it, leading to guys pushing too hard, too soon to recover, or over-exerting their bodies. I think a healthy Michael Wilson with three seasons of play behind him would make for a decent pick. But that’s not the guy available. Avoid.
OT Earl Bostick Jr.
At 6’6” 309 lbs., with an NFL pedigree and the look of a quality pass blocker with exceptional ability to slide, Bostick Jr. is an intriguing prospect. He’s not in the category of the draft’s top OTs, but he’s not at the bottom of the board, either. The reason for Bostick Jr.’s middling draft status is simple: he is not a run blocker. Never has been, never will be. The big man plays with a lack of strength at the point of attack and gets way too tall. Bull rushers can take advantage of this to walk him back in the pocket, while speed rushers and linebackers can beat him with angles and stunts to get to the ball carrier. In a one-dimensional game where the ball is always in the air, like the CFL, I could see Bostick Jr. excelling. But in the NFL, I am afraid he will ultimately disappoint.
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