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Biggest Wide Receiver Busts in NFL Draft History

Wide receivers have become an increasingly valuable commodity in the NFL as passing offenses have taken over the league. But as teams look to spend up to acquire key pieces at the position, some first-round selections haven’t worked out, and I’m here to highlight the most infamous cases. Sit back, relax, and enjoy my five biggest wide receiver busts in the history of the NFL draft.

Biggest Wide Receiver Busts in NFL Draft History

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5. Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota (2016)

You might ask why I chose to feature a 23rd overall pick in a weak wide receiver class with the fifth spot on this list, and you know what? Fair point. But this is my list, and very few first-round receivers have accomplished what Treadwell did: finishing his rookie season with a single reception. Just check out his rookie year highlights:

As a rookie, Treadwell recorded one reception for 15 yards despite playing in nine games and starting one. Things didn’t improve much after that — in his second year, he caught 20 passes for 200 yards; in his third, he caught a career-high 35 for 302 and his first-career score.

Understandably, the Vikings moved on from Treadwell after his rookie contract expired, and as of the end of the 2023 season, Treadwell had played in 81 games (of which he started 24) with 111 receptions, 1,242 yards and five touchdowns.

Of course, not every first-round rookie works out, but Treadwell’s exceptionally awful rookie year earns him the first spot on this list.

Drafted before: Sterling Shepard (2.9), Michael Thomas (2.16), Tyler Boyd (2.24), Tyreek Hill (5.28).

4. Kevin White, Chicago (2015)

The Chicago Bears drafted Kevin White with the seventh overall pick in 2015. The former WVU star had just racked up 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns on 109 receptions. He then ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash, which now ranks in the 97th percentile. But after the Bears drafted White, It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off: he suffered an injury in training camp that cost him the entirety of his rookie year.

Players shouldn’t be considered busts just because they get hurt as a rookie, so it’s what White did next that earned him a spot on this list. In 2016, he was healthy for the first four games of the season. He reeled in 19 receptions for 187 yards but no scores before re-injuring the leg he had injured a year before costing him the rest of the year. When White returned in 2017, he caught two passes for six yards before suffering another season-ending injury.

White turned 26 entering the 2018 season, his fourth in the NFL. Unlike previous seasons, he didn’t open the year as a starter, and didn’t catch a pass until his sixth game. White would end the season with four catches for 92 yards and no scores. White would go on to play three more seasons — 2019, 2021 and 2022 — finishing his career with a futile 28 catches for 397 and, importantly, zero touchdowns.

Drafted before: DeVante Parker (1.14), Nelson Agholor (1.20), Breshad Perriman (1.26), Tyler Lockett (3.5), Jamison Crowder (4.6), Stefon Diggs (5.10).

3. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville (2012)

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Justin Blackmon with the fifth overall pick in 2012. Blackmon earned comparisons to the likes of Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin — strong, big-bodied perimeter receivers — and was seen as the consensus top wideout in his class. He had caught 253 passes for 3,564 yards and 40 touchdowns at Oklahoma State over three seasons. Blackmon refused to attend the NFL Combine in 2012, but he recorded a 4.53 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, which wasn’t all that impressive. He was arrested for DUI in June of that year.

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Blackmon made his NFL debut against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 of the 2012 season. He caught three of six targets for 24 yards and a score, which wasn’t a terrible performance.

Still, it took him until Week 8 to score his first touchdown, and he ended the season with a disappointing 64 receptions for 865 yards and five scores. Almost all of his production came long after the Jaguars were eliminated from playoff contention.

Heading into his second season, Blackmon was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He debuted in Week 5 and caught five passes for 136 yards and a score.

After four weeks, he had compiled 29 receptions, 415 yards and a score — but then he failed another drug test, and was suspended indefinitely. Blackmon would fail to apply for reinstatement when eligible before the 2014 season and never played another snap.

Drafted before: Michael Floyd (1.13), Kendall Wright (1.20), A.J. Jenkins (1.30), Alshon Jeffery (2.13), T.Y. Hilton (3.29), Rishard Matthews (7.20).

2. Charles Rogers, Detroit (2003)

There used to be a clear answer to the biggest wide receiver bust in NFL draft history, and the title formerly belonged to Charles Rogers, who the Detroit Lions selected with the second overall pick in 2023. Rogers had won the Belitnikoff Award, which goes to the best collegiate wideout each year, after a productive second season. Rogers racked up a monstrous 135 receptions, 2,821 receiving yards and 27 receiving touchdowns at Michigan State, good for 21-plus yards per grab. He even ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at the combine.

As a rookie, Rogers caught 22 passes for 234 yards and three scores in his first five games. He then tore his clavicle during a drill in practice and was shut down for the season. He returned the next season only to tear his cavicle again after three plays, failing to catch another pass before going down with the season-ending injury. Before the 2005 season, Rogers was suspended for a failed drug test, and after he returned, he caught only 14 passes for 197 yards and one score.

The player taken immediately after Rogers in the 2003 NFL Draft was another wide receiver, Andre Johnson, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

But for as poorly as the draft selection aged for Detroit, Rogers’ story was ultimately a tragic one. His career was derailed by addition to an opioid-based prescription painkiller, Vicodin, that had been prescribed to him by team doctors due to his injuries. Vicodin, which contains acetometophin, can cause liver failure, which is exactly what took Rogers’ life in 2019 at just 38 years old.

Drafted before: Andre Johnson (1.3), Bryant Johnson (1.17), Anquan Boldin (2.22), Nate Burleson (3.7), Brandon Lloyd (4.27), David Tyree (6.38).

1. Henry Ruggs III, Las Vegas (2020)

The new bigger wide receiver bust in NFL draft history has to be Henry Ruggs III. The pick was already starting to look questionable before his arrest, but afterward — and following the emergence of so many wide receivers that were taken after him — it looks absolutely awful.

Ruggs had an impressive collegiate career, but he wasn’t the consensus top receiver in his draft class. CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Tee Higgins were all in that conversation. Justin Jefferson seemed like another option, but at the time, most considered him just another slot receiver.

But Ruggs’ 4.27-second 40-yard dash made him just too appealing for the Raiders, and the team took him with the 12th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, before the likes of tackle Tristan Wirfs and 13 (14 if you count undrafted quarterback Tyler Huntley) other players who have made the Pro Bowl. Oh, and the rest of that stacked receiver class.

Ruggs caught three passes for 55 yards in his NFL debut. He finished his rookie season with 26 receptions for 452 yards and two scores, which, while not great numbers, weren’t so bad that anyone was writing him off as a bust quite yet.

He got off to a solid start in 2021, reeling in 24 catches for 469 yards and two scores, before a drunk driving crash on November 2 of that year. The Raiders released him the same day, all but certainly ending his NFL career.

Drafted before: Jerry Jeudy (1.15), CeeDee Lamb (1.17), Justin Jefferson (1.22), Brandon Aiyuk (1.25), Tee Higgins (2.1), Michael Pittman Jr. (2.2).

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