18 Worst NFL Combine Busts of the First Round

NFL teams have been taking combine warriors for years in the first round.

Each year, the NFL drafts players in the first round based entirely on the NFL Scouting Combine or Pro Day workouts. To be considered a combine bust a player must fit three criteria:

 

1. They were average college players

2. They performed well at the combine/Pro Day

3. They are not good NFL players

 

Here are the top first-round NFL Combine busts of the modern era (1999): 

 

1999: Lamar King, DE, SEA

The pride of Saginaw Valley State posted 12 sacks against the likes of Michigan Tech and Ferris State. But his freakish 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame played extremely well at the Combine. He posted 12 sacks in 37 career NFL starts and was out of the league after just five seasons.

 

2000: R. Jay Soward, WR JAC

The USC wide receiver was always dripping with potential but was never a star in college. He never improved on a modest sophomore season and busted out of the NFL after just 14 catches in 13 games.

 

2003: Johnathan Sullivan, DL, NO

The Saints traded not one, but two first-round picks to move up to take this problematic lineman. He was never a star at Georgia but scouts salivated over his 6-foot-3, 315-pound frame at the Combine. Sullivan registered 1.5 sacks in three NFL seasons.

 

2003: Andre Woolfolk, CB, TEN

The former Sooner was a below-average wide receiver for Oklahoma for three years before moving to corner for his final year. The Titans made the big mistake of taking the bust in the first round just a few picks ahead of Nnamdi Asomugha, Charles Tillman, Rashean Mathis and Drayton Florence. Woolfolk started 12 games in his NFL career.

 

2005: Troy Williamson, WR, MIN

The Vikings mysteriously drafted this unproductive pass catcher after he ran well at the Combine. He caught 13 total touchdowns in college and never caught more than 43 passes in any season at South Carolina. But Minnesota took him seventh overall anyway. He caught four touchdowns in his five-year career.

 

2005: Travis Johnson, DT, HOU

He wildly underachieved in three years at Florida State before a solid final campaign. But an impressive showing at the Combine made him the No. 1 DT taken in the 2005 draft. He lasted four years in Houston and two in San Diego, posting six career sacks.

 

2005: Matt Jones, ATH, JAC

Jones was 30-20 as a starter at quarterback for Arkansas who never topped 2,600 yards of offense in any season. Yet, his freakish upside overshadowed his off-the-field issues and got him drafted in the first round. Jones lasted four years and never caught more than five touchdowns or recorded more than 761 yards receiving in a season.

 

Related: The NFL Combine: A Complete Waste of My Time

 

2006: John McCargo, DL, BUF

He had a huge frame and appealing measurables at the Combine but the Bills made a huge mistake trading up to get this NC Stater. Maybe they thought he was like first-round teammates Mario Williams or Kamerion Wimbley despite lacking any recognition or statistical production. He started one game in his NFL career.

 

2007: Jamarcus Russell, QB, OAK

He had one solid season at LSU but largely underachieved even in Baton Rouge. Matt Mauck and Matt Flynn led LSU to BCS national titles the year before and after Russell's three-year stint as a starter. Rehashing his NFL career isn't even worth the time. He's arguably (and literally) the biggest bust in NFL history after what experts called the best Pro Day workout in draft history.

 

2007: Craig Davis, WR, SD

The burner from LSU wasn't even considered a starter for the Tigers until his final season. He caught seven total touchdowns in college before an impressive Combine got him into the first round. He caught two career NFL touchdowns in two career NFL starts. 

2007: Chris Henry, RB, TEN

Okay, he wasn't a first-rounder but he is the inspiration for this list. He was a terrible college player, starting three career games in four years and averaging 3.3 yards per carry. He was a Combine beast, posting huge numbers in most events. And he was a garbage NFL player, rushing for 122 yards on 32 career NFL carries.

 

2008: Kentwan Balmer, DE, SF

Balmer posted just 3.5 sacks in his final year at North Carolina but his Combine numbers got him into the end of the first round in '08. He lasted two seasons with the 49ers and started just 11 times in 46 career NFL games.

 

2009: Tyson Jackson, DL, KC

He was inconsistent at LSU and never a first-team, all-conference performer but his freakish athletic ability made him the third overall pick. In five years in KC, Jackson posted nine sacks in 55 career starts. He's stuck around but has been anything but a top-five pick.

 

2009: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, OAK

Like Jackson, DHB has been a contributor on the NFL level. But nothing about his college career — three seasons between 600 and 800 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns — should have made him a top-10 pick. But his Combine performance convinced the Raiders to take him seventh overall. He played on his third team in three years in 2014.

 

2010: Dan Williams, DT, ARI

Williams had a solid senior year at Tennessee but was never a star for the Vols. He's never started more than 11 games in any season and has just two career starts for the Cardinals. In 2014, he played in all 16 games for the first time in his NFL career.

 

2011: Danny Watkins, OL, PHI

The 23rd overall pick from Baylor started for two modest years in Waco. His bullish frame and quick feet got him drafted in the first round but the Eagles quickly found out how big a mistake that was, cutting him after just two seasons. He played one more year in Miami before retiring from football.

 

2013: Barkevious Mingo, DE, CLE

Mingo was dripping with potential his entire career at LSU but never delivered. He averaged less than 40 tackles per season with 5.0 sacks per year in three campaigns in Baton Rouge. His potential once again tricked the scouts at the Combine, as he ended up being the sixth overall pick in the '13 draft. He's started 14 games in two years and has 7.0 sacks. There is still plenty of time for him to develop.

 

2013: D.J. Hayden, CB, OAK

Hayden was a solid player for Houston in a much-less-competitive Conference USA. But the reason he was drafted unreasonably high (12th) was his pro day performance. Hayden has started 10 games in two seasons and has fewer tackles than 18 other defensive backs and fewer interceptions than 13 taken after him in the '13 draft.

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