We are just three years removed from the 2017 NFL Draft, and it is clear that the front-end of that draft was loaded with busts. 13 of the 32 players picked in the first round had their fifth year options declined with five of those players being top 10 picks. There were a lot of misses at the top of the draft, but some stand out more than others.
#1 Mitchell Trubisky | 2nd Overall | Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears finished the 2016 season with a 3-13 record, which slotted them into the third overall pick. With Jay Cutler out the door, it was clear that the Bears were going to select a QB with their selection.
The Bears made two mistakes with this pick, and the first came when they traded up one spot with the 49ers to make their selection. Chicago sent the 3rd, 67th, and 111th overall picks in the 2017 Draft as well as a third round pick in 2018.
The Bears made this move because San Francisco convinced them that they were going to pick Mitchell Trubisky with that selection. The 49ers lied as they were going to pick Solomon Thomas all along and just wanted to see if they could gain some extra picks by trading back one spot with Chicago.
Now with the second overall selection, the Bears picked QB Mitchell Trubisky out of UNC. This is easily the worst pick of the draft as Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were still on the board at the time. Chicago went on to decline Trubisky’s 5th year option and also traded for Nick Foles at the start of the off-season, and Foles could very well be the starting QB by week one.
The Bears traded up a spot to select the worst of the three QBs taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft with the second overall pick. Chicago left two other incredible QBs on the board so they could select a one-year starter out of UNC.
#2 Solomon Thomas | 2nd Overall | San Francisco 49ers
The Mitchell Trubisky trade may have gone down as one of the biggest Draft Day heists in NFL history if the 49ers hit on this pick, but they drafted a bust instead. Solomon Thomas has a total of 6 sacks in 3 seasons with the 49ers, and after losing his starting job in 2019, he also had his fifth year option declined.
The past few drafts have shown that John Lynch likes to spend his top first round picks on the defensive line, so Solomon Thomas was the pick all along. Outside of Myles Garrett, who was selected first overall, there was not any incredible defensive linemen available at the top of the draft.
With hindsight, we can see that Derek Barnett out of Tennessee was the better selection, but he went 14th overall, so selecting him with the 3rd pick would have been a reach. The only way the 49ers could have avoided a bust with this selection is if they nixed their plan of drafting a defensive lineman and instead went with S Jamal Adams.
This pick is a bust considering Solomon Thomas went third overall, but this mistake has not hurt San Francisco as they were just competing in the Super Bowl. The same cannot be said about the Bears with their selection.
#3 DeShone Kizer | 52nd Overall | Cleveland Browns
This may seem a little high on the list for a second round pick, but this selection was an absolute disaster for the Cleveland. For starters, the Browns held the 12th pick in the 2017 Draft, but would trade that pick to the Houston Texans who selected Deshaun Watson.
Clearly the Browns were not high on Watson, and instead favored DeShone Kizer, who they felt would still be there by the time they came up to draft in the second round. This was a colossal mistake as Kizer would be a big time bust by throwing 22 INTs and only completing 53.6% of his passes in his rookie season.
Cleveland would then trade Kizer away to the Packers the following season and select QB Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in 2018 to try and make up for last season’s gaff.
Kizer has been on three teams in his three seasons in the NFL, and he is now currently a free agent after being waived by the Las Vegas Raiders. The Browns could have avoided this mistake if they drafted Watson in the first round and stayed clear of Kizer.
#4 Taco Charlton | 28th Overall | Dallas Cowboys
Taco Charlton is one of the few players selected in the first round in 2017 that is no longer with the team that drafted him. The Cowboys selected him with the 28th pick, but would go onto release him two weeks into the 2019 season after he was outperformed by other DEs on the depth chart. It also seems like there were disagreements among Charlton and the Cowboys staff, which most likely played a factor in his release as well.
The Dolphins would claim Charlton off of waivers, and the Michigan alum would record 5 sacks in 10 games, but he would be released at the end of the season most likely for the same reasons as his departure from Dallas. Kansas City claimed Charlton off of waivers in the past week, so he will now be on his third team in four years.
The main reason why this is a bust is because OLB T.J. Watt was selected just two picks later. Watt has followed in his older brother’s footsteps by recording 34.5 sacks in his first three seasons, while also being selected as a first-team All-Pro in 2019. Watt may not have been the DE that the Cowboys were after, but he was surely the better pick at the back of the first round.
#5 John Ross | 9th Overall | Cincinnati Bengals
It was somewhat surprising when three receivers went in the top 10 of the 2017 Draft. Ross may have been the most prolific of the three after running a record breaking 4.22 40-yard dash at the Combine.
One thing to note about Ross is he strained his calf while running his 40-yard dash and would not participate in any other drills. He would also undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his shoulder following his Pro Day to treat an injury suffered during his Senior season at Washington.
Injuries would follow Ross to his NFL career, as he’s only played in half of Cincinnati’s games in the past three years. Ross has not been able to create the same type of separation he had in his final year at Washington. The Bengals have also not tried to use Ross as a gadget type player sort of like how the 49ers use Deebo Samuel.
Things could change for Ross in 2020 considering he will have a new QB who may be able to fully utilize his strengths, and 2020 will also be a contract year for Ross after the Bengals declined his fifth year option, but it is concerning that as the 9th overall pick in 2017, Ross only has a total of 716 receiving yards in his three year NFL career.