The 2016 season is nearly in the books with just one game remaining on the schedule. We’ve seen a handful of rookies have huge impacts – Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Carson Wentz, Joey Bosa – while others have struggled. And although it’s difficult to grade a player or a class after just 16 weeks, it’s never too soon to look at which picks were mistakes.
Here are the nine worst selections of the 2016 draft, led by a couple of college superstars who have failed to secure their footing in the NFL.
Getty ImagesHannah Foslien
Jaylon Smith, LB, Cowboys: 34th overall
Yes, I realize the Cowboys drafted Smith expecting him to sit out all of his rookie year. However, that doesn’t make it any better of a selection. Smith may never play an NFL game in his life, yet the Cowboys took him with their second-round pick. Instead, they could have had Xavien Howard, Myles Jack, Noah Spence or Su’a Cravens. All of those players would have contributed more than Smith has this season and could conceivably become better pros even if Smith’s damaged nerve does wake up and start firing. The Cowboys likely could have sat back for another round and waited until the third to take Smith, which would have been more reasonable.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Broncos: 26th overall
The Broncos made a bold move and traded up to land Lynch toward the end of the first round. His NFL career has gotten off to a rough start as he’s played poorly in just three games while Trevor Siemian was injured. Lynch has been quick to pull it down and escape the pocket despite the fact that he isn’t the best runner, while also showing inaccuracy when called upon.
There’s a chance he’ll still turn into the Broncos’ QB of the future, but that might not come in 2017, which is a huge problem for a guy taken in the first round – especially with reports suggesting the Broncos could go after a guy like Tony Romo or Tyrod Taylor this offseason.
Germain Ifedi, OG, Seahawks: 31st overall
The Seahawks took advantage of the Broncos’ desperation for a quarterback, trading down in the first round to get some offensive line help. Only, the guy they took, Ifedi, did little to help the offensive line. He’s received a grade of 37.6 from Pro Football Focus so far this season, surrendering 38 quarterback pressures – fourth-most among offensive guards. Ifedi played tackle in college, so he could improve after making the move inside, but as it stands right now, he was not a beneficial pick for a Seahawks team that needs to protect Russell Wilson.
Willie Beavers, OL, Vikings: 121st overall
It’s hard to call a fourth-round pick a terrible selection, but you only need to know one thing about Willie Beavers: He was cut by the Vikings before the season began. That’s almost unheard of for a fourth-round rookie, and though he was re-signed a few weeks later, he’s had no impact this season. He’s played just two games despite the Vikings’ issues on the offensive line and may not be on the roster next season.
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Cardinals: 29th overall
Nkemdiche was once considered a probable top-five pick while at Ole Miss. However, he showed character flaws and didn’t play nearly as hard as many coaches would have liked him to. He seemed to take plays off, which only compounded the concerns many teams had about him going into the draft. Now that he’s in the NFL, he’s doing little to make those worries go away. Nkemdiche has played just 82 snaps due to a high-ankle sprain and a lack of support from coach Bruce Arians, proving to be a bust as a rookie. The Cardinals have to hope the No. 29 overall pick can get healthy and get his act together next year.
Joshua Garnett, OG, 49ers: 28th overall
Garnett took five weeks to crack the starting lineup after being taken 28th overall by the 49ers. He’s struggled mightily since becoming a starter, receiving a terrible 45.7 grade from PFF. The 49ers have to hope Garnett can improve next season after going through another training camp, likely as the presumed starter. San Francisco has been bad as a whole, and Garnett hasn’t helped the cause as he was expected to.
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Christian Hackenberg, QB, Jets: 51st overall
Quarterbacks, particularly ones taken after the first round, take a bit of time to develop. The Jets probably had that in mind when they took Hackenberg in the second round, but that doesn’t justify the spot in which they took him. He was a work in progress with the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback, but he needed a lot of work. He hardly played in the preseason, and when he did, he was not good. That was an indicator of how far behind he was this season, and it’s showed for 16 weeks as they’ve kept him on the bench despite some horrible QB play on the field.
It’s possible Hackenberg could blossom into a good starting quarterback, but that likely won’t happen before 2018. He still needs plenty of time to develop, which the Jets don’t exactly have.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Vikings: 23rd overall
There were questions leading up to the draft about whether Treadwell and his below-average speed could get open in the NFL. He was compared to Dez Bryant fairly often, just pegged as a less-explosive version of No. 88. Well, as it turns out, Treadwell can’t separate from professional DBs. In fact, he can’t even get on the field. He’s played just 79 snaps this season, seeing only three passes come his way – one of which was caught for a 15-yard gain. In Minnesota’s offense, which lacks a big possession receiver, Treadwell figured to play a big role right away. Now 16 weeks in, that obviously hasn’t been the case.
Roberto Aguayo, K, Buccaneers: 59th overall
It’s early in his career, but the price the Buccaneers paid to draft Aguayo will always make him one of the worst picks of the year. It’s bad enough that they spent a second-round pick on a kicker. It’s even worse that they traded up to do so. And it’s not as if he’s done a good job in Year 1. Only one kicker in the NFL this season has made a lower percentage of his field goal attempts than Aguayo (75 percent), and that’s Chandler Catanzaro at 72 percent. Aguayo has also missed two PATs to go along with seven missed field goals.