Posted December 20, 2013

Eight in the Box: The NFL’s most disappointing rookies of 2013

Eight in the Box
Who's to blame is up for debate, but Tavon Austin hasn't lived up to his potential in 2013.

Who’s to blame is up for debate, but Tavon Austin hasn’t lived up to his potential in 2013. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Each Friday, Eight in the Box will highlight a list of eight players, teams or moments and their impact on the 2013 season and beyond …

The need for immediate returns in the NFL puts an awful lot of pressure on rookies, who often need some time before they’re able to translate their skills to football’s highest level.

But teams spend a lot of time and energy prepping for the draft, then commit big bucks to players with zero professional experience. So, the expectations for rookies are naturally high from Day One.

These eight players, all taken in the top 45 last April, have not lived up to the hype thus far:

8. Kevin Minter, LB, Cardinals (No. 45): Injuries have wreaked havoc on a handful of top-50 guys, including Minter’s teammate, guard Jonathan Cooper (No. 7 overall). The Cardinals also recently lost star third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu for the season to a knee injury.

The door was open for Minter to step in and claim playing time early on, with Daryl Washington suspended for the Cardinals’ first four games. But he’s been unable to stay healthy, to this point playing just one defensive snap the entire season — even more disappointing since he saw heavy run early in the preseason.

The future might be very bright for Arizona’s 2013 draft class, particularly if Mathieu returns and RB Andre Ellington continues to develop. But chalk up 2013 as a missed opportunity for Minter.

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7. Darius Slay, CB, Lions (36): The Lions used an early Day 2 pick on Slay, hoping to bolster a sorry secondary. The plan has backfired thus far.

Slay was benched multiple times early in the season and then coughed up his starting spot opposite Chris Houston to Rashean Mathis. He’s currently ranked as the 93rd most-effective corner by Pro Football Focus (among players with at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps played) — two spots ahead of the struggling Houston.

When Slay finally did flip the switch for a Thanksgiving Day game against Green Bay, a knee injury bounced him from the lineup afterward.

6. Justin Hunter, WR, Titans (34): Tennessee traded up for Hunter, who then got called out by receivers coach Shawn Jefferson for missing OTAs and more recently was benched in Week 15 for violating team rules. In between, the talented, 6-foot-4 receiver made just 18 catches, with 10 coming in Weeks 11 and 13 combined.

Hunter was a healthy scratch in Week 1, barely saw the field in Week 2 and has one catch or less in eight of the games in which he’s played.

5. Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Colts (24): Another player slowed by injury, Werner always projected as a little more of a project pick than most of his fellow first-rounders. Still, it’s been a tough go to get on the field … and he has not exactly excelled once there. Werner had a chance to start for a suspended Erik Walden in Week 12 against Arizona, only to turn in arguably his worst showing.

The 2014 season should be better than 2013 for Werner. The Colts certainly hope so.

4. EJ Manuel, QB, Bills (16): No one will throw in the towel on Manuel just yet, but it’s safe to say the Bills were hoping for more than an inconsistent, injury-plagued 2013 out of their rookie starter. Manuel was the first QB off the board in last year’s draft — a move that was questioned at the time and has looked more suspect of late, as players like third-rounder Mike Glennon and even undrafted Matt McGloin have been at least as effective, if not more so.

3. Dee Milliner, CB, Jets (9): Essentially, the plan in New York after Darrelle Revis left via free agency was to let Antonio Cromartie again inherit Revis’ No. 1 role, while Milliner stepped into Cromartie’s vacated spot as the No. 2 corner. Instead, it’s been a slow go for Milliner, who has been benched  in no fewer than three games.

Rex Ryan did throw his support behind Milliner a few weeks back, saying that he will be the best cornerback out of the ’13 draft before all is said and done. Considering that he was the first CB picked, that’s a fitting bar — one that Milliner has not come close to reaching yet.

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2. Tavon Austin, WR, Rams (8): Blame the St. Louis play- calling or the quarterbacks or a steep learning curve for Austin. Whatever the explanation, we’ve only recently begun to see why the Rams moved up to nab the wide receiver in the top 10.

The Rams simply have had trouble finding ways to get Austin involved; he’s scored in only two outings (four touchdowns total) and has one game with more than 100 yards receiving. Austin does have a 98-yard punt return and an 81-yard reception, so the home-run ability remains. St. Louis will need much more, however, in 2014.

1. Eric Fisher, OT, Chiefs (1): Kansas City threw a bit of a curveball by drafting Fisher ahead of Luke Joeckel to kick off the 2013 draft. Perhaps the fact that Joeckel missed the last three months of the season will make it easier to swallow how shaky Fisher has been.

Slotted into the starting lineup immediately at right tackle, Fisher has allowed six sacks and 32 QB hurries this season, both team-highs, and often has looked overmatched against the speed and power he sees from opposing edge-rushers.

The Chiefs would love Fisher to develop into a long-term stalwart on the line with an eventual move to left tackle. Right now, he’s no closer to securing that future than he is to losing his job in 2014 or ’15.

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35 comments
Edward8
Edward8

EJ Manuel looks like a very live prospect. The Bills are happy with that selection. WR very rarely have an impact their rookie year in the NFL. Scoring 6 TD's in far removed from being a bust. As far as Fisher goes, Lane Johnson was picked three picks later and is the 32nd ranked right tackle ion the league.

ironbensh
ironbensh

is geno smith not here - because he was expected to be a disappointment .... as in wasted draft pick?

RonBaker
RonBaker

This writer is a joke. Before nominating Tavon Austin he should (a) watch some Rams games. TA is their #1 offensive weapon (Zac Stacy is #1b). The guy had at least 3 or 4 TD's called back because of penalties. The Rams also shifted to a run-heavy offense in game #4 meaning the WR's get less opportunities, but of course if Mr. Burke actually watched the games he'd know that..........



MatthewVogt
MatthewVogt

Chris Burke is a troll...putting Austin in the list only to create buzz about the hack job he did with this piece.  Obviously he chose to take off for Xmas early.  Here's hoping to a better 2014 from you Mr. Burke.


GeraldReynolds
GeraldReynolds

I have to second what MattVanDyke stated below.   Tavon has a lot of talent.   I would lay any lack of production on the coaching staff and failing to set him up to be more successful.  As mentioned, he had other long TD plays this season that were called back due mistakes by his teammates.  But, keep in mind Tavon has displayed the talent that we all knew he has.   Also,  many rookies have to adjust to the NFL game but I think Austin is making strides and will be even better his 2nd season.

MattVanDyke
MattVanDyke

Austin has scored 6 TDs.  4 receiving, 1 rushing and 1 return.  He's also had a few called back on dumb penalties on ST.  This kid is not a disappointment at all.  The Rams are a young team and just barely finding their identity.  

Could he have been utilized more?  Sure.  Can't blame Austin for that...when he gets the ball he's really fun to watch.

Kalzy
Kalzy

Laying out Austin is absurd. The lambs have been overachieving in their ineptitude this season. Austin has been one of the bright spots. As a Vikings fan, I'm less than happy with Floyd.

chiefsfan1985
chiefsfan1985

I would be concerned if I were you to losing your job after this article...fisher has shown so much improvement you should really consider a new career sports articles just isn't for you.

Whatever
Whatever

Austin simply hasn't ever had to work to get free in space. He has to learn how to get open in the NFL or he'll be a complete bust.

Unfair for Fisher to be on the list. While he struggled early, the past 5-6 games he's been very solid. Considering he was a career left tackle switched to the right side, that's not bad at all.

alexhigley88
alexhigley88

geno smith, dion jordan both huge busts so far

Rax
Rax

Surprised that Jarvis Jones is not on this list.

Rax
Rax

"...but it’s safe to say the Bills were hoping for more than an inconsistent, injury-plagued 2013 out of their rookie starter" 

They can hope all the want. But Manuel looks like the same exact guy he was at FSU. He was inconsistent and injury prone in college. So why is Buffalo thinking he would be any different in the NFL?

Keats1821
Keats1821

Small point: Revis did not leave via free agency. He was traded.

swidt
swidt

Fisher has at least shown improvement.  He's definitely closer to being a good, longterm lineman than "losing his job in 2014 or '15."

Mike26
Mike26

@GeraldReynolds Tavon is a mighty mite that DC's and ST coordinators will study even more in the offseason and shut him down to virtually nothing next season.

TrevorRasmussen
TrevorRasmussen

Excuses excuses. You get the ball when you work hard and get open. He's not getting the ball because one or both are lacking. He's a disappointment. He's had maybe the quality games all season. That said I think his future ids still bright as a harvin type of player.

Mike26
Mike26

@MattVanDyke Nope, with all the hype that Austin received pre-draft and throughout the summer (Peter King, et al), he's on a clearer path to bust on the field than bust in Canton.

Mike26
Mike26

@chiefsfan1985 If the Chiefs were .500 then Fisher's struggles would be blame #1.  He's lucky he's only playing in KC.

chiefsfan1985
chiefsfan1985

Not to mention as of your recent comments all you do is attack other people who

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@chiefsfan1985A writer's job is not to pander to homers like you but to attract readers, and apparently he is getting the job done.  Oh, and if your post was your way of auditioning for the role, well,  given that it was pretty much a hatchet job that would make any English teacher cringe,  you might want to reconsider a career in the journalistic arts.

Mike26
Mike26

@Whatever Fisher was a top pick and has earned all the criticism he's received - which would have been even worse if the Chiefs weren't winning in spite of him.

rskins09
rskins09

@Rax     Way too many QB are drafted too high out of College .. Jason campbell ( Redskins) was a good example ...

juan.triumph1
juan.triumph1

@Rax He was not deserving of his pick number. I watched a lot of FSU games last year. The man had the stats but just could not deliver when they needed him most. 

chiefsfan1985
chiefsfan1985

...people's comments. So you should consider getting a new hobby or finding a career yourself.

chiefsfan1985
chiefsfan1985

Good thing I don't seek a journalism career English is my second language so your criticism about my language is the least of my worries. But thanks for your opionion on what my career should be. Lucky for me I don't need to work I already have plenty of money sir :)))

Terry
Terry

@101philosopha101 @swidt 

I don't think that's true.

One of the reasons the Chiefs took him over Joeckel was because they liked his toughness in the run game.

Whatever
Whatever

@101philosopha101 @swidt Joeckel and Johnson got put into their normal position; Fisher was switched to the other side of the line. You try doing everything backwards at your work and see how well you do it.

I suspect Fisher will be the Chiefs left tackle next year, as Brandon Alberts was franchised but not signed long-term and is injured yet again.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@chiefsfan1985I did not share my opinion on what your career should be, only on one field that you probably should not pursue.  And yes, I am sure that English is your second language and that you have plenty of money because this is the www where we can make it up as we go.