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Five NFL Rookies Who Look Like Busts

| November 30, 2021 8:44 am PDT

With the NFL season closing in on the NFL playoffs, we can look back at the 2021 NFL Draft. Some players have been incredible this season and made an impact on their teams already. Other players are struggling to pick up the pace and are heading to the “bust” discussions.

These certain players could be in danger of being completely overvalued to their draft price. This would be a terrible thing for both their respective teams and their own future careers.

The top tier players can land massive contract extensions at the end of their rookie deals, but these busts might struggle to find a place to play. It hurts their franchises because their high draft price could have been used on a more impactful player as well.

The term “bust” is used very loosely in the sports world. The truth is, it is incredibly hard to say if someone is a bust or not without a long look at their career. One year can be too short to determine if someone is a bust or not in the NFL. A lot of players take a longer amount of time to take their careers to the next level.

With that being said, here are the 2021 NFL rookies who are struggling to prove themselves this season and could be total busts.

Alex Leatherwood, OL, Las Vegas Raiders

After losing a large portion of their offensive line over the offseason, the Raiders drafted Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Leatherwood has had some big shoes to fill, replacing Gabe Jackson at right guard this season.

It was expected for Leatherwood to be a tackle, but he has had to play right guard instead. The transition isn’t taking to him too nicely, as he is tied for first in the league in penalties.

He leads the league in pre-snap penalties with 6 False Starts, while adding 5 Offensive Holding penalties.

His high draft price and poor play has bust written all over it. The Raiders went from having one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL, to a work in progress over the offseason.

Leatherwood has had a lot of pressure on him, but he can still improve throughout the course of his career.

The Raiders have allowed the 14th most sacks in the NFL this season with 25 sacks. They are also 28th in rushing yards per carry with 3.8. Yes, these stats are based on the unit and hard to place on a specific player, but Leatherwood hasn’t been great in his rookie season.

Tutu Atwell, WR, Los Angeles Rams

The Rams tend to trade a lot of their picks away and I am starting to see why. They have not had the best draft history and they have opted to have someone else take their picks in favor of veteran players.

Tutu Atwell is another potential bust for the Rams when they took him in the second round (57th overall). The wide receiver from Louisville has been used as a mere kick and punt returner in his first season with the Rams.

Atwell has played a total of 10 offensive snaps this season (2% of total offensive snaps), while adding 27 snaps on special teams (12% of total special team’s snaps).

His high draft price did not translate to playing time this season, as he has failed to stand out in his rookie year.

The Rams have been up and down with depth in the wide receiver department. They started the year with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson, and Van Jefferson ahead of Atwell on the depth chart.

Woods and Jackson are now out for the season and on another team, but the Rams still haven’t given Atwell a chance.

The Rams recently traded for Odell Beckham Jr. instead of giving their 2nd round rookie a shot at being a weapon outside of Cooper Kupp. This means that Atwell hasn’t shined in practice and hasn’t impressed the decision makers.

When making a high draft pick, you always want someone who is going to be a big impact. Atwell was taken in the second round, but has been barely used even in special teams.

The Rams could have taken someone more impactful than Atwell at this position.

Elijah Molden, CB, Tennessee Titans

The Titans have struggled against the pass in recent memory, and they took to the draft to try and fix that. They took Caleb Farley in the first round (22nd overall) and Elijiah Molden in the 3rd round (100th overall comp pick).

Farley unfortunately has been placed on injured reserve, leaving more pressure for Molden and company.

Molden has not been great stepping in for Farley. He made 4 straight starts starting in Week 6, but has been in and out of the starting lineup since week 10.

Molden has one interception on the year, but has allowed 3 touchdowns in his 57% snap rate for the Titans. He has also allowed a passer rating of 104.2, a completion percentage of 65.1%, and 354 yards allowed.

His one interception was a pick six, but it was a gift from Carson Wentz rather than a great play by Molden.

Molden hasn’t had very good stats in his smaller amount of playing time with the Titans. It would look worse if he was a starter at the beginning of the season as well.

If you take his 5 starts and equal it out to the full 12 games the Titans have played, he would have allowed 849 yards (most in the NFL by over 200 yards) and 7 touchdowns (tied for most in the NFL).

Now those are just estimates, but the 3rd round pick has an uphill battle to turn his career around. His draft price wasn’t as high as others, but missing on a 3rd round pick is never a good thing to do in the NFL.

Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco 49ers

Sermon was another 3rd round pick, this time going to the 49ers at 88th overall. The running back was headed to a strong rushing attack in San Francisco with an opportunity to take over the starting spot quickly.

Raheem Mostert went down with a season ending injury early in the 49ers season and Sermon had a golden chance to win the starting job. Instead, the 49ers opted to go with their 6th round pick in the 2021 draft in Eli Mitchell.

With Mitchell taking over as starter, Sermon becomes an instant potential bust. When a player fails to earn the trust of his coach and front office this early in his career, he can be in serious danger.

He hasn’t been terrible in the yards per carry department with 4.1 Y/C. Despite that, he has just one touchdown in 41 rushing attempts and 2 total starts this season. He also isn’t a receiving back with just 3 catches on the season.

Sermon is off to a poor start with the 49ers so far and has serious bust potential. The 49ers have even opted to give wide receiver Deebo Samuel carries in the backfield as well as the 6th rounder in Mitchell.

Sermon has had many opportunities to earn carries, but he has failed to capitalize so far this season.

Marco Wilson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

Marco Wilson was taken in the 4th round of the 2021 NFL Draft, so he had more bust potential than anyone else on this list right off the bat. Looking at his stats, it is pretty safe to say that he can be a big time bust for the Cardinals.

The 4th round is right where you expect the players to not be as high end as the others, but Wilson still is looking like a bad pick. He has started every game for the Cardinals this season, but has been a liability in pass defense.

He has allowed a passer rating of 122.2 (16th worst in the NFL), 5 touchdowns (tied for 7th most), and 516 yards allowed (12th worst in the NFL).

He has been one of the worst defenders against the pass in the NFL and he could be a weak spot for the Cardinals. The Cardinals are a league best 9-2 on the year and are looking for a potential Super Bowl, but Wilson could be put in the spotlight in big games.

NFL Busts from the 2021 Draft

All these players have yet to look like they are worth their higher draft price. They all have high bust potential and could set back their respective franchises if they don’t step up their play.

With that being said, it is totally possible for all of these players to turn their careers around. The transition from college football to the NFL is drastic and it can take some time for rookies to get used to it.

These players have an uphill battle to prove themselves to be worth their higher draft picks. For now, they are looking like the busts from the 2021 NFL Draft.

For more NFL content, check out the posts below.

Anthony Haage

Anthony is a sports writer for GamblingSites.com covering the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and more. He also covers other various topics such as entertainment, general sports betting tips, and more.

His favorite teams are the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Cubs, and Blackhawks. He also will be a temporary fan of any team if it means winning him bets.

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