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Boom or Bust - 2016 Draft Class Top 10
By Wade Pearce
Special to gzl-football.com

Boom or Bust - 2016 Draft Class Top 10

This is an arbitrary number, but I figure 5 seasons is enough time for a draftee to either show themselves as a Boom or Bust pick. So this article is going to review the Top 10 picks from the 2015 draft and see where they are now and how they have fared over the last 5 seasons.

1.1 QB Jonathan Higgins - The Jets picked E.J. Manuel with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft but the new management in 2016 were obviously not happy with his abilities and traded him in the pre-season to Kansas City. Into the breach stepped the 2016 #1 overall pick, Jonathan Higgins. Comparing Manuel and Higgins would suggest the Jets made the right decision. Manuel has struggled to secure consistent game time and performances and while he is likely going to be starting for the AFC West Champion Raiders in the 2020 Super Bowl, his overall record is nothing to write home about. In comparison, Higgins is starting to show the kind of skill you would want from your playcaller. His 28:9 TD:INT ratio and 4,197 passing yards for 2020 saw him make the Top 10 rankings in yards, QB rating and touchdowns.

Boom or Bust: BOOM

1.2 LT Michael Millen - The Falcons started 5th round rookie Jordan Mills in the 2015 season and their offensive line suffered for it, with Mills letting through 8 recorded sacks and only making 60 pancakes, a rather dismal performance at that position. Enter Michael Millen whose 94:3 pancake:sack ratio blitzed Mills efforts and pretty much cemented his position as starter. In 2019 he cracked the 100 pancake mark for the first time after falling short by one in 2018. A quieter 2020 season saw him record only 80 pancakes, but he only let through 3 sacks and finished the season on a high with 9 pancakes against the Panthers.

Boom or Bust: BOOM

1.3 CB Tyrone Booker - The raw analysis of the stats for the 2015 Miami Dolphins showed that their secondary was suffering. 2015 14th overall pick Darius Slay was the leading corner with 22 deflections but he played a solo role as no other corner on the team recorded double figures in this category. So Booker looked like a necessary and solid pick for Miami and we would have to say that it has been an excellent one. He has averaged 80 tackles, 30 deflections and nearly 3 interceptions per season. He has teamed up with Slay since 2016 to provide one of the best 1-2 corner tandems in the league.

Boom or Bust: BOOM

1.4 CB Blaine Hasty - The Bengals traded down from #1 overall pick to the #4 pick (and other items) and they took Hasty with this pick. While some may have questioned his sub 6'0" frame, Hasty has done the Bengals' secondary what any GM would want a corner to do: significantly boost the turnover count. In his five seasons in Cincinnati, Hasty has made 21 interceptions and helped the Bengals go from the 32nd ranked team in interceptions in 2015 to the 5th ranked side in 2020.

Boom or Bust: BOOM

1.5 DE Amos Houston - The Jaguars were another team addressing a defensive shortcoming after spending the 2015 season with an underperforming defensive end. The recruitment of Houston changed the makeup of their defensive line immediately, with Houston recording 12 sacks and 10 TFLs in his opening season, securing him the GZL Defensive Rookier of the Year award. In his third season, he recorded 19 sacks to equal the season record and still holds that record with both Brandon Graham (2012) and Jadeveon Clowney (2020). While his last two seasons have seen his sack loss drop, his 19 TFLs in the 2020 season offset this by showing the amount of pressure he still applies to the opposition backfield.

Boom or Bust: BOOM

1.6 HB Riddick Owen - And the parade of subjective booms continues. The Bills were ranked 21st overall for rushing in the 2015 season and by 2018 on the back of Owen had climbed to 7th overall for the league. In his time at Buffalo, Owen has compiled a respectable 37 touchdowns and 6,681 yards at 4.68 yards-per-carry. Any player that carries the ball for more than 4.5 yard per carry on average is a desireable trait. In 2018, Owen's 1,858 yards and 16 touchdowns were enough to award him the AFC Offensive Player of the Year.

Boom or Bust: BOOM

1.7 CB Pete Nickerson - While Nickerson has put up solid numbers since his selection in 2016, he hasn't quite lived up to the capabilities of his alumni from earlier in the round. Some would question his 5'10" height as being a factor, but Nickerson's best season was his sophmore season in 2017. Since then he has not really excelled in any area which leaves us considering him as a minor bust. He hasn't been relegated to the bench or traded between 10 teams, but neither has he been the impact player you would hope from a Top 10 pick five seasons on.

Boom or Bust: MINOR BUST

1.8 DT Ron Green - And we reach our first player who has moved onto greener pastures. Green appeared to have it all: weight, height, strength, athleticsm. He had the makings of being one of the league's greats at DT but never really shone in Philadelphia. In the 2019 pre-season, he was traded to Carolina for a late-round 1st and a 4th-round pick swap. Some would see this as a bust from the Eagle's perspective as their top 10 draft pick when for a bottom 5 first round pick three seasons later. That's the time when you'd expect these players to be worth the most as they hit the sweet spot in their careers. However, since moving over to the Panthers, Green has show continued improvement. His stats for the 2020 season see him ranking around the 10-15 overall mark for DTs in the league.

Boom or Bust: GROWING BOOM

1.9 HB Gerald Campbell - Campbell exploded onto the scene after his selection in 2016 by the Panthers. His 1,802 yards rushing at 4.98 yards-per-carry and 9 touchdowns easily secured him the GZL Offensive Rookie of the Year honours and ranked him #2 overall in rushing for the season. He backed that up with a more earthly 1,299 yards in 2017 and 1,525 yards in 2018. In 2019, the Panthers picked up Jonathan Franklin in free agency and Campbell saw his starting time signficantly reduced. This resulted in him being traded to the Denver Broncos in the 2020 off-season where he became the fulltime starting half-back again and racked up another 1,614 yards to see him challenge for the top rushing position for a period before finishing ranked #7 overall in the league. Either way you look at it, regardless of the team change, Campbell is another example of what you want from a Top 10 pick.

Boom or Bust: BOOM

1.10 C.J. Washington - Washington was the first receiver picked in the 2016 draft, a rare feat for it to occur as late as the 10th overall pick. The Patriots took the cautious approach with him in his first season, playing him down the depth chart but since then, he has made over 1,000 yards receiving in every season since including a league-topping 1,720 yards in the 2019 season. While he hasn't garnered any awards in his time in the GZL, those kind of production yards is hard to ignore.

Boom or Bust: BOOM

Author's Notes

I'll be honest...when I started writing this piece, I half-expected to see more players traded or to find some stinkers but the truth is with the exception of Nickerson being a minor bust for his relative draft position, all the other players have shown they warranted their high draft position. Not every Top 10 draft pick is going to set the world on fire, but these guys have won awards and generally been more than your average positive contributor to a team and at the end of the day, that's what we want from our first rounders. A number of these guys rarely slipped out of the Top 15 of their position in at least one statistic either.

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