The NFL draft is a thrilling event filled with optimism for teams, players and fans alike. Some future stars were an obvious Round 1 pick, whereas others emerged after being selected on Day 2 or Day 3. However, as years go by, some players earn the unfortunate "bust" label after failing to meet expectations.
Prospects selected in the first two rounds are expected to be difference-making starters within their first few seasons in the league. However, sometimes the transition doesn't go as planned.
Players typically earn the bust label after failing to establish themselves as a valuable starter by the end of Year 2. This could be due to injuries, being a poor scheme fit, taking longer to develop than expected, or not possessing a proper skill set.
After seeing all of the major transactions, coaching changes, and the 2022 NFL draft play out, we've identified seven players who could shed the dreaded bust label this season. Each of these players was a first or second-round pick since 2018 and has yet to earn a second, multi-year contract.
Whether their inclusion is due to providing flashes of improvement, getting healthy, or benefitting from an improved environment, these seven players are in the best situation of their careers in 2022 and could completely flip their career narrative.
Terrell Edmunds, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
As the 28th overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft, Terrell Edmunds was supposed to be the needed injection of athleticism and versatility that Pittsburgh had lacked in the back end of their secondary. Edmunds had produced 196 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions, and 14 pass breakups in three years at Virginia Tech. His combine was headlined by an excellent 4.47 40-yard dash time.
Despite the impressive straight-line speed, Edmunds has failed to show the ability to react quickly in coverage for the Steelers. His struggles anticipating routes and recognizing passing concepts pigeonholed him to being a box safety throughout his rookie contract. As impressive as his 2019 season total of 105 total tackles was, he failed to register an interception and had just three pass breakups.
Since Pittsburgh acquired a true single-high safety in Minkah Fitzpatrick midway through the 2019 season, Edmunds has been put in a better, more refined role.
He picked off four throws and broke up 14 passes in the last two years. However, the Steelers still declined his fifth-year option in the spring of 2021 and re-signed him to a modest one-year, $2.5 million deal this offseason.
Some of Edmunds' issues won't be resolved by the Steelers' moves this offseason, but he's in the best position to continue building on the momentum he's gained over the past two years.
Pittsburgh added Myles Jack to their linebacker unit and former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores as a linebacker coach. Jack will be an upgrade over Joe Schobert in coverage assignments considering Schobert's lack of mobility, which means Edmunds should be free to roam underneath instead of providing help in zone coverage.=
Flores' role may not be working with Edmunds directly, but linebackers certainly affect how safeties operate. Flores has gotten the most out of a similar player to Edmunds in Eric Rowe, so it wouldn't be surprising to see the Steelers adjust their scheme to feature Edmonds in more advantageous positions.
The Pro Bowl might be too ambitious for Edmunds' future, but he can prove he's a long-term starter in 2022. Look for more ball production and impact plays as the indicator that he's fully shed the bust label.
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Atlanta Falcons
A position change can make all the difference in the world when a player's skill set and mindset fits better elsewhere. That was the case for Atlanta Falcons 2018 second-round pick Isaiah Oliver. After spending time as a boundary cornerback in his first three seasons, the Falcons were left wanting more playmaking from the 6-foot, 210-pounder.
Oliver had produced just one interception and 24 pass breakups in 46 games until 2021. New Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees decided to try him in the slot in 2021. The results in just four games were encouraging enough for the Falcons to re-sign Oliver to a one-year deal despite missing 13 games following a season-ending knee injury.
Atlanta clearly liked that Oliver produced 11 tackles and three pass breakups in his four games. Oliver has always been tenacious against the run, totaling 132 tackles between 2019-20. The combination of aggressive run support, length, and surprising quickness for his size makes him a great slot prospect.
He'll return to that role after the Falcons added free-agent corner Casey Hayward this offseason. With Hayward and A.J. Terrell, the biggest thing that can hold Oliver back is his health. Otherwise, he's in an excellent position to increase his value in 2022.