10 biggest NFL draft busts in UCLA football history

The UCLA Bruins have produced plenty of Hall of Famers in the first round of the NFL draft, but in football there's a Josh Rosen to every Troy Aikman.
Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen
Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen / David Wallace/The Republic
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As long as everything goes well during the medical examinations in Indianapolis then Laiatu Latu will almost certainly be the 35th first-round NFL draft pick to come out of the UCLA football program and the first since Josh Rosen in 2018. 

Latu will be hoping to fare a bit better in the NFL than Rosen did, and to avoid this list of UCLA’s biggest NFL draft busts. The Bruins have a pretty high hit rate on first-rounders coming out of the program like Troy Aikman first overall in 1989 or Kenny Easley No. 4 overall in 1981. That’s the NFL Hall of Fame company that Latu would love to someday keep. 

After Latu, UCLA may not be producing many first-round picks in the years to come as the program tries to rebuild under DeShaun Foster. So, instead of looking forward to the next former Bruins to make the transition to the league, let’s examine 10 who struggled to get their footing in professional football. 

. . player. 1995. 10. 42. J.J. Stokes, WR. J.J. Stokes, WR. J.J. Stokes. No. 10 overall

In UCLA’s 1993 co-Pac-12 Championship season, J.J. Stokes finished seventh in Heisman Trophy voting with his lone 1,000-yard season of his four-year career at UCLA. He finished the year with 17 receiving touchdowns, but as a senior in 1994, took a big step back on a much worse Bruins offense. 

NFL teams were not deterred by his regression and the 49ers pulled the trigger at No. 10, grabbing Stokes to pair with Jerry Rice and Steve Young. However, Stokes had a limited impact as a rookie, only catching 38 passes for 517 yards. 

In 1996, injury forced Stokes to miss time, but in 1997 and 1998 he posted years with over 700 receiving yards. Those two years were the peak of his unremarkable nine-year career. Stokes spent eight seasons with San Francisco before splitting his final year between Jacksonville and New England. He retired with 4,293 career receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. 

Stokes has a serviceable NFL career, but as far as top 10 picks go, he was a disappointment. For other teams, Stokes may not be a top 10 bust, but many of UCLA’s first-rounders went on to have great NFL careers, so Stokes sticks out amongst his peers.