50 Worst Draft-Day Decisions in NFL History
Drafting is the greatest way for a NFL franchise to build a winning tradition—and if you swing and miss on a pick, then you're simply hurting your chances of winning a Super Bowl.
With that being said, there have been quite a few terrible draft decisions in NFL history.
For an example, drafting Ryan Leaf first overall in 1998 was an awful mistake by the San Diego Chargers and then there was Tom Brady, teams that simply passed on arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
In that spirit, let's take a look at the 50 worst draft-day decisions in NFL history.
Reggie Bush may not be all that of a mistake but the New Orleans Saints using the second overall pick on him in the 2006 NFL draft was a mistake.
Bush is far from being an every-down NFL running back, as he's built more like a receiver. He has had injury problems throughout his entire career and has played just one full regular season, and that was back in 2006, his rookie season.
I would like to think that the Detroit Lions would love to have their 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft back.
Mike Williams was nothing short of a bust.
Williams caught just two touchdowns in two seasons with the Lions as he played in just 22 games and started only six of them.
Yet another Penn State running back that didn't work out in the NFL.
Curtis Enis lasted just three seasons with the Chicago Bears as he was the fifth overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft.
I guess you could say that the St. Louis Cardinals lucked out on this one.
They may have wasted their sixth overall pick in 1987 on Kelly Stouffer, but he refused to sign a contract with the team and then was shipped off to the Seattle Seahawks where he would rot on the bench for the remainder of his pitiful career.
Tommy Maddox may have resurrected his career late with the Pittsburgh Steelers but he was a complete bust with the Denver Broncos.
Maddox was selected 25th overall in 1992 and played in just 29 games with the Broncos as he posted a pitiful 0-4 record as a starter.
Jim Druckenmiller is just a part of the very long list of quarterbacks that didn't work out after Steve Young with the San Francisco 49ers.
Druckenmiller was the 26th overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft and he played in just two seasons with the 49ers as he was cut and then later had a solid career in the XFL.
Aundray Bruce was supposed to the next Lawrence Taylor—yeah, that was a mistake.
The Atlanta Falcons used their first overall pick on him in the 1988 NFL draft and he amounted to nothing. He was a complete bust.
Bruce recorded just 16 sacks in four seasons with the Falcons.
For all of those teams that drafted a quarterback in the 1979 NFL draft and his name wasn't Joe Montana, well then I'm sorry for all of them.
Montana was the 82nd pick in the '79 draft and emerged as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He won four Super Bowls while being named All-Pro six times.
Passing on Montana is a mistake that every team would love to have back.
Eddie Brown was selected 13th overall in the 1985 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and didn't really amount to anything productive.
Brown played until 1991 and made just one Pro Bowl as he recorded 363 career receptions for 6,134 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns.
Nothing special for being drafted 13th overall.
Todd Blackledge really failed as quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Blackledge posted a 13-11 record as a starter for the Chiefs and should have not be drafted seventh overall in the 1983 NFL draft.
So who did the Chiefs leave on the table? Quarterbacks Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. Now that's a mistake.
Ron Dayne is just another Heisman trophy-winning running back that never played well at the NFL level.
Dayne was often overweight and simply never lived up to the high expectations of being selected 11th overall by the New York Giants in 2000.
Dayne lasted just four seasons with the Giants as he averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
The Cleveland Browns choosing to build their franchise around Tim Couch was a pretty dumb idea.
For starters, Couch was the first overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft and he was a complete and utter bust.
Couch played in five seasons with Cleveland as he posted a 22-37 record as a starter while posting a 75.1 quarterback rating.
Lawrence Phillips was the seventh overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft and had all the potential and talent in the world but was never able to produce on a regular basis for the St. Louis Rams.
Phillips never got along with head coach Dick Vermil and is actually now spending time in jail in California—just to let you know how far he got in life.
Tony Mandarich is not only a big-time bust but he's one of the most infamous steroid users in NFL history.
The Green Bay Packers drafted Mandarich with the second overall pick in 1989 and could have drafted guys like Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders—but no. They wanted Mandarich.
John Elway may be one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history but it was a bad draft day decision by the Baltimore Colts.
So what happened?
The Colts drafted Elway with the first overall pick but then had to trade him away to the Denver Broncos because Elway threatened that he would play baseball instead—simply because he didn't want to play for the Colts.
Defensive end Derrick Harvey out of Florida was the eighth overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft and this was a huge mistake by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Harvey has been a complete bust as he's recorded just 8.5 career sacks entering the 2012 season.
Rashaan Salaam was the Heisman trophy winner in 1994 but never really had a very successful NFL career.
Salaam went 21st overall in 1995 to the Chicago Bears and had just one great season, his rookie season, when he rushed for 1,074 yards. However, Salaam was never the same after that as he was frequently injured and lasted just two more seasons with the Bears.
Ryan Leaf is one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history. There's no debating that.
Leaf was the second overall pick in the 1998 draft by the San Diego Chargers, and was selected after Peyton Manning.
Well at least the Indianapolis Colts drafted the better one out of the two quarterbacks.
Leaf played in only two seasons with the Chargers as he posted a pitiful 4-14 record as a starter.
I think drafting Penn State players in the first round may be a bad idea in general, not just drafting running backs.
Courtney Brown was the first overall pick in 2000 by the Cleveland Browns and was supposed to be one of the best defensive linemen in recent memory.
Brown was a bust as he lasted just five seasons with the Browns as he recorded only 17 sacks and played just one full season with the team.
JaMarcus Russell is one of the worst decisions that the Oakland Raiders have ever made.
The Raiders drafted Russell with the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft to be the team's franchise quarterback.
Granted, Russell has all the talent in the world and could have been something special but he was simply far too immature and had one of the worst work ethics that I can remember.
The New England Patriots had arguably the greatest draft steal in NFL history when they drafted Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.
For all of those teams that drafted a quarterback ahead of Brady in 2000, they made some terrible decisions as Brady is a three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback and is one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Teams were onto something when they let Matt Leinart slip to 10th overall. However, the Arizona Cardinals were the ones that made the big draft-day blunder.
Leinart simply was not mentally there to be an NFL starting quarterback as he was nothing short of a college frat boy that always wanted to party. Don't you agree?
Akili Smith lasted only four seasons in the NFL and was absolutely dreadful.
Smith was the third overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and posted a pitiful 3-14 record as a starter.
It was a huge mistake to think that Smith could be the franchise quarterback for the Bengals.
When you're an expansion franchise, you better hit on your first draft pick—the Houston Texans did not.
I actually feel bad for David Carr as he was thrown to the wolves his first year in the NFL, but he never was able to develop as the franchise quarterback that the Texans hoped he would be—which makes him a bad draft-day decision.
It almost seems like the Detroit Lions can't draft well—for a period of time, they just couldn't find the right guys to draft.
One of their many terrible draft-day decisions was quarterback Joey Harrington.
Harrington was the third overall pick in the 2002 draft and managed to only last four seasons in Detroit and post an 18-37 record as a starting quarterback.
Until last season, Alex Smith had been one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.
Smith went first overall in 2005 to the San Francisco 49ers when the team could have had guys like Aaron Rodgers and Derrick Johnson.
This was a swing and miss by San Fran.
Mike Mamula was drafted seventh overall in the 1995 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and never really did much at the NFL-level.
The defensive lineman out of Boston College recorded just 31.5 sacks from 1995 until 2000.
As the Eagles drafted Mamula, they left Warren Sapp on the board.
Mistake? I think so.
Rick Mirer was the second overall pick in the 1993 NFL draft and was drafted one pick after Drew Bledsoe.
The Seattle Seahawks really got the short end of the stick in this draft as Mirer amounted to be one of the worst busts in NFL history when Bledsoe played at an elite level for a small part of his career with the New England Patriots.
Reggie Williams wasn't as good as the Jacksonville Jaguars hoped he was—obviously.
Williams went ninth overall in 2004 out of Washington and caught just 189 career passes from 2004 until 2008 and scored just 18 touchdowns and has been out of the league ever since.
Brian Bosworth may have been drafted in the supplemental draft back in 1987 but he was still a terrible decision by the Seattle Seahawks.
Bosworth was believed to be one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history but he fell flat on his face.
Bosworth was frequently injured as he lasted just three seasons in the NFL with the Seahawks while recording just four sacks.
Rae Carruth is not only one of the worst decisions in NFL history but he is also a complete piece of crap, for a lack of a better term.
The All American didn't last long in the NFL as he was arrested in 1999 after being involved in the shooting of his girlfriend.
Blair Thomas played very well with Penn State during his college days as he recorded two 1,400-plus rushing yard seasons—but was absolutely pitiful with the New York Jets.
Thomas was drafted second overall in the 1990 NFL draft by the Jets and managed to record just 2,009 yards in just four seasons with New York.
The Cincinnati Bengals really had a difficult time drafting in the 1990s as they were searching for their franchise quarterback.
David Klingler was one guy that failed.
Klingler was drafted first overall in the 1992 NFL draft after a stellar collegiate career at Houston—but his success never carried over to the NFL as he lasted just four seasons with the Bengals.
Steve Emtman was just an injury waiting to happen.
Emtman was drafted first overall in the 1992 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts and it was a huge mistake.
Emtman managed to play in just three seasons with the Colts and recorded 74 tackles and just five sacks.
In hindsight, drafting Michael Vick was a pretty bad decision by the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons traded up from the No. 5 overall pick to the top pick to draft the Virginia Tech standout quarterback.
Now how did that work out for Atlanta?
Granted Vick produced on the field but he was a major disappointment off of the field with his dog fighting charges that sentenced him to jail time.
J.P. Losman just wasn't what the Buffalo Bills were expecting when they drafted him 22nd overall in the 2004 NFL draft.
Losman was very talented and had a ton of upside as he replaced Drew Bledsoe—but he was just not that good.
Losman started 33 games for the Bills as he just won 10 of them.
I think that it should be a rule that teams should not draft Penn State running backs—or they're turn out being a terrible decision.
Ki-Jana Carter is just one of the many Penn State running backs that failed.
Carter went first overall in the 1995 NFL draft to the Cincinnati Bengals and played four seasons with the team as he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.
Charles Rogers is just another wide receiver that never managed to make it at the NFL level.
Rogers was the second overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft out of Michigan State and was brought to the Detroit Lions to be the team's No. 1 wide receiver.
This was a completely awful decision by the Lions as Rogers never panned out and has reportedly failed several drug tests.
At times Vince Young was a pretty decent quarterback but his maturity level was far too low.
Young was selected third overall in the 2006 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans when they could have had guys like Vernon Davis, Jay Cutler, Chad Greenway and DeAngelo Williams.
Mark this one down as a bad decision by the Titans.
Entering the draft, Bo Jackson told the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that he would not play for them if they drafted him first overall—but they decided to do so anyways.
So what did Jackson do? He refused to sign and sat out the entire season and then re-entered the 1987 draft and was drafted in the third round by the Oakland Raiders.
Drafting Cade McNown with the 12th overall pick back in 1999 NFL draft was a pretty bad mistake by the Chicago Bears.
McNown did nothing productive as an NFL quarterback as he lasted just two seasons in Chicago and posted a 2-13 record as a starter.
The Washington Redskins are known for making some pretty bad decisions with free agents but this one was in the 1994 NFL draft when they drafted quarterback Heath Shuler third overall.
Shuler lasted just three seasons with the 'Skins as he posted an 4-9 record while completing just 47.7 percent of his passes.
All I have to say about Art Schlichter is that he had a big-time gambling problem which got him banned from the NFL.
The Baltimore Colts wasted their fourth overall pick in the 1982 draft on this guy.
Andre Wadsworth was an absolute sack machine during his days at Florida State as he was an All-American and ACC Player of the Year his senior season—so what happened?
Wadsworth was selected third overall in 1998 by the Arizona Cardinals and flopped completely. He never was able to produce at the high level that many expected him to.
Andre Ware is just a part of the very long list of players that the Detroit Lions drafted and that never panned out.
Ware was selected seventh overall in the 1990 NFL draft and failed miserably with the Lions.
Ware lasted just four seasons in Detroit as he posted a 3-3 record and a pitiful 63.5 quarterback rating.
See the picture posted of Mike Williams—yeah, he was often injured simply because he was out-of-shape.
Williams was one of the most hyped about offensive tackles in recent memory as he went fourth overall to the Buffalo Bills in 2002 but managed to just record 55 career starts and never really lived up to the high expectations.
I'm sure that the Seattle Seahawks would love to have their fourth overall pick in 2009 back as Aaron Curry was a wasted player.
Curry was an incredibly talented linebacker out of Wake Forest but did absolutely nothing in the NFL.
Curry was traded to the Oakland Raiders in his third season for just a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Everyone was right about Brady Quinn in 2007 when he slipped all the way to 22nd overall and fell right into the laps of the Cleveland Browns.
Quinn was a complete bust as the Browns wasted their draft pick on him.
Quinn started 12 games for the Browns as he won just three of them and posted a 66.8 quarterback rating.
John Wesley Jones
You'd think that the Oakland Raiders would be the ones drafting John Wesley Jones as he was a track star that was one hell of a sprinter.
Nope. The New York Jets were the ones that made the mistake on this guy as he was drafted second overall in 1980.
Let's just say that he couldn't catch the ball.
There is no reason why Randy Moss went 21st overall in the 1998 NFL draft.
Moss is arguably the greatest wide receiver of our generation and is one of the best wide receivers in NFL history.
Moss enters 2012 with 153 career receiving touchdowns and he was quite the steal for the Minnesota Vikings back in 1998.