NFL Top 10: AFC North's Ten Worst Draft Picks of All Time
The AFC North is an interesting division.
It is home to the team with the most Super Bowls—the Pittsburgh Steelers—and two with none.
As for the annual NFL Draft, the Ravens and Steelers are regarded as some of the best in the league at evaluating and picking talent. The Bengals and Browns have soured in that process since the merger.
Who are the division's worst draft choices since the AFL and NFL united in 1967?
Let's check it out.
No. 10: Gabe Rivera, Pittsburgh Steelers (21st Pick, 1983)
1983 will forever be known as the year of the quarterback. Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were all taken in the first round.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who happened to be looking for an heir to Terry Bradshaw, decided that they'd pass on hometown star Marino and rebuild through the defense like they did in the late 60s.
Like they did in 1969 with Joe Greene, the Steelers took a big, pass rushing defensive tackle in Texas Tech's Gabe Rivera.
Rivera was a consensus All-American and came on as the 1983 season progressed.
He was paralyzed in a mid-season drunk driving accident and never played again.
"Senor Sack" finished his shortened career with just two sacks in six career games.
The pick is especially painful for Steelers fans considering they could have—and probably should have—taken Dan Marino, who became one of the best quarterbacks in league history. Instead, Pittsburgh struggled away behind Mark Malone, Bubby Brister and Neil O'Donnell.
On a positive note, Rivera was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012. Who knows what his career could have been had it not been cut short.
No. 9: Travis Taylor, Baltimore Ravens (10th Pick, 2000)
After struggling with their receiving corps for the first few years of franchise history, the Ravens pulled the trigger on Florida standout Travis Taylor in the 10th pick in the 2000 draft.
After just five seasons in purple and black, Taylor was packing his bags and leaving Baltimore.
Taylor's two touchdown performance in his second career game had fans salivating at the sight of the former Gator. He managed only 28 catches his rookie season, despite the high expectations.
Taylor had his best season in 2002 where he accumulated over 800 receiving yards, but never improved on those numbers.
He was cut by the Ravens following the 2004 season.
Following failed stints with the Vikings, Rams and Raiders, Taylor attempted to revive his career with the Panthers and Lions, but to no avail.
Taylor finished his career with just over 4,000 receiving yards in eight career seasons, never living up to the expectations that made him a 10th pick.
No. 8: Kyle Boller, Baltimore Ravens (19 Pick, 2003)
In 2003, the Ravens looked to finally solidify a position position that had haunted the franchise since its inception seven years before.
With their 19th pick, Baltimore took a shot on a one-year stud from Cal in quarterback Kyle Boller.
The pick never panned out.
Boller lasted only five seasons in Baltimore and threw for 2000-plus yards just once.
Also, only once in his career did Boller throw more touchdowns than interceptions as a starter.
To the Ravens credit, only Carson Palmer —and the undrafted free agent Tony Romo— really panned out from the 2003 draft, despite four quarterbacks going in the first round.
In 2006, the Ravens signed veteran Steve McNair, which all but ended the Boller project in miserable failure.
No. 7: David Klingler, Cincinnati Bengals (6th Pick, 1992)
Heading into the 1992 draft, the Bengals had a solid veteran and fan favorite at quarterback in Boomer Esiason. They were desperate for some defensive help.
With the sixth pick in the draft, Cincinnati selected quarterback David Klingler from Houston.
Klingler set all kinds of records while at Houston, including throwing for over 5,000 yards and 54 touchdowns in his junior year.
Teams knew Klingler's adjustment to the NFL wouldn't be easy, as the Cougars ran most of their offense from the shotgun—shying away from pro-style packages.
Nevertheless, the Bengals pulled the trigger on their "quarterback of the future" and have regretted it ever since.
Klingler lasted just four seasons in Cincinnati and never adapted to the Bengals' offense. He threw only 16 touchdowns in his time with the Bengals and won a mere four games.
Klingler finished out his career as a backup with the Oakland Raiders before retiring in 1997.
The pick looks even worse when you see the defensive talent the Bengals could have had in a guy like Troy Vincent, who was taken in the pick immediately following Cincinnati's selection.
No. 6: Huey Richardson, Pittsburgh Steelers (15th Pick, 1991)
The Steelers have been known throughout their franchise history for having some of the best linebackers to ever play the game.
The team managed to flop in a big way in 1991.
With the 15th pick, Pittsburgh drafted Huey Richardson, a defensive end and two-time All-SEC performer for the Florida Gators. His 6'5" frame and raw athleticism made him attractive to a lot of teams.
Richardson, however, didn't fit the mold of a three-four defensive end—the scheme the Steelers ran—so the team moved him to middle linebacker.
After Chuck Noll retired and Bill Cowher took over, Richardson was again unsuccessfully moved to outside linebacker.
Richardson lasted one season with the Steelers and accounted for only two tackles.
The reason he's not higher on the list is because Pittsburgh was able to rebound in a major way with guys like Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene and Levon Kirkland.
They made the Richardson pick less painful for Steelers fans to swallow.
No. 5: Courtney Brown, Cleveland Browns (1st Pick, 2000)
Just one year after reemerging into the NFL landscape, the Cleveland Browns selected Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown, hoping he would anchor their defensive line for the next decade.
But the NCAA's all time leading sacker fell well short of the lofty expectations.
After registering just four sacks his first full season, Brown seemed to be picking up the pace in 2001. He recorded 4.5 sacks in his first five games.
Brown's season was cut short due to injury, and he never seemed to recover.
Brown finished his six-year career with only 19 sacks, a far cry from the college player who was a consensus All-American and a finalist for three defensive awards.
Behind Brown, defensive standouts like Brian Urlacher, Shaun Ellis, John Abraham and Julian Peterson were all taken in the first round.
No. 4: Mike Junkin, Cleveland Browns (5th Pick, 1987)
In 1987, the Cleveland Browns fell in love with a 6'3", 241-pound linebacker from Duke University named Mike Junkin.
The honeymoon didn't last long.
Junkin was taken with the fifth overall selection in 1987 and managed to start only seven games in his two short seasons with the Browns.
In 1989, the 25 year-old Junkin tried to resurrect his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, but only appeared in five games and never played again after.
By piking Junkin, the Browns missed out on some star defensive players like Shane Conlan, Jerome Brown and Hall of Fame cornerback and safety Rod Woodson. They were all taken within the next five picks.
Junkin remains the last player from Duke University ever to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. His brother Trey is regarded as one of the best long snappers in football history.
No. 3: Ki-Jana Carter, Cincinnati Bengals (1st Pick, 1995)
During the 1994 college football season, Ki-Jana Carter rushed for over 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading the Nittany Lions to a 12-0 record.
Those numbers were good enough for the Bengals to trade up four spots and make Carter the first pick of the 1995 NFL Draft.
After signing an at the time record-breaking deal for a rookie, Carter tore ligaments in his knee on just his third carry of the preseason, forcing him to miss all of his rookie year.
These injuries would plague Carter for the rest of his career, as he never ran for more than 500 yards in a single NFL season.
In seven NFL seasons, Carter started just 14 games and continued the curse of the Penn State running backs.
No. 2: Tim Couch, Cleveland Browns (1st Pick, 1999)
I know I'm going to take a lot of heat for not having Tim Couch at number one, but hear me out.
Couch was over-valued and taken number one overall to an "expansion" team who was desperate for a quarterback. The team didn't have any sort of offense around him.
Twice in his career, Couch was sacked over 50 times in a single season. He never seemed to recover from "happy-footed" mentality he developed.
The ultimate blow for Couch, however, came in 2002 when it finally appeared he might be putting it all together.
Couch had the Browns winning games and praying for a playoff birth before getting injured and eventually benched in the playoffs for fan-favorite Kelly Holcomb.
One year later, Couch was out of the NFL and never recorded another stat again.
In the end, the savior of the "new" Browns franchise threw for over 3,000 yards just one time and threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his career.
He was sacked 166 times in his five-year career and was brought down by defenders on an average of around twice for every 25 pass attempts. This tops another bust, David Carr's, numbers.
No. 1: Akili Smith, Cincinnati Bengals (3rd Pick, 1999)
Finally we've reached, what I consider, the worst pick taken by an AFC North team since the 1967 NFL merger.
1999 was dubbed the second "year of the quarterback," with the number two bust in this ranking going first overall. Five total quarterbacks were taken in the first round.
Akili Smith was the third of these quarterbacks and the third overall selection behind Couch and Donovan McNabb.
Cincinnati, before the draft, turned down the Saints' offer, which would have landed them nine extra draft picks and opted to take the highly athletic, yet largely unproven Smith from Oregon.
Smith missed a major chunk of the offseason due to a contract dispute. It really hurt him down the road.
In four years with the Bengals, Smith threw for over 1,000 yards once, passed for five touchdowns and won just three games.
His final career numbers: four seasons, 17 starts, 2,212 pass yards, five pass touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 46.6 completion percentage.
Smith failed at making the Packers roster in 2003 and finished out his career in NFL Europe and Canada. He finally hung it up in 2007.