The 7 Biggest Draft Busts in Packers History
No NFL team ever wants to be associated with the painful memory of selecting a player who history will paint as a draft bust. Especially when it's a player picked in the first round.
The Green Bay Packers have a number of players who can be put into this classification. I've gone back over the past 40 NFL drafts or so to come up with this list of seven players who definitely should be considered mistakes.
It's one thing to have your bust in Canton, Ohio as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (the Packers have 22 members there), but it's entirely different if you are considered a bust as a player.
The player that headlines this group should come as no surprise to anyone.
Let's take a look at this infamous list.
Offensive Tackle Tony Mandarich (1989)
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In 1988, the Green Bay Packers were the odds-on favorite to have the No. 1 pick in the 1989 NFL draft. The Packers had the worst record in the NFL (2-12) after 14 games. It was almost certain that the Packers would select quarterback Troy Aikman from UCLA with that pick.
Then something happened.
The Packers won their last two games of the season, and the Dallas Cowboys moved into the top spot (worst record) where they selected Aikman in the draft.
The Packers still had a number of options available, as future Hall of Fame players like running back Barry Sanders, linebacker Derrick Thomas and cornerback Deion Sanders were available to be picked.
Instead, the Packers selected All-American offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, as Sanders, Thomas and Sanders were picked directly behind him. Mandarich was a mountain of a man at 6'5", 315 pounds.
Mandarich played nothing like the player who had dominated in college for Michigan State, as it was obvious to almost everyone that he did not have the quick feet needed to be an effective offensive tackle in the NFL.
Even with the Packers coming off of a 4-12 season the year before, Mandarich never started one game as a rookie, and he was mediocre at best when he started in 1990 and 1991.
My lasting image of Mandarich was in 1990, when he was going up against future Packer Reggie White, who was then with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Packers were embarrassed 31-0 in Philly, as the Eagles' pass rush was relentless. I will always remember White tossing Mandarich away like a rag doll as he claimed another sack victim.
The Packers ended their relationship with Mandarich after the 1991 season. Mandarich later played three years at offensive guard for the Indianapolis Colts, where he became a serviceable player, but he was never exceptional.
Defensive End Jamal Reynolds (2001)
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Before the 2001 draft (Ron Wolf's last), the Packers made a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, as the Packers moved up seven spots in the first round to No. 10, plus received an additional third-round pick for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
The Packers used the selection on defensive end Jamal Reynolds of Florida State. Reynolds was a smaller defensive end (6'3", 260 pounds), who relied on his quickness in college to rush the quarterback.
Reynolds was overmatched in the NFL, however. In fact, Reynolds never started a game with the Packers in three years, and he only had three career sacks. He also only had 16 career tackles. The highlight of Reynolds' career with the Packers was the two forced fumbles he caused and the two fumble recoveries he had.
Not much of a return on investment, huh?
Quarterback Rich Campbell (1981)
Between the Bart Starr era and the Brett Favre era, the Packers searched long and hard for a capable and effective starting quarterback. The one who came closest to being that type of quarterback was Lynn Dickey. However, Dickey was often injured and did not have very good mobility in the pocket in his 10 years in Green Bay (1976 to 1985).
The Packers thought they may have found an answer in the 1981 NFL draft, when they selected quarterback Rich Campbell of California with the sixth pick of the draft.
Not only didn't Campbell ever start a game in four years with the Packers, he only threw three touchdown passes compared to nine interceptions. Campbells' completion rate was only 45.6 percent as well.
After being released by the Packers, Campbell never played for another NFL team.
Offensive Tackle John Michels (1996)
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In the 1996 NFL draft, the Packers were poised and ready to select middle linebacker Ray Lewis with the 27th pick of the draft. However, the Baltimore Ravens took Lewis just before the Packers had their selection.
The Packers then took massive offensive tackle John Michels (6'7", 300 pounds) of USC instead.
The 13-3 Green Bay team in 1996 was one of the very best teams in Packers history, as the team went on to win Super Bowl XXXI. The Packers had the best offense in the NFL, as well as the best defense and special teams.
As good as the Packers were offensively (led by NFL MVP Brett Favre), the left tackle position was a real mess in 1996.
Four different players started at left tackle for the Packers that season. The Packers used Michels to start the season, and he started nine games, but his ineffective play led to a place on the bench.
The Packers then tried 12-year veteran Ken Ruettgers (started the season on the PUP list), but numerous injuries had taken a toll on Ruettgers and he was just a shadow of his former self as he only had one start.
The Packers then tried Gary Brown for two games before finally settling on veteran Bruce Wilkerson, who started the final two regular-season games and all of the postseason games for the Packers.
Michels started five more games in 1997 before suffering a knee injury. In 1998, he ended up on injured reserve after injuring his knee again.
Michels was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, but his knee injury woes ended his NFL career there after a couple of weeks in camp.
Defensive Lineman Justin Harrell (2007)
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Ted Thompson has had a very successful formula in running the Green Bay Packers. Thompson's modus operandi is to draft and develop players for the Packers. That formula has led to a 78-50 record, with three NFC North titles, five playoff berths and a Super Bowl win in eight seasons running the front office of the Packers.
Thompson's very first draft choice for the Packers was quarterback Aaron Rodgers. All Rodgers has done is become the highest-rated quarterback of all time in the NFL, as well as being the NFL MVP (2011) and a Super Bowl MVP (XLV).
Bottom line, Thompson has a very good overall track record in presiding over the draft for the Pack. His one glaring error happened in 2007, when he selected defensive lineman Justin Harrell out of Tennessee with the 16th pick of the first round.
Harrell had been effective when he played for the Volunteers, but he was often hurt and missed most of his senior season due to a bicep tear.
Not much changed for Harrell in Green Bay. Harrell showed up for his first training camp out of shape. He only played in seven games that year for the Packers and had 16 tackles.
In 2008, thanks to a back injury, Harrell spent the first six weeks on the PUP list (physically unable to perform), before finishing the season, where once again he was not productive (11 tackles).
Harrell spent the whole 2009 season on injured reserve due to his back issues before coming back in 2010, where he suffered a severe knee injury in the first game of the season which once again put him on injured reserve.
The Packers finally cut their losses with Harrell in 2011.
Defensive Back Ahmad Carroll (2004)
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After the 2003 season, the Packers tried to use the draft to help their secondary which was ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing defense. Not to mention the 4th-and-26 play late in the game that the Packers gave up to the Philadelphia Eagles in a NFC divisional playoff game, as the Eagles ended up winning the contest, 20-17, in overtime.
The Packers' first two picks of the 2004 NFL draft were both defensive backs. The first was Ahmad Carroll of Arkansas, who was chosen with the 25th pick of the first round. The Packers followed that up with the selection of Joey Thomas of Montana State in the third round (the Packers didn't have a second-round selection).
The selections were orchestrated by head coach and general manager Mike Sherman.
Carroll and Thomas ended up getting into a bit of a brawl after a meeting that year, as Carroll sucker punched Thomas. Not exactly good chemistry between teammates, huh?
Carroll wasn't much better on the field, as he only intercepted three passes in two-plus years with the Packers, even with 27 starts. In 2004, the secondary of the Packers actually got worse than it was in 2003, as the team finished 25th in the NFL in passing defense.
The Packers ended up trading Carroll to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2006 season after the Packers had seen enough of Carroll's act.
Quarterback Jerry Tagge (1972)
After Bart Starr retired following the 1971 season, head coach and general manager Dan Devine knew he needed to find another quarterback. Devine already had second-year quarterback Scott Hunter, who he had drafted in the sixth round of the 1971 NFL draft, but Hunter had some shoulder issues going back to his time at Alabama.
Devine decided to draft quarterback Jerry Tagge out of Nebraska as one of his two first-round draft picks that he had in 1972. The other Devine used on cornerback Willie Buchanon, who played his college ball at San Diego State.
Hunter played adequately in 1972 as the starting quarterback of the Packers, as the team went 10-4 and won the NFC Central Division. Hunter only threw six touchdown passes, however, compared to nine picks for just 1,252 yards.
Tagge was never able to take over fully as the Packers signal-caller in his three years with the team, although he started 12 games and went 6-6.
But Tagge's stats were horrendous, as he only threw three touchdown passes, compared to 17 interceptions in his Green Bay career.
Ironically, Tagge was a Green Bay native.
Devine kept searching for a quarterback, and he made a number of mind-boggling trades to try to find one. First, he traded two second-round draft picks to the Miami Dolphins in 1973 for Jim Del Gaizo, who ended up throwing just two touchdown passes to six interceptions in his one and only year with the Pack.
Devine also traded a fifth-round pick to the Dallas Cowboys for quarterback Jack Concannon in 1974.
But the trade that just made people around the NFL scratch their heads was the one Devine also made in 1974. Devine gave the Los Angeles Rams the first-, second- and third-round picks from the Pack in 1975, plus the first- and second-round picks in 1976 for aging quarterback John Hadl.
Hadl was a good player in both the AFL and NFL at one time, but by the time Devine traded for him he was well past his prime. Hadl ended up throwing just nine touchdowns and a whopping 29 picks in about a season and a half with the Packers.