The 50 worst draft picks in NFL history...where to even begin.
Creating this list is a daunting task. There were so many names deserving of inclusion that it becomes almost impossible to sort through them all.
So to simplify the task, let's set up some ground rules:
- Players whose careers were significantly impacted by injuries were not eligible. This eliminates guys such as Steve Emtman and Courtney Brown.
- Players with off-field issues were fair game, especially if the team had fair warning of the concerns prior to the draft.
- The player doesn't necessarily need to be considered a bust if the pick didn't benefit the team for other reasons (see No. 46 and No. 6 for examples).
With these basic rules in mind, here are the 50 worst draft picks in NFL history.
Selection: No. 2 overall, 2009
Desperate for a left tackle, the Rams made Baylor lineman Jason Smith the No. 2 overall selection in the 2009 draft.
Looking back on the top 10 that year, which featured Mark Sanchez and Aaron Curry, there wasn't a lot to choose from, but the Rams still landed the biggest bust of the group.
After three years in St. Louis, Smith spent the 2012 season with the Jets and is now with the Saints.
Notable players passed over: B.J. Raji, Eugene Monroe, Brian Orakpo
Selection: No. 22 overall, 1997
Troy Aikman wanted a pass-catching tight end, so Jerry Jones gave him David LaFleur.
After a great college career at LSU, LaFleur never caught on in the NFL. He spent four disappointing season in Dallas during which he caught just 12 total touchdowns.
After failing a physical prior to the 2001 season, the Cowboys released him.
Notable players passed over: Tiki Barber, Trevor Pryce, Jamie Sharper
Selection: No. 7 overall, 2005
The Vikings gambled on Troy Williamson with the seventh selection in 2005 in an effort to replace the recently traded Randy Moss.
After three disappointing seasons that featured far more drops than touchdown receptions, Williamson was traded to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick.
Williamson spent two years in Jacksonville and was out of the league by the end of the 2009 season.
Notable players passed over: DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Aaron Rodgers
Selection: No. 27 overall, 1999
Aaron Gibson was a behemoth who weighed close to 400 pounds at the start of his career.
After struggling with weight and injury issues early in his career, the Lions released Gibson during the 2001 season.
He would bounce around to the Cowboys, Bears and Bills and played briefly in the Arena Football League before retiring from pro football in 2007.
Notable players passed over: Patrick Kerney, Mike Peterson, Jon Jansen
Selection: No. 17 overall, 2000
Sebastian Janikowski has spent the past 13 years in Oakland, but don't confuse longevity with greatness. He has been selected to just one Pro Bowl and currently ranks 25th among active kickers in career field-goal percentage.
What makes this pick especially painful for Raiders fans is the fact that two spots later, the Seahawks selected Shaun Alexander.
During the first five years of Janikowski's career, Raiders running backs Napoleon Kaufman, Tyrone Wheatley, Charlie Garner and Amos Zereoue would combine for just one 1,000-yard season.
Notable players passed over: Shaun Alexander, Keith Bulluck
Selection: No. 25 overall, 2010
Yes, Tim Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs and a shocking upset of the Steelers. It will always be a great memory for Broncos fans, but if not for the signing of Peyton Manning, this pick could have set the franchise back for years.
Not only has Tebow failed to pan out as a quarterback, but the Broncos traded their second-, third- and fourth-round picks to the Ravens to acquire the 25th selection.
Notable players passed over: Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski
Selection: No. 1 overall, 1999
Tim Couch may be one of the most hated players in Browns history.
He was so disliked by his own fanbase that the crowd once erupted in cheers when he went down with an injury, allowing Kelly Holcomb to enter the game.
Like Tebow, Couch did lead the Browns to one playoff appearance in 2002, which keeps him from rising higher on this last.
Notable players passed over: Donovan McNabb, Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams
Selection: No. 17 overall, 2007
After recording two sacks in the 2007 national championship game, Moss began rising up draft boards and the Broncos selected him with hopes that he would become their next great pass-rusher.
However, Moss would record just 3.5 sacks during his tenure in Denver before being released during the 2010 season.
Notable players passed over: Leon Hall, Dwayne Bowe, Jon Beason
Selection: No. 12 overall, 2002
Wendell Bryant, the 2000 and 2001 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, barely saw the field during three years in Arizona.
He started a total of nine games, recording just 1.5 sacks during his time in the desert.
After failing a third drug test, Bryant was suspended for the entire 2005 season and never returned to the game.
Notable players passed over: Jeremy Shockey, Albert Haynesworth, Ed Reed
Selection: No. 30 overall, 2007
Craig Davis' career was slowed by injuries, but even when fully healthy he struggled to earn playing time in San Diego.
In four years with the Chargers, Davis caught just 51 passes and started only two games.
Davis was cut during training camp in 2011 by the Chargers and a few weeks later by the Bills. He has been out of the NFL since.
Notable players passed over: Eric Weddle, Sidney Rice, LaMarr Woodley
Selection. No. 29 overall, 1999
The story of Dimitrius Underwood is a strange and sad one. Twice during his career he attempted suicide and, at least to outsiders, he appeared to struggle with an undiagnosed mental disorder.
Despite the sad story, the Vikings' selection of him remains one of the worst in NFL history because the signs of issues were there long before his NFL career began.
Underwood sat out his final season at Michigan State without an explanation and his college coach, Nick Saban, warned NFL executives of mental instability.
Notable players passed over: Patrick Kerney, Al Wilson, Mike Rucker
Selection: No. 30 overall, 1996
Redskins fans have the genius of Charley Casserly to thank for this one.
Not only did Casserly select Johnson, who was woefully overmatched in the NFL and never played a down for the Redskins, but he traded a third-round pick to get him.
Johnson was released by the Redskins following his rookie year, and again by the Dolphins before finally catching on in Detroit. He appeared in just three NFL games.
Notable players passed over: Amani Toomer, Mike Alstott, Lawyer Milloy
Selection. No. 9 overall, 1992
No amount of success can justify the selection of a fullback in the top 10.
"Touchdown" Tommy Vardell put together a solid career, blocking for Barry Sanders during his 2,000-yard season in 1997, but he never came close to living up to his draft status or his nickname.
In four seasons in Cleveland, Vardell reached the end zone just three times.
Notable players passed over: Leon Searcy, Marco Coleman, Chester McGlockton
Selection: No. 31 overall, 2004
After a record-setting career at Oklahoma State, the 49ers brought Woods aboard to help jump-start their struggling offense. However, Woods struggled to earn playing time, catching just seven passes in 14 games as a rookie.
After missing the entire 2005 season with a thumb injury, the 49ers gave up on Woods, shipping him to San Diego.
Woods was cut by San Diego and later failed a physical with the Broncos, ending his NFL career.
He is now a professional bass fisherman in Oklahoma.
Notable players passed over: Ben Watson, Karlos Dansby, Chris Snee
Selection: No. 31 overall, 1995
Jenkins put together a solid career at Michigan and was supposed to immediately solve the Chiefs' issues at left tackle. However, three years and a grand total of one start later, Jenkins was out of the league.
In 2000, Jenkins was drafted by San Francisco Demons of the XFL but failed to make the team, which may be even more embarrassing than his NFL career.
Notable players passed over: Zach Wiegert, Frank Sanders, Bobby Taylor
Selection. No. 6 overall, 1984
After a stellar career at Texas, the Packers selected Moss sixth overall, but he spurned them for the USFL.
Moss would finally join the Packers in 1985, but after two disappointing seasons in the league he was arrested on two counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
The Packers released him, ending his NFL career.
Notable players passed over: Wilber Marshall, John Alt, William Roberts
Selection: No. 12 overall, 1999
The Bears made McNown the fifth and final quarterback selected in the first round of the 1999 draft.
McNown started 15 games during his first two years in the league, posting a dismal 3-12 record.
Prior to the 2001 season, the Bears shipped McNown to Miami in exchange for three late-round draft picks, but McNown would never again see action in an NFL game.
Notable players passed over: Jevon Kearse, Damien Woody, Antoine Winfield
Selected: No. 6 overall, 2003
The Saints immediately plugged Johnathan Sullivan into a starting role in 2003, but he struggled throughout his rookie year and never recovered.
Prior to the 2006 season, the Saints traded Sullivan to the Patriots, but less than a month later he was arrested on marijuana charges and never played another game in the NFL.
Notable players passed over: Kevin Williams, Terrell Suggs, Ty Warren
Selection: No. 24 overall, 1991
Just 10 picks before the Falcons would select Brett Favre, the Raiders took troubled USC quarterback Todd Marinovich.
Marinovich, who had struggled with drug addiction dating back to high school, tested positive multiple times during his two years in the league and was out of football by the end of the 1992 season.
He resurfaced in professional football briefly in 2000 in the Arena League, but he never returned to the NFL.
Notable players passed over: Brett Favre, Ted Washington, Ricky Watters
Selection: No. 16 overall, 1991
Dan McGwire, the younger brother of baseball's Mark, was so inept during his first two seasons in Seattle that the Seahawks selected Rick Mirer with the second overall selection in the 1993 NFL draft.
McGwire would start just five games during his four years in Seattle before closing out his career as a backup to Dan Marino during the 1995 season.
Notable players passed over: Brett Favre, Alfred Williams, Ted Washington
Selection: No. 7 overall, 1983
Searching for their first franchise quarterback since Len Dawson retired, the Chiefs took Todd Blackledge in the first round of the legendary 1983 draft.
Blackledge would prove to be a solid backup, going 13-11 in his career in Kansas City, but he was never a full-time stater for the Chiefs.
To make matters worse, Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were selected later in the first round.
Notable players passed over: Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Bruce Matthews
Selection: No. 10 overall, 2001
After a standout career at Florida State, Jamal Reynolds looked like a future star and was expected to flourish for the Packers, who had acquired the 10th selection from Seattle in the Matt Hasselbeck trade.
However, in three years with the Packers, Reynolds recorded three sacks and didn't start a single game.
He was traded to the Colts prior to the 2004 season, but the trade was voided when Reynolds failed a physical. He was later released by the Packers and spent the 2004 training camp in Cleveland before being released again, ending his NFL career.
Notable players passed over: Dan Morgan, Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus
Selection: No. 11 overall, 2009
Two years, one start and zero sacks was all the Bills got out of Aaron Maybin, who had shot up draft boards after a breakout 2008 season at Penn State.
Prior to the 2011 season Maybin was released and caught on with the Jets. After a decent 2011 season in New York, Maybin struggled in 2012 and was released in November.
In January, Maybin signed with the Bengals.
Notable players passed over: Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing, Percy Harvin
Selection. No. 1 overall, 2002
Despite some moments of promise, David Carr's career in Houston was tough to watch.
While it's tough to argue that Carr isn't among the biggest busts of all time, some of the blame needs to be placed on Houston's front office, who failed to protect him.
During his first four years in the league, Carr was sacked a remarkable 208 times.
Notable players passed over: Julius Peppers, Bryant McKinnie, Dwight Freeney
Selection. No. 1 overall, 1988
Aundray Bruce, a two-time All American at Auburn, put together an 11-year career, but he never came close to living up to his status as the No. 1 pick.
In four years with the Falcons, Bruce recorded just 16 sacks and was used mostly as a reserve during his final two seasons.
Notable players passed over: Neil Smith, Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe
Selection: No. 3 overall, 1991
The Falcons have made some disappointing picks through the years, but it doesn't get any worse than Bruce Pickens.
Pickens rode the bench for the majority of his rookie year and started just four games the following season. Midway through the 1993 season, the Falcons finally gave up, trading him to the Packers.
After missing the 1994 season, Pickens would briefly return to the league with Oakland in 1995.
Notable players passed over: Todd Lyght, Eric Swann, Herman Moore
Selection. No. 6 overall, 1987
The St. Louis Cardinals made Kelly Stouffer the sixth overall selection in the 1987 draft, but when the two sides were unable to agree on a contract, Stouffer elected to sit out his entire rookie season.
The following offseason, the Cardinals traded his rights to Seattle where Stouffer played for four seasons, making just 16 starts.
Notable players passed over: Jerome Brown, Rod Woodson, Jim Harbaugh
Selection. No. 2 overall, 1989
Tony Mandarich is often used as a poster child for draft busts. But in reality, he carved out a reasonably successful six-year career and made 63 starts for the Packers and Colts.
But when you factor in the players selected around Mandarich, it's enough to make Packers fans sick over 20 years later.
Four of the top five picks from the 1989 draft are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with Mandarich as the lone outsider.
Notable players passed over: Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Deion Sanders
Selection. No. 2 overall, 1990
After a promising rookie year in which he averaged over five yards per carry, Blair Thomas fell off the map.
Thomas rushed for just over 2,000 total yards in four seasons with the Jets and was released prior to the 1993 season.
The fact that the next running back off the board was Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith made the pick all the more painful for the Jets.
Notable players passed over: Cortez Kennedy, Junior Seau, Emmitt Smith
Selection: No. 4 overall, 2000
Peter Warrick was Mr. Everything at Florida State, but he was little more than a role player in Cincinnati.
In five seasons with the Bengals, Warrick struggled to carve out a niche for himself in the Bengals offense and often looked like a man without a true position.
After spending a year in Seattle, Warrick bounced around between a number of other football leagues for several years.
Notable players passed over: Plaxico Burress, Brian Urlacher, John Abraham
Selection: No. 6 overall, 1992
The Bengals drafted David Klingler as Boomer Esiason's replacement, and he took the starting job from Esiason during the 1992 season.
But after posting a 4-17 record as a starter during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, the Bengals gave up on Klingler, handing the job off to Jeff Blake.
Klingler would spend three more years in the league as a backup but was out of football by the end of the 1997 season.
Notable players passed over: Troy Vincent, Bob Whitfield, Leon Searcy
Selection: No. 7 overall, 1989
After a dominant final year at Georgia, the Steelers selected Tim Worley to become their feature back.
However, Worley struggled with fumbles throughout his career and was never able to hold off Merril Hoge for consistent playing time.
Worley was then suspended for the entire 1992 season for failing multiple drug tests, and the Steelers traded him to the Bears just five games into the 1993 season.
The Bears released Worley in 1994, and he retired at the age of 28.
Notable players passed over: Eric Metcalf, Trace Armstrong, Steve Atwater
Selection: No. 11 overall, 1972
Jerry Tagge was one of the Packers' many quarterback blunders between the Bart Starr and Brett Favre eras.
Tagge managed to go 6-6 in his brief career in Green Bay, but he threw just three touchdowns against a whopping 17 interceptions.
Following the 1974 season, Tagge joined the World Football League and then played three years in Canadian Football League.
Notable players passed over: Franco Harris, Thom Darden, Reggie McKenzie
Selection: No. 4 overall, 1990
After a legendary career as a linebacker at Alabama, Keith McCants was viewed as a can't-miss prospect in the NFL. But the Buccaneers insisted on converting the linebacker to defensive end, against the wishes of McCants.
The position change didn't work out, as McCants managed just 12 sacks in three years in Tampa.
McCants played briefly with the Oilers and Cardinals but was out of football by 1995.
Notable players passed over: Junior Seau, Richmond Webb, Emmitt Smith
Selection: No. 7 overall, 1990
Andre Ware posted eye-popping numbers in college at Houston, but his success in the spread offense in college didn't translate to the NFL.
In four years in Detroit, Ware started just six games and was often third on the depth chart behind Rodney Peete and Erik Kramer.
Ware was briefly on the roster of the Raiders and Jaguars during the 1994 and 1995 seasons, but he played his final NFL game at the age of 25 in 1993.
Notable players passed over: Richmond Webb, Emmitt Smith, Eric Green
Selection: No. 26 overall, 1997
The 49ers selected Jim Druckenmiller to be groomed as Steve Young's replacement. Two years later, Young was still the 49ers starter and Druckenmiller was traded to the Dolphins, having already played in his last NFL game.
Druckenmiller made just one career start, in which he completed just 36 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions.
Notable players passed over: Trevor Pryce, Tiki Barber, Corey Dillon
Selection: No. 6 overall, 1996
Off-field issues stemming from an assault of his ex-girlfriend while at Nebraska caused a few teams to pass on Lawrence Phillips. But the Rams rolled the dice and were so confident in his ability that they traded Jerome Bettis to the Steelers after making the selection.
Just over one year later, the Rams had already grown tired of Phillips' run-ins with the law and released him during the 1997 season.
Phillips played briefly with the Dolphins and 49ers, but he was out of football after the 1999 season.
After multiple arrests for assault, Phillips is currently in prison and will not be eligible for parole until 2034.
Notable players passed over: Terry Glenn, Willie Anderson, Eddie George
Selection: No. 2 overall, 2003
Charles Rogers was the worst of Matt Millen's many draft blunders.
In three seasons with the Lions, Rogers caught four touchdown passes and failed three drug tests, which eventually led to a suspension in 2005.
Prior to the 2006 season, Lions head coach Rod Marinelli released Rogers and criticized his work ethic while with the team.
Notable players passed over: Andre Johnson, Kevin Williams, Terrell Suggs
Selection: No. 3 overall, 1994
Heath Shuler was a star at Tennessee, but his success never carried over to the NFL.
The Redskins selected Gus Frerotte in the seventh round of the 1994 draft, and by the end of the 1995 season it was Frerotte, rather than Shuler, leading the Redskins.
After Frerotte earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1996, the Redskins traded Shuler to the Saints.
Notable players passed over: Willie McGinest, Bryant Young, Sam Adams
Selection: No. 11 overall, 1979
If you're going to take a special teams player in the first round, he better be pretty darn good. Unfortunately for the Saints, Erxleben was not, and he lasted just five years in New Orleans.
After a legendary career at Texas as a kicker/punter, Erxleben failed to win the job as the Saints kicker and was relegated to strictly punting duties.
He was out of football following the 1983 season, but he briefly returned to play for the Lions in 1987.
Notable players passed over: Kellen Winslow, Marty Lyons, Jerry Robinson
Selection: No. 6 overall, 1981
Usually when a team drafts a quarterback in the top 10, he will be forced into a starting role no matter how much he struggles on the practice field.
That was not the case for Rich Campbell, however, who spent four seasons as the third-string quarterback behind Lynn Dickey and David Whitehurst.
Campbell didn't make a single start in his brief NFL career and appeared in just seven games.
Notable players passed over: Ronnie Lott, Keith Van Horne, Mark May
Selection: No. 3 overall, 1999
Akili Smith was arguably the worst of the disappointing 1999 draft class, posting a 3-14 record as the Bengals starting quarterback.
After a dismal year in 2000, the Bengals acquired veteran Jon Kitna prior to the 2001 season, which effectively ended Smith's career in Cincinnati after just two seasons.
Smith would stick around as a backup until after the 2002 season, but he started just two games after the arrival of Kitna.
Notable players passed over: Torry Holt, Champ Bailey, Daunte Culpepper
Selection: No. 5 overall, 1987
One of the all-time greats at Duke, Mike Junkin failed to establish himself in the NFL.
Junkin lasted just two years in Cleveland and briefly played for the Chiefs in 1989 before calling it a career.
Meanwhile, Mike's older brother Trey, a fourth-round pick in 1983, would go on to a 20-year career as a tight end and long snapper.
Notable players passed over: Jerome Brown, Rod Woodson, Bruce Armstrong
Selection: No. 1 overall, 1979
If you're going to draft a player No. 1 overall, you better be sure he's willing to play for you.
Tom Cousineau elected to play in the CFL, where Montreal was offering him nearly twice as much money as the Bills.
Three years later, when Cousineau elected to return to the NFL, the Bills traded him to the Browns for a first-round selection.
It all worked out for the Bills in the end, though. The pick they received from Cleveland was used to select Jim Kelly.
Notable players passed over: Dan Hampton, Phil Simms, Kellen Winslow
Selection: No. 1 overall, 1986
The Tom Cousineau situation was bad for the Bills, but after three years they eventually recouped some value for their blown No. 1 overall pick.
The Bucs, however, wasted their No. 1 pick on Jackson, who wanted to play baseball instead. And after the team failed to sign him, Jackson was made available once again in the 1987 draft, where the Raiders selected him in the seventh round.
While Jackson proved to be worthy of the selection, the wasted pick devastated the Bucs, who would go another 11 years before their next winning season.
Notable players passed over: Jim Everett, Tony Casillas, Leslie O'Neal
Selection: No. 7 overall, 1987
Of all the Lions draft blunders, this one takes the cake.
Defensive end Reggie Rogers spent just two seasons in Detroit, recording one sack. Then in 1988, Rogers was convicted of vehicular homicide after killing three teenagers while driving under the influence.
After spending nearly two years in prison, ending his Lions career, Rogers returned briefly with the Bills and Buccaneers but was out of football by 1992.
Notable players passed over: Jerome Brown, Rod Woodson, Bruce Armstrong
Selection: No. 4 overall, 1982
Art Schlichter's career got off to a rough start when he spent his rookie year on the bench behind fellow rookie Mike Pagel, a fourth-round pick.
During the offseason following his rookie year, it all fell apart.
Schlichter, who had serious gambling issues, got involved with an FBI investigation that exposed his gambling and was suspended by the league indefinitely.
The Colts responded by using their first-round pick on John Elway in 1983.
Notable players passed over: Jim McMahon, Mike Munchak, Marcus Allen
Selection: No. 6 overall, 2008
In three years with the Jets, Vernon Gholston played a grand total of 601 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
After failing to record a single sack while in New York, the Jets threw in the towel on Gholston, cutting him loose in March of 2011.
Gholston joined the Bears for their 2011 training camp and the Rams' in 2012, but he failed to make the cut with either organization.
Notable players passed over: Jerod Mayo, Ryan Clady, Joe Flacco
Selection: No. 1, 2007
JaMarcus Russell is attempting a comeback and, at just 27 years old, he's young enough to revive his career.
But the damage has already been done for the Raiders.
Russell held out for the majority of his rookie year and started just one game in 2007. In three years in Oakland, Russell would go 7-18 as the starter.
Shortly after the 2010 draft, the Raiders released Russell. He has been out of the NFL since.
Notable players passed over: Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson
Selection: No. 2 overall, 1998
When the Colts selected Peyton Manning No. 1 overall, the decision to take Leaf seemed like an obvious one for the Chargers.
Leaf was thrust into a starting role and won his first two games in 1998, but it was all downhill from there.
After missing the 1999 season with a shoulder injury, Leaf would return in 2000 to post a 1-8 record as a starter and struggled to get along with teammates and the media.
The Chargers released Leaf after the 2000 season, and he only briefly return to the NFL with the Cowboys in 2001.
Notable players passed over: Charles Woodson, Fred Taylor, Tra Thomas