Detroit Lions: Charles Rogers and the 10 Biggest Draft Busts in Team History
Last week, I posted a bit about players the the Detroit Lions should absolutely not draft this April.
Most of them had nothing to do with bust potential (except Akeem Ayers), but I still opted to use Charles Rogers as the lead photo to illustrate the consequences of picking the wrong guy.
Apparently, I wasn't sure if that was going to drive the point home.
So here, then, is a list containing Charles Rogers and the nine other most cataclysmically bad Lions draft picks.
As always, please let me know where I screwed up in the comments.
10. Stockar McDougle, 20th Overall, 2000
The first problem is that Stockar McDougle was an offensive tackle, and he is shown here giving futile chase to a Minnesota Viking with the ball.
There's a very good chance McDougle was indirectly responsible for the turnover.
McDougle started busting shortly after he was drafted. He was drafted to be a franchise left tackle but then showed up to training camp and was almost immediately moved to right tackle, no doubt after his coaches exchanged some disappointed looks over his workout.
It took three years for McDougle to nail down a starting job for 16 games. He spent two years in that starting role, and that was when the Lions knew it wasn't going to work out. He bounced around Florida for the next couple of years, first in Miami, then Jacksonville. It didn't work out there either, and he's now out of the league.
In his post-NFL life, McDougle enjoys the same activities he did as a player, just to the wrong people.
9. Aaron Gibson, 27th Overall, 1999
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Here's how long it took the Lions to figure out they whiffed on Aaron Gibson.
First-round pick in 1999: OT Aaron Gibson
First-round pick in 2000: OT Stockar McDougle
First-round pick in 2001: OT Jeff Backus
Mid-season 2001: Gibson is cut.
That's right, it took about a season and a half. Gibson spent his entire rookie year on IR and played in 16 games over the course of the next two seasons.
The Lions cut him during the 2001 season, perhaps in part because they couldn't afford to feed him anymore.
Think I'm just being mean? Maybe I am, but Gibson resurfaced in 2002 with the Dallas Cowboys, where he weighed in at 410 pounds, making him the NFL's first (and to date, only) 400-pound player.
Gibson was cut by the Cowboys in Week 2, had a couple mildly successful years in Chicago and now plays for the Austin Wranglers of the AFL.
8. Kevin Jones, 30th Overall, 2004
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Once upon a time, the Detroit Lions had a pick in the top of the second round, and they had their eyes on a running back.
As that running back slipped down to the bottom of the first round, they started looking at the teams in front of them and started to worry that he would be taken before they got their shot at him.
The Lions jumped on the phone with the team in the 30th spot. The end result? They traded back into the first round and got their man.
The year was 2010. The man was Jahvid Best.
But also, 2004 and Kevin Jones.
Jones misses a lot of Lions draft bust lists because he had talent and the right attitude. What he lacked was durability.
After becoming the third Lions running back to rush for over 1,000 yards in his rookie season (Billy Sims and Barry Sanders round out that list), Jones spent a lot of time injured. He was severely limited over his next two seasons, never again gaining more than 700 yards in a season.
His worst injury, a Lisfranc fracture, came in 2006. He was mildly successful in 2007, splitting carries with Tatum Bell, but another season-ending injury forced the Lions to cut him in the following offseason.
Jones made an injury-plagued comeback attempt as a backup with the Chicago Bears after signing a two-year contract. He put up a paltry 109 yards in 11 games in 2008, then was injured during the 2009 preseason and placed on injured reserve before eventually being cut.
Jones currently plays with the Hartford Colonials of the UFL.
7. Luther Bradley, 11th Overall, 1978
You can discern everything you need to know about Luther Bradley from his basic career information and his football card here.
Career information: Bradley was drafted in the first round, 11th overall, by the Lions in 1978 as a cornerback. He played four seasons in the NFL, all with the Lions.
Card features: Bradley is on the bench with a cup of Gatorade. He's listed as a safety, which means he was converted from cornerback almost immediately (which is usually not a good sign...sorry, Amari Spievey). And he's probably under the age of 25.
Bradley's career actually had its successes, it's just that none of it came with the Lions. He started as a freshman on Notre Dame's 1973 National Championship team, and after the Lions let him go, he went on to become the USFL's all-time interceptions leader.
It's worth noting, however, that Bradley's USFL career consisted of three seasons, each with a different team. Being the all-time interceptions leader there is kind of like being the all-time steals leader in the ABA.
Or the all-time blocked-kicks leader in the XFL.
6. Teddy Lehman, 37th Overall, 2004
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
And since we're talking about major draft busts, the other guy in that frame? Patrick Ramsey.
Anyway, here's what you need to know about Teddy Lehman. Lehman was a high second-round linebacker out of Oklahoma
In his 2004 rookie year, he was a high-motor world-beater. He was a regular on defense and special teams, and logged 104 tackles as a result.
Lehman's career numbers? 150 tackles.
That's 46 tackles since his rookie year. In 2004.
Lehman was another victim of the injury bug. His injury history is probably best summed up with this excerpt from Lehman's Wikipedia page about his attempted "second stint" with the Lions.
"On July 26, 2008, Lehman re-signed with the Detroit Lions. His No. 54 taken by Gilbert Gardner, Lehman was assigned No. 58. He was placed on injured reserve on August 4. On August 8, he was taken off IR and released."
5. Joey Harrington, Third Overall, 2002
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You know, it seems a little unfair to put Harrington on this list. Harrington is the kind of bust that falls under "huge expectations, average performance."
Simply put, Harrington was supposed to be the face of the franchise. And he was, only the franchise crashed to historic lows with him at the helm, and that was what he became the face of.
Many of you probably think Harrington deserves to be higher on this list, but statistically, he perhaps shouldn't be on it at all.
After all, Harrington is third on the all-time list for pass completions in the history of the Detroit Lions, a franchise that is more than 75 years old.
Okay, admittedly, Detroit has not seen a huge share of top-flight talent at the quarterback position, and his numbers are largely a function of longevity, not quality (Scott Mitchell is second on that list, and Bobby Layne is first, even though Layne played in an era where the forward pass was a novelty).
But still, Harrington, while one of the most notorious draft busts, is perhaps one of the ones most unfairly judged. He had his entire offensive system reworked before his eyes during his sophomore season and was forced to adjust his style to Steve Mariucci's West Coast offense.
When people talk about continuity, this is the kind of thing they want to avoid.
As we all know, Harrington fizzled out, bounced around the league, actually had the best game of his career as a Miami Dolphin against the Lions and was eventually cut by the New Orleans Saints just before the team went on to win its first Super Bowl.
Actually, yes. But still amusing.
4. Charles Rogers, Second Overall, 2003
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And here comes Charles Rogers.
You can tell because of all the smoke.
Thank you very much; I'll be here all week.
Seriously, though, Rogers is a sad case. We may never know whether his drug use started as a pro or collegiate player, but we can almost certainly say that his drug problems started in the NFL.
A highly touted local prospect out of Michigan State, Rogers was selected second overall and had the beginnings of a highly-successful rookie year. Then he broke his collarbone and immediately hit injured reserve.
And that was when the problems really started. As the story goes, Rodgers got hooked on prescription pain medication and marijuana during his rehab period.
When he broke his collarbone again in his sophomore season, his problems were only compounded and given another year left to his own self-destructive devices.
Predictably, Rogers fell victim to the league's substance abuse policy the following season, and he never recovered. Rogers never played another down in the NFL, and his personal problems have only compounded from there, with arrests, home disclosure and bankruptcy all to his name.
The former second overall pick played only 15 NFL games in his short career.
3. Mike Williams, 10th Overall, 2005
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Picking between Charles Rodgers and Mike Williams on a list of Lions draft busts is like picking between the guy who kneed you in the crotch or the guy who broke your nose on a list of people you hate.
Though if you're a Lions fan, Rodgers and Williams rank above both those other guys on that list.
Ultimately, Williams wins because of the "insult to injury" factor.
Most know the story of Mike Williams. He attempted to follow Maurice Clarett's example (first mistake) by declaring for the NFL draft after only two years in college, despite the NFL's requirement that all players be at least three years removed from high school.
Strangely enough, the NFL bought Clarett's "because I said so" argument, and Clarett was allowed to declare. So he got himself an agent. Williams saw this and decided to do the same.
And then the NFL remembered that they actually make the rules for the NFL. Soon after, they told Clarett and Williams that no, they couldn't declare until after three years. You know, like the rules say.
Problem is, players with agents can't play for college teams. So Clarett and Williams were stuck in football purgatory (no, I'm not talking about Oakland) for a year. By the time the next draft came around, both of them had gotten completely out of playing shape. There was even some speculation that Williams had eaten his way from receiver to tight end.
That didn't stop Matt Millen from taking the kid with his first-round pick. After a total lack of production and ballooning weight (at one point, he weighed in at over 270 pounds), Williams was finally traded to football purgatory (okay, this time I'm talking about Oakland).
Oakland cut him, and that should have been the end. But no.
After three years out of the league, Williams decided he wanted to play professional football for a living. So last offseason, he hooked up with his old college coach, Pete Carroll, and tried out for the Seattle Seahawks.
And he made the team. And had a career year. And made the playoffs.
So that makes Williams the guy who showed up at your apartment, ate all your food, punched you in the face and left, only to randomly show up five years later, shoot you in the leg, then win the lottery.
2. Reggie Rogers, Seventh Overall, 1987
There's a good reason why Reggie Rogers is shown here in red jail scrubs and not a playing uniform.
It's because this image of Rogers is more indicative of his life and his contributions to the world than anything else.
Rogers played less than half of his rookie season due to mental and emotional issues that required counseling. During his sophomore season, he ran a stop sign while driving under the influence in Pontiac, Mich., striking another vehicle and killing the three teenagers within.
And that was it. Rogers never played for the Lions again. The Lions waived him (actually because of injuries sustained, not the vehicular homicide part) at the end of that year, and he was sentenced to 16 months in prison.cc2
Rogers tried to resurrect his career after he got out of prison, via unsuccessful attempts with Buffalo and Tampa Bay. He was completely out of football by 1992, five short years after being drafted seventh overall.
Rogers has been a walking DUI ever since. He moved back to Washington, where he was a collegiate sports hero.
In 2008, he was convicted of his fifth DUI (in Washington State alone), an offense which landed him two years in prison.
Rogers ends up this high on this list not only for his failures as a professional football player, but as a human being in general.
1. Andre Ware, Seventh Overall, 1990
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Andre Ware didn't have to be great.
He barely had to be average. He wasn't Joey Harrington, the guy brought in to put the Detroit Lions on the map. Nobody expected him to put the team on his shoulders.
He just had to not completely screw up while young Barry Sanders did all the work.
To say he was a game manager is an insult to Vinny Testaverde. To ask whether he or Harrington is the bigger bust is absurd. The closer comparison is Ryan Leaf or JaMarcus Russell.
Could Ware have had a better offensive line? Sure. Was the defense one of the best in football? Not really.
But all Ware had to do was hand the ball off to the best running back in football and throw it up to the guy who could jump higher than everything (Herman Moore), and he'd score 35 points a game.
He couldn't do it. He didn't even come close.
In four NFL seasons, the seventh overall pick started six games.
Six! Six starts!
In his career, he threw for five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
In his career.
This pick, more than anything else, was the reason the Lions never made a Super Bowl during the 90's, their best decade in the Super Bowl era.
If Ware had turned out to be even a slightly below average quarterback, the Lions could have built around him and their other incredibly talented skill players and theoretically assembled a championship squad.
Instead, he was a bust among busts and one that derailed what could have been the most talented Lions team in history.