50 Worst Draft Picks in NFL History
A lot of articles have been written about the biggest draft busts in NFL history, and you find out something new reading each one. Now, imagine writing an article about the 50 worst draft picks in NFL history. This gave me the ability to learn a lot more about some of the most enigmatic players ever to suit up on Sundays.
This article will focus on some of the worst draft picks ever made in the NFL. I will not focus solely on "busts," rather this article will take a look at teams that completely dropped the ball with their picks. I will take into account the selection made after their pick in each draft and how that impacted their placement on this list.
You will see that some of the worst "busts" in NFL history rank rather low on this list, while others who performed decently are much higher.
A Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who had a 1,000-yard season and made a Super Bowl appearance will find himself on this list only because Jerry Rice was selected immediately after him.
It should be interesting, so let's take a gander.
50. Derrick Harvey, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft Pick: Eighth overall of the 2008 NFL draft from Florida
Career Statistics: 32 starts and eight sacks
Remember, this article is about the worst draft picks in NFL history, not necessarily the biggest busts. Derrick Harvey still has a chance to prove himself; it just won't be in a Jacksonville Jaguars uniform. They released him following three sub-par years prior to the start of the 2011 season.
This is a player that a lot of scouts had questions about heading into the 2008 NFL draft. There were a lot of questions about his desire and passion to play at the next level following an inconsistent 2007 season at Florida.
What makes this whole situation worse is that Jacksonville traded up with the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the draft. They gave up two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick to nab Harvey in the top 10.
Players who were on the board with those mid-round picks included Jermichael Finley, Cliff Avril and Mario Manningham.
49. Eddie Brown, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Pick: 13th overall of the 1985 NFL draft out of Miami (FL)
Career Statistics: 363 receptions, 6,134 yards and 41 touchdowns
It isn't that Eddie Brown didn't have a solid career; he did. The reason why the one-time Pro Bowl selection finds himself on this list is because of who was drafted after him at the same position during the 1985 NFL draft.
The San Francisco 49ers and Bill Walsh picked up Jerry Rice just three picks after Cincinnati went with the "bigger name." What followed were careers that crossed paths just a few short years later in Super Bowl XXIII. San Francisco defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16 in a game that saw Jerry Rice catch 11 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Brown was held to a mere four catches for 44 yards.
This game came to best define how each of these players' careers played out. Brown would go on to play just three more seasons for Cincinnati, while Rice became the greatest receiver ever to put on an NFL uniform.
48. Pat Sullivan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Draft Pick: Second-round pick in the 1972 NFL draft from Auburn
Career Statistics: Five starts, 42.3 completion percentage, five touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 36.5 quarterback rating
This selection was horrible for a number of reasons. First, just take a look at those horrific stats, as they might be one of the worst lines you will ever see from a quarterback in NFL history.
Pat Sullivan was such a bad NFL quarterback that he was benched during the 1974 season in favor of Bob Lee and Kim McQuilken, who combined to throw three touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Overall, the trio of Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks that season had the following combined stat line: 44.9 completion percentage, 1,781 yards, four touchdowns, 31 interceptions and 27.8 quarterback rating.
Needless to say, Sullivan started just one game in his career following that disastrous 1974 campaign.
47. Mike Mamula, DL, Philadelphia Eagles
Draft Pick: Seventh overall of the 1995 NFL draft from Boston College
Career Statistics: 77 games, 31.5 sacks and 209 tackles
It isn't like the 1995 NFL draft was filled with a tremendous amount of stars. Ki-Jana Carter (more on him later) went first overall, and J.J. Stokes was actually a top-10 pick.
What makes the selections of those two players as well as Mike Mamula worse is the players who were available later in the draft. Warren Sapp, who played at a position of need for the Philadelphia Eagles, was selected 12th overall. Ty Law and Derrick Brooks also represented great value at the end of the first round.
There is no doubting the fact that Mamula was a talented defensive lineman out of Boston College. A lot of teams had him rather high on their draft board. With that said, the Eagles' entire defensive fortune could have changed if they had decided to go with Sapp instead.
This selection might have cost them a Lombardi Trophy years down the road.
46. Terry Baker, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Draft Pick: First overall pick of the 1963 NFL draft from Oregon State
Career Statistics: One start, zero touchdowns and four interceptions
Terry Baker has the distinction of being the only person to win the Heisman Trophy and play in the Final Four in the same season. This is how great of an athlete the Minnesota native was.
This athleticism failed to translate to the NFL, however.
He played in just 18 games during a short, three-year career, starting a total of one.
45. Troy Williamson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Draft Pick: Seventh overall in the 2005 NFL draft from South Carolina
Career Statistics: Five seasons, 87 receptions, 1,131 yards and four touchdowns
The scouts were shaking their collective heads when Minnesota spent a top-10 pick on this enigmatic wide receiver. And they couldn't have been more right. This is a player who never gained 500 receiving yards in a season, had a career-high two touchdowns his rookie year and was let go after three campaigns in Minnesota.
The 2005 NFL draft was a weak one for wide receivers. Roddy White went later in the first round, Vincent Jackson was a steal in Round 2 and that is about if for impact players at that position. It should be a sign not to draft the top-rated player in a weak class at that position. It rarely works out.
44. Jay Berwanger, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Draft Pick: First overall pick of the 1936 NFL draft from Chicago
Career Statistics: Never played a snap in the NFL
You read that right. Not only was Jay Berwanger the first pick of the 1936 NFL draft, he was the first player ever selected in the NFL draft. He was also the first winner of the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy now known as the Heisman Trophy.
Now you must be thrown off by the information provided above. No, Berwanger didn't play in a single NFL game in his life. So, how does someone go from being the first Heisman winner and first player selected in the draft to not playing in the NFL?
The answer is relatively simple: He was about 50 years ahead of his time in demanding a lot of money and "holding out" until he received that money.
After being selected first overall in the 1936 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, the standout running back demanded $1,000 per game, an obscene amount for that time. After Berwanger could not come to an agreement with the Eagles, he was traded to the Chicago Bears and George Halas. However, those two sides weren't able to come to terms on a contract either, after he asked for $15,000 from the Bears owner.
43. Rich Campbell, QB, Green Bay Packers
Draft Pick: Sixth overall in 1981 NFL draft from California
Career Statistics: Seven games, zero starts, 386 yards, three touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 38.8 quarterback rating
Well, this didn't work out quite like the Green Bay Packers had planned. After earning first-team All-American honors at Cal in 1980, Rich Campbell was the first quarterback selected in the 1981 NFL draft.
Lynn Dickey was the Packers' current quarterback, a mediocre one at that. They had just finished the last two seasons with five wins apiece and needed to get some young blood in at the quarterback position.
What seemed like the right pick at the time turned out to be a downright disaster. Campbell never started a game in the NFL over the course of his four-year career, only appearing in seven total games. From the onset, it was apparent that he wasn't an NFL quarterback.
Some saving grace for Packers fans here: About 18 months after this selection, a boy by the name of Aaron Rodgers, who also went to Cal, was born.
42. Curtis Enis, RB, Chicago Bears
Draft Pick: Fifth overall in the 1998 NFL draft from Penn State
Career Statistics: 36 games, 1,497 rushing yards, 3.3 YPC average and six touchdowns
One thing that you will learn from this article: Take a deep breath and exhale when your team needs a running back and a Penn State alum is on the board, because it usually doesn't turn out well. That will be a continual theme throughout this article.
With that said, Curtis Enis looked as though he would be a franchise running back coming out of Happy Valley. He had the size and strength to dominate between the hashes. This issue that plagued Enis throughout his short NFL career is that he didn't have the field awareness and consistency to play at that level.
Chicago paid dearly. After what seemed like a breakout performance in 1999 that featured Enis gain over 1,200 total yards (rushing and receiving), he struggled a great deal the following season, averaging a putrid 2.3 yards per rush.
This signified the end of what was once considered an up-and-coming career.
41. Amobi Okoye, DL, Houston Texans
Draft Pick: 10th overall in 2007 NFL draft from Louisville
Career Statistics: 59 starts, 15.5 sacks and 165 tackles
A lot of draft pundits were shocked when the Houston Texans spent the 10th overall pick of the 2007 NFL draft on this 19-year-old Nigerian, who was considered a physical beast but extremely raw.
It isn't that Okoye didn't play decently in four seasons with the Houston Texans; it was more about the fact that he failed to grasp the nuances of the game and was extremely weak in several different categories. After a rookie season that saw him nab 5.5 sacks, he would just match that total over the course of the next three seasons.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Patrick Willis and Darrelle Revis were two of the next three players selected after Okoye—both future Hall of Fame players.
40. Huey Richardson, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Draft Pick: 15th overall in 1991 NFL draft from Florida
Career Statistics: 16 games
There were indications that the Steelers fell back on Richardson after their three primary targets went immediately preceding them. Among those players were Alvin Harper and Leonard Russell. To say that Pittsburgh wasn't prepared for a fall-back option is an understatement.
Huey Richardson was a first-team All-American during his senior year at Florida. With that came high expectations that the linebacker was going to become an elite player at the next level.
That never happened.
He played in only five games with the Steelers and was traded to the Washington Redskins following the season.
39. Maurice Clarett, RB, Denver Broncos
Draft Pick: Third-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft from Ohio State
Statistics: Never saw action in an NFL game
This list isn't made up of solely the biggest busts in NFL history. Rather, it consists of the worst draft picks in league history. That is an important thing to understand in realizing why a third-round pick is on this list.
Maurice Clarett didn't have the build and frame necessary to succeed at the next level. More than that, his character concerns should have alarmed front offices throughout the NFL.
His "rap sheet" at Ohio State prior to being dismissed from the team consisted of filing a false police report and academic misconduct. He also had spats with coaches on the sidelines and got into a public war with school administrators over various issues.
Forced to forgo the 2004 NFL draft because of a court ruling, Clarett prepared for the 2005 draft. At this point it had been noted that many different teams had him off their draft board completely.
With that said, the Denver Broncos took a chance on the troubled but talented running back. They selected him in the third round, much to the confusion of scouts and other front offices. After issues with team coaches and coming into camp overweight, Clarett was released just a month after signing his rookie contract.
38. Jason Smith, OT, St. Louis Rams
Draft Pick: Second overall in 2009 NFL draft from Baylor
Career Statistics: 26 starts
Is it too early to say that a selection made just three years ago is one of the worst in NFL history? Usually it is, but this specific situation definitely deserves mentioning.
Jason Smith, who most people—including myself—had as the top tackle in the 2009 NFL draft, was a physical beast coming out of Baylor. He seemed to have everything necessary to become a franchise offensive tackle. He possessed great lateral movement against speed-rushers and had top-of-the-line upper body strength.
Even our very own Matt Miller had him as the second-best prospect in the draft.
Still, to take an offensive lineman No. 2 overall, you must be damn sure that there is no "bust" factor. And the Rams didn't do their homework in this regard.
Smith started only 26 games in three seasons in St. Louis. He was horrific in pass protection and not much better in run blocking over the course of those starts.
37. Trev Alberts, LB, Indianapolis Colts
Draft Pick: Fifth overall in 1994 NFL draft from Nebraska
Career Statistics: 69 tackles, four sacks and one interception in 29 games
Now, this could have been concluded to be the "right" pick at that time. Trev Alberts was considered one of the surest defensive prospects to come down the pike in an incredibly long time. He won multiple awards at Nebraska, including the nation's best linebacker and All-American honors twice.
Alberts recorded 15 sacks his senior season, including three against Florida State in the national championship game. He was dominating.
Of course, this dominance didn't translate to the NFL. He started just seven games, recording only four sacks in three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
Bryant Young, a future Hall of Fame inductee, was selected just two picks after Alberts in the 1994 NFL draft. That just has to add insult to injury.
36. Peter Warrick, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Pick: Fourth overall in 2000 NFL draft from Florida State
Career Statistics: 275 receptions, 2,991 yards and 18 receiving touchdowns
It isn't that Peter Warrick had a horrible career in the NFL. In fact, he caught over 50 passes in each of his first four NFL seasons and made a Super Bowl appearance with the Seattle Seahawks.
It is more about the wide receivers who were drafted after the former Florida State All-American: Plaxico Burress (eighth pick), Darrell Jackson (third round) and Laveranues Coles (third round).
It should be noted that Sylvester Morris and R. Jay Soward were also selected in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft. They combined for a total of 62 receptions in their careers.
35. Freddie Mitchell, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Draft Pick: 25th overall in the 2001 NFL draft from UCLA
Career Statistics: 90 receptions, 1,263 yards and five touchdowns
What's to say about this character? I am pretty sure most of you are old enough to understand why Freddie Mitchell finds himself on this list—more so, why the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves on this list.
Not only was Reggie Wayne selected five picks after Freddie Mitchell, the Eagles were making the decision between the two in what appeared to be a split war room.
Well, they obviously made the wrong decision. Mitchell would go on to catch as many passes for as many yards as Wayne has averaged in a season. That in and of itself should get them on this list.
But, it doesn't stop there.
Mitchell talked a lot of crap about the New England Patriots secondary in the lead-up to Super Bowl XXXIX, pretty much calling out Rodney Harrison by stating "he had something for him." The Patriots didn't take kindly to this statement, and the trash talking continued between the two clubs during Super Bowl week. Mitchell went on to catch just one pass in the Eagles' loss.
The enigmatic receiver held out of training camp the next season, demanding to be a bigger part of the Eagles offense. Andy Reid didn't take kindly to this situation, stating that he didn't want him in training camp. He was released a couple weeks later and never played in another regular-season NFL game.
34. Giovanni Carmazzi, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Draft Pick: Third-round pick in the 2000 NFL draft from Hofstra
Career Statistics: Never appeared in a regular-season game
Bill Walsh had his big board all ready, and the 49ers were readily prepared to draft their next "quarterback of the future." The entire Jim Druckenmiller experiment had failed before it even started.
Faith in "the genius" was high at 4949 Centennial Blvd. With that said, San Francisco couldn't have picked a worse draft to go after a quarterback. In short, there weren't any franchise-type guys available.
When the third round came around and Giovanni Carmazzi was available, the entire 49ers' war room with the exception of Steve Mariucci jumped for joy. Bill Walsh, being the boss, overruled the head coach and went with the quarterback he had No. 1 at that position.
Somewhere in the Bay Area the members of the Brady family were shaking their heads. After all, Tom Brady was available and he grew up a huge San Francisco 49ers fan. With that said, not one front office had the Michigan product that high on the draft board, and no one could have predicted what was to come for Brady.
Still, it was a bitter pill to swallow for the family of lifelong 49ers fans.
The "Carmazzi experiment" never saw a regular-season game, and he was released after two seasons before even spending one week on the active roster. Meanwhile, Brady has drawn comparisons to another Walsh third-round pick, Joe Montana. The future Hall of Fame quarterback has played in five Super Bowls, winning three of them.
To say that San Francisco dropped the ball on this would be one of the grossest understatements in the history of professional sports.
33. Bruce Pickens, CB, Atlanta Falcons
Draft Pick: Third overall in the 1991 NFL draft from Nebraska
Career Statistics: 88 tackles, one sack and two interceptions
There is no doubt that Bruce Pickens had a really good career at Nebraska; that isn't the issue that many had with this selection. Rather, why would Atlanta spend the third overall selection on a corner when it already had Deion Sanders on the roster? Seriously, this still blows my mind today.
In fact, I was 10 years old when the 1991 NFL draft took place, and even I questioned this.
Pickens ended up starting just eight games in two-plus seasons for the Atlanta Falcons before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Overall, he started nine games in a four-year NFL career.
What made this draft even more disastrous is the fact that they selected Brett Favre in the next round, only to trade him to the Green Bay Packers following the draft.
32. Archie Griffin, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Pick: 24th overall in the 1976 NFL draft from Ohio State
Career Statistics: 2,808 rushing yards, 1,607 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns
Archie Griffin might have been the most-heralded college football player in history when he entered the 1976 NFL draft. The Ohio native won two Heisman Trophies with Ohio State and became one of the state's "favorite sons." It only made sense for the Cincinnati Bengals to draft him following that stellar collegiate career.
They should have realized that something was wrong when Griffin fell to them at the 24th overall pick of the draft. He just didn't have the size or strength to play at the next level.
Griffin ended up playing seven seasons for the Bengals, never tallying 700 yards in any one season. Toward the last half of his career, the former Buckeye fell all the way down to No. 3 on their depth chart.
To say that his NFL career was a disappointment would be an understatement. In a draft that consisted of seven future Hall of Fame performers, Griffin would end up being one of the most disappointing Heisman winners ever drafted.
31. Vernon Gholston, DL, New York Jets
Draft Pick: Sixth overall in the 2008 NFL draft from Ohio State
Career Statistics: 34 tackles in five starts
This tells you something about the idea of "hit and miss." All of us draft "experts" claim to know which player is going to be great at the next level and which player is going to struggle. I was huge on Vernon Gholston coming out of Ohio State.
Pretty much every "scout" and "expert" was wrong when it came to this physical beast, as were front offices around the league.
Gholston made a total of 34 tackles with the New York Jets in three seasons. He's not played in the NFL since. Pretty steep fall for a guy who was drafted sixth overall with high expectations. In the end, he came nowhere near filling that pass-rusher need that the Jets had when they drafted him in 2008.
30. Steve Spurrier, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Draft Pick: Third overall in the 1967 NFL draft from Florida
Career Statistics: 38 starts, 51.9 completion percentage, 6,878 yards, 40 touchdowns, 60 interceptions and a 60.1 quarterback rating
One of the first highly touted Florida quarterbacks who became a "bust" at the next level was an individual who coached those more modern signal-callers in Gainesville: Steve Spurrier.
Most of us, including myself, weren't even born when the San Francisco 49ers selected Spurrier No. 3 overall in 1967 after winning the Heisman Trophy at Florida the year prior. For most people, he was a no-brainer superstar.
Well, it didn't even come close to playing out that way. Rather, the current South Carolina head coach started fewer than 40 games in his career, throwing 20 more interceptions than touchdowns. He also had the "honor" of starting 12 games for the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first team in the modern era to go winless. Needless to say, that was his last season in the NFL.
Hall of Fame players selected after Spurrier in the 1967 NFL draft included Bob Griese, Floyd Little, Alan Page, Gene Upshaw and Willie Lanier.
29. Aaron Curry, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Draft Pick: Fourth overall in the 2009 NFL draft from Wake Forest
Career Statistics: 244 tackles, 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles
Aaron Curry was a can't-miss prospect. He possessed the speed, strength and ability to move sideline to sideline. This is what most scouts and experts believed heading into the 2009 NFL draft. In fact, not many people were surprised when the Seattle Seahawks selected him No. 4 overall that season.
With that said, he couldn't have been a worse fit for the Seahawks' defense. From the beginning he looked out of place and confused in their complex scheme. It would soon become apparent that they didn't see much of a future in the former Wake Forest star.
Just a month into his third NFL season, Curry was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Just imagine how much Seattle wanted to get rid of the former top pick, and just imagine how little value other teams had for his services that they couldn't even acquire a pick in this April's draft.
To make matters worse for fans in the Pacific Northwest, the likes of Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews were selected later in the first round of that draft.
28. Mike Williams, OT, Buffalo Bills
Draft Pick: Fourth overall in the 2002 NFL draft from Texas
Career Statistics: 55 starts
Talk about a can't-miss prospect. Mike Williams looked every bit the part of a franchise offensive tackle heading into the 2002 NFL draft. He was just coming off of an All-American season at Texas and was primed to become one of the next great pass-protectors in the NFL.
He came to camp out of shape, struggled in pass protection and was eventually tried out at guard without much success. The Buffalo Bills released him following the 2006 season after he made just five starts in 2005. After sitting out three seasons, Williams returned to the league with the Washington Redskins in 2009 but struggled a great deal in eight starts.
He hasn't been seen since.
27. Art Schlichter, QB, Baltimore Colts
Draft Pick: Fourth overall of the 1982 NFL draft from Ohio State
Career statistics: Six starts, 45.0 completion percentage, three touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 42.6 quarterback rating
Character concerns about Art Schlichter should have been a major red flag for the Baltimore Colts and other NFL teams heading into the 1982 draft, but many people decided to look past them.
Most of these concerns surrounded the quarterback's unhealthy gambling habit. He was seen numerous times at a horse racing track near Columbus, a couple times with a well-known local gambler. This addiction followed the troubled quarterback throughout his pro career.
Immediately following his selection No. 4 overall in 1982, Schlichter became embroiled in a gambling ring with criminals. To clear his name and fearing retaliation for a couple-hundred-thousand-dollar debt, he went to the FBI to expose the bookies. The NFL, after finding out about these illegal activities, suspended Schlichter for a season.
He returned to Baltimore in 1985 but was released after just a few games because he had started gambling again—that was his final season in the NFL.
On the football field, Schlichter was a major bust. He started just six games in the league, completing less than 50 percent of his passes and never winning a game.
The tragic story doesn't end there. Schlichter was arrested early in 2011 for ticket fraud and sentenced to 10 years in prison, a term he is currently serving.
26. Reggie Williams, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft Pick: Ninth overall in the 2004 NFL draft from Washington
Career Statistics: 189 receptions, 2,322 yards and 18 touchdowns
I was nowhere as high on Reggie Williams as many people were heading into the 2004 draft. He seemed to struggle with route running and didn't make soft catches on the outside. Instead, it seemed that Williams struggled a great deal in aspects of the game that were important in the NFL but were never exposed in the Pac-10.
He ended up becoming the third wide receiver selected in the draft behind Larry Fitzgerald and Roy Williams. Despite having somewhat of a breakout season in 2007 with 10 touchdown catches, the former Washington Huskie was out of the league just five years after he was drafted.
Despite the fact that the Jaguars were looking for a quarterback after Byron Leftwich struggled a great deal during his rookie season, they passed up on Ben Roethlisberger.
25. Andre Wadsworth, DL, Arizona Cardinals
Draft Pick: Third overall of the 1998 NFL draft from Florida State
Career Statistics: 96 tackles, eight sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles
Andre Wadsworth had an incredibly long resume when he entered the 1998 NFL draft. He had just acquired 16 quarterback sacks, was a first-team All-American and won the ACC Player of the Year award his senior season.
This made the selection of the former Florida State star No. 3 overall by the Arizona Cardinals a no-brainer.
However, his game never translated to the NFL. Wadsworth ended up playing just three seasons in Arizona, acquiring only half the amount of sacks combined that he had in his senior season at Florida State.
Charles Woodson was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the very next pick that season.
24. Jim Druckenmiller, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Draft Pick: 26th overall in the 1997 NFL draft from Virginia Tech
Career Statistics: One start, one touchdown and four interceptions
Maybe the San Francisco 49ers should have gotten the hint when the quarterback they were looking at to be the heir apparent to Steve Young had a last name somewhat similar to "drunk." Maybe they should have gotten the hint when scouts at the NFL combine compared him to Jeff George.
Still, the 49ers seemed desperate for another quarterback to follow in the lineage of Young and Joe Montana.
It didn't work out. Druckenmiller started just one game in two seasons by the Bay before being traded to the Miami Dolphins, where he was released shortly thereafter.
23. Mike Williams, WR, Detroit Lions
Draft Pick: 10th overall in the 2005 NFL draft from USC
Career Statistics: 127 receptions, 1,526 yards and five touchdowns (37 receptions and 449 yards with the Detroit Lions)
By now Matt Millen's obsession with wide receivers is well-known in NFL circles, but this selection had to be the most eye-popping of them all.
There was no question that Mike Williams was an extremely talented wide receiver coming out of Southern California, but a tremendous amount of issues off the field should have stopped the Lions from selecting him.
This is a player who made a horrible, life-altering decision to declare for the 2004 NFL draft as a sophomore, challenging the NFL rules against underclassmen entering. Once the United States Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling on Maurice Clarett (a fellow second-year receiver) that ultimately kept him out of the 2004 draft, Williams was also forced to sit out an entire season before entering the following season.
His career in Detroit could not have turned out worse. Williams started just six games and was traded to the Oakland Raiders during the 2007 draft.
Matt Millen and Co. passed on DeMarcus Ware, who ended up being selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the next pick. Can you say all-time blunder?
22. Russell Erxleben, K, New Orleans Saints
Draft Pick: 11th overall of the 1979 NFL draft from Texas
Career Statistics: 4-of-8 field goals, 280 punts, 40.6 yards per punt
Many people questioned the Oakland Raiders when they selected Sebastian Janikowski with the 17th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, but that hasn't turned out too bad.
At least, it doesn't compare to another kicker who was picked 20 years earlier by the New Orleans Saints. Russell Erxleben was widely considered the best collegiate kicker of all time after a successful career with the Texas Longhorns. He earned three first-team All-American honors in college and was a primary reason why the NCAA made the decision to prohibit the kicking tee due to some of the longest field-goal attempts in history.
Still, it just didn't make sense for a team like New Orleans, with so many needs, to select a kicker in the first round. He ended up playing just five seasons for the Saints, making only four field goals.
21. Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Pick: First overall of the 1995 NFL draft from Penn State
Career Statistics: 1,144 rushing yards, 3.6 average and 20 touchdowns
Yes, another Penn State running back finds himself on this list. Ki-Jana Carter, who I had the pleasure of watching a great deal as a teenager because family members followed the Nittany Lions, was one of the best collegiate running backs to come down the pike.
This is a primary reason that he went No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1995 NFL draft. He was, by all accounts, a franchise running back.
Still, he couldn't overcome what has to be considered a major bout with bad luck. In his third career carry during the 1995 preseason, Carter tore his right ACL and never fully recovered. His speed was gone, and there was a great amount of trepidation on his part about taking hits.
He also missed the 2000 season due to injury and never compiled a 500-yard rushing season.
20. Todd Blackledge, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Draft Pick: Seventh overall of the 1983 NFL draft from Penn State
Career Statistics: 29 starts, 48.1 completion percentage, 29 touchdowns, 38 interceptions and a 60.2 quarterback rating
A franchise quarterback prospect if there ever was one, Todd Blackledge led Penn State to a .861 winning percentage and a national championship in three seasons as its starter. Teams were drooling all over themselves for an opportunity to select him.
Blackledge is still considered one of the biggest quarterback busts in NFL history. He started just 22 games in five seasons with Kansas City, throwing 31 interceptions during that span.
Hall of Fame inductees Jim Kelly and Dan Marino were two quarterbacks selected after Blackledge in the 1983 NFL draft.
19. Heath Shuler, QB, Washington Redskins
Draft Pick: Third overall in the 1994 NFL draft from Tennessee
Career Statistics: 22 starts, 49.2 completion percentage, 15 touchdowns, 33 interceptions and a 54.3 quarterback rating.
Long before Heath Shuler was elected to Congress from North Carolina in 2007, he was a can't-miss quarterback prospect in the NFL. Long before Peyton Manning destroyed Tennessee Volunteer quarterback records, Shuler held them.
With that said, he struggled a great deal in the NFL. After holding out for a big contract his rookie season, Shuler threw 12 interceptions in eight starts, losing seven of them. He was surpassed by Gus Frerotte on the depth chart and traded to the New Orleans Saints prior to the 1997 season.
In all, his quarterback rating of 54.3 ranks among the worst for quarterbacks who started a minimum of 20 games over the course of the last quarter-century.
18. Jack Thompson, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Pick: Third overall in the 1979 NFL draft from Washington State
Career Statistics: 21 starts, 53.1 completion percentage, 33 touchdowns, 45 interceptions and a 63.4 quarterback rating
Jack Thompson played a total of three seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals, starting just five games. He was later traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 1982 season and subsequently led them to just two wins in 14 starts.
"The Throwin' Samoan," as he was called during an electric career at Washington State, didn't really get much of an opportunity to show what he was made of. He received quick hooks in both Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, possibly a sign of the prejudiced mentality that stood in regards to the quarterback position in the NFL at that time.
What makes this pick much worse is the fact that Joe Montana was selected by the San Francisco 49ers 75 picks later in the 1979 draft.
17. Steve Emtman, DL, Indianapolis Colts
Draft Pick: First overall of the 1992 NFL draft from Washington
Career Statistics: 134 tackles, eight sacks and three forced fumbles
Criticism not withstanding, Steve Emtman was a logical choice for the Indianapolis Colts with the first pick of the 1992 NFL draft. The defensive lineman finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting during his junior season.
Injuries are what afflicted the talented player more than anything throughout his NFL career. He blew out his knee during his rookie season, blew it out again in his second season and sustained a neck injury in his third season.
Some people indicate that these two injuries, taking place on AstroTurf, started the league's movement toward natural grass.
16. David Carr, QB, Houston Texans
Draft Pick: First overall in the 2002 NFL draft from Fresno State
Career Statistics: 72 career starts, 59.7 completion percentage, 14,433 yards, 65 touchdowns, 71 interceptions and a 74.9 quarterback rating
The first selection of the expansion Houston Texans had to be a franchise quarterback. The bad news is that they came into the league a year after Michael Vick was selected first overall and a year before Carson Palmer went in that position in 2003.
The 2002 NFL draft just didn't have the talent at quarterback to warrant a player at that position going first overall. In fact, the first three quarterbacks selected during that draft were Carr, Joey Harrington and Patrick Ramsey.
Houston made the huge mistake of not building anything that resembled a NFL-caliber offensive line around Carr. He took 76 sacks in his rookie season. This was a major factor in Carr struggling during his career in Texas.
He is now a backup quarterback for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
15. Todd Marinovich, QB, Los Angeles Raiders
Draft Pick: 24th overall in the 1991 NFL draft from USC
Career Statistics: Eight starts, 50.7 completion percentage, 1,345 yards, eight touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 66.4 quarterback rating
Personal tragedy is probably the best phrase you could use to describe the life of Todd Marinovich. Growing up in a football family and holding a great amount of pressure on his shoulders, the talented quarterback just couldn't handle the burden.
This is a player who was working an athletic regimen and workouts prior to the age of six due to his father's overwhelming obsession with health and sports. Simply put, Todd really didn't stand a chance with that amount of weight being placed on him from an early age.
After a hugely successful career at Southern California, Marinovich was a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1991 NFL draft.
Drug and alcohol addiction were major trends throughout his brief NFL career. Marinovich failed three drug tests in his first three seasons in the NFL, marking the end of his playing career before it could even get started.
Following his football career, Marinovich has been arrested multiple times for possession of methamphetamine (slang term: crystal meth and crank).
ESPN ran a great documentary entitled The Marinovich Project last year. I highly recommend it.
14. Courtney Brown, DL, Cleveland Browns
Draft Pick: First overall in the 2000 NFL draft from Penn State
Career Statistics: 196 tackles and 19 sacks
Penn State had two amazing defensive players enter the 2000 NFL draft: Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington. Both were considered "can't-miss prospects" at the time and anchored one of the best defenses in college football.
The Cleveland Browns made a decision to help boost their front four and selected Brown. He had limited success in five seasons with the franchise, starting 47 games and accumulating just 17 sacks.
13. David Klingler, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Pick: First overall in the 1992 NFL draft from Houston
Career Statistics: 24 starts, 54.2 completion percentage, 3,994 yards, 16 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and a 65.1 quarterback rating
Just a couple seasons after losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals found themselves on hard times. They won just three games in 1991 as Boomer Esiason struggled a great deal.
Enter into the equation David Klingler, who completely destroyed college football records at Houston. He threw 11 touchdowns against Eastern Michigan in 1990 and finished that season with a Division I record 51 touchdown passes.
The Bengals desperately needed a franchise quarterback to rebuild, but the Klingler project didn't work.. He started just 24 games in three seasons, losing a whopping 20 of them.
12. Lawrence Phillips, RB, St. Louis Rams
Draft Pick: Sixth overall in the 1996 NFL draft from Nebraska
Career Statistics: 1,453 rushing yards, 3.4 YPC average and 14 touchdowns
Lawrence Phillips was considered the next Eric Dickerson when the St. Louis Rams selected him with the sixth pick of the 1996 NFL draft. Off-field issues at Nebraska should have been a sign of things to come as Phillips was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend during his junior season.
After going pro, Phillips struggled to handle the speed at the next level and became an immediate bust. He never gained more than 650 yards in a season and was released after just a couple seasons following another episode that landed him in jail for 23 days.
Phillips is also blamed for missing a block while with the San Francisco 49ers in 1999 on the play that ended the career of Steve Young.
These alarming off-field issues became more dangerous following his brief playing career. Phillips was arrested in 2005 for assault after ramming his car into three people following a pickup basketball game.
He is currently serving a 31-year prison sentence for that assault and another one on his girlfriend.
11. Blair Thomas, RB, New York Jets
Draft Pick: Second overall in the 1990 NFL draft from Penn State
Career Statistics: 2,236 rushing yards, 4.2 YPC average and nine touchdowns
The final of three Penn State running backs on this list, Blair Thomas has to be considered one of the worst draft picks in the history of the NFL. Although he did have a great amount of success in college, becoming the first running back in Penn State history to accumulate two 1,400-yard seasons, some people questioned him being taken second overall.
He averaged only 502 yards rushing in four seasons in New York.
10. Rae Carruth, WR, Carolina Panthers
Draft Pick: 27th overall in the 1997 NFL draft from Colorado
Career Statistics: 62 receptions, 804 yards and four touchdowns
Let me preface this slide by saying that the Carolina Panthers couldn't possibly have known what they were getting themselves into when they selected Rae Carruth in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft—no one could.
He was an All-American at Colorado, working a great deal with Kordell Stewart. Carruth also had a decent rookie season, earning All-Rookie honors in 1997.
It is what happened during the 1999 season that puts him on this list and many more around the web. His girlfriend was shot three times at point-blank range, surviving the shooting to call 911 and indicate that Carruth was responsible for the crime.
After spending time on the lam, the troubled receiver was captured by the FBI and indicted on conspiracy to commit murder after his pregnant girlfriend died. It is widely believed that Carruth hired a friend to murder her because of the pregnancy and fear she was after his money. Fortunately, the baby survived.
He was later spared the death penalty and is serving an 18- to 24-year prison sentence; he is expected to be released in 2018.
9. Brian Bosworth, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Draft Pick: First overall in the 1987 NFL draft from Oklahoma (supplemental selection)
Career Statistics: Four sacks in 24 starts
The Boz is probably best known by younger generations as being on the receiving end of this Bo Jackson hit during a 1987 Monday Night Football game.
However, he was considered a linebacker prodigy out of Oklahoma leading up to the 1987 NFL supplemental draft. He earned multiple first-team All-American and Butkus awards under Barry Switzer before being suspended for steroid use.
This should have been a sign.
Seattle gave up their first-round pick in 1988 to select Bosworth in the supplemental draft. In this, they forfeited an opportunity to draft players like Thurman Thomas and Michael Irvin.
Bosworth started 24 games in his career and acquired just four sacks.
8. Akili Smith, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Pick: Third overall in the 1999 NFL draft from Oregon
Career Statistics: 17 starts, 46.6 completion percentage, 2,212 yards, five touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 52.8 quarterback rating
Oh, where to begin with this guy? Many people questioned whether Akili Smith would ever be a good NFL quarterback despite having a successful college career at Oregon. Some questioned his ability to read defenses after playing in a different type of offense in college, while others questioned his accuracy.
Well, this wasn't enough for the Cincinnati Bengals to pass on him. Rather, they selected him with the third pick of the 1999 NFL draft.
He started 17 games for the Bengals in four seasons, winning just three of them and throwing a total of five touchdowns. Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, Torry Holt and Champ Bailey were the four players selected immediately following Smith.
7. Andre Ware, QB, Detroit Lions
Draft Pick: Seventh overall in the 1990 NFL draft from Houston
Career Statistics: Six starts, 51.6 completion percentage, 1,112 yards, five touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 63.5 quarterback rating
Andre Ware had an absolutely amazing college career. I remember watching him play as a youngster and being enthralled by his strong arm. After all, I was eight years old and wanted to be a quarterback.
Ware was so good that he broke 26 different collegiate passing records during his junior season at Houston in 1989. There were questions about his ability to go from the run-and-shoot offense to the NFL.
The Detroit Lions took a chance on the talented signal-caller, and it failed miserably. He started just six games in his NFL career.
6. Rick Mirer, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Draft Pick: Second overall in the 1990 NFL draft from Notre Dame
Career Statistics: 68 starts, 53.3 completion percentage, 50 touchdowns, 76 interceptions and a 63.5 quarterback rating
Another player I grew up watching, especially being a Notre Dame fan, Rick Mirer seemed to possess all the necessary skills to be a great quarterback at the next level. In fact, many considered him the second coming of fellow South Bend alum, Joe Montana.
Once Drew Bledsoe went first overall in the 1993 NFL draft, it became apparent that the Seahawks were going to spend the second pick on Mirer.
His career went in a completely different direction than Bledsoe's. Without any talent on offense and unable to translate his game to the next level, Mirer struggled a great deal.
Mirer threw 56 interceptions in four seasons and became a journeyman backup for the final four years of his career, starting only 17 more games.
5. Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland Browns
Draft Pick: First overall in the 1999 NFL draft from Kentucky
Career Statistics: 59 starts, 59.8 completion percentage, 11,131 yards, 64 touchdowns, 67 interceptions and a 75.1 quarterback rating
The only reason that Tim Couch is this high on the list is because of what was expected of him coming out of college. The former Kentucky Wildcat threw for over 8,000 yards and 75 touchdowns in his final two seasons there. Couch decided to forgo his senior season after many scouts concluded him to be the consensus No. 1 overall pick early, much like what we are seeing with Andrew Luck right now.
He became the first-ever pick of the "new" Cleveland Browns franchise in 1999 and was immediately called their "savior." However, poor play led to his untimely demise after just five seasons and 22 wins for the franchise.
A player who was once hailed a once-in-a-generation prospect was out of the league just five seasons after his career began.
His rumored use of HGH (human growth hormones) is widely believed to have started the NFL's movement toward banning those steroids.
4. Charles Rogers, WR, Detroit Lions
Draft Pick: Second overall in the 2003 NFL draft from Michigan State
Career Statistics: 36 receptions, 440 yards and four touchdowns
Charles Rogers has to be considered not only one of the biggest busts in NFL history, but also one of the worst draft picks of the modern era.
After a stellar career at Michigan State in which he broke school records for receiving yards in a game and touchdowns in a career as well as the NCAA record for most consecutive games with a touchdown, Rogers became the second overall pick of the Detroit Lions.
He proceeded to play just 15 games in three seasons with the Lions before being released prior to the 2006 season.
3. Tony Mandarich, OT, Green Bay Packers
Draft Pick: Second overall in the 1989 NFL draft from Michigan State
Career Statistics: 63 starts in six seasons
Oh man, this guy was going to be good. There was no doubt within the NFL circles that Tony Mandarich would end up being one of the greatest offensive linemen ever.
Sports Illustrated ran a cover story dubbing Mandarich as "Incredible Bulk." NFL draft scouts were salivating over him as well, stating that he was the best offensive line prospect ever.
It didn't work out that well. Sub-par play, attitude issues, an egocentric mentality and drug use all led to his demise with the Green Bay Packers. It wasn't until a couple years ago that Mandarich admitted using steroids while playing at Michigan State, and he still denies using them in the NFL.
He was released after just three seasons and 31 starts with the Green Bay Packers. After leaving football for two seasons to explore the "darker side" that included more drugs and alcohol, Mandarich returned to football sober and played well for three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
For Green Bay, this pick was all about the "what could have been" hindsight. The Detroit Lions selected Barry Sanders with the very next pick. Just imagine a Packers backfield with Brett Favre and Sanders—that would have been something to behold.
2. Ryan Leaf, QB, San Diego Chargers
Draft Pick: Second overall in the 1998 NFL draft from Washington State
Career Statistics: 21 starts, 48.4 completion percentage, 3,666 yards, 14 touchdowns, 36 interceptions and a 50.0 quarterback rating
If the Indianapolis Colts had beaten the Minnesota Vikings in the final game of the 1997 NFL season, the entire history of the Colts and San Diego Chargers franchises would have been rewritten.
Both teams coveted Peyton Manning, with San Diego trying like the dickens to trade up one slot to acquire the talented Tennessee quarterback. Indianapolis, however, wouldn't bite.
So, the Chargers were left going with the second-best overall prospect in the draft. To them it was somewhat of a loss, but they still loved Ryan Leaf and thought he was going to be their franchise quarterback.
They weren't alone on this assumption. Every major media outlet proclaimed Manning to be "1A" and Leaf to be "1B." The decision was made long before the draft: San Diego was going to go with the talented Washington State quarterback.
His career got off to a disastrous start, throwing two touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions in his rookie season. It didn't get much better the next season as Leaf lost eight of his nine starts. He would only see the field four more times as a San Diego Charger.
His bad relationship with the organization, teammates and the media really hurt his public image, and it seems that this destroyed his confidence and ability to perform in the NFL. He is a soft-skinned individual if there ever was one.
Meanwhile, Manning went on to be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.
1. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders
Draft Pick: First overall in the 2007 NFL draft from Louisiana State
Career Statistics: 25 starts, 52.1 completion percentage, 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 25 fumbles and a 65.2 quarterback rating
Yes, JaMarcus Russell sits atop this list. Not because he didn't have the talent and skill set to be a great quarterback in the NFL, but because he just wasn't up to snuff when it came to character and passion for the game.
This is something that all NFL teams take a look at during the NFL scouting combine, and I am not sure how deep the Oakland Raiders looked into it.
Scouts were salivating over him, with Mel Kiper comparing the LSU product to John Elway. He was a 6'5", 260-pound quarterback—what wasn't to like?
However, his performance on the field for the Raiders left a lot to be desired. He turned the ball over a whopping 48 times in 25 starts, continually played uninspired football and lost his team in the locker room. He came into the 2009 training camp weighing 290 pounds, and it became apparent that the enigmatic quarterback wasn't worried about playing football and wanted to just collect a paycheck.
He was released after just three seasons with the Oakland Raiders, a franchise that has publicly regretted the decision to draft him.
One year after his release, Cliff Branch, who was close to Al Davis before his death, told me the following about Russell and the Raiders.
His work ethic had to be the worse [sic] man...He had all the talent in the world, but he didn't prepare himself at all. Russell was a party boy, they gave him all this money.
I think that pretty much sums it up.