The Biggest Bust in Every NFL Team's Draft History

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2020

The Biggest Bust in Every NFL Team's Draft History

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    The NFL draft is the most important event in football's long offseason.

    Free agency is great for patching holes and adding key pieces, but teams are largely built through the draft. Landing the right picks and developing them to fit into the culture and scheme of the organization is the difference between being a perennial contender and being the Browns.

    This is never more apparent than when a team botches a pick. Every franchise has done it. Whether it's a touted college star who doesn't stay healthy or a sleeper pick who never wakes up, each team has had its share of gaffes in the offseason's premier event.

    A draft bust isn't just terrible because he underwhelms on the field. His selection also represents a missed opportunity to acquire a game-changer. Here's a look at each team's biggest draft bust over the years. If they could have a mulligan on these picks, they would have been a lot better off.


    Tune in to our 2020 NFL Draft Show for live, in-depth analysis on what each pick means for your team, with hosts Adam Lefkoe, Matt Miller and Connor Rogers. No fluff, no B.S. Download the B/R app and watch starting Thursday, April 23, at 8 p.m. ET.

Arizona Cardinals: Andre Wadsworth, DE, 1998

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    The Pick: No. 3 overall

    "I compare Andre Wadsworth to Bruce Smith in terms of his natural instincts and athleticism, getting after the quarterback. He is as close to can't-miss as you can get."

    Those were the words uttered by Mel Kiper Jr. in regards to Andre Wadsworth when he came out of Florida State. Wadsworth impressed with a 16-sack season in his last year with the Seminoles, which would have been a school record if not for Peter Boulware's 19 sacks the year before.

    Kiper obviously wasn't the only one who bought into the prodigious talent of the pass-rusher. The Cardinals selected Wadsworth with the third choice in the 1998 draft—just one pick ahead of Charles Woodson.

    To be fair, Wadsworth only fell short of Bruce Smith's all-time record of 200 sacks by 192. He posted just eight sacks in a three-season career shortened by repeated knee injuries. He attempted a comeback in 2007 at 32 years old, but it never materialized into playing time on the field.

    The Cardinals were just 18-30 during those three seasons as Wadsworth was far from the impact player they'd hoped they were getting.

Atlanta Falcons: Tony Smith, RB, 1992

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    The Pick: No. 19 overall

    For better or worse, Brett Favre and Tony Smith will be forever linked.

    In 1990, the quarterback-running back tandem led Southern Mississippi to one of its most successful seasons at the time. The Golden Eagles went 8-4 with a bowl appearance for just the second time in nine years.

    The Falcons drafted Favre after that season but traded him to the Green Bay Packers for a first-round pick in 1992. That selection became the 19th pick, which was used to draft Smith.

    Smith's tenure in Atlanta was forgettable, to put it kindly. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry in his rookie season and never saw another carry in his next two seasons. He was exclusively a kick returner and punt returner and was out of the league by 1995.

    Meanwhile, Favre went on to become a Hall of Famer and one of the most recognizable names in football, making Smith's unremarkable career even worse for the Falcons organization.

Baltimore Ravens: Travis Taylor, WR, 2000

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    The Pick: No. 10 overall

    Quarterback Kyle Boller is a popular pick for the Ravens, and there aren't many bad picks to choose from. The Ravens are one of the best organizations in football when it comes to the draft, but Travis Taylor is the worst pick the franchise has ever made.

    The Ravens traded up from No. 15 to No. 10 with the Denver Broncos, surrendering their second-round pick to ensure they got the Florida receiver.

    He was the third receiver taken as Plaxico Burress and Peter Warrick were also top-10 picks that year. However, Taylor was the worst of the three.

    In five seasons with the club, his catch rate was 47.2 percent. While Boller wasn't great, he also suffered from a lack of weapons, and some of that was on Taylor. For instance, in Boller's rookie season in 2003, Taylor caught 39 of 90 targets. He was given every chance to shine in Baltimore's offense and never made good on that opportunity.

    He didn't fare much better with the Vikings, Raiders or Rams and played his last game in 2007.

Buffalo Bills: J.P. Losman, QB, 2004

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    The Pick: No. 22 overall

    Eli Manning. Philip Rivers. Ben Roethlisberger. J.P. Losman.

    One of these is not like the others.

    These were the four quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2004 draft. The first three went on to be faces of their prospective franchises for the next 15-plus seasons. Losman? Well, he went on to the UFL.

    The Bills took receiver Lee Evans with the 13th pick in the first round and then traded back into the first to take Losman with the 22nd pick. The Tulane product was supposed to take over for the aging Drew Bledsoe at quarterback, but he broke his leg in training camp and only registered five pass attempts his rookie season.

    In 2005, Buffalo named him the starter, but he threw eight touchdowns and eight interceptions as the Bills went 1-7 in the eight games he started. Kelly Holcomb started the other eight, and the team finished 5-11. Losman would once again get the reins in 2006, but the experiment never took off.

    The team was 10-23 with Losman as a starter. He played one season for the Las Vegas Locomotives in the defunct United Football League after his time in Buffalo. He returned in the NFL and spent time with the Raiders, Seahawks and Dolphins as a backup but never became more than that. 

Carolina Panthers: Everette Brown, DE, 2009

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    The Pick: No. 43 overall

    Most of these busts are first-rounders since those picks are so valuable. The only thing worse might be giving up a future first-round pick to take a bust in a later round.

    That's exactly what the Carolina Panthers did in selecting Everette Brown. The Panthers traded their 2010 first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick and a fourth-rounder, and they used the second-rounder on Brown.

    To add to the draft futility, they didn't have a first-round pick in 2009 because they dealt it in order to take Jeff Otah in 2008. He has a strong case to be the worst bust in his own right.

    In the end, Brown gets the nod because he cost the team the 17th pick in the 2010 draft and contributed little on the field. He started three games and accrued six sacks in two seasons for the Panthers. He was off the roster by year three and out of the league altogether after three more seasons with three other teams.

    The Brown debacle is a cautionary tale about trading future firsts.

Chicago Bears: Curtis Enis, RB, 1998

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    The Pick: No. 5 overall

    Curtis Enis was an All-American running back at Penn State with two seasons of over 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns to his name when the Bears made him a top-five pick.

    Chicago was hoping to get its next Walter Payton in the Nittany Lions star. Instead, it got someone who ran more like Peyton Manning.

    Enis staged a lengthy holdout into the preseason his rookie year and struggled with knee injuries. He came into camp one season at 255 pounds and was even moved to fullback as the Bears tried to get something out of their investment.

    Enis compiled just 1,497 yards rushing and four touchdowns over the course of three seasons. In comparison, Fred Taylor, drafted four picks later, rushed for 11,271 yards and 62 touchdowns in 11 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's a return on investment.

    Enis tried to catch on with the Cleveland Browns in 2001 before officially ending his career. The Bears were much better off without him, going 13-3 his first year away from the team. Rookie Anthony Thomas led them in rushing that season with over 1,100 yards.

Cincinnati Bengals: Akili Smith, QB, 1999

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    The Pick: No. 3 overall

    The 1999 draft was loaded with talent.

    Eight of the first 11 picks went on to at least become Pro Bowlers. Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper became franchise quarterbacks for playoff teams. Unfortunately for the Bengals, they wound up with Akili Smith.

    What made the pick even worse is not who they could have drafted instead of Smith. It's how many picks they could have had. New Orleans Saints head coach Mike Ditka infamously traded a war chest of draft picks to draft Ricky Williams at No. 5, but he originally sent the offer to the Bengals. They would have acquired all of the Saints' picks that year and additional first-round picks.

    Instead, owner Mike Brown called it a "generous offer" but said the team was set on drafting a quarterback.

    Smith was that quarterback, and the results were disastrous. The Oregon product went 3-14 in 17 career starts for the Bengals. He completed just 44 percent of his passes in his second season before being relegated to backup.

    Missing out on that many draft picks to draft that kind of ineptitude at quarterback alters a franchise for many years. The Bengals wouldn't have a winning season for six years after drafting Smith.

Cleveland Browns: Quarterbacks Taken with the 22nd Pick

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    The Pick: No. 22 overall (2007, 2012, 2014)

    Even when considering only the draft choices the Browns have made since coming back in 1999, it's hard to narrow it down to one. The organization has led the league in bad draft choices over the last two decades.

    From Tim Couch and Courtney Brown to Justin Gilbert, there's plenty to choose from. But when a team strikes out three times with a specific mistake, it deserves special mention. In an eight-draft span, the Browns attempted to get a franchise quarterback at No. 22 as the result of a trade. Each time, it didn't work.

    First was Brady Quinn in 2007. The team dealt its 2008 first-round pick and 2007 second-round pick to get the 22nd choice. He made a name for himself as a star quarterback for Notre Dame, throwing 69 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and leading the Irish to two BCS bowls in his last two years in South Bend. That didn't translate to the NFL as he went 3-9 as the Browns starter with just 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

    The 2012 draft was slightly different. The Browns got the 22nd pick by way of Atlanta, who dealt them the pick the previous year when they traded up for Julio Jones. Cleveland used the selection to take 28-year-old Brandon Weeden. He was supposed to team up with third overall pick Trent Richardson (another strong candidate for this list) to become the cornerstones of the offense. Instead, he went 5-15 as the starter and threw 23 touchdowns to 26 interceptions.

    The Browns struck again with Johnny Manziel in 2014. After taking Justin Gilbert (yet another bust) with the eighth pick, the Browns traded up from No. 26 to draft Johnny Football. Manziel's college career led to a Heisman Trophy and many memorable moments. His pro career was forgettable. He was out of the league after two seasons and eight starts.

Dallas Cowboys: Bobby Carpenter, LB, 2006

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    The Pick: No. 18 overall

    A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter teamed up with Anthony Schlegel to form one of college football's best linebacker trios at Ohio State. When the Cowboys drafted Carpenter 13 picks after the Green Bay Packers selected Hawk, the Dallas faithful were hoping to get a boost to their defense.

    Bill Parcells was enamored with Carpenter after he posted eight sacks in his last season as a Buckeye. The former Giants coach knew Carpenter's father, Rob, from his days as a running back in New York. So nepotism may have come into play.

    Regardless of the rationale, it didn't work out for the Cowboys. Perhaps the most memorable part of the linebacker's time in Dallas was when veteran tackle Marc Colombo christened him with the nickname "Barbie" Carpenter.

    He made three starts in four seasons with the Cowboys and is the rare wasted first-round pick in the team's history.

Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, 2016

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    The Pick: No. 26 overall

    You don't have to go back far in history to find the Broncos' biggest draft bust. Paxton Lynch is the most recent guy on this list because Denver has a solid draft history and Lynch is clearly not part of it.

    As Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report noted, Lynch is one of only 19 first-round quarterbacks who failed to become a starter in his first three years since 1970. A majority of those players were either waiting behind a star quarterback (like Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre) or had extenuating circumstances like Art Schlichter and his struggles with gambling.

    A few, like Lynch, just never got things going in the right direction.

    Denver traded up to draft Lynch, likely based on his size and arm strength. His NFL.com scouting profile said: "Lynch shows the ability to read defenses and make smart decisions, but not yet at an NFL starting level. While he has the physical tools to start right away, a team who is willing to allow him to sit and study his craft for a year could reap maximum rewards in the future."

    The Broncos were willing to let him sit and develop his craft, but he probably should have been able to beat out the likes of Trevor Siemian and Case Keenum. Both beat out Lynch as he only made four career starts in two years in Denver.

Detroit Lions: Andre Ware, QB, 1990

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    The Pick: No. 7 overall

    One of the biggest crimes against a player in NFL history is what the Detroit Lions did with Barry Sanders. The Lions had one of the most electrifying talents in the history of the game and only advanced beyond Wild Card Weekend one time in his 10-year career.

    Part of the reason for that was they never paired Sanders with an elite quarterback.

    Ware was the club's first attempt to do so. The Houston quarterback ran roughshod over college football with a final season that included 4,699 yards, 46 touchdowns to 15 interceptions on his way to the Heisman Trophy. He threw 14 more touchdown passes than anyone else in the 1989 season.

    His skills never transferred to the league. The five touchdowns and eight interceptions he threw while only starting six games in four seasons with the Lions were a far cry from the gaudy numbers he posted in college.

    The Matt Millen era gave Detroit plenty of draft busts to choose from. Mike Williams and Charles Rogers never panned out at receiver, but that was in a time where the Lions were bad regardless. Ware's disappointing results combined with what could have been in the Barry Sanders era make him the team's biggest draft bust.

Green Bay Packers: Tony Mandarich, OT, 1989

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    The Pick: No. 2 overall

    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 304 pounds

    40 Time: 4.65 seconds

    Vertical: 30"

    Broad Jump: 10'3"

    Bench Press Reps: 39

    Tony Mandarich absolutely dominated the combine. Even by today's standards, Mandarich would be considered an athletic marvel.

    The film on the tackle matched up too. Here's former Rutgers defensive lineman Kory Kozak describing what he saw on film for ESPN in 2009:

    "We saw an All-America defensive end pinned to the ground by Mandarich, a linebacker from Wisconsin on skates 10 yards downfield, a defensive tackle from Ohio State curled up in the fetal position. The worst was the Iowa team captain who went for the trifecta: on skates for 10 yards, pinned to the ground and then curled up in the fetal position."

    What scouts didn't know was that Mandarich was injecting about every steroid known to mankind into his bloodstream.

    "I was taking Winstrol V, equipoise, Anadrol 50s, testosterone, Anavar, Dianabol," he told Kozak.

    Taking advantage of lax college testing came to an end when he entered the NFL. Mandarich was out of the league after three seasons and never lived up to the hype. He did come back for three more seasons after five years away from the game but certainly didn't live up to the careers of those drafted around him.

    Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders were the other top-five picks. All went on to become Hall of Famers.

Houston Texans: Amobi Okoye, DT, 2007

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    The Pick: No. 10 overall

    When talking about draft busts in Texans franchise history, quarterback David Carr is a popular target. The older brother of Derek Carr was the first pick in the team's history, and things didn't work out for the Fresno State product.

    He was never put in a position to succeed, though. He was sacked 249 times in five years while the Texans struggled out of the gate.

    However, they eventually clawed themselves out of the wasteland of fourth-place finishes in the AFC South, but taking Amobi Okoye with the 10th pick in 2007 didn't help their cause.

    Okoye was a 19-year-old phenom and the youngest player ever drafted. The Nigerian-born defensive tackle didn't start playing football until his sophomore year of high school. However, he learned the game quickly and went to Louisville, where he started as a freshman at the age of 16.

    Okoye's tantalizing potential as a teenager entering the draft only increased with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl, but it didn't translate to on-field success. He racked up 5.5 sacks in his first season, but it would take him three more seasons to match that total. By that time, the Texans were ready to move on.

    Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch and Darrelle Revis were three of the next four picks after Okoye, pouring more salt into the wound on this pick gone bad.

Indianapolis Colts: Jeff George, QB, 1990

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    The Pick: No. 1 overall

    1990 was not a good year to take a quarterback. The disaster of Andre Ware in Detroit has already been covered, but Jeff George was an even bigger problem in Indianapolis.

    Hoping to upgrade from Jack Trudeau, the Colts took a swing for the fences. They dealt tackle Chris Hinton, receiver Andre Rison, their 1991 first-round pick and a fifth-rounder to Atlanta for the No. 1 pick to use on George.

    The Illinois quarterback was a headache from the start. While Rison was compiling over 5,000 yards in five seasons for the Falcons, George was busy going 14-35 as a starter. Of course, that was after the Colts made him the third-highest paid quarterback in the league in his first contract.

    After several years of tension between the signal-caller and the franchise, the Colts traded George. Ironically, they shipped him off to Atlanta.

    The Colts could have saved themselves a lot of time, headaches and heartache if they had let the Falcons have George in the first place.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert, QB, 2011

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    The Pick: No. 10 overall

    The 2011 draft was one of the best in recent memory. Many franchises found a cornerstone player. Von Miller, Cam Newton, J.J. Watt and A.J. Green were just some of the stars selected.

    All the Jaguars got to show from it was Blaine Gabbert.

    Jacksonville traded its second-round pick to move up from No. 16 to No. 10 to take the Missouri quarterback. To be fair, Ron Rivera has stated the Panthers had to think about whether to take Newton or Gabbert with the first pick. Gabbert had the size and arm to wow scouts and get consideration as the top signal-caller in the draft.

    Instead, the Jaguars took him one pick before the Texans wound up with Watt. While Newton went on to take the Panthers to the Super Bowl and Watt became the most dominant defensive force in the league, Gabbert went 5-22 as the starter in Jacksonville.

    He completed a woeful 53.3 percent of his passes in three seasons with the team before becoming a backup with the 49ers, Cardinals and Titans. At least the Jags weren't alone in drafting quarterback busts that year. Jake Locker and Christian Ponder were also taken in the first round.

Kansas City Chiefs: Todd Blackledge, QB, 1983

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    The Pick: No. 7 overall

    Todd Blackledge is a great college broadcaster, but before he graced the booth, he was a wildly successful quarterback at Penn State. He led the Nittany Lions to a national championship in 1982 and also won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback.

    The Kansas City Chiefs were hoping to get similar success when they made him the seventh pick in the 1983 draft. The franchise was stuck in a span of nine years with just one winning season when it attempted to turn the keys over to Blackledge.

    He never did take over the reins as he only started 24 games in five seasons with the Chiefs. The college star threw 26 touchdowns to 32 interceptions and wasn't the team's leading passer in any season.

    Unfortunately, Blackledge's poor play was compounded by the success of other quarterbacks in the class. The 1983 class had some of the best of all time in John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. Both Kelly and Marino were chosen after Blackledge.

Las Vegas Raiders: JaMarcus Russell, QB, 2007

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    The Pick: No. 1 overall

    JaMarcus Russell is the Rolls-Royce of draft busts.

    His story has a little bit of everything. There was incredible hype based on random feats—he could reportedly throw the ball 70 yards on his knees. There were ridiculous pro-to-prospect comparisons—Mel Kiper Jr. compared Russell to John Elway on draft day. There was a weight-gain issue—he came into training camp in his third season weighing 305 pounds.

    Russell's potential was tantalizing. His defensive end size (6'6", 265 lbs) and cannon of an arm had GMs salivating about an indestructible, strong-armed quarterback who could make all the throws. Lack of discipline and ability to process NFL defenses were his undoing, though. He threw for 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions while going 7-18 in three seasons. His final season was especially bad as he threw three touchdowns to 11 interceptions and completed under 50 percent of his passes.

    This bust has the further tragedy of missing out on future Hall of Famers. Among the other top 15 picks in the draft that year were Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch and Darrelle Revis.

Los Angeles Chargers: Ryan Leaf, QB, 1998

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    The Pick: No. 2 overall

    The Chargers haven't been in Los Angeles long enough to have a draft bust in this era, but it's surprising they didn't move from San Diego to get farther away from Ryan Leaf when they made him the No. 2 pick in 1998.

    The franchise redeemed itself with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, but Leaf left a bad mark on the team's record of drafting quarterbacks.

    The debate between Leaf and Peyton Manning was real. Famed writer Hunter S. Thompson even wrote a letter to Colts owner Jim Irsay imploring him to take the Washington State quarterback over the Tennessee passer because "he looks strong and Manning doesn't."

    It was a good thing Irsay didn't take Thompson's advice. Leaf was a disaster for the Chargers. He never delivered on the field, throwing 33 interceptions to just 13 touchdown passes in two seasons. He may have been even worse in the locker room. An older, reflective Leaf wrote a letter to his 21-year-old self in which he described himself as "arrogant, boorish and narcissistic."

    He clashed with teammates Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison, among others. Ultimately, Leaf's story is a cautionary tale about the value of character and the fact that it still takes a lot of work to succeed even with incredible physical gifts.

Los Angeles Rams: Gary Beban, QB, 1968

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    The Pick: No. 30 overall

    The tragic story of Lawrence Phillips is well documented as one of the Rams' biggest busts. The former Nebraska star's off-field problems prohibited him from reaching his potential.

    However, with the team in Los Angeles once again, it seems fitting to pick a bust from its previous time in the City of Angels. In 1968, the Rams drafted Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban, who beat O.J. Simpson for college football's top honor. What happened next is an interesting example of how draft assets were valued in those days.

    Beban never suited up for the Rams. Instead, he was traded to Washington for a pick in the 1969 draft. That pick would go on to become the No. 10 selection, which they used on wide receiver Jim Seymour. Seymour was a stud at Notre Dame but was a bust in his own right.

    Interestingly enough, he never suited up for the Rams either. They traded him to the Bears for 29-year-old defensive lineman Dick Evey. The veteran would only play nine games for the Rams.

    Imagine if a team traded a high draft pick twice and wound up with a 29-year-old who barely did anything. That's a major bust.

Miami Dolphins: Dion Jordan, DE, 2013

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    The Pick: No. 3 overall

    NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett had three games this season in which he had three sacks. Across the league, there were 22 such performances turned in by players in 2019. Dion Jordan reached three sacks in his entire Dolphins career, which lasted just two seasons.

    The 2013 draft class wasn't rich in talent, but that didn't stop Miami from trading up from No. 12 to take the thin pass-rusher from Oregon.

    Repeated violations of the league's substance-abuse policy caused Jordan to be suspended multiple times, including the entire 2015 season. When Jordan came back from that suspension, he did so with the Seattle Seahawks.

    Jordan now plays for the Raiders. He made seven appearances and notched two sacks after serving out the rest of his latest suspension for using Adderall after his therapeutic use exemption had expired.

    While most draft busts are out of the league at this point, the fact that Jordan remains in the NFL shows just how much potential he had. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they never saw that in their return on investment.

Minnesota Vikings: Troy Williamson, WR, 2005

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    The Pick: No. 7 overall

    Troy Williamson was already put in an almost impossible situation when he was drafted by the Vikings in 2005. The team traded Randy Moss to the Raiders for the seventh pick, a seventh-rounder and linebacker Napoleon Harris.

    Moss had accrued 9,316 yards and 92 touchdowns in eight seasons with the Vikings, so Williamson had the biggest of shoes to fill. Simply put, he didn't.

    The South Carolina receiver ran a blazing 4.32-second 40-yard dash time that put him on equal footing in testing to Moss, but he never came anywhere near the same production. Instead, Williamson caught just three touchdown passes and barely eclipsed 1,000 yards in his three seasons combined.

    Drops were among the many undoings of the receiver. He never had a catch rate over 50 percent in his three seasons in Minnesota.

New England Patriots: Eugene Chung, OG, 1992

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    The Pick: No. 13 overall

    It's hard to imagine given the excellence of the New England Patriots over the past two decades, but the early 1990s were a dark time for the Pats. Before the days of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the Patriots suffered some bad seasons, and draft picks like Eugene Chung were a contributing factor.

    Chung made history as the first Korean American to be drafted in the first round. Coming out of Virginia Tech, he was lauded as an excellent prospect for his athleticism. Mike Freeman, writing for the Washington Post, described Chung as having the strength of a grizzly bear and the body control of Michael Jackson.

    Chung wound up moonwalking his way right out of Boston after just three seasons. The team left him unprotected in the 1995 expansion draft, and he was off to Jacksonville. Two years later, he was out of the league.

    His coaching career has gone much better. He has worked with both the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles as an assistant offensive line coach and run-game coordinator.

New Orleans Saints: Russell Erxleben, K/P, 1979

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    The Pick: No. 11 overall

    Just imagine the pandemonium if the Jets call in on Zoom to let Roger Goodell know they've selected a kicker/punter at No. 11 in the year 2020. It would break the internet.

    Fortunately for the Saints in 1979, the draft wasn't the highly scrutinized event that it is now. Because when they became the second team to make a kicker a first-round selection, they officially made the worst pick in franchise history.

    In general, it's bad practice to make a kicker your first pick, but at least when the Raiders did it with Sebastian Janikowski, he went on to become the franchise's overall points leader by a wide margin. Seabass made 414 field goals for the Raiders and was the kicker for 17 years.

    The Saints weren't so lucky with Russell Erxleben. He made his name by kicking a 67-yard field goal at Texas that is still tied for the longest field goal at the FBS level. However, he only made 60 percent of his field goals with the Longhorns, and that didn't get better at the next level.

    Erxleben went 4-of-8 on field goals in his entire career with the Saints and moved exclusively to punter by his third season. He was barely a top-10 punter in the league most seasons. It doesn't get much worse than essentially taking a mediocre punter with the 11th overall selection.

New York Giants: Cedric Jones, DE, 1996

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    The Pick: No. 5 overall

    Let's review the first five picks in the 1996 NFL draft:

    • 1st: Keyshawn Johnson—three-time Pro Bowler
    • 2nd: Kevin Hardy—one-time Pro Bowler, one-time first-team All-Pro
    • 3rd: Simeon Rice—three-time Pro Bowler, one-time first-team All-Pro
    • 4th: Jonathan Ogden—11-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro, Hall of Famer
    • 5th: Cedric Jones—who?

    Picking fifth overall, the Giants hoped that pairing the Oklahoma defensive end with rising star Michael Strahan would create a fearsome pass rush that could dominate the league. It didn't. The Giants went on to have one winning season in his first four years.

    Jones—who was blind in one eye, which forced Strahan to switch sides—didn't register his first sack until year three of his career. He was out of the league after 2000.

    There weren't a lot of great pass-rushing options after Jones, but the Giants could have built a generational defense had they opted to draft Ray Lewis, who went 21 picks later.

New York Jets: Blair Thomas, RB, 1990

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    The Pick: No. 2 overall

    For the Jets, two names come to mind as draft busts: running back Blair Thomas and defensive end Vernon Gholston. Gholston makes a strong case to top the list. The No. 6 pick in the 2008 draft, he registered zero sacks in three seasons. Then he was done. Like, out of the league, entirely done. So from a production standpoint, it's Gholston.

    However, the Jets didn't miss out on any generational talents when they selected Gholston. The rest of the 2008 draft featured a handful of memorable players with solid careers, but no franchise-changers. Jerod Mayo is the best of the bunch.

    Thomas, on the other hand, stands out as a big bust in the 1990 event. Right after the Jets made Thomas the No. 2 selection, two Hall of Famers came off the board. The Seahawks took Cortez Kennedy at No. 3, and the Chargers drafted Junior Seau at No. 5. Adding insult to injury was the Cowboys' selection of Emmitt Smith at No. 17.

    Thomas was a Heisman finalist with big numbers coming out of Penn State, but it never materialized in the NFL. He didn't have a single 1,000-yard season and scored five touchdowns in four seasons with the Jets. While that's better than what Gholston offered the team, it's sad in comparison to the 17,162 rushing yards Smith earned in Dallas.

Philadelphia Eagles: Freddie Mitchell, WR, 2001

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    The Pick: No. 25 overall

    The Donovan McNabb era was a pretty good time for the Philadelphia Eagles. From 1999 to 2009, they went to the playoffs eight times. However, they only made one Super Bowl appearance.

    That might have been different had they not taken Freddie Mitchell with the 25th pick in the 2001 draft.

    Typically, expectations wouldn't be as high for a later first-round pick, but Mitchell was drafted to play an important role—a true No. 1 receiver for McNabb. When the Eagles acquired Terrell Owens in 2004 and McNabb finally had a legitimate No. 1 threat, Philly went to the Super Bowl that season. Had Mitchell filled that role earlier, there's no telling what the impact could have been.

    Instead, he never had more than 500 yards in a season and was out of the league in four seasons.

    Propelling this pick to the top spot for Philadelphia is who it could have had at No. 25. Reggie Wayne and Chad Johnson were taken within the next 11 picks.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Huey Richardson, DE/LB, 1991

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    The Pick: No. 15 overall

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are historically one of the league's most well-run franchises. From Chuck Noll to Bill Cowher to Mike Tomlin, they are the epitome of continuity and stability in the NFL. With that comes a lot of wise decisions from the front office and overall success in the draft.

    But even the Steelers have some draft busts to choose from, and Huey Richardson stands out as one of the worst. Richardson was the final first-round pick of the Chuck Noll era, and he did nothing to help Cowher out in the transition.

    Richardson was selected with the 15th overall selection as a defensive end. But he weighed under 240 pounds and the Steelers were a 3-4 defense, so he didn't have the bulk to hold up at the position. The team moved him to inside linebacker, but he was too rigid to find success. He ended up appearing in just five games his rookie season and had three tackles.

    When Cowher took over in 1992, he attempted to move Richardson to outside 'backer. The team ended up dealing him to the Washington Redskins for a seventh-round pick before the season started. He was waived by the Redskins and out of the league by 1993.

San Francisco 49ers: Jim Druckenmiller, QB, 1997

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    The Pick: No. 26 overall

    The San Francisco 49ers had the greatest back-to-back run of quarterbacks when they went from Joe Montana to Steve Young. They were fortunate that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers deemed Young a bust and traded him to San Francisco after they drafted Vinny Testaverde.

    There was no great stroke of fate when the Niners began looking for a Steve Young replacement.

    As Young entered the twilight of his career, San Francisco turned to Jim Druckenmiller late in the first round to find its new franchise quarterback. Druckenmiller was the 1996 Big East Offensive Player of the Year in his final season at Virginia Tech. Following up Montana and Young was a big task, though.

    Druckenmiller never really got the chance to do that. He appeared in six games, making just one start, and threw one touchdown pass and four interceptions. He completed 40.4 percent of his passes. After two seasons, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins.

    He never took a snap in South Beach and was next seen in the Arena Football League and then the XFL, where he threw 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the Memphis Maniax.

    From Steve Young replacement to face of the franchise for the Memphis Maniax. That's quite the career arc.

Seattle Seahawks: Dan McGwire, QB, 1991

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    The Pick: No. 16 overall

    The 1990s were dark days for the Seattle Seahawks franchise. While the team is a mainstay in the playoff picture now, Seattle made the postseason just one time from 1990 to 2000.

    The search for a franchise quarterback was a primary reason for its downfall in that era. One of Seattle's first attempts to get one in the decade was comically bad as it drafted Mark McGwire's brother in the first round in 1991.

    McGwire was a towering 6'8", 240-pound quarterback out of San Diego State who rallied from throwing 16 touchdowns to 19 interceptions in his junior year to throw 27 touchdowns to seven interceptions in his final season as an Aztec. Unfortunately, the Seahawks saw that as more impressive than another small-school quarterback they could have taken named Brett Favre.

    McGwire started five games in four seasons with Seattle. Fellow bust Rick Mirer was bad, but Seattle traded him for assets that helped them draft Shawn Springs. Linebacker Aaron Curry was a disappointment but was a consistent starter.

    This pick was bad and emblematic of a decade of suffering in Seattle.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vinny Testaverde, QB, 1987

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    Allen Steele/Getty Images

    The Pick: No. 1 overall

    From 1976 to 1996, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a perennial cellar-dweller. They made just three playoff appearances and finished last in their division 11 times.

    Part of that futility was a bad track record of drafting. In 1986 and 1987, the team made back-to-back blunders that ensured it would continue to struggle. In 1986, the Bucs took Bo Jackson first overall even though the multisport star told them he wouldn't play for them before they made the pick. The team cost him his final year of eligibility for baseball at Auburn.

    Since he never played for the Buccaneers, it's hard to qualify him as a bust, but they followed that decision up by making Vinny Testaverde the top pick the next year.

    In six seasons, he went 24-48 as a starter with 112 interceptions. That's a testament to perhaps the most patient a franchise has been with bad quarterback play and a long learning curve for Testaverde.

    Unlike the vast majority of the busts on this list, Testaverde rebounded to have a decent career. He made starts for five other NFL teams, including a winning record as the New York Jets starter over seven seasons. Regardless, Tampa Bay's insistence on sticking with a failing Testaverde and burning a second consecutive No. 1 pick shaped a sad part of its history.

Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker, QB, 2011

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    The Pick: No. 8 overall

    The 2011 draft is a fascinating case study in overdrafting quarterbacks.

    The Carolina Panthers took Cam Newton No. 1. They got a Pro Bowl quarterback. From there, if you were picking in the top 15, you pretty much either got a Pro Bowl-caliber player or a bust at quarterback. Among the top players selected were Von Miller, Patrick Peterson and Julio Jones.

    Those guys weren't available when the Titans were on the clock to take Jake Locker, but Tyron Smith, J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn were. Those three are still putting up great seasons today. Locker has been retired from football for six years.

    The Titans have since recovered, but Locker never lived up to his draft selection. He went 9-14 with 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Hailed for his athleticism in college with nearly 2,000 rushing yards, he only put up 644 yards on the ground in his time with the Titans.

    Locker joins Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder as the few top picks in that draft class who didn't make it to a Pro Bowl.

Washington Redskins: Heath Shuler, QB, 1994

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    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    The Pick: No. 3 overall

    Robert Griffin III would be a popular pick here. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner was done in Washington after four seasons, but how much of that can be chalked up to injury will always be a topic for debate.

    Griffin threw more touchdown passes in his rookie season in D.C. than 1994 first-round pick Heath Shuler threw in his entire NFL career. That's enough to make Shuler the top draft bust in Washington's history.

    Coming out of Tennessee, there was plenty of hope that Shuler could be the franchise quarterback for a team that was crashing hard after the glory days of the first Joe Gibbs era. He was the Heisman runner-up and the first quarterback selected.

    Shuler was far from the savior. He was ultimately supplanted by the team's seventh-round pick, Gus Frerotte. Any time your seventh-round pick ends up doing better than the guy you took third overall, you've hit an all-time low as a franchise. 

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