It has been said that the NFL stands for (N)ot (F)or (L)ong – so I thought we could look at the biggest (NFL)’s by each team, list is compiled by Charlie Campbell. Be careful, these busts could bring up past feelings of hurt and woe…Let me know if I missed anyone – what are your thoughts?
Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Boller (Cal) – 19th-Overall Pick, 2003
This pick didn’t hurt as bad because the Ravens took Terrell Suggs a few picks earlier. But as good as Suggs has been, it doesn’t change the fact that Boller was a bust. The Ravens gave him every opportunity to be the starter, but he couldn’t get the job done and was only a backup-caliber player. The painful part of the Boller pick was it wasted some great years from a Baltimore defense that had Hall of Famers in their prime and may have won more championships with a quality quarterback.
Cleveland Browns: Brady Quinn (ND) – 22nd-Overall Pick, 2007
There were a lot of options to pick from like Courtney Brown and Tim Couch, but Brown had his career ruined by injuries while Couch had a bad team around him. Honestly, Couch’s career numbers aren’t that bad. Quinn on the other hand, started only 12 games in three years. He was inaccurate in college, but that was ignored by Cleveland, and he completed less than 54 percent of his passes as a pro. Quinn threw 10 touchdowns as a Brown and was overmatched in the NFL. Considering the Browns gave up a lot to move up for him, Quinn is the worst draft pick in Cleveland’s history.
Cincinnati Bengals: Akili Smith (Oregon) – 3rd-Overall Pick, 1999
The Bengals took a 1-year wonder in Smith, and he went on to have a 3-14 record as a starter for Cincinnati. Smith completed only 47 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Across four years, he appeared in 22 games before the Bengals cut him and he never got a shot with another teams. Cincinnati passed on some great players like Edgerrin James, Torry Holt, Champ Bailey and Jevon Kearse when it took Smith. Smith was taken instead of Daunte Culpepper, so the Bengals had a mistake in their quarterback evaluation as well.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Tim Worley (UGA) – 7th-Overall Pick, 1989
Worley was billed to be a great back out of Georgia ready to be a Herschel Walker-type player in the NFL. However, Worley only lasted four years with the Steelers and never could average four yards per carry in any season where he had a significant amount of carries. Worley also had a huge fumble in the 1989 playoffs. He was a painful top-10 pick who was a huge bust for the Steelers.
Houston Texans: Travis Johnson (FSU) – 16th-Overall Pick, 2005
This was a tough call between Johnson and Okoye, but Okoye has managed to stick in the league even though he became a journeyman. Johnson started 38 games in four years and had only two sacks for the Texans. He ended being given away to the Chargers and didn’t turn his career around in San Diego. The Texans don’t have a long draft history, but Johnson stands out as their worse pick.
Indianapolis Colts: Jeff George (Illinois) – 1st-Overall Pick, 1990
You could argue that John Elway should be this pick. He refused to play for the Colts and forced a trade to Denver, but Elway was still a great choice considering the kind of player he became. George (the first Jay Cutler) was also a first-overall pick, but he had a terrible run with the Colts. It also hurt that Indianapolis traded away Andre Rison and Chris Hinton, two Pro Bowlers, to move up for George. The Colts lost a lot of games with George at quarterback. This deal set the franchise back a few years.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert (Mizzou) – 10th-Overall Pick, 2011
The Jaguars don’t have a great draft history, but Gabbert was a painful draft pick who will impact Jacksonville for a 10-year stretch. The reason is J.J. Watt went one pick later to the Texans. Gabbert was an awful quarterback. As one source said coaching Gabbert, “I don’t know how to coach a player to have physical courage.” Gabbert was afraid of being hit and that led to terrible quarterback play. He also blamed his teammates for his own shortcomings and was dubbed ‘Blame’ Gabbert in the Jacksonville locker room. To make matters even worse, the Jaguars traded from No. 16 to No. 10 and dealt a second-day pick to take Gabbert. He now plays for San Francisco and will probably start for ol-what’s-his-name.
Tennessee Titans: Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones (WV) – 6th-Overall Pick, 2005
The Titans ignored the character concerns that were apparent with Jones before the draft and took the troubled cornerback anyway. He played well early in his career with the Titans before his off-the-field issues destroyed the promise he once had in his career. Jones earned a year-long suspension from the NFL and lasted only two seasons in Tennessee before the organization cut its losses and sent him packing. He has become decent for Cincinnati, with no issues that we know of.
Buffalo Bills: Mike Williams (Texas) – 4th-Overall Pick, 2002
Williams was a mega bust in Buffalo in large part because of a poor work ethic. He was moved around from right tackle to left tackle to guard and defensive tackle. Williams had the starting left tackle job taken from him by an undrafted player in Jason Peters. To make matters worse, 2002 was a strong draft in which the Bills passed on the likes of Bryant McKinnie, Quinton Jammer, Dwight Freeney, John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth for Williams. Taking Williams instead of Mount McKinnie was a huge error in player evaluation.
Miami Dolphins: Ted Ginn Jr. (OhioSt) – 9th-Overall Pick, 2007
The Dolphins were wise to pass on Brady Quinn, but taking a poor receiver and only a returner with a top-10 pick was terrible decision-making. It was a painful pick as Ginn was taken instead of some studs like Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch and Darrelle Revis. Ginn didn’t last long in Miami before becoming a journeyman. The drafting of Ginn did lead to one of the most hilarious quotes in recent draft history when then Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said the team was not only getting Ginn, but they were getting his family as well. Ginn and his family didn’t prevent the Dolphins from landing the No. 1 overall pick in 2008 and almost going winless in 2007.
New England Patriots: Ken Sims (Texas) – 1st-Overall Pick, 1982
Sims never lived up to the hype and was known as a player who wouldn’t practice. That earned him the nickname of “Game Day” because he said that is when he would show up. However, Sims collected only 17 sacks in his career and missed a lot of games. He was taken a few picks ahead of Jim McMahon, who beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl a few years later. TNew England also passed on Marcus Allen and Mike Munchak in the top 10 for Sims.
New York Jets: Kyle Brady (PaSt) – 9th-Overall Pick, 1995
The Jets provide the problem of a lot of options to choose from including Vernon Gholston, Roger Vick(RB-TexAM) and Mike Nugent. However, Brady is the worst pick in franchise history. With the fans in New York chanting for Warren Sapp to be the pick, the Jets passed on the future Hall of Famer for a blocking tight end with the ninth pick. New York already had a good tight end on the roster in Johnny Mitchell, so this pick was stupid in so many different ways.
Denver Broncos: Tommy Maddox (UCLA) – 25th-Overall Pick, 1992
This pick made zero sense. The Broncos had John Elway in the prime of his great Hall of Fame career, yet spent a first-round pick on a backup quarterback. Maddox was a bust in the NFL before rehabbing a year in the XFL and then having some success as the quarterback for the Steelers. Maddox wasn’t a bad player, but this has to be one of the most questionable first-rounders in NFL draft history. This was more about the arrogance of Dan Reeves telling Elway who runs this team by not drafting the WR Elway wanted.
Kansas City Chiefs: Todd Blackledge (PaSt) – 7th-Overall Pick, 1983
Blackledge was the dud of the 1983 NFL Draft’s famed quarterback class. The Chiefs took him instead of Jim Kelly or Dan Marino, who went later to the Bills and Dolphins respectively. Even lesser quarterbacks like Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien had some success for their teams. Blackledge never put together success for the Chiefs, and the quarterbacks they passed on for him made it even more painful. Taking Blackledge was the worst pick in franchise history. But has become the best announcer in the QB class of ’83 – which is nice.
Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell (LSU) – 1st-Overall Pick, 2007
This was an easy choice. Russell was viewed to be a future superstar with his huge size and one of the strongest arms to come into the NFL this century – except for those that saw him play regularly in college, calling him peanut-head. He was a disaster from the get-go as he had a rookie holdout that started the quick tailspin of his career. Russell got overweight and out of shape, plus demonstrated a poor work ethic. He also had a problem with codeine-infused cough syrup. In 31 starts, Russell completed 52 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He didn’t take his NFL career seriously and was unable to get another shot with another team after the Raiders conceded he was a lost cause. Considering a couple potential Hall of Famers went right after Russell in Calvin Johnson and Joe Thomas, Russell is easily the worst pick in franchise history. The Raiders also passed on Darrelle Revis, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Patrick Willis with that pick.
San Diego Chargers: Ryan Leaf (Wazzu) – 2nd-Overall Pick, 1998
After playing well in his first two games, Leaf became perhaps the most epic bust in NFL history. He threw interceptions consistently and was unable to handle being a professional athlete. Leaf went through screaming matches with general manager Bobby Beathard and blew up at a reporter to such a degree that the clip is, to this day, shown regularly on NFL Network. Leaf threw 36 interceptions with only 14 touchdown passes over 21 starts while completing only 48 percent of his passes. The pick of Leaf is easily the biggest bust in San Diego’s draft history. It also wouldn’t be the only time Ryan Leaf and bust would be written in the same sentence.
Chicago Bears: Curtis Enis (PaSt) – 5th-Overall Pick, 1998
Ryan Leaf wasn’t the only mega bust of 1998. Andre Wadsworth and Grant Wistrom were also major disappointments. The Bears took Enis in the top 10, and he was a massive miss for Chicago. It was a terrible evaluation as Fred Taylor was taken a few picks later by the Jaguars. Enis didn’t have the speed to be an effective back in the NFL, and injuries put him on the sideline a lot as well. He only lasted three seasons with Chicago and was a mega bust for the Bears.
Detroit Lions: Joey Harrington (Oregon) – 3rd-Overall Pick, 2002
There are a lot to pick from here including Mike Williams(usc), Charles Rogers(MichSt), Andre Ware(Houston) and Reggie Rogers(UW), but Harrington stands out because he was a huge bust and a mega reach at the time. The Lions forced the pick of Harrington, who was completely overmatched in the NFL. Not only was he ineffective on the field, sources say that Harrington was a terrible teammate and hated in the Detroit locker room. Harrington ended the coaching career of Steve Mariucci as the Detroit brass forced Harrington on Mariucci. It could also be said that the hiring of Mariucci is included, #overrated.
Green Bay Packers: Tony Mandarich (MichSt) – 2nd-Overall Pick, 1989
This was an easy choice. Mandarich was a mega bust for the Packers as the steroid freak never lived up to his billing. He was an ineffective blocker after being labelled as one of the best offensive line prospects ever. To make matters even more painful, Green Bay took Mandarich instead of Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas or Deion Sanders. This is one of the biggest draft busts, and one of the worst picks, in the history of the NFL when you consider the Packers passed on three Hall of Famers.
Minnesota Vikings: Troy Williamson (SCar) – 7th-Overall Pick, 2005
The Vikings traded away Randy Moss in his prime and replaced him with Williamson. He was massive disappointment as he only played three seasons for Minnesota. Williamson notched only three touchdowns with the Vikings and didn’t have a single season of 40 receptions or 500 yards. He barely played in two seasons with the Jaguars before he was out of the NFL. The Vikings compounded the Moss mistake by trading a second-day pick for him when he was clearly on the decline. Having Williamson go bust helped lead to that second mistake.
Atlanta Falcons: Jamaal Anderson (Arkansas) – 8th-Overall Pick, 2007
Falcons then general manager Rich McKay made an awful selection of Anderson, and that helped lead to McKay being “demoted” to just team president and losing control of shaping the Atlanta roster. Anderson was terrible in his time as a Falcon and completely ineffective. A few picks after Anderson was picked, Atlanta saw Patrick Willias, Marshawn Lynch and Darrelle Revis get snatched up. This was an epic failure for the Falcons, but the silver lining was it led to Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith taking over, and Matt Ryan to come with them.
Carolina Panthers: Rae Carruth (CU) – 27th-Overall Pick, 1997
This was a tough pick with Jason Peter (Neb) and Tim Biakabutuka (Mich). The latter dealt with injuries that robbed him of his career, but the Panthers passed on Eddie George for him. Peter just flat out stunk. Carruth though is the worst pick in franchise history because character concerns were ignored in his selection. A few years later, Carruth had his pregnant girlfriend murdered.
New Orleans Saints: Jonathan Sullivan (UGA) – 6th-Overall Pick, 2003
The Saints had two first-round picks in the 2003 NFL Draft and traded both of them to move up and select Sullivan. He was an epic bust as he had only 1.5 sacks in three seasons with New Orleans. He was given away to the Patriots, but they didn’t tolerate Sullivan long before cutting him, and he was out of the NFL within four years of being drafted. To make matters worse, the Saints passed on Vikings/Seahawks great defensive tackle Kevin Williams when they took Sullivan.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman (KState)- 17th-Overall Pick, 2009
This was a tough call as Eric Curry, Keith McCants, and Reidel Anthony were all huge disappointments. However, the Josh Freeman pick from 2009 unceremoniously ended a successful stretch for Tampa Bay. Since the Bucs busted on Freeman, they have gone 30-66 with zero playoff appearances. The only team worse in that stretch is the Jaguars at 29-67. Freeman had one good season in 2010 from smoke and mirrors used by offensive coordinator Greg Olson, but Freeman had accuracy issues in college that were completely ignored by general manager Mark Dominik. Those problems persisted and led to Freeman completely falling apart while throwing lots of interceptions. He also developed off-the-field problems and lost his focus on football. The pick of Freeman set the franchise back.
Dallas Cowboys: Kevin Brooks (Mich) – 17th-Overall Pick, 1985
Dallas wanted to take Jerry Rice with the pick used on Brooks, but the 49ers traded up and beat them to the punch. That made the Brooks pick especially painful as Rice is one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL while Brooks had 12.5 sacks in four seasons with the Cowboys. They dropped him, and he didn’t do much with the Lions in two seasons.
New York Giants: Dave Brown (Duke) – 1991 Supplemental Draft 1st-Round Pick
This was a tough choice with Cedric Jones, Ron Dayne and William Joseph all being contenders. However, the Giants used a first-round pick on Brown to replace Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler. Brown started for a few years, but he couldn’t complete 60 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. The Giants moved on from him, and Brown was ineffective for the Cardinals. He is perhaps the biggest bust in the history of the New York Giants.
Philadelphia Eagles: Leroy Keyes (Purdue) – 3rd-Overall Pick, 1969
Keyes was a very painful pick. The Steelers took Joe Greene one pick later and he went on to dominate the NFL. Keyes ran for only 369 yards and three touchdowns in his NFL career. Another Hall of Famer and a half-dozen pro bowlers were selected after Keyes went off the board to the Eagles. It was a very regrettable draft for the Eagles. Tebow will help them forget.
Washington Redskins: Desmond Howard (Mich) – 4th-Overall Pick, 1992
Howard was supposed to follow the great trio of Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders as the next great Redskins receiver. However, Howard was terrible as a wideout and was only useful on special teams. In three seasons with the Redskins, Howard caught just 10 passes. Washington also traded up giving away two first-rounders and a third-round pick to move from No. 6 to No. 4 and leap frog Green Bay. Howard ended up helping the Packers to win a Super Bowl after the Redskins dumped him.
Arizona Cardinals: Andre Wadsworth (FSU) – 3rd-Overall Pick, 1998
Wadsworth was a great college player, but he didn’t even last four years in the NFL. To make matters worse, Charles Woodson went one pick later along with some other good players like Fred Taylor, Takeo Spikes and Tra Thomas. Wadsworth had only eight sacks in three years for the Cardinals. He isn’t remembered as much because Ryan Leaf went one pick ahead of him, but he was still a huge bust for Arizona.
San Francisco 49ers: Jim Druckenmiller (VaTech) – 26th-Overall Pick, 1997
You could consider Lance Alworth (HOF) since he signed with the Oakland Raiders of the AFL instead of San Francisco. Druckenmiller though marked the downturn of the 49ers’ dynasty. This was a pathetic first-round pick as Miller only started one game for the team and was dumped after two seasons. He was with Miami in 1999 before falling out of the NFL. Druckenmiller was supposed to replace Steve Young, but San Francisco was lucky that it signed Jeff Garcia. While Garcia didn’t win a championship, he got the 49ers to the postseason a few times and wasn’t inept like Druckenmiller. Moral of the Story, the downturn begins again and this time it’s for real.
Seattle Seahawks: Dan McGwire (SDSU) – 16th-Overall Pick, 1991
This was a tough call between McGwire and Aaron Curry, but quarterback busts are always more painful. Those epic missteps also can lead to series of losing seasons and other desperate moves at the quarterback position. That was the case with McGwire. After he went bust, the Seahawks had another one in Rick Mirer while trying to replace McGwire. McGwire only threw two touchdowns, six interceptions and 745 yards in his NFL career. He only lasted four seasons in Seattle with only five starts.
St. Louis Rams: Lawrence Phillips (Neb) – 6th-Overall Pick, 1996
Phillips was supposed to be the feature player for Dick Vermeil’s St. Louis resurgence, but Phillips was a mega bust on and off the field. He ran for just over 630 yards in back-to-back seasons before the Rams admitted that he was a sunk cost and got rid of him. Phillips flamed out in Miami and San Francisco before his off-the-field problems landed him in prison. Phillips’ horrible character was evident at Nebraska but the Rams drafted him anyway. There was no excuse to take him, and the organization should have known better. He is the yardstick that all red-flags are measured, or at least should be.