Give a sports executive full autonomy and he'll make at least one or two brutal decisions, even if the majority of his trades or draft picks are slam dunks, touchdowns, home runs, or ... slapshots? Basketball, hockey, and baseball executives might be the most prone to making mistakes given their respective leagues seem to have more trade activity - the Major League Baseball Draft, meanwhile, has 40 rounds in which General Managers can screw up.
However, that doesn't mean National Football League (NFL) General Managers are exempt from making poor transactions; in fact, given they make so few trades, especially during the season, the real bad ones are amplified. Likewise, each team only gets seven draft picks every year to help fill out a 50-team roster, so those picks are incredibly important. It's one thing to mess up on a late-round pick, but to do so on a first-round pick can severely impact a franchise's progress. In recent years alone, there has been far too many wasted draft picks and brutal trades - and no, we're not including over-hyped travesties such as Johnny Manziel, because, well, it just wouldn't be fair to other teams. We'll limit our Cleveland Browns mentions as that franchise' fanbase has suffered enough.
20 Draft Pick: John Ross
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted wide receiver John Ross in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to help its struggling passing game and develop a potential successor to A.J. Green. It was expected that the ninth overall pick could come in and dominate as a rookie, especially considering he posted the fastest ever 40-yard dash time (4.22) at the NFL Draft Combine, breaking the 4.24 record previously set by Chris Johnson.
19 Trade: Bears Deal Martellus Bennett for Draft Pick
The Chicago Bears don't exactly have a reputation for making quality player personnel decisions; after all, this is the team that employed Jay Cutler for the better part of a decade. Despite his relative ineptitude under center, Cutler had some decent weapons on offense with the Bears, two of which we'll get to in this list. The first is Martellus Bennett, a tight end who has amassed 30 touchdowns and 4,481 receiving yards through 10 NFL seasons.
18 Draft Pick: Jaylon Smith
The Dallas Cowboys have made headlines in the last few years for its tone-deaf moves such as employing Greg Hardy despite the mounting evidence that he didn't belong in the NFL; yet, the team has, for the most part, done a great job assembling and stockpiling talent through the draft. The one exception might be 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith, an outside linebacker who previously played for Notre Dame.
17 Trade: Eagles Lose LeSean McCoy
It's hard to look back on any moves the Eagles made in recent years with regret as the team appears to be taking flight under the leadership of Carson Wentz, who has quickly proven himself capable of being an elite quarterback in the NFL. Their run game has been decent this year with LaGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood, but can you imagine how dangerous they would be with LeSean McCoy still dodging would-be tacklers and breaking ankles from the backfield?
16 Draft Pick: C.J. Beathard
A bad draft pick is one who might not live up to expectations set by his draft position, but still has a decent career all things considered. What's even worse is when you haven't heard of the player, unless you're a fan of that team. That's where C.J. Beathard falls. A third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2017 NFL Draft, there's still obviously plenty of time for the quarterback to make a name for himself, but it was a curious selection to say the least.
15 Trade: Eagles Lose DeMarco Murray
Again, the Eagles are seemingly in a good place right now, so it's hard to really invest a lot of hatred toward their recent missteps, but the way they have handled the running back position is a little curious, to say the least. After dealing LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, the team found its replacement in DeMarco Murray, who had just posted a career-best season with the Dallas Cowboys.
14 Draft Pick: Phillip Dorsett
Even with all its injuries at the wide receiver position, the New England Patriots have been unable to get much out of Phillip Dorsett, so that should tell you all you need to know about his talent and value within the NFL. A former member of the University of Miami, Dorsett was drafted with the 29th overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts and was thought to be a complement to T.Y. Hilton in what should have been a dominant Colts' passing attack with Andrew Luck under center.
13 Trade: Browns Pass On Carson Wentz
We said we'd take it easy on the Browns, but we've already highlighted enough poor decisions made by the Philadelphia Eagles that we feel we owe that franchise a bit of credit. The Browns, meanwhile, have made some truly awful decisions at the top of the draft in recent years, but none will sting more than passing on Carson Wentz, who now looks like he could have become the franchise quarterback the team has been looking for since, well, ever.
12 Draft Pick: Robert Nkemdiche
Robert Nkemdiche was an impressive defensive tackle in college; through three years at Ole Miss, the Atlanta, Georgia native recorded 81 tackles, 16 of which were for a loss, and six quarterback sacks. It's worth noting, however, that he missed a handful of games in all three seasons due to injury, especially considering he has been in and out of the lineup in 2017 due to injury and struggled to even see the field in 2016, his rookie season, despite being a first-round pick.
11 Trade: Saints Give Up On Brandin Cooks
This is a trade that we're still having trouble wrapping our heads around five weeks into the NFL season. The rich got richer in this transaction as the New England Patriots added standout wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a third-round pick from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick.
10 Draft Pick: Paxton Lynch
Paxton Lynch was thought to be the future franchise quarterback in Denver, relieving a tired and old Peyton Manning. Instead, a rookie nobody had heard of - Trevor Siemian - came out of nowhere to win the starting job at the beginning of the 2016 season. Many expected he would hold the fort, while allowing Lynch time to develop and learn, but here we are five weeks into the season and Siemian is still starting, while Lynch sits on the sidelines.
9 Trade: Bills Give Up On Sammy Watkins
Leave it to the Buffalo Bills to give up on a player before he potentially finally reaches his expected ceiling. Buffalo invested a lot in improving its wide receiving core in 2014 when it selected Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick. It was a bit of a reach for the talented receiver, but he showed flashes of dominance in his first two seasons by recording over 2,000 combined passing yards and 15 touchdowns, despite missing three games due to injury.
8 Draft Pick: Christian Hackenberg
It's hard to hit on a quarterback outside of the first round, but it's even harder if you don't give him an opportunity, especially considering you haven't had a capable quarterback in a decade. The New York Jets drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft with the thought that he might even start for the team as a rookie that season; however, the Penn State alumnus didn't play in a single game as a rookie and has yet to take one snap in the NFL through five weeks of the 2017 season.
7 Trade: Seattle Trades Three Picks for Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin was thought to solidify an already-great wide receiving core in Seattle, but instead he created tension and turmoil and had an unremarkable career that ultimately led to the rapid decline of his career. A first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2009 NFL Draft, Harvin was a consistent performer with the team for four seasons, but didn't necessarily show any signs of improvement.
6 Draft Pick: Laquon Treadwell
This one stings perhaps worse than the others, as the author of this list selected Treadwell in a keeper league rookie draft with the thought that he was going to quickly become a star in the league. Others thought the same thing. The Vikings were in desperate need of a talented wide receiver and selected Treadwell with the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
5 Trade: Raiders Get Practically Nothing for Carson Palmer
In 2011, the Oakland Raiders, then a tragically-awful team, acquired former top pick Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals, where he was failing to meet expectations after seven seasons with only two playoff appearances, both of which result in one-game exits. While Palmer wasn't a disaster in Oakland, he wasn't that great either. However, a lot of the blame can be placed on his supporting cast, or lack thereof, as well as the team's inept coaching and management.
4 Draft Pick: Greg Robinson
You may have noticed we haven't included any offensive line players in this list, which isn't surprising. Few fans really care about the players on the offensive line and it's hard to really get a read on how good a player is at that position, especially for the casual fantasy-playing fan. Subsequently, it's hard to truly label an offensive lineman as a bust, unless it's one who was taken early in the draft.
3 Trade: Bears Sour On Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall (the wide receiver, not the linebacker with the Denver Broncos) had some of his best seasons as the leading wide receiver with the New York Jets, so it's a little curious that the Chicago Bears gave him up for next to nothing, especially considering their need at the position. Evaluating trades in the NFL can be really weird at times, because Marshall was still an elite, but aging, receiver. Although he only had 721 receiving yards in the season before he was dealt, he recorded seven consecutive 1,000-plus yard seasons prior.
2 Draft Pick: Blake Bortles
We spared Manziel, but it's almost impossible to ignore the disastrous career of Blake Bortles, despite the fact he still manages to hold a full-time starting job in the league. The Jacksonville Jaguars desperately needed a quarterback, so it's hard to fault them for reaching in 2014 on Bortles, who was highly-touted coming out of Central Florida, but it's become quite apparent he is not a starting quarterback and would not be one on any of the other teams in the league, save for maybe the Browns - sorry.
1 Trade: Colts Trade First Rounder for Trent Richardson
Trent Richardson is now playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. That should tell you all you need to know about how badly this trade worked out for the Indianapolis Colts. But first, we can't spare the Browns, who originally selected the running back with the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Although he had a decent 1,317 yards from scrimmage in his rookie season, the underlying signs were there that he was not a lead back in the league, specifically his 3.6 yards-per-attempt average.
Despite that, the Colts, needing help at the position, gave the Browns a first-round pick just two games into the 2013 NFL season in exchange for Richardson. Somehow, he was even worse with a better offensive team, as he recorded only 977 yards on 316 carries through two seasons with the Colts for an awful 3.1 yard-per-attempt average.
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