Drafting is hard. Nobody says it’s easy, but people love to look back at the failed drafts of yesteryear and scream, “What were they thinking!?” However, no one ever expects a bust to be so bad. There has never been a team that thought, “I’m not sure if this guy will be good, but let’s try it.” A whole team of smart guys, with a ton of football knowledge, gets into a room when they draft their new players, and they put years of work into it. And yet they still mess up.
Now if these guys are so smart, how do they end up with busted players? Well, many of the bigger busts in each team’s history all have the same MO: They can’t thrive when they aren’t better, faster, or stronger than 90% of their competition (like they were in college and high school); they choke when the spotlight is turned on them; the media involvement gets into their heads and they can’t handle it; or sometimes drugs and alcohol play a role in their demise. These are things that even the smartest scouts in the country often can’t foresee.
There’s a very thin line between drafting a bust and a star. Never forget that the Colts almost chose Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning, and that six teams passed on Tom Brady for guys like Mark Bulger and Chad Pennington (and they were by far the best of the rest).
Here is our list of each team’s biggest draft bust since 2000.
63 Arizona Cardinals: Matt Leinart QB (2006)
It’s not hard to understand the Cardinals thought process when they drafted Matt Leinart with the 10th overall pick in 2006. Here was a kid who had just played in back-to-back title games at USC, won a Heisman in school, and was thought to be a potential #1 overall pick both in 2005 and 2006. He was charming, talented, and handsome; everything that the media wants to see in a franchise quarterback. When he fell to the Cardinals at 10, the team could not have been more excited. As it turned out they drafted a quarterback who would throw less touchdowns in his NFL career than any of his starting seasons at USC. His tenure in Arizona started out rocky as contract negotiations put him on the bad side of both the front office and head coach Dennis Green, who had made note that he had “lost his patience” with the situation. IN his rookie season, Leinart played in 12 games, but did nothing to win the favor of his coaches or the rest of the team. His second season Leinart got hurt early on and was only able to play in 5 games. In 2008 he was given the starting job again, but was ineffective on the field and was outplayed by “backup” Kurt Warner who went on to take the Cardinals to the Super Bowl that year. It has been reported that Leinart never truly got his head in the game, caring more about the lifestyle that playing in the NFL brings as opposed to making sure he was good enough to play. When Warner retired in 2010, Leinart was named the starter again, only to lose the job to Derek Anderson. The drafting of Leinart had negative effects until very recently as the Cardinals could not figure out the QB situation between Warner’s retirement and the newer addition of Carson Palmer.
61 Atlanta Falcons: Jamaal Anderson DE (2007)
Don’t get it confused; there was Jamal Anderson, a running back that Atlanta found in the 7th round and helped the Falcons get to Super Bowl XXXIII by rushing for a league high 1,846 yards. Then there was Jamaal Anderson, the defensive end taken 8th overall in 2007 and didn’t help the Falcons with anything. Atlanta went into the 2007 draft in need of a defensive play maker. Their secondary was pretty set with DeAngelo Hall and Brent Grimes playing corner, and Keith Brooking held down the linebacking corp. Patrick Kerney left the team, leaving a gaping hole on the defensive line opposite of John Abraham. The Falcons saw Anderson as an athletic freak with an immense ceiling as a pro. There weren’t many pass rushers in the draft that year, so Atlanta dealt their backup QB (Matt Schaub) to Houston to move up in the draft and snipe the Arkansas product before the Dolphins could. Anderson could never turn his potential into anything substantial. By the time he was cut from the Falcons he had only managed 4.5 sacks and 83 tackles in 47 starts. The Falcons tried everything to jump start Anderson’s career, including changing his position to defensive tackle and using him in different rotations, but nothing worked. After being released, Jamaal bounced around the league with stops in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Chicago, but never stayed anywhere for more than a season and ended up retiring in 2013.
59 Baltimore Ravens: Matt Elam S (2013)
Ozzie Newsome has been lauded as one of the greatest drafting GMs of all time. He is the mastermind that put together 2 Super Bowl winning teams on the backs of guys like Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, and Joe Flacco. That being said, the man isn’t perfect. There may be only a few, but the bad draft picks by Newsome have really hurt the team. The most popular may be QB Kyle Boller who played for 5 years in Baltimore, going 20-22. He only had 2 seasons where he had more touchdowns than interceptions and only 1 where he started all 16 games. However, the Ravens needed a quarterback that year, and with the exception of Tony Romo, it’s not as if any of the other choices turned into much of anything. We looked at the players taken more recently when picking the team’s biggest bust and landed on Matt Elam. The 2013 draft came right on the heels of Baltimore winning Super Bowl XLVII. Ray Lewis retired and every other scrub on that defense cashed in during free agency. Even long time leader Ed Reed found himself in Houston. The Baltimore defense needed some help, and the team thought they found a long term solution when Matt Elam, one of the highest rated safeties in the draft, fell to them at the end of the first round. Elam has failed to make an impact on the field and missed the entire 2015 season because of a torn bicep. Through his career, Elam has managed only 1 interception, half a sack, and 85 total tackles. Players taken after Elam include Darius Slay, Kawann Short, Jamie Collins, and Tyrann Mathieu, all guys who would have been huge pieces for competitive defenses. Baltimore chose not to pick up Elam’s 5th year option, so chances are he won’t be a Raven by the end of the season.
57 Buffalo Bills: Aaron Maybin DE (2009)
We had planned to write about EJ Manuel and name him as the worst draft bust for the team. That guy was benched in favor of an ancient Kyle Orton, and a guy who never started an NFL game in Tyrod Taylor. He has been truly awful and detrimental in the Bills’ growth as a team. Yet still Maybin is much worse than that. Over the years the Bills have had a ton of different busts come out of the draft. Names like JP Losman and Mike Williams come to mind, but few players have ever been as ineffective as Aaron Maybin was. In his two seasons with the Bills Maybin started only 1 game. He put together a pair of seasons where he totaled 14 tackles, and no sacks. None. To make matters worse, after being waived by the Bills, Maybin signed with the rival Jets and somehow had 6 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. The 2009 draft was poorly run as only 2 of the top 12 picks ever played in a Pro-Bowl, but as far as defensive ends go, it was a fairly deep draft. Ends taken after Maybin include Brian Orakpo, Connor Barwin, Paul Kruger, Michael Johnson, and Henry Melton. Any of those guys would have been a major improvement over Maybin, and those are just the guys who played a similar position. The Bills could not have whiffed worse than when they choose Maybin.
55 Carolina Panthers: Armanti Edwards WR (2010)
Armanti Edwards represents more than just the failed wide receiver/QB/kick returner that he is; he’s symbolic of the entire 2010 draft. Coming out of that draft the Panthers believed that they had rebuilt their offense and were finally ready to move on from Jake Delhomme and a receiving corp. that struggled without Steve Smith. They picked up “draft steals” in Greg Hardy (4th round), Brandon Lafell (3rd round) and Jimmy Clausen (2nd round), but most intriguing was 3rd round pick Armanti Edwards. Edwards had received some fame while playing quarterback for the Appalachian State team that defeated #5 ranked Michigan in 2007. In 2009 he became the first (and only) player to win the Walter Payton Award (given to the most outstanding offensive player in the FCS) twice. He was drafted at a time when the Wildcat offense was still viable, so coaches expected him to play a big role in the new Panther’s offense. He didn’t. Through his career in Carolina, Edwards only gained 121 yards receiving (82 from one catch), 11 yards passing, and 253 returning the ball on punts and kickoffs. He never was responsible for a Panthers touchdown. It’s rough to try and say that a third round pick would be the biggest bust, but that 2010 draft was terrible for the team, not a single player from that draft is still on the Panther’s roster. They ended up going 2-14 the next season and winning the Cam Newton sweepstakes.
53 Chicago Bears: Cedric Benson RB (2005)
Cedric Benson had a very nice NFL career. In his 8 seasons in the NFL, Benson rushed for 6,017 yards and 32 touchdowns. He may not have lived up to the number 4 overall pick in 2005’s draft, but he had a successful career nonetheless, just not for the team that drafted him. Of his 6,017 yards, only 1,593 of them were earned in his 3 years in Chicago. He never crossed 1,000 yards in a season for the Bears and only had 2 games where he rushed for 100 yards or more. That’s terrible from a team’s expected featured back. Problems between the Bears and Benson became known very early on as contract disputes led to Benson sitting out all of training camp. Things only ever got worse between Benson and his team, he would speak out against his coach, Lovie Smith, for not playing him enough, he took it personally when the GM said that the team would like to add more depth to the running back position, and then he had two DUI charges in the span of 5 weeks. This was the last straw for the Bears who cut ties with Cedric soon after his second arrest and two years before the end of his contract. Benson rebounded in a big way in Cincinnati, rushing for over 1000 yards in 3 of his 4 seasons with the Bengals. He was eventually released from there as well with coach Marvin Lewis citing attitude issues as one of the main reasons. We don’t know what Benson’s career would have looked like if he could have just checked his ego at the door and utilized his immense talent.
51 Cincinnati Bengals: David Pollack (2005)
The Bengals have been one of the best drafting teams over the past 16 years. Most of their picks have been serviceable players who border on very good if not great, Pollack may have continued this trend. Coming out of the University of Georgia David Pollack really seemed like a sure thing; he was a 3 time All-American, a 3 time All-SEC pick, a 2 time SEC Player of the Year, and he won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the best defesnive player in the country in 2004. The 2005 draft was stocked with stud linebackers and the Begals were prepared to take whichever one fell to them. After Demarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Thomas Davis, and Derrick Johnson were all snagged between picks 11-15, Pollack fell to the Bengals at 17 and they scooped him up. His rookie season was good, he put up 4.5 sacks and 28 total tackles, but was only able to start 5 games and play in 14 due to injury. In the second game of his second season, Pollack suffered a broken back while trying to make a tackle. The injury was thought to be career ending, but towards the end of the season reports surfaced that Pollack would potentially be able to play again but would have to miss the next season. However Pollack choose to retire early in 2008 stating that he was “not completely comfortable where he [was] medically.” It’s sad to say, but brutal, life-threatening injuries are a part of the game of football, and it’s too bad we will never know what a guy like David Pollack could have been.
49 Cleveland Browns: Jonny Manziel QB (2014)
The Browns have so many busts to choose from, it’s so hard to pick just one. Courtney Brown was unreliable and only racked up 17 sacks in 5 seasons in Cleveland, Brady Quinn could only start 12 games for the team and lost his job to Derek Anderson, William Green could never stay out of trouble, Barkevious Mingo could never stay on the field, and Brandon Weedon was already an aging quarterback when they drafted him. We can continue to list names like Trent Richardson and Phil Taylor, but you get the point. So what did Manziel do that was worse that these guys? He gave the team real hope. Jonny Manziel was the biggest name coming out of the 2014 draft, for better or for worse. He was a star in college and many experts truly thought he might have been able to change the game of football. Whether or not his unorthodox play style could really be effective in the NFL is something we may never know because his off the field antics were dangerous, destructive, and televised 24/7. Dealing with addiction is a sensitive issue, but the media showed Jonny’s decent down that path while he embraced it because it made him famous. It was a vicious cycle and we hope that it’s now over. He never managed to get his life together and to show the world that he could be an NFL QB and we feel that he missed his opportunity to ever do so. Manziel couldn’t preform at a high level on the field, but it’s his off the field drama that makes him the Brown’s biggest bust.
47 Dallas Cowboys: Felix Jones RB (2008)
Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, and Justin Forsett. What do these guys all have in common? Besides each having a 1000 yard season, and many being named to at least one Pro-Bowl, all these players were drafted after the Cowboys choose Felix Jones in the 2008 draft. Jones never really amounted to much more than a decent second back in the NFL, while the Cowboys passed up multiple players who went on to be stars for their team. In his 6 years in the NFL, Felix Jones ran for 2,912 yards, Chris Johnson (who was taken 2 picks later) rushed for 2,006 yards in a season. Matt Forte outrushed Jones’ career by his third season, as did Rice and Charles. When they drafted him, the Cowboys were a Super Bowl contender and wanted a speedy runner to compliment their bruising back Marion Barber. Jones never turned into a reliable weapon, and because of picks like this the Cowboys quickly nose dived in the standings. There are popular theories that Jerry Jones was the only person who wanted to draft Jones as it didn’t seem like a move that Wade Phillips (a defensive minded coach) would have made. Also Jerry has the reputation as a GM who likes to draft players from his alma matter (Arkansas) and doesn’t quite understand how to build a football team. It’s taken until very recently for the Cowboys to begin drafting well, but the Felix Jones pick will haunt fans forever.
45 Denver Broncos: Tim Tebow QB (2010)
Tim Tebow was one of the best college football players to ever set foot on the gridiron. He accomplished everything that one individual can in the sport, so when he entered the draft after his senior year many believed that he would be able to translate to the NFL well. Apparently Josh McDaniels and the Broncos front believed it, so they traded up in the draft to take him with the #25 overall pick in 2010. Tebow was basically redshirted his rookie season and the team went 4-10. Josh McDaniels was fired and John Elway was brought in as the team's Executive Vice President of Football Operations. Elway didn’t think highly of Tebow’s unconventional throwing motion, and never bought into running the option or even using a mobile QB. Even though Elway seemed to be open to the idea of moving Tebow, fan support and the play of Kyle Orton forced the new coach, John Fox, to start the fan favorite, which led to one of the most hotly debated sequence of events in football history. Using one of the best receiving corps. in the NFL, a top tier defense led by Von Miller and Champ Bailey, and a slew of heroic kicks from Matt Prater; Tim Tebow led the team from a 1-4 start, to an 8-8 record and a playoff berth. Fans went wild for Tebow while not looking at his numbers. Of his 7 wins only twice did the Broncos score more than 2 touchdowns, 3 wins came in overtime, and 3 were won on a last second field goal. In the Playoffs, Tebow threw a lob pass in overtime to Demaryius Thomas, and then Thomas pushed off a tackler to take the ball to the end zone for the win. Tebow got all the credit. Many people looked at the team and said that if they didn’t have Tebow they wouldn’t have won and that his play style was going to change the NFL. However, most (including the team) disagreed and said that Tebow was a hindrance to the team. The media ate up the story and closely watched drama unfold in Denver as they traded Tebow to the Jets for next to nothing. For the remainder of his time in the NFL, Tebow’s presence on a team was a bigger story than anything that the team could do. The Broncos didn’t need to waste their time and draft picks on a guy like Tebow.
43 Detroit Lions: Carlos Rogers WR (2003)
Almost everyone that Matt Millen drafted deserves a spot somewhere on this list. He famously made “more bad draft decisions than anyone else in two centuries” according to the Wall Street journal. Of the terrible picks Oregon QB Joey Harrington comes to mind first, but it’s important to look at the baffling decisions on Wide Receivers that Millen made during his tenure as the Lion’s GM. He had 9 total first round picks, and Millen drafted 4 wide receivers. In the same time span, the Giants, Patriots, Packers and Steelers collectively drafted 3 receivers in the first round. When looking at the receivers, we felt that the failure of Rogers was the biggest failure of all. Rogers had four touchdowns in nine career starts. Coming out of college, Rogers was often compared to guys like Randy Moss, but once he hit the NFL he went through a series of injuries that led to drug addictions and a lot of personal issues. Millen blamed himself for Roger’s collapse saying that he basically ignored his star’s drug issues and let him get treatment without working with the team. When he busted, the Lions decided that franchise wide receiver was the most important player to find and just kept drafting different ones. Roy Williams was nothing special and Mike Williams busted, then they found Calvin Johnson. Calvin Johnson was a great talent, one of the best ever, but it just shows how little Millen really understood about building a championship franchise.
41 Green Bay Packers: Jamal Reynolds DE (2001)
The Packers have been to the playoffs 12 of the past 16 seasons. With a team that is as successful as they are, it’s not shocking that they have very few bad draft picks in that span. There are really only 3 players that are really even looked at as a bust for the Packers since 2000; Jamal Reynolds, Ahmad Carroll, and Justin Harrell. Harrell was lazy and criticized for showing up to practices overweight and out of shape. Carroll was one of the most flagged corners in the league, so he was often targeted by QBs looking for an interference call. Reynolds could never stay healthy so it’s hard to imagine what he was truly capable of. When picking between the three, we weighed whom the Packers either passed on or gave up to draft each player. Harrell was highly thought of, and the only defensive tackle who was significantly from the same draft was Paul Soliai who was taken in the 4th Bob Sanders would have been a better choice than Carroll, but the Packers were looking for a Cornerback. To pick up Jamal Reynolds the Packers sent Matt Hasselbeck to Seattle to move up in the draft, and choose Reynolds over Dan Morgan, Casey Hampton, and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Also the Seahawks were able to snatch All-Decade Team member Steve Hutchinson in the spot vacated by the Packers.
39 Houston Texans: David Carr QB (2002)
When Houston entered the league in 2002 as a brand new team, they had their pick of any college player to build their new franchise around. They could have picked up a player who defined their teams like Ed Reed, Julius Peppers, Bryant McKinnie, or Dwight Freeney, but instead they opted to look for a QB to be the face of their team. The idea is not a bad one as the Quarterback position is the most important on the field. However the 2002 draft didn’t have a ton of great options to choose from. There was Joey Harrington whose biggest accomplishment was being on the cover of the 2003 edition of the NCAA Football video game. The rest of the QBs were a hodge-podge of lackluster players highlighted by David Gerrard, who would be the only QB of the draft to win a playoff game. The obvious pick for the Texans was QB David Carr out of Fresno State. The Texans thought they had found their franchise face, and Carr was immediately booked to national commercials and was one of the brightest stars in the NFL. However, playing for a brand new franchise came with the fact that they were not yet suited to compete at the NFL level. They had some good players, but a majority of the team was a mix off castoffs from other teams and veterans that couldn’t sign with an established team. Carr was the one who really was affected by the team’s make up because the offensive line they stuck in front of him couldn’t block a leaf from floating past. Carr’s career was devastated by concussions, which he admitted to hiding from his medical staff to stay on the field; after all he was the only QB on the roster. If the offensive line could have kept Carr on his feet, or the team paid closer attention to their concussed QB Carr may not have found himself on any lists like this.
37 Indianapolis Colts: Bjöern Werner DE (2013)
Despite the fact that through most of the 2000s the Colts have been a playoff team (only missing out 3 years) the Colts have not been excellent in the draft. This didn’t really get noticed until Peyton Manning got hurt in 2011 and the team went 2-14. None of their running backs could take over a game, the defense was aging and had no young players to motor through an extremely terrible season, and the offensive line was just downright bad. However, when analyzing the draft picks, even some of the bad ones (Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez, Jerry Hughes) had decent numbers because they played with Peyton Manning and won a ton of games. It wasn’t until Peyton was gone that fans saw how bad the Colts drafting was. The pinnacle of bad draft picks came in 2013 when Indy picked up German native Bjöern Werner. Werner had all the potential in the world, but never lived up to that billing. Werner’s career with the Colts was largely ineffective staring only 16 games in 3 seasons and didn’t play well at any point. He only had 57 total tackles and 6.5 sacks. The 2014 season showed exactly what kind of player Werner is. Through the first 7 weeks, Werner had 4 sacks and looked like he was on the rise, but after that week just stopped trying. From week 8 through week 17 his only stat other than tackles was one pass defended. The Colts left Werner off their playoff roster in 2014, and cut him with a year left on his contract after the end of the 2015 season.
35 Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon WR (2012)
It feels like every high pick by the Jaguars from 2000-2013 have amounted to next to nothing. They have more first round picks suspended or cut for substance abuse issues than picks that made a Pro-Bowl. After 2002, looking at a list of first round Jaguar picks is similar to watching Saw, you may want to close your eyes. Picking the best pick is much harder than picking the worst, because none of them are very good. Mercedes Lewis and Tyson Alualu may be the best, but neither deserved a first round selection. The string of picks between 2011-2013 was one of the worst trio of picks that any team has ever made. It started with Blaine Gabbert who was a “prototype” QB that could not throw the ball down field and was terrified of the pass rush (even in college). The Jaguars traded up to draft Gabbert. It ended with Luke Joeckel in 2013, who has been ranked as one of the NFL’s worst offensive tackles for 3 years straight. Justin Blackmon was the worst pick of the trio. He was suspended in 2013 for drug issues and has yet to even attempt a comeback. He has been arrested multiple times for drug possession and DUIs (including right before the draft), and since getting suspended cannot seem to get clean. We put Blackmon over Gabbert and Joeckel because it looked like Blackmon could have been a great receiver, putting up 865 yards and 5 touchdowns his rookie season including a game against Houston where he collect 236 yards. His drug problems didn’t only ruined Blackmon’s life, but the long-term success of his team.
33 Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin WR (2011)
It’s been the butt of many jokes, but did you know that from early December 2013 through late September 2015 not a single wide receiver for the Chiefs caught a touchdown pass? That streak lasted for 21 games. It’s such a baffling stat that it sounds like it can’t be true, but it is. Many Chiefs fans will point to Jon Baldwin as a major reason as to why this happened. For much of the late 2000s the Chiefs were good despite not having a good wide-out. Baldwin was thought of as a second round pick, but they needed a receiver badly reached to pick Baldwin. Baldwin was absolutely terrible in his 2 years as a Chief. He was able to start 10 total games and caught 41 passes for 579 yards and 2 touchdowns. Baldwin got off to a terrible start with the Chiefs when he injured himself by getting in a fight with veteran running back Thomas Jones. The Chiefs gave up on Baldwin ever living up to his potential after two seasons and sent him to the 49ers for fellow bust AJ Jenkins. The 49ers gave up on Baldwin the following season. If Baldwin could have worked hard and not fight with teammates, he may have been able to put together a successful career with a team that was desperate for any decent receiver.
31 Miami Dolphins: Ted Ginn Jr. WR (2007)
And to think, they could have gotten Brady Quinn… When the Falcons traded above the Dolphins to secure their choice of Jamaal Anderson, the Dolphins had the opportunity to pick a player who wouldn’t go on to be a draft bust. They had a number of holes on the team and could have looked at players like Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis, or Lawrence Timmons, but the most popular thought was that Brady Quinn would be selected. Instead the Dolphins grabbed Ted Ginn Jr., the speedy receiver out of Ohio State. It’s not too shocking that Ginn never thrived in Miami as he had a mixture of Trent Green and Cleo Lemon passing to him. However in his 3 years in Miami, Ginn never could live up to being selected so high. He never gained more than 800 yards receiving in a season and only had 3 total returned kicks for touchdowns, which was his primary role on the team. In 2010 the Dolphins shipped Ginn off to the 49ers for a 5th round draft pick. The reason we picked Ginn over the likes of Ronnie Brown and Jake Long (who were both drafted higher and didn’t live up to their potential) is because Ginn eventually found success in the league. He has played on 2 Super Bowl teams, once in San Francisco and once in Carolina, and even was the leading receiver for the Panthers in 2015. It’s hard for a team to have a bust like Ginn, but it’s so much worse when he becomes a good piece for another team.
29 Minnesota Vikings: Troy Williamson WR (2005)
When the Vikings traded Randy Moss to the Raiders after the 2004 season, they really needed to find someone who could replace him. They thought they hit the lottery when Troy Williamson fell to them. The South Carolina product put up outstanding numbers at the NFL combine, running a 4.32 40-yard dash. The Vikings drafted Williamson, but quickly realized he wasn’t going to replace their 5-time Pro-Bowler. Willaimson may have had the speed of an elite receiver, but could not play at an NFL level. His rookie year was underwhelming, as was his sophomore season. That year he was second in the NFL with 11 dropped passes and only had 37 catches. He didn’t see much more success his third season, he gained 240 yards and 1 touchdown. After his disappointing years, the Viking traded Williamson to Jacksonville, a move that the young receiver was very unhappy about. Following the trade he threatened to fight his former head coach on the Vikings (Brad Childress) saying that they could “meet at the 50-yard line and go at it.” After catching 8 total passes in two seasons with the Jaguars, Williamson was cut and hasn’t played in the NFL since.
27 New England Patriots: Dominique Easley DT (2014)
The Patriots rarely miss on draft picks. Even some of there “bad” picks would be great for other teams. If you were taken in the first round by the Patriots in the Belichick era, there’s a good chance you’ll turn into a Pro-Bowler. That didn’t happen for Dominique Easley. When Belichick picked up the big Defensive tackle out of Florida, it was to be the future replacement for aging star Vince Wilfork. His 2014 campaign didn’t start off great, and he finished the year with 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, and 1 interception when the Patriots put him on injured reserve. The Pats won the Super Bowl without Easley, but seemed impressed with his performance enough to feel secure in cutting Wilfork and naming Easley the starter. Easley didn’t do much more for his team in 2015, again ending up on IR. This time the Patriots were no longer impressed with what they saw and they chose to cut Easley ending his tenure in New England with only 15 tackles and 3 sacks. The Rams quickly scooped up the third year tackle, so there is still hope that one day Easley will become the player that many thought he would be.
25 New Orleans Saints: Reggie Bush RB (2006)
The Saints have about a 50-50 shot when it comes to first round running backs. Ricky Williams set the team back about half a decade, and then Deuce McAllister was one of the best players in franchise history. Mark Ingram looks like he’ll be a solid pick when all is said and done, but before him came the team’s second biggest bust in their history, Reggie Bush. Bush was the biggest star in football when he was coming out of USC. He had more endorsement deals than anyone outside of Peyton Manning and had even sold more than 15,000 jerseys before getting his official number. Much of the hype around Bush was that he was so much better than his competition in college and high school. Seriously, his plays produced a highlight reels that made him look like a superhero. He would leap over defenders and break tackles as if he was covered in grease. However the transition to the NFL did not work for Reggie and he was never able to step his game up to the level of competition the NFL brings. With the Saints, he never crossed 600 rushing yards in a season and was in the news more often for dating Kim Kardashian than actually playing football. He was viable in the passing game, but a lot of that was due to Drew Brees dumping the ball to him when the actual play call broke down. Only in his rookie year was he able to play in all 16 games and when all was said and done he had collected a meager 2090 yards rushing and 2142 yards receiving in the 5 years he spent in New Orleans. He never could replicate what made him so great in college and the Saints had to put up with all the drama that he brought. They won a Super Bowl in spite of having Bush on the team, not because he was there.
23 New York Giants: David Wilson RB (2012)
When the 2012 draft came along the Giants were fresh off of an unexpected Super Bowl win and had just lost a bulk of their offensive weapons. Playoff heroes Devin Thomas and Mario Manningham went off to Chicago and San Francisco respectively, and long time fan-favorite running back Brandon Jacobs also signed a deal with the 49ers. The Giants knew they needed someone to replace those guys, and they found it when David Wilson slipped to them at the end of the first round… or so they thought. His rookie year things went great. Being paired with Ahmad Bradshaw in the backfield, the two men made up one of the better running back tandems in the NFL. His rookie season Wilson ran for 358 yards and 4 touchdowns, and was named as a Second Team All-Pro player as a Kick returner. Wilson was so impressive that the Giants felt that it was a good idea to cut starter Ahmad Bradshaw to clear cap space and give more touches to Wilson. By week 5 of the 2013 season, Wilson had played his last down in the NFL. In a game against the Eagles Wilson suffered spinal stenosis and opted for season ending surgery. By the end of that season, Wilson made the decision to retire as opposed to risk greater injury to his spine and neck. Wilson’s decision was his decision to make, and it was probably the right one. That being said, the Giants would love to go back in time and draft someone like Alfred Morris or Lamar Miller, or at least keep Ahmad Bradshaw as opposed to relying on Wilson.
21 New York Jets: Vernon Gholston DE (2008)
Zero career sacks. Zero! Gholston was in the NFL from 2008-2010 and at the end of those three years, the number 6 overall pick ended with 42 total tackles and no sacks. According to ESPN, over 600 other players recorded at least one sack in that time period including players found on this list. He also had no interceptions, no forced fumbles, and no passes batted down. He was equally effective on the bench as he was on the field. It’s easy to understand why the Jets chose to draft Gholston, he had set the Ohio State school record for sacks in a season with 14. His speed and strength that he put on display at the NFL Draft combine were breathtaking. Most “experts” thought of him as a top 10 pick, if not in the top 5. When the Jets picked him up at 6, no one was surprised, and many writers and pundits praised the Jets for getting one of the best players in the draft. The 2008 draft was one of the worst when it came to the players going in the top 10. Only 4 of those players made a Pro-Bowl, and of those 4 only 1 (Matt Ryan) is still with the team that drafted him. Arguably the best player out of that draft (Joe Flacco) has never made a Pro-Bowl and went 18th Most of the players who were expected to be great busted, but it’s Vernon who has taken much of the heat about being one of the NFL’s biggest busts of all time.
19 Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell QB (2007)
The Raiders are in a class with the Browns and Jaguars as the worst drafting teams of the past 16 years. We could point out the fact that DJ Hayden has had 3 total interceptions since the Raiders reached for him and took him at 12 in 2013. Or that Darius Heyward-Bey only accounted for 11 touchdowns in 4 years with the team. Or the total lack of production that Robert Gallery brought to the team. Or the fact that they traded their 2011 and 2012 picks for an injured and angry Carson Palmer, whom they cut before he got healthy again. However, there’s no need to point to anyone besides ultimate bust JaMarcus Russell when it comes to the Raiders’ draft failures. Russell was expected to be one of the NFL’s next big stars, got drafted number 1 overall, and was a problem from that day moving forward. Unhappy with the rookie contract that Raiders were offering, Russell held out of training camps until the team was willing to break the bank for him, despite the fact that they hadn’t seen him play a single down. After getting his contract, he never worked to prove that he deserved it, assuming his canon arm was enough to get passed the top defenses in the NFL. It wasn’t. In his three seasons in the NFL Russell only threw for 18 touchdowns while getting picked off 23 times. His career ended with a 7-18 record (not even 2 full seasons worth of games), and his passer rating of 50 in 2009 is the worst passer rating for a starter since 1998. Following the 2009 season, the Raiders released the former #1 pick, and since Russell has been too busy dealing with drug arrests to truly focus on the comeback attempts he’s been publicizing. No team is willing to take a shot on JaMarcus and be associated with one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.
17 Philadelphia Eagles: Danny Watkins OG (2011)
A lot of the game’s best players came out of the 2011 draft, and the Eagles missed all of them. That year the Eagles had the 23rd overall pick, so it’s not shocking they missed out on guys like Cam Newton, Von Miller, Julio Jones, JJ Watt, or Tyron Smith. However, they had a chance to draft Muhammad Wilkerson, Justin Houston, Richard Sherman, or Pernell McPhee. Going into the draft, the Eagles were dubbed the “Dream Team” after signing top free agents Nnamdi Asomugha, Ronnie Brown, Jason Babin, and Cullen Jenkins. Many believed that the Eagles could draft some pieces to fill in the gaps on the roster, and then they’d be a shoo-in for the Super Bowl. Philadelphia just completely dropped the ball when it came time to draft. Sixth rounder Jason Kelce has been a good center for the team, but Jaiquawn Jarrett only played two season before getting cut, Curtis Marsh couldn’t start a single game, Casey Matthews racked up only 2.5 sacks in his career, Alex Henery was a kicker taken in the 4th round who couldn’t play 4 seasons, and everyone else didn’t amount to much of anything for the Eagles. Danny Watkins was the biggest bust of them all. When he was taken at #23, he became the oldest first round draft pick since 1980, at the age of 26. He was expected to start the season as a guard, but only ended up starting 12 games his rookie season and 6 in the next season. And his lack of starts were not due to injury, it was only due to the fact that Watkins was just not good. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said the team never saw the “toughness” that Watkins showed at Baylor and were forced to cut him after 2 seasons. Watkins has since retired from the game and is a fire fighter in Texas.
15 Pittsburgh Steelers: Limas Sweed WR (2008)
When picking the Steelers' biggest draft bust, we had to look deep and name a guy out of the second round. When looking at other candidates, we landed on Ziggy Hood who was average, not terrible, then there was Mendenhall who was good on the field, but a terrible headache off of it, and Bud Dupree who only started 4 games his rookie year (last year). Limas Sweed had a great college career when he played with the Texas Longhorns and helped lead them to the BCS title. His college stats were 124 catches, 1,915 yards, and 20 touchdowns, which is amazing considering he didn’t learn that he needed contact lenses to see during training camp in his rookie season. He was expected to be a first round pick, but a wrist injury dropped his stock and the Steeler scooped him up with the 22nd pick of the second round. In his two years in Pittsburgh, Sweed only played in 20 games and his career ended with 7 catches on 15 targets and no touchdowns. Receivers taken after Sweed include guys like Andre Caldwel, Harry Douglas, Pierre Garcon, and Early Doucet; not great receivers, but guys who produce for their team. Sweed was just a terrible pick and the Steelers normally do much better.
13 San Diego Chargers: Craig “Buster” Davis WR (2007)
Over the past few years, Philip Rivers has proven that he can really throw to any wide receiver with a pulse. Malcolm Floyd consistently put up 700 yards (if healthy), Antonio Gates puts up 630 yards in 11 games at the age of 35, Eddie Royal was a fantasy star after years of ineffectiveness in Denver, and Danny Woodhead led the team in receiving yards in 2015 despite being a running back and starting only one game. Even with those NFL wannabe stars, Rivers has been able to put the ball in their hands. However he could not get that done with first round pick Craig Davis. In 2007, the Chargers were Super Bowl contenders with NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson controlling the offense. The Chargers knew that they had to give their running back some help on the offensive side of the ball and that star QB Philip Rivers would love another target. The 2007 draft was “full” of “receivers” to draft including Robert Meachem, Dwayne Bowe, and Ted Ginn. However the Chargers missed out on all of those… stars… and had their pick between Anthony Gonzalez and Craig Davis. In hindsight, the Chargers should have gone defense in the draft and picked up a guy like LaMarr Woodley or Paul Posluszny, but the team felt like they were just a few pieces away from winning a Super Bowl and they couldn’t let a talent like Davis, get away. Coming out of school Davis was raw and needed to bulk up quite a bit, so most people understood that there was going to be a learning curve for the young wide out. The first year was… ok; 20 catches, 188 yards, and 1 touchdown. The team was impressed and announced that Davis would be taking over for the aging Chris Chambers. Then injuries forcing Buster to start only 1 game over the next 3 years. His career amounted to 558 total yards received and 2 touchdowns. The Chargers were patient, but Buster never turned into much of anything to pay them back.
11 San Francisco 49ers: AJ Jenkins WR (2012)
The 49ers gave up on AJ Jenkins after 1 season, and he never did a thing to prove them wrong for doing so. For the most part San Francisco has been one of the better drafting teams and even their bad picks weren’t too detrimental to the team’s overall success. For example, one popular bust for the 49ers has been Gio Carmazzi, a 3rd round QB. The reason he is such a bust (let’s be fair, 3rd round QBs rarely do much) is because they chose him instead of Tom Brady. AJ Jenkins was such a bad pick, not only because of his lack of production on the field and bad attitude, but because no one understood the 49ers’ thought process. He was thought of as a day 2 pick at best, but the 49ers reached for him over more established prospects like Rueben Randle or Alshon Jeffery. Jenkins was only active for 3 games his rookie season and was targeted one time (he dropped that pass). The 49ers swapped busts (Jonathan Baldwin) with the Chiefs quickly after his rookie season. Despite playing for Jim Harbaugh and Andy Reid (two of the greatest offensive minds in NFL history), Jenkins ended his career with 17 receptions for 223 yards (all came in Kansas City). The 49ers were smart to part ways with Jenkins as soon as they could, but were not when they gave him a shot in the first place.
9 Seattle Seahawks: Aaron Curry OLB (2009)
This was an easy pick. The Seahawks have had some of their best picks come out of later rounds (Russell Wilson was a 3rd rounder, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor were both in the 5th round), but haven’t always been great with their first round picks (James Carpenter, Koren Robinson, Kelly Jackson, and the fact that they didn’t have a first round pick from 2013-2015). Aaron Curry was by far the worst of their picks. Coming out of college, Curry was expected to be the surest player in the 2009 draft. He was a Butkus Award winner (best collegiate linebacker) and All-American. Curry was though to be a defensive player who would be the leader of a team’s defense for the next decade. Nope! After Seattle gave him the biggest contract for a non-QB coming out of the draft, Aaron Curry fell on his face. After 3 seasons in Seattle, Curry only had 5.5 sacks and lost his starting job to 4th round pick KJ Wright. The Seahawks got lucky and were able to dump Curry off to the Raiders where he continued to bottom out and found himself released after only playing 14 games in Oakland. Statistically Curry wasn’t the worst player to have been drafted in the top 5, but when you take his enormous contract and expectations into account Curry was a huge bust.
7 St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams: Sam Bradford QB (2010)
Before he was the whining little brat in Philadelphia, Sam Bradford was the highest paid rookie in NFL history. St. Louis thought they hit the lottery when they got the #1 overall pick in 2010. Bradford was the easy selection, after all he was a Heisman winner who played in a pro-style offense and had one of the best careers of any college quarterbacks. The Rams picked up Bradford, gave him an immense contract, and then Bradford thanked them by winning NFL Rookie of the Year in 2010. Rams fans were on top of the world. After winning 3, 2, and 1 games in the three years prior, Sam led the team to a 7-9 record, and was 1 game away from reaching the playoffs (the Seahwaks went 7-9 and got to the playoffs instead). However, Bradford never was able to win more than 7 games the rest of his career with the Rams. Every year, the media expected Bradford and the Rams to finally “break out” and make the playoffs, but they stayed mediocre while the rest of their division got much better. In 2015 the Rams shipped Bradford to the Eagles after he never was able to help his team reach the playoffs while playing on a contract worth $78 million with $50 million guaranteed. 5 Years, no winning seasons. Not exactly money well spent for the Rams.
5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Carnell “Cadillac” Williams RB (2005)
Despite the fact that the Buccaneers haven’t seen playoff action since 2007, much of the first round picks have not been too bad. Josh Freeman had 4 solid seasons, Gaines Adams had back-to-back 6 sack seasons, Adrian Clayborn was good when healthy, and Cadillac Williams won Rookie of the Year. We leaned towards Cadillac when it came to picking the biggest bust for Tampa Bay. Cadillac’s rookie season was special. He rushed for over 1000 yards with 6 touchdowns, despite the fact that he missed 2 games to injury. The rest of his career was all downhill from there. He never got better as an NFL player and injuries hampered his career and his rookie season turned out to produce career high numbers in ever-major rushing statistic. He never passed 900 yards or 4 touchdowns in a season and lost his job to the likes of LeGarrette Blount. Cadillac filled the Buccaneers organization with unfulfilled hope that led to a series of bad decisions including using Josh Freeman long term, and letting offensive weapons pass them by while Williams was on the mend.
3 Tennessee Titans: Vince Young QB (2006)
The 2006 drafts produced a lot of busts. Reggie Bush, Ernie Simms, Matt Leinart, Tye Hill, and Bobby Carpenter were all detrimental to their teams, but at least none of them got a legendary coach fired. The Titans had a lot of awful draft picks including “Pacman” Jones, Andre Woolfolk, Jake Locker, and Kenny Britt; but none of them did the damaged that Young did. When Young joined the team, the Titans were a young team on the rise led by a great coach in Jeff Fisher. When Young left, all of that was in tatters. At the beginning of his career Vince Young had a great rookie season in which he won Rookie of the Year. He was a dynamic athlete and had back-to-back winning seasons earning a Pro-Bowl appearance and the cover of Madden 08. Then he got hurt and things fell to pieces. Despite his success, Young made comments in interviews that he was unhappy and did not feel passion for the game. His second season went well, but signs of his depression interfered, he famously was benched for deciding to sleep in his own home instead of at the hotel where the rest of his team was staying at. In 2008 Vince Young’s mental state was put on display as Kerry Collins led the team to the playoffs after Young was injured, and he was not able to deal with the idea that his team did not need him. Young went missing for a time after fans booed him at a game. Later Vince came out and spoke that he had thoughts of suicide. Following that year Young and Jeff Fisher never could quite see eye-to-eye. Over the next few seasons Fisher kept trying to find ways to bench Young, while Young complained to the front office about Fisher and his coaching techniques. It all came to a head following the 2010 season when owner Bud Adams dismissed both Young and Fisher from the team. The Titans have wallowed since that move and are just now beginning to pick up the pieces. Young floated around the league for a few years, but has since retired. Young needed some serious help during those down years with the Titans and we can only hope that he has found something that makes him happy today.
1 Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III (2012)
You can fault Griffin for the decline of the Redskins following his unbelievable rookie season. You can also point to Mike Shanahan for his evil plan of making Griffin play while injured in a playoff game. Or you can point to Dan Snyder for the trade for Griffin in the first place. Whoever you think is most at fault; it’s hard to not recognize RG3 as one of the worst draft picks of all time. From the beginning fans could see that the franchise was not totally sold on Robert being the future QB, otherwise they would not have drafted Kirk Cousins in the same year. Then came the year of RG3, when he won Rookie of the Year over Andrew Luck by winning 9 games and taking the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The rest of his 22 games with the team, he only managed to win 5 games and was constantly getting hurt and alienating himself from his teammates. Instead of fixing the problem, Snyder kept showing favoritism towards Griffin, hiring and firing coaches based on Robert’s recommendations and insisting that they start him even with better options. Eventually Griffin became such a distraction that even Snyder realized that the team had to cut ties with the pick. However, they had given up so much to get Robert in the first place that they were hesitant to cut him for the entire 2015 season. The trade that brought RG3 to the Redskins led to years of mediocre play, and we don’t even know the true damage it did because the NFC East has been so bad.
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