Most NFL fans watch the NFL draft and think all of the decisions made are coming from either the owner, general manager, or head coach. Although those three are usually the ones pulling the trigger on the final decision, the overall grading, scouting, and recommendations come from a team of player scouts that earn a nice salary to find the best of the best.
The majority of the NFL teams have a scouting staff between 15-30 people that range from pro scouts, area scouts, combine scouts, national scouts, college scouts, scouting assistants, and a few analysts and strategists to help organize all the data. Each one of these people earn a living from this job and they make a salary that makes it worth working for.
But even the biggest scouting departments that have the best player grading system make a bad call every once in a while. That is because there is not a soul on earth that can predict the future, especially the future of a college kid stepping into the NFL. There is nothing like it on the planet and the transition can turn even the best players on the draft board into the biggest busts of all time.
There is no amount of talent that is good enough to predict how a kid is going to react to becoming a football player in the NFL. Injuries also play a factor when it comes to scouting as you cannot predict if or when a player is going to get hurt. That happens and there is nothing you can do about it.
So let's take a look at each teams most regretful first round pick in the NFL Draft.
32 Arizona Cardinals: Wendell Bryant, DE (2002, 12th Overall)
Without knowing anything about his off-field issues, the Arizona Cardinals drafted Wendell Bryant 12th overall in 2002, and was expecting him to join Kyle Vanden Bosch as the bookends to the Cardinals defensive line. Instead, they got 29 games, 1.5 sacks, and 28 tackles before the NFL kicked him out for failing a test.
It's especially upsetting for the Cards, who could have selected Pro Bowl players such as Albert Haynesworth and Ed Reed. As we'll see often in this list, hindsight is always 20/20.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Bruce Pickens, CB (1991, 3rd Overall)
A quick piece of advice to any NFL prospect, if you get drafted 3rd overall in the NFL Draft do not threaten to sue the team that drafted you. There is zero chance of that going smoothly. Just ask Bruce Pickens, the Falcons 3rd pick of the 1991 draft, how that worked out for him.
He was supposed to be Deion Sanders' partner on the opposite side of the field, forming a dangerous duo. But instead of practicing and showing up for his first training camp, he threatened to sue the Falcons and even sat out until October of his first season. His seven tackles in seven games showed everyone that they got a dud.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Boller, QB (2003, 19th Overall)
The Baltimore Ravens have always been great in the first round of the NFL Draft since their inaugural season in 1996 when they drafted two future Hall of Famers in Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden. Some of the other stars they took in the first round are Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis, Michael Oher, and Chris McAlister.
That means that Kyle Boller ends up as their biggest bust after they spent the 19th overall pick on him in 2003. They needed a QB for the 2003 season and wasted a first round pick on one, who was only rated that high due to the lack of QBs available that year.
29 Buffalo Bills: Aaron Maybin, DE (2009, 11th Overall)
It is hard to be a defensive lineman in the NFL when you are 6'4" and only weigh 245 pounds. Even if he is pure muscle, there is just no way a man that size can push past a 6'7", 325 pound offensive tackle. That was where Aaron Maybin's issues started.
The Buffalo Bills made a huge mistake that could have been prevented by watching a game film when he played at Penn State. He was fast and got most of his sacks by running around the lineman or taking advantage of busted play assignments. He had zero moves and whenever they pulled a lineman for a run, he was taken out of the play. He was too small.
There is no one else in the Bills draft history that they would ever regret more than this kid, who honestly was not ready for the NFL.
28 Carolina Panthers: Rae Carruth, WR (1997, 27th Overall)
It's tough to bring up Rae Carruth without mentioning all the off-field issues. Carolina drafted him in the first round with the hopes he would develop into a bonafide starting wide receiver that could help them reach the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, that never came to fruition. He was not impressing anyone before off-field antics derailed his professional career, putting up mediocre numbers that made him into a bust. Carolina could have drafted either one of the Barber brothers, or even Hall of Famer Jason Taylor.
27 Chicago Bears: Curtis Enis, RB (1998, 3rd Overall)
Curtis Enis is one of our first draft regrets that had some serious knee problems including tearing a ligament in his left knee during his rookie season, after just nine games. We do want to remind you that he did holdout after being drafted by the Bears, missing two preseason games and a total of 26 days, which are the most essential to any rookie in the NFL.
He started off on a bad note and the injuries failed to let him ever grow into a stud running back for the Bears. He continued to battle knee injuries and retired in 2001 due to a degenerative knee problem. The Bears also passed up on Randy Moss that year to take Enis.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Akili Smith, QB (1999, 3rd Overall)
The University of Oregon turned into a high scoring, record breaking, offensive juggernaut during the 2001 season when they exploded onto the scene, finishing second in the AP Poll. A few years before, when they had Akili Smith at the QB spot, starting 11 games, they wound up with a surprising 8-4 record while he threw for 3,762 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. He won the 1998 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award too.
But those 11 games should not have been enough to convince the Bengals to take him third overall, with such a small sample size, but they did and he rewarded them with a contract dispute right out the gate. He would end up being benched during his second season and that was all she wrote.
25 Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB (2012, 3rd Overall)
When Trent Richardson suited up for the University of Alabama, he looked amazing every time he stepped onto the football field. But it had little to do with his talent and everything to do with his offensive line. As it turns out, Alabama running backs are not good fits for the NFL. For some reason, the Cleveland Browns did not seem to care and they took him third overall in 2012.
He was a big guy with speed that never could get his weight under control or learn to be a great zone runner. He was more of a point and go type of back and that never works in the NFL, ever.
24 Dallas Cowboys: David LaFleur, TE (1997, 22nd Overall)
Long before Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham changed the way we looked at the tight end position, Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner, was shopping for one of his own, about 10 years earlier when he drafted David LaFleur from LSU.
David LaFleur was a monster. He was 6'7", 272 pounds and was a first team All-American with LSU. Jerry Jones saw him as a potential stud that could become a future hall of famer at the position. But he was never considered as much and when the Cowboys drafted him, 22nd overall, many questioned the move. He lasted four seasons and had just 85 catches, 729 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
23 Denver Broncos: Ted Gregory, DT (1988, 26th Overall)
One of the most surprising moments in NFL draft history belongs to Ted Gregory, the former Syracuse nose tackle that was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1988 with the 26th overall pick.
What had happened was, the Broncos did not get a chance to measure his actual height until after they drafted him. He was listed at 6'1" but was actually 5'9" and that made Dan Reeves very upset. They traded him to the New Orleans Saints right away and he lasted only three NFL games before his career ended.
22 Detroit Lions: Charles Rogers, WR (2003, 2nd Overall)
Some say it was his off-field issues, others think it was a lack of talent, but Charles Rogers himself blames his demons for his disappointing career that has turned him into one of the worst draft picks by any team, ever.
The Lions had to pass on Andre Johnson, Terrell Suggs, Marcus Trufant, Terence Newman, Troy Polamalu, and Dallas Clark to draft Rogers second overall and ended up playing for three years and only 15 games. It does not take a rocket scientist to see just how bad this move was when there was so much talent in the draft.
21 Green Bay Packers: Rich Campbell, QB (1981, 6th Overall)
The Green Bay Packers needed a QB for the 1981 season and they had the sixth overall pick that year so they decided to go with former University of Cal QB Rich Campbell. Head Coach Forrest Gregg ended up being a big factor in that selection, and it later landed him in the unemployment line a couple years later.
The Packers regret this poor selection because they passed on Ronnie Lott, Mark May, and Mike Singletary in order to waste a pick, and their defensive future, on a bust. He remains one of their worst first round picks ever, nearly 40 years later.
20 Houston Texans: Travis Johnson, DT (2005, 16th Overall)
Not all NFL players spend their every waking hours working on improving their games and simply making themselves better. But for Travis Johnson, he just simply never seemed to care much about playing the game. He was one of those rare talents that was born to play football but never truly wanted to.
The Houston Texans screwed up by not doing their homework and trusting what they saw in him when he was at Florida State. He did not have enough power, or strength, to beat up the offensive lineman in the NFL, and it showed right away as he was pushed around like a ragdoll for most of his four year career.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Steve Emtman, DE (1992, 1st Overall)
There are not very many NFL players that were drafted first overall that would end up becoming a major bust. That list is shorter than you would think. But even though the top picks of the draft rarely fail, Steve Emtman proved them all wrong.
His talent was never questioned. But Steve Emtman had a bigger problem, he was injury prone. He spent each of his first three years on injured reserve and eventually retired following a career-ending neck injury. If the Colts knew what would happen, they would have loved to take this one over again.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, WR (2012, 5th Overall)
Justin Blackmon was taken 5th overall in the 2012 draft by the Jags. He was a supremely talented receiver who put up some decent numbers in his first year. However, that's where Blackmon's NFL career pretty much comes to an end, as off-field issues turned into an eventual suspension from the NFL in 2015. That was following a year in which he missed because Jacksonville suspended him for the season. He has not been reinstated back into the NFL since.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Todd Blackledge, QB (1983, 7th Overall)
The Kansas City Chiefs have no other more regretful draft pick than Todd Blackledge, the quarterback from Penn State that they took seventh overall in the infamous 1983 NFL Draft. His career was short-lived and disappointing to say the least but that is not what earns him a spot on this list.
The Chiefs took him over Jim Kelly, Bruce Matthews, Dan Marino, and Darrell Green. All four eventually became Hall of Famers. They could have taken Dan Marino but decided to let the rumors about off-field issues help them make the worst decision in team history.
16 Los Angeles Chargers: Ryan Leaf, QB (1998, 2nd Overall)
Most NFL fans agreed that Ryan Leaf was going to be great in the NFL, maybe even better than Peyton Manning one day. This is all thanks to Mel Kiper's poor ranking of NFL Draft prospects each year. He helped propel Ryan Leaf into super stardom and was part of the problem that led to the terrible pick.
It would later turn out that Ryan Leaf had off-field problems when he was drafted, which continued throughout his career, leaving us all wondering how a team could not see this coming.
15 Los Angeles Rams: Lawrence Phillips, RB (1996, 6th Overall)
While at the University of Nebraska, Lawrence Phillips was an unstoppable force and helped led them to a National Championship in 1994 when he rushed for 1,722 yards, 16 touchdowns, and added 22 receptions for 172 more yards during the season.
When he finally was eligible for the NFL, in 1998, Rams knew about his multiple legal troubles. For two years, the Rams kept giving him chance after chance to right his wrongs but he never learned and eventually was cut.
14 Miami Dolphins: Dion Jordan, DE (2013, 3rd Overall)
Sometimes, NFL teams fall in love with the wrong things. In the case of Dion Jordan, it was his athletic ability that they loved. He was 6'6", 275 pounds and could run the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds. He was also very quick off the blocks, had great interior moves, and was able to drop back and cover the open gaps in the middle of the field. So what exactly happened?
He was focused on being the best and ended up going to performance enhancers to give him that extra push. However, he got caught three times by the NFL and was released by Miami in 2017. He's still playing today with the Seahawks.
13 Minnesota Vikings: Troy Williamson, WR (2005, 7th Overall)
NFL scouts tend to lean a little too much on the results of the NFL combine. There are many players that can be used as an example of why the combine should never propel a player beyond their previous rankings but rather confirm whether or not he is who they thought he was. For Minnesota, there example is Troy Williamson, a 6'1" speedster that could make some incredible plays down the field.
So when he ran the second fastest 40-yard dash time for a wide receiver during the combine that year, a 4.32, scouts were even more impressed and he began his late rise in the draft rankings. After losing Randy Moss the year prior, the Vikings thought they found the next superstar wideout instead of taking a player they really needed.
12 New England Patriots: Kenneth Sims, DE (1982, 1st Overall)
As we said earlier, being the top overall draft pick can be tougher than you think because of all the expectations that go with it. When the Patriots drafted Kenneth Sims, the gigantic defensive end from Texas, they thought they had a future hall of famer. However, he turned into nothing more than a career backup.
His biggest downfall was his inability to practice during the week. He was never a bad worker, he just did not care for practicing and was actually nicknamed "Gameday" because he would turn it on and be ready to go on game days. That worked in college but not in the NFL.
11 New Orleans Saints: Johnathan Sullivan, DT (2003, 6th Overall)
Johnathan Sullivan is the epitome of how bad things got in New Orleans before Sean Payton and Drew Brees showed up in 2006. After making one of the worst draft day decisions in NFL history, in 1999, by trading all their draft picks, the 2003 draft was a chance to redeem themselves as they went into the draft with the 17th and 18th overall selections after trading Ricky Williams to the Miami Dolphins.
However, in epic Saints fashion, they packaged the two picks together to move up to 6th overall to select one of the NFL Combine's biggest stars, Johnathan Sullivan. He was probably a late 1st to early 2nd round pick yet the Saints traded up to get him and he lasted 36 games over three seasons, giving them 1.5 sacks and 56 tackles.
10 New York Giants: Derek Brown, TE (1992, 14th Overall)
A few years before David LaFleur, there was Derek Brown, a massive tight end with all the abilities to completely transform the way the tight end position was to be played in the NFL. So when the New York Giants got their shot to draft the beast from Notre Dame at 14th overall, they took it and thought they had just won the lottery.
As it would turn out, he would quickly become the biggest mistake of the Giants entire draft history. It is unknown why he fizzled out but it could have been a combination of work ethic, injury problems, or simply not being able to grasp the concept of playing in the NFL, which can be very difficult to do for tight ends that were superstars in college.
9 New York Jets: Blair Thomas, RB (1990, 2nd Overall)
Some NFL teams simply have the worst luck. For the New York Jets, they seem to always have had the bad luck you only wish on your worst enemies. Back in 1990, they passed on Emmitt Smith to take Penn State running back Blair Thomas.
So, for several years, the Jets had to watch the Dallas Cowboys win Super Bowl after Super Bowl as Emmitt Smith broke all the NFL rushing records, including rushing for the most yards of all time, while watching Blair Thomas miss 13 games in four seasons before finally fading away into thin air.
8 Oakland Raiders: Jamarcus Russell, QB (2007, 1st Overall)
When the Oakland Raiders had the first overall pick of the 2007 NFL draft, they never once doubted who they were going to select. They knew that former LSU superstar Jamarcus Russell was going to be their future. He had a cannon that could throw the football, with accuracy, 80+ yards. He was even able to throw it 60 yards from one knee, according to Kirk Herbstreit.
But he was given a contract that guaranteed him $32 million, of $61 million, for six years and it all fell apart not long after that. He showed up a bit overweight and not really ready to play at that level. He was one of those extremely talented studs that played football because of his talent, not because he loved the game.
7 Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Haddix, RB (1983, 8th Overall)
For the most part, the Philadelphia Eagles are a relatively good first round drafting team, and have been for as long as we can remember. They had a few exceptions and the worst one of them all remains Michael Haddix, the running back they drafted 8th overall in 1983.
He was going to become their future star running back but instead turned into a joke as he was just plain awful. For his career, he finished with 543 rushes for 1,635 yards, which is an average of 3.0 yards per carry, the worst in NFL history for any running back with that many carries.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers: Huey Richardson, LB (1991, 15th Overall)
The University of Florida spent most of the 90's breaking all the offensive records known to man. They also spent a lot of time competing for, and winning, national titles. One of their best players was Huey Richardson, a hybrid defensive linebacker that was also playing defensive end. He is still ranked 3rd in career sacks at UF.
When the Steelers drafted him, as a last minute desperation selection following the previous three picks, all of whom they wanted, they tried to move him to inside linebacker, because he was not big enough to play defensive end. That was the move that hurt his career and he never recovered.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Jim Druckenmiller, QB (1997, 26th Overall)
In 1997, the San Francisco 49ers were in need of a future quarterback to replace Joe Montana and Steve Young, who carried the 49ers for nearly 15 years. So they went out and drafted a guy who was built to be a quarterback and had everything you would expect from a rookie QB from Virginia Tech.
However, much like the other mistakes on our list, he simply never did enough to earn himself a chance. In other words, he was the worst thing to happen to the 49ers since Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin.
4 Seattle Seahawks: Aaron Curry, LB (2009, 4th Overall)
When it comes to transferring from college to the pros, one of the toughest positions to play is linebacker. Players like Aaron Curry can have all the intangibles and talent in the world but when they get to the NFL, things can change. It is not the same role they had in college and some players, like Curry, struggle mightily at this transformation.
For whatever the reason, Aaron Curry could not make it in the NFL after the Seattle Seahawks drafted him 4th overall in 2009. He came in as a steal in the draft but later turned into the biggest bust in Seattle history and that includes Rick Mirer.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bo Jackson, RB (1986, 1st Overall)
Why in the world would you draft a player that has been very open about his dislike for your franchise, especially after the stunt you pulled to end his collegiate eligibility a few months prior?
The Bucs were convinced Auburn's superstar running back Bo Jackson was all talk and still drafted him first overall after he openly said he would rather go play baseball than play for them after what they did to his college eligibility. That type of poor judgement led to them wasting their pick in 1986, one that could have helped them get through the 80s.
2 Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker, QB (2011, 8th Overall)
What happened to Jake Locker that would cause him to retire from the NFL in 2015, after just four seasons in the league?
Since leaving the NFL, Jake Locker has been tough to talk to because he has gone into hiding, spending his life the way every man wants to do so, with his family and in the peace and quiet of the family home. But after forcing the Titans to waste a very high draft pick on him in 2011, he walked away with a few million bucks and a place at the top of the Titans worst draft picks of all time.
1 Washington Redskins: Heath Shuler, QB (1994, 3rd Overall)
Accuracy has everything to do with NFL success for a quarterback. When Heath Shuler got to the NFL, he immediately began to struggle finding open wide receivers and in his eight starts, he ended up with a 1-7 record while sporting a 45.3% completion percentage. He also threw 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He finished his career with 15 touchdowns and 33 interceptions and a 49.2% completion percentage.
Not only did Washington waste the 3rd overall pick on him, they passed on a ton of stud offensive lineman like Tom Nalen, Kevin Mawae, and Larry Allen. They could have built up their line in 1994 and then grabbed a QB next year.