There have been a lot of bad draft picks since 2010. But these are the worst. These picks are among the biggest draft blunders that the NFL has ever seen. So, we’re going to turn back the clocks, take a look at the top-20 draft mistakes in recent history, and we’re going to let you know who should have been drafted in those spots.
To determine the worst draft picks we’ve got to outline some criteria to start. First off, picking anyone in the NFL draft is a gamble. More often than not, players tend to fade out of the league in much higher frequencies than players who manage a lengthy career.
Therefore, this list takes a look at the first round busts because you expect guys to play well and play consistently when they’re selected at the top of the draft. Some guys who made this list are still playing, but a good chunk of guys failed to remain on NFL rosters.
So, we’re going to fix those mistakes from the past and re-draft a player at the same position who was deserving of that first round draft pick. We’re going to stick with the team’s wishes. If they decided to draft an offensive tackle, we’ll get them a better lineman than the one they got stuck with.
Sidenote: the 2016 draft is not included in these rankings. Sure, guys like Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have shown they were great draft picks. But it’s far too early to determine whether the rest of the guys are failures or successes (and it’s probably too early for the 2015 draft class but we included a bust from that year).
20. St. Louis Rams (2010): Ryan Tannehill
Original Pick: Sam Bradford
Quarterbacks have one of the toughest jobs in sports. They’re overly scrutinized and under appreciated. Unfortunately for quarterbacks selected in the first round, they’re expected to produce from Day 1. Especially when that guy is the first overall pick in the draft.
Sam Bradford could be considered a pretty good later first round pick. But he was a complete bust for the top pick in the draft. Bradford couldn’t stay healthy long enough to be a factor when he was with St. Louis and that leaves us doubting how long he’ll be able to stay healthy going forward.
One day Bradford may prove himself worth of the top draft pick, but for now he’s a bust. The Rams have to opt for consistency out of the top spot this year. And grabbing Ryan Tannehill instead would go a long way for a team who’s been struggling to find a quarterback for years. Tannehill may not be the NFLs best signal caller, but he’s started nearly every game for the Dolphins since getting drafted and he has played very well on a struggling team.
19. Dallas Cowboys (2010): Daryl Washington
Original Pick: Rolando McClain
Rolando McClain looked really good for the time he did play but has had way too many off-field issues. Most recently, McClain was suspended for testing positive for opiates. That suspension came near the conclusion of his 10-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
He’s had so much trouble that league analysts aren’t totally sure if he’ll ever play in the NFL again. That’s a shame for a guy who’s as talented as McClain and it’s unfortunate that he won’t be available until at least November 2017. But hey, McClain missed the entire 2013 season so he has experience missing huge chunks of time. So he might be able to return. But that isn’t helping the Cowboys, who drafted him way too high.
Instead, Dallas would have been better off if Daryl Washington was selected. Washington, a Pro Bowl selection in 2012, has played for the same team since he’s been drafted. Washington has played well in Arizona and looks like he will continue that trend going forward.
18. Denver Broncos (2010): Colt McCoy
Original Pick: Tim Tebow
This is one of the tougher re-drafting choices of the list. This year, no reliable starting quarterbacks have emerged from the draft, so Colt McCoy fits this re-draft spot because he’s still playing in the league, though it’s just as a backup.
As for Tim Tebow, this is easily the most absurd draft pick that made the list. Tebow was not meant to be a top draft pick back then, and his brief career has not changed anything about that. Everyone knew back in 2010 that Tebow wasn’t deserving of a first-round pick. Back then, most people wondered whether Tebow was deserving of a chance to be a quarterback in the league.
And all of those doubts turned out to be correct. The Broncos could have done just about anything with this pick to make it better. For Tebow’s entire career, he threw just 17 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 2,422 passing yards (he also rushed for 989 yards and 12 touchdowns).
17. Detroit Lions (2010): Dexter McCluster
Original Pick: Jahvid Best
Here, we meet a running back who no longer plays because of injury related issues. Dexter McCluster hasn’t don’t much better, but he’s still in the league and was selected to a Pro Bowl in 2013. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jahvid Best fell out of the NFL because of concussion-related symptoms, and Best never proved worthy of his draft spot. There were high hopes for best, who showed brief spurts of talent, but the Lions could have done a lot better.
Best suffered numerous concussions throughout his very short career (2010-2012), which kept him from returning to the field during the 2012 season. If it weren’t for the concussions though, Best could have been a great back in the league. He proved to be talented in his short time and he’s a great athlete. After football, he competed in the Olympics in track and field.
16. Tennessee Titans (2011): Andy Dalton
Original Pick: Jake Locker
Jake Locker looked good at times, but he was injured more often than not. Although other guys on this list come close, this is the first guy who probably shouldn’t have been drafted. Of course, though, with his collegiate career there was no way Jake Locker wasn’t getting drafted to an NFL team. Locker no longer is in the NFL, his last season was in 2014 with the Tennessee Titans.
If the Titans had selected Andy Dalton, it would have saved the organization a lot of heartache. Dalton is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and has remained on the Bengals since the day he was drafted. Dalton may not be an elite quarterback, but he’s been consistent and good (he has 142 passing touchdowns and has thrown for 22,214).
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2011): Colin Kaepernick
Original Pick: Blaine Gabbert
Blaine Gabbert never proved to be a successful quarterback in Jacksonville and most likely won’t prove any type of success as a backup in San Francisco. The best quarterback (well second best because Cam Newton went No. 1 this year) in this re-draft was just taken by the Titans, so the Jaguars will risk the pick with Colin Kaepernick, who will give them a great rookie season, which is better than Gabbert can say.
Gabbert was another player who was tossed into action way before he was ready. Making things worse, he was tossed into the starting quarterback spot on a struggling Jacksonville Jaguars squad. Gabbert was the youngest player in NFL history to start 14 games in a season back in 2011. Gabbert had an absolute terrible rookie season, a trend that continued over his injury-plagued next two seasons. In 2014, he was traded to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick.
14. Minnesota Vikings (2011): Tyrod Taylor
Original Pick: Christian Ponder
For the third time in this year’s draft class, we have a guy who shouldn’t have started in his first season. The quarterback pool is very slim with what remains on the board, but Tyrod Taylor, a Pro Bowl selection in 2015, would provide a bit more of a boost compared to Ponder. Ponder was initially slated to learn from Donovan McNabb and grow on the bench while McNabb road out the final games of his career. But that happened far sooner than the Vikings expected. In 2013, Ponder was part of the Viking push to make the playoffs, but that was largely due to Adrian Peterson’s monstrous season. By 2014, Ponder was a third-string backup and he hasn’t been anything other than a backup since.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (2011): Rodney Hudson
Original Pick: Danny Watkins
Danny Watkins became the first Canadian to be drafted in the first rounds of both the CFL and NFL drafts since Mike Schad in 1986. Back in 2011, Watkins also became the oldest first-round selection since 1971 at 26. Unfortunately for Watkins, he was benched by the start of the season and inactive for a good chunk of that time. He did end up starting 12 games that year, but over the course of two seasons he started just 18 games (he was also active on the Dolphins roster for one game in 2013).
The Eagles would have been set if they had drafted Rodney Hudson instead of Watkins. Hudson is still in the league, and was even selected to the Pro Bowl last season. Oh, and he’s started 64 games compared to Watkins’ 18 starts.
12. Kansas City Chiefs (2011): Randall Cobb
Original Pick: John Baldwin
When wide receivers are drafted in the first round, fans get excited. Wide receivers can be the best playmakers to watch on gameday. But Jon Baldwin never fit that mold. Baldwin only played through 2013 season and had a career total of just 44 receptions. He scored just two touchdowns and tallied just 607 receiving yards over the course of his career.
Randall Cobb may not have had the same career without Aaron Rodgers, but Cobb would have been a huge boost of talent for the Chiefs offense if he were picked in the first round instead of the end of the second round. Cobb, who was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2014 after bringing in 1,287 receiving yards, has been a very good receiver despite missing some time last year and a good chunk in 2013.
11. Green Bay Packers (2011): Byron Bell
Original Pick: Derek Sherrod
Although Derek Sherrod wasn’t selected until the last pick of the first round, he was still a first-round selection that gets judged against some of the best prospects in football. Sherrod broke his leg in December 2011, and missed the entire 2012 season because of that injury. In total, Sherrod was active for just 20 games in three seasons and started just one game in 2014.
Byron Bell, except for last season, has been a staple of consistency since being signed as an undrafted player in 2011. Bell has started most games of his career and has been active for just about all of them. Except for last season, though, as he missed the entire year because of injury. But missing just one season is nothing compared to the time Sherrod was missing.
10. Cleveland Browns (2012): Doug Martin
Original Pick: Trent Richardson
The Browns got lucky by dumping Trent Richardson off on the Colts for a first round draft pick (although that pick ended up landing Johnny Manziel in Cleveland) after giving the running back multiple chances during his early years in the NFL. Doug Martin has proved time and time again that he has talent, and Martin would have been a much better pick for the Browns.
Martin would have been a better choice because Richardson has not been deserving of a spot on an NFL roster. Richardson currently is a free agent and has spent the last two seasons on the practice squad. That’s absolutely terrible for a guy drafted in the first few picks of the 2012 draft. Richardson did rush for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns with Cleveland during his first season. But it was just a downward spiral after that.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (2012): Alshon Jeffery
Original Pick: Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon just hasn’t been able to stay away from suspensions. There were high hopes for the wide receiver from Oklahoma State. So much so that he was drafted with the fifth overall pick. But Blackmon squandered away his opportunities. In total, he started 18 games and recorded 1,280 receiving yards with six touchdowns.
But he was suspended for the first four games of 2013 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He was suspended again in November 2013 and hasn’t returned to the NFL. Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright were also first round picks this year. But Alshon Jeffery was a second round selection who has proved deserving of a first round pick.
8. Dallas Cowboys (2012): Stephon Gilmore
Original Pick: Morris Claiborne
Morris Claiborne started 15 games during his rookie season but has been a nonfactor since. Claiborne has had a career that has been better than a lot of guys who appear on this list, but not as good as people would have expected from someone who was considered one of the best defensive prospects in 2012. Claiborne has started in just 28 games in the four seasons since that rookie year.
Claiborne has just proven to be way too injury prone for a pick that high in the first round. Stephon Gilmore was drafted in the 10th pick this year, but he deserved Claiborne’s spot. Although Gilmore hasn’t been as talented on the field, he’s been more consistent and has actually seen a lot of time on the field. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl last season.
7. Cleveland Browns (2012): Russell Wilson
Re-Draft: Brandon Weeden
When the Browns drafted this quarterback in the first round, Brandon Weeden became the oldest player ever taken in the first round at age 28. Like the other quarterbacks on this list, Weeden sits on the bench. Quarterbacks may be unfairly judged, but if you’re drafted in the first round you’re expected to produce and start. Weeden was a brief starter, but never proved he could consistently produce.
Russell Wilson was the best quarterback out of the draft pool this year. Wilson, who was the Rookie of the Year in 2012 and selected to the Pro Bowl three times (2012, 2013 and 2015), was deserving of this first round pick and he could have really changed Cleveland’s future. The Browns could have been good if they didn’t waste the last five years trying to find a quarterback.
6. San Francisco 49ers (2012): T.Y. Hilton
Original Pick: A.J. Jenkins
A.J. Jenkins is another guy who probably shouldn’t have been drafted. He’s no longer active and he had a very rough start in the league. During his rookie season, Jenkins was active for just three games despite being healthy. At the end of his career, Jenkins posts just 17 receptions with 223 receiving yards and no touchdowns.
Since Alshon Jeffery was already selected in this re-draft, we have to go a bit farther down the board to find a suitable replacement for Jenkins. There were a few options to pull from, but none were as good as T.Y. Hilton, who was originally drafted at the end of the third round. Hilton could have been a gamechanger in San Francisco as the three-time Pro Bowler led the league last year in receiving yards.
5. New York Giants (2012): Alfred Morris
Original Pick: David Wilson
David Wilson is another guys whose career was ended due to injury. It could have been different if it weren’t for the career-ending neck injury, but now Wilson is competing in track and field and not on the football field. In total, Wilson played in just 21 games and rushed for about 400 yards. It’s tough to judge whether he could have been a good, consistent running back, but we do know that drafting him in the first round was a bust.
There are a few good running backs left on the board, but none are better than Alfred Morris, who was originally drafted in the sixth round. This two-time Pro Bowl selection has proven to be a star in the NFL and he deserves a first-round pick when we look back at his career that still continues, though he doesn’t see as much action as before.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (2013): David Bakhtiari
Original Pick: Luke Joeckel
The 2013 draft was a rough year at the top of the first round, but Luke Joeckel has been the worst of the top guys selected. In 2014, Joeckel was named one of the worst offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus, who reported that the offensive lineman was responsible for eight quarterback sacks. In May 2016, Jacksonville announced it would not pick up the fifth-year option on Joeckel’s contract. He was placed on the injured-reserve list after knee surgery in October. In total, Joeckel has played in just 35 games in his career.
Despite a high number of offensive tackles being taken in the first round this year, we drop down to the fourth round to find this re-draft pick. David Bakhtiari has been a great addition for Green Bay as he’s started 62 games, is still on the team and made the Pro Bowl last season.
3. Buffalo Bills (2013): Geno Smith
Original Pick: EJ Manuel
EJ Manuel spent a good chunk of his first season on the sidelines because of an injury. He then was benched in his second season and lost out on the starting job after that. Manuel, to this point, has been nothing more than a bench warmer for the Bills. In total, he’s started just 17 games in his career and is increasingly losing his chance at ever becoming a factor on NFL offenses.
There wasn’t much talent out of the quarterback position for this year. Manuel may end up being the best quarterback drafted out of 2013. But that’s still unknown. So, this re-draft pick is a risk, but the Bills have nothing to lose by drafting Geno Smith. Sure, he’s struggling with injuries. But he has much better odds of turning his career around.
2. Cleveland Browns (2014): Teddy Bridgewater
Original Pick: Johnny Manziel
Cleveland had two first round picks this year and failed miserably with Johnny Manziel, who is among the worst picks in recent history. Just imagine how different the Browns could be if they had drafted Teddy Bridgewater. Of course, Bridgewater hasn’t been the best quarterback in the league, but he’s been a heck of a lot better than Manziel.
Manziel was a great college quarterback and unfortunately, he saw himself as a star even though he proved nothing in the NFL. That’s partly Manziel’s fault, but it’s largely Cleveland’s fault for drafting him so high. During his brief time in Cleveland (2014-2015), Manziel has thrown for 1,675 yards and seven touchdowns with seven interceptions. Manziel had a very lengthy list of accolades in college, but it doesn’t look like he’ll ever continue that trend in the NFL.
1. Chicago Bears (2015): Tyler Lockett
Original Pick: Kevin White
Again, the 2015 draft class still has a lot of time to change initial perceptions. These guys have only played for two seasons, so we have to be very selective in terms of labeling draft picks a bust. But there’s no other way to describe Chicago’s seventh pick in 2015. Kevin White was another wide receiver who hasn’t been able to prove anything in the NFL. He missed his rookie year and a majority of last season because of injuries.
In total, White has collected just 17 receptions and 187 receiving yards while in the NFL. Four other wide receivers were drafted in the first round this year. But we go to the second round to find this re-draft pick as Tyler Lockett, a 2015 Pro Bowl selection, has proved to be the most talented receiver so far.
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