Top 15 Biggest NFL Draft Slides of All Time

With the 2014 NFL regular season over and the playoffs underway and most fantasy leagues over and done with, fans will begin to discuss the draft (especially those people whose teams didn't make the playoffs). The NFL draft is one of those events in the sporting world that is not a game, but is followed with the same careful analysis as the playoffs. It may be four months away, but analysts and casual fans alike have all started to pontificate what certain teams need, which free agents could offset draft needs, and which players will be drafted earliest.

Obviously at this point these hypotheses are little more than idle talk, but many people offer valuable and interesting insight regardless. One of the biggest and most discussed aspects in any draft are draft slides. While each person and their confused mother can come up with a definition for draft slide, there are two fundamental criteria; at least one of which must be met in order for a player to have slid in the draft. The player must be a highly projected (at least first round, usually early first round) pick whose draft stock diminishes due to a bad Pro Day, or off field incident, or that high projected athlete must simply not be picked until later than predicted on the day of the draft.

A draft bust is a player who is projected to be drafted early, is drafted early, but goes on to have a poor overall pro career. A steal, with Tom Brady being a notable example, is a late round pick who goes on to have an outstanding career. This is not new information, but among some fans, there is a serious lack of clarity regarding what constitutes the basic differences among these terms. Without further rambling and clarification; here is our list of the NFL's 15 most notorious draft slides of all time. Criteria to determine the list membership and ranking will be the overall notoriety of the player, combined with how far they slid in the draft itself.

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15 Johnny Manziel

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This one is highly debatable but who says starting off a list with some debate is a bad thing? Johnny Football was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. The reason his membership on this list is debatable is that Manziel's potential for the NFL was highly debated prior to the 2014 draft. Some analysts argued that his skills and instincts would naturally transfer to the big show, but others said he should never have even declared for the draft.

Ultimately it is too soon to say whether he is a bust or not, as he has seen just one season in the NFL and started just two games. With regard to his being a draft slide, there were experts saying he should go top five, but ultimately he was taken 22nd overall by the Browns. Prior to his draft day, he was heavily criticized for his size, speed, and character. He was, and still is thought to be, somewhat of a party animal. Along with that, 6' tall is short for a quarterback and many argued that his speed would be a moot point in the NFL. The jury remains out on whether these early predictions will be true.

14 Matt Leinart

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Another Heisman winning quarterback, Leinart won it back in 2004 while playing for USC. Despite 6'5 and 225 lbs being essentially a prototype build for a modern day quarterback, Leinart could never really pull it together in the NFL. Aa of right now, he is a free agent, but after eight rough seasons, a losing record, a poor touchdown to interception ratio and completion rating, it looks very unlikely he will ever see the field again.

While he was originally seen as a potential top five pick, Leinart was heavily criticized for his arm strength leading up to the draft. Ultimately he was picked tenth by the Arizona Cardinals. Tenth in the draft is still very high but many expected an earlier pick and Leinart to possibly be the next big thing. They were wrong.

13 Rey Maualuga

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The Bengals' linebacker was a highly sought prospect out of high school and had a great career at USC. Between 2005 and 2008, Maualuga developed into one of the best young linebackers in the country under Pete Carroll's coaching. In his draft year, 2009, Maualuga was believed to be one of the most promising defensive players in the class. Some analysts predicted he would be taken in the top ten while others said in the teens, but it was almost unthought of that he would go 38th overall, in the second round.

Maualuga isn't the best linebacker in the league, or even the best on the Bengals' roster (more on that later), but he has performed fairly well in the NFL.

12 Brady Quinn

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Another Cleveland Browns quarterback who was taken 22nd overall... Brady Quinn is now a free agent who occasionally sits in as an analyst for NCAA games. Back in 2007, he looked like the best quarterback entering the draft, having had a couple of successful years with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Many thought he would go in the top five, but instead he was picked up by the Browns at spot 22, their second pick in the draft. Quinn's slide was not predicated by any notable criticism. He was seen as a great option for a potential starter but instead he fell to number 22. He went on to do next to nothing in the NFL.

11 Mario Manningham

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The former Michigan Wolverines wide receiver had four years of relative success in the NFL, catching for over 2500 yards in four seasons with 19 touchdowns. He played a few seasons for the New York Giants and a couple for the 49ers, winning a Super Bowl with the Giants, but never making an impact beyond being the number three wide out.

Upon declaring for the draft, there were some serious reasons for a slide for Manningham. While his speed and hands were seen as reliable, his character was in question along with his overall intelligence. He was known to have been caught having used marijuana at least once in college but his 6 out of 50 Wonderlic score scared those teams away who would have selected him in the first round despite the drug issue.

He was a former Biletnikoff finalist, and many scouts rated his skills among top tier receivers, but his "issues" saw him taken late in the third round.

10 Ray Lewis

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Ray Lewis ranks among the top linebackers of all time. He carried the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory back in 2013, despite a serious arm injury. He is known as one of the most intense men ever to play the game, which is saying something. He had three years with the Miami Hurricanes and declared for the draft in early 1996.

Lewis was acknowledged for his skills but ultimately his size (just 6'1 and 225 lbs at the time) was seen as too small. He was supposed to be a higher first round pick as the highest rated linebacker in the draft, but ended up going 26th overall. He beefed up a bit but for those of you who watched football between 1996 and 2012, Lewis never let his "size problem" get in the way of putting a hurt on people, sometimes much larger.

9 Dez Bryant

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His "catch" against the Green Bay Packers in this weekend's divisional game may be the current talk of the league, but Dez Bryant is still among the best receivers in the league. Prior to his time in the NFL, he was one of the best receivers in the NCAA, playing for Oklahoma State.

Bryant's rough upbringing is well-documented and he has been in a couple of controversial situations since entering the NFL. He was suspended in 2009, while a junior in college, for violating a rule in the NCAA regarding players meeting with NFL players and former players. He was suspended for most of the year and, in conjunction with his prior "character problems," his draft stock went down. He was picked up late in the first round, 24th, by the Cowboys, when he had been considered a top five potential in terms of skill.

8 Warren Sapp

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The delightful loud-mouth from the NFL Network comes in as number eight for our list. Sapp was one of the most feared defensive linemen in the league for a number of years and prior to that he was an intimidating mangler for the University of Miami.

For Sapp, it was rumors of multiple substance infractions that caused his draft stock to decline slightly. He was projected to go in the top five but the defensive tackle was taken twelfth by the Buccaneers. To this day, he denies ever failing any drug tests.

7 Aaron Hernandez

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Anybody who had a crystal ball back in 2010 could have told the world why Hernandez should slide in the draft, but even prior to the murders he allegedly carried out, there was writing on the wall. Hernandez admitted to having failed a drug test while at the University of Florida, but multiple drug tests were rumored. Furthermore, there was plenty of speculation prior to his being drafted with regard to whether or not he was still living, as the kids say, "the thug life." As it would turn out, yes, yes he was.

Back in 2010, some analysts called for Hernandez to be a first or second round talent, but he was ultimately chosen in the fourth by the Patriots.

6 Thurman Thomas

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The Buffalo Bills' late 80's and 90's running back is a College Football Hall of Famer and has been selected to the HoF in Canton, Ohio. In the mid-80s, he was a feared rusher for Oklahoma State and a two-time All-American. He was widely considered the best running back in the draft (and was) but in his last year at OSU, he had sustained a knee injury. His injury threw his durability and speed into question, causing him to fall to 40th overall. For those too young to know his name, he rushed for the 14th most yards in league history and played for the Bills in their four Super Bowl losses.

5 Randy Moss

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In his two years with the Marshall Thundering Herd, Randy Moss scored 54 touchdown passes and just over 3,500 yards. To call him unbelievable as a freshman and sophomore, would be a massive understatement. Unfortunately, as his later NFL career would prove, he was an interesting character and not the most ideal NFL player in terms of behavior.

Moss had failed a drug test and had a variety of legal issues. As such, he was overlooked by a number of teams that could have made use of his speed and hands. He was taken 21st overall by the Minnesota Vikings, after many had argued that he would go in the top ten.

4 Drew Brees

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It basically goes without saying that a successful NFL quarterback should be over 6'2 and around 220-230 lbs. Tall enough to have a view over the O-line but still built large enough to put weight into a throw and take a hit when necessary. At just 6 feet tall and about 200 lbs, Brees is a small quarterback and this was the biggest problem for him entering the draft back in 2001. Brees was considered not only to be undersized, but also thought to have a weak arm. He's still undersized to this day, but he won a Super Bowl a few years ago and can chuck a pigskin like quarterbacks larger and heavier than himself. Brees was projected to go in the mid-first round but ended up waiting until the first pick of the second round, by the Chargers, to get selected.

3 Aaron Rodgers

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The Packers current star (possibly the NFL MVP) quarterback is our third all time draft slide, as he went to the Packers with the 24th overall pick back in 2005. He was considered one of the best quarterbacks in the draft coming out of Cali, but ultimately the 49ers, who were expected to draft him first overall, took Alex Smith instead. With his astounding touchdown/interception rate and his amazing ability to work with his receivers and extend plays, he was not just a draft slide but also a huge steal for Green Bay.

2 Dan Marino

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Way back in 1983, Dan Marino was a draft hopeful coming out of a Pittsburgh Panthers' squad whose prominence had dipped significantly. He had led the team to amazing seasons from his freshman year through junior, but the team and Marino himself saw less success and a bowl game loss in 1983. This caused his draft stock to drop significantly, as many analysts started to claim that Marino was not NFL material. Originally thought to be a top pick, Marino dropped to 27th overall, and was the sixth quarterback taken in the draft.

1 Vontaze Burfict

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This one warrants a slight disclaimer. By putting the Bengals' linebacker and 2013 league tackle leader at the number one position, ahead of Rodgers and Marino, we are not saying he is a bigger star than those two were or are. Rather, he is number one because of how much he slid.

Burfict was a great linebacker in his sophomore year and there were rumors of his intention to declare for the draft even before the start of his junior season. Unfortunately, problems started to come out of the woodwork. Burfict failed a drug test, and was widely believed to be a liability on and off the field. He went from a possible top ten pick to undrafted to a star linebacker.

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