The NFL draft is an event each year that gets the full attention of many NFL fans months in advance. It feels like a holiday to many. It's the best way for each NFL franchise to improve their rosters. As a result, the hopes of hundreds of thousands of people often lie in the names written down on each draft card.
Every fan has two short lists of players - one of players they would be ecstatic if their team could land and one for players their team has been attached to but they never want to see in uniform. But every fan at some point or another gets a curve ball, a player selected that they never even realized was an option, or even in the draft sometimes. The reaction isn't often anger or rage, but just pure confusion.
Afterwards, fans will either talk themselves into the pick; realizing that the large group of paid professionals whose lives over the past few months were dedicated to this moment know what they're doing. Or they might just convince themselves that their team's front office was busy with their March Madness brackets and completely forgot about the draft until the last minute. In some cases, that does seem the more likely of the two.
Here's the top 15 most head scratching NFL draft picks over the last decade. Where no matter how long you think about it, you just can't understand the rationale behind the selection.
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15 Brandon Scherff
Going into the 2015 Draft, many experts felt that USC product Leonard Williams was the best prospect in the draft. It was commonly expected that if Jacksonville didn't snatch him up at No. 3, he;d fall into the lap of Redskins' GM Scot McCloughan at No. 5k as most predicted the Raiders would select Amari Cooper 4th, which they did.
Everyone felt like this is where Williams would finally come off the board, due to Washington's need on the defensive line. Like many other cases here, it felt like a pick that just made sense.
That's why the Brandon Scherff pick was so shocking. With the 6th pick the New York Jets ended one of the most surprising 3-pick draft slides in recent memory.
14 Dion Jordan
Miami traded up to the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 draft and many thought their first selection would be tackle Lane Johnson. The Dolphins needed to improve their offensive line and two of the 3 top tackles were already off the board.
Instead they selected 3-4 outside linebacker Dion Jordan, despite Miami running a 4-3 defense. While many players coming out can go either way (3-4 OLB or 4-3 DE), Jordan was one who most felt clearly projected better at 3-4 OLB.
When compared to Johnson, both players would have filled a need and both were highly talented. The difference was Johnson would've fit in just fine in Miami, whereas it was hard to see a Jordan being a good scheme fit.
13 Bruce Irvin
Bruce Irvin was a confusing pick at the time, but ended up working out for Seattle. He took a bit of time to get settled in but has since been a starter in Seattle's stacked defense.
However, at the time, many thought Irvin would be selected in the 2nd or 3rd round. He ended up being the crown jewel of a draft class that many analysts gave very poor post-draft grades to afterwards. This was in part to Melvin Ingram being on the board alongside Irvin, whom many thought would be the better selection.
Looking back, criticizing that Seattle class remains one of the more hilarious misreads on the part of sports writers and analysts.
12 Marcus Smith
Pass rusher and wide receiver were the two top positional targets for the Philadelphia Eagles heading into the 2014 draft. When it came to the 26th overall pick, everyone was thinking receiver due to the fact that there weren't really any pass rushers towards the top of the board and USC wide out Marqise Lee was still available.
In addition to Eagles' fans being baffled by taking a player projected in the 2nd/ 3rd round, there was added confusion do to the fact that "Marcus" and "Marqise" to some extent sound similar. So when Goodell announced the Eagles would be taking "Marcus.." every Eagles fan had the same thought, "Huh, that's a weird way to pronounce Marqise."
It may be a while before Eagles' fans forgive the front office for this pick.
11 Justin Harrell
Figured to be an early second round pick, the Packers selected the run-stuffing defensive tackle at 16th overall in what some considered to be a panic move after Marshawn Lynch came of the board several picks earlier.
After Lynch and Amobi Okoye came off the board the best situation likely would've been to either draft a secondary need or trade down. Instead, in a very questionable move, the Packers chose to reach for the injury- prone linemen.
With the hindsight bias in full effect, it's easy to say the Packers would've been better off doing almost anything else with the pick considered Harrell only started two games in his career.
10 Andre Smith
Andre Smith is a curious case. Originally, he was thought of very highly as a prospect coming out of Alabama. He had an injury history at Alabama and then later received a suspension from The University of Alabama for contact with a sports agent. These are typically things that might result in a relatively small drop in interest but are still noteworthy.
What should've caused a serious hit with professional scouts was Smith showing up to the combine completely out of shape and then quitting on it and leaving early.
This should have raised every red flag in the book. Yet Cincinnati still decided to select Smith over talented 8th overall pick Eugene Monroe. In hindsight, it hasn't been a complete waste, as Andre Smith has been solid for the Bengals, but it doesn't mean this wasn't a strange selection...
9 Donte Whitner
While perhaps it's been changing recently, historically safeties have never been all that valuable when compared to other positions. That was still the case in the 2006 NFL draft. Only top, blue chip safety prospects get taken in the top 10, such as Texas product Michael Huff who was selected one spot before Whitner.
By all means Whitner was a talented player coming out, but he played on a stacked Ohio State defense that didn't quite allow him to stand out like other safeties historically picked in the top ten.
Whiter ended up being a productive player for Buffalo. He started 66 games over five seasons for them and has proved to be worthy of the initial selection as a three-time Pro Bowler. But it still remains a pick that no one saw coming.
8 Johnny Manziel
Many speculated that the Browns would select Johnny Manziel, perhaps even with their top 10 pick. The selection itself wasn't the strange part, it's everything surrounding it.
Many considered Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to be the better prospect, while some even considered Derek Carr a better prospect, and so far they're absolutely correct. The $100,000 independent quarterback study financed by the Cleveland Browns in preparation for the draft came to that conclusion as well. However, apparently, the deciding factor on who the billion dollar franchise would continue with at quarterback came down to the opinion of a homeless man. Sal Paolantonio reported on ESPN immediately after the Manziel pick that a homeless man telling owner Jimmy Haslam to "draft Manziel" is what finally convinced him.
This whole storyline is so crazy, it sounds like an Onion article.
7 EJ Manuel
What made this pick confusing was how large of a reach it was. Manuel wasn't expected to be drafted until the 2nd round at the earliest. Some even expected him to dip into the third.
Nothing about Manuel seemed to suggest he would've gone in the first round. He was mobile but not to an amazing degree. He had nice size, at 6'5" - 240. But beyond that he was a very inconsistent player at Florida State and was a clear project in the NFL.
The first receiver taken after Manuel was Clemson wide out DeAndre Hopkins, who would have also filled one of Buffalo's largest positional needs and would've freed them to do something else with their Sammy Watkins pick in 2014.
6 Brandon Graham
Going into the 2010 season, the Eagles were still attempting to plug the hole in the secondary left by legendary free safety Brian Dawkins. Earl Thomas was an elite safety prospect in the class that many felt had the potential to follow up Dawkins. So Andy Reid traded up in the draft ahead of the team that was also rumored to be strongly interested in Thomas, the Seattle Seahawks. Almost anyone would've bet their house on the Eagles taking Thomas at that moment. It was a pick that made perfect sense.
Of course, that isn't what happened. The eagles selected Brandon Graham out of Michigan and left a sour taste in the mouths of every Eagles fan. To make matters worse, after the Seahawks picked Earl Thomas, the Giants picked Jason Pierre-Paul, who's been a much stronger DE so far.
5 Mario Williams
It's very rare for there to be controversy regarding the first overall pick. When there's a clear top end prospect they're always the first selection. Sometimes there will be two and there's a degree of speculation that one might over take the other, such as with Mariota and Winston or RG3 and Luck; though neither ended up being the case.
Many thought that USC standout Reggie Bush was one of the best overall prospects in the draft's history. In addition, coming of a championship victory, Vince Young was also quite the interesting talent. Bush was the favorite with some speculation that Young might overtake him. With a selection out of left field a few days before the draft, the Texans shocked everyone by making Mario Williams the first overall pick in 2006. The crazy part? Mario Williams has been much better than both Bush and Young. Good call Houston.
4 Tyson Alualu
Tyson Alualu was selected only a few spots after elite prospects Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy at 10th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010.
It felt out of place seeing him in the top ten along with Suh and McCoy. It would have been much more at home seeing him among names such as Terrence Cody, Dan Williams, or Linval Joseph, who were late first and second round picks. The high selection moved him up to a higher tier that wasn't in line with his talent level.
It was a pick that only Geno Smith's mom could've liked.
3 Christian Ponder
The 2011 draft class was full of draft busts in the first round, but most of the selections made sense. Ponder didn't. After an impressive combine and senior bowl, many thought that Ponder may sneak into the first round. Instead, he was taken with the 12th overall pick.
There wasn't a massive drop off in talent at quarterback after Ponder either, both Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were still on the board. The potential excuse that Minnesota was worried they'd completely miss out on a quarterback doesn't work.
2 Darrius Heyward-Bey
After having next to no talent available at wide receiver during the 2008 season, the Raiders were desperate to snag a receiver in the upcoming draft. While it was unlikely that blue chip prospect Michael Crabtree would be available at 7th overall, Jeremy Maclin was still a very talented player, deserving of a top ten selection, who would almost certainly be there.
Miraculously, both standouts were available at No. 7 overall (due to Crabtree's injury and character concerns). Instead, Oakland seemingly decided that straight-line speed was more important than every other wide receiver attribute combined and made Darrius Heyward-Bey the first receiver selected in the 2009 draft.
1 Tim Tebow
In addition to winning the Heisman trophy in 2007, Tim Tebow was also a large factor in the Florida Gator's 2007 BCS National Championship win over Ohio State. By all means, he was a very talented player. But sometimes it just doesn't translate to the NFL and everyone knows it won't.
Many were expecting Tebow to be selected as a tight end in the mid rounds of the 2010 draft. Josh McDaniels shocked everyone by not only taking him with Denver's 25th overall pick, but also deciding to keep him at quarterback. A move that made zero sense at the time, and still doesn't today.
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