For as much credit as I give the NFL for turning their yearly draft into a red carpet event with performing acts, celebrities, and plenty of ads, I always wondered why Kanye West's 'Power' never was the go-to theme. I mean, look at the lyrics:
"Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it
I guess every superhero need his theme music."
Every year, boos come flying down from fans at the NFL Draft for not only Emperor Goodell, but for the players selected by each of the league's 32 teams. Sometimes, the boos are justified (i.e. off-field behavior) and sometimes, it's nothing more than frustration about what goes into their teams' drafting process. At the end of the day though, perhaps fans should realize that a lot of scouting and analysis goes into a team's pick and sometimes it's best to take a wait and see approach rather than take out your frustration on a young man who hasn't even had his shot in the pros yet.
And for many of the NFL's newest players, those boos and seeming hate from their new fans may rattle them. Plenty of players, however, have used the boos as a form of motivation and have gone on to prove those fans wrong.
15 Jeff Lageman - New York Jets (1989 NFL Draft)
Get used to seeing the Jets on this list, because the tortured green and white supporters will always send boos flying for their first-round picks. Before going into broadcasting for the Jacksonville Jaguars and hosting a popular radio talk show for WOKV (690 AM), Lageman was an All-Pro linebacker for the Jets from 1989-94 who had to deal with those draft day boos.
Part of what bothered Jet fans was Lageman came into the league as an undersized defensive end, but he flourished as a linebacker - racking up 10 sacks in his All-Pro 1991 season - for both Gang Green and the Jaguars. Nearly a decade after being booed on Draft Day, Lageman's career ended at the age of 31 after tearing a muscle in his arm with the Jaguars. Still, a fine career for someone who 'draft expert' Mel Kiper believed wouldn't succeed in the NFL because of his size.
14 Kevin Kolb - Philadelphia Eagles (2007 NFL Draft)
Before becoming a college basketball broadcaster for beIN Sports, Donovan McNabb was on his way to becoming the greatest quarterback in Philadelphia Eagles history after his first eight seasons from 1999-2006. The last two of those seasons, however, were marred by injuries (though McNabb was his normal, efficient self when healthy with a 34-15 TD-INT ratio in 19 games).
Because the Eagles won the NFC East with Jeff Garcia as quarterback in 2006 and the soon-to-be-31 year old McNabb was coming off a torn ACL, GM Tom Heckert decided to draft the apparent heir replacement in the 2007 NFL Draft: Houston’s Kevin Kolb. Why the Eagles fans booed Kolb so heavily remains unclear - was it out of love for McNabb, or frustration the team went quarterback instead of linebacker David Harris or wide receiver Steve Smith?
However, Kolb endeared himself to fans and the front office well enough during his relief stints of McNabb in 2008 and 2009 that the team traded the former Orangeman to Washington in 2010; now, Kolb could replace McNabb after three years the way Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre after three years. The boos that plagued him on Draft Day 2007 would be something that we’d all laugh about, right?
See, about that. On Opening Day 2010, Kolb was concussed against the Green Bay Packers and never regained the starting job from Comeback Player of the Year winner Michael Vick. Once the 2011 Lockout ended, Kolb was traded to the Arizona Cardinals and battled several more concussions before retiring in 2014. At least Kolb wasn’t the worst quarterback to come out of that 2007 NFL Draft...
13 Ted Ginn Jr., Miami Dolphins (2006 NFL Draft)
Ginn’s spot on this list is interesting because he’s one of the few players in recent memory to actively question why the team who drafted him did so. Instead of going for Notre Dame star quarterback Brady Quinn to end the post-Marino revolving door, Miami instead took Ginn with the 12th overall pick; from a personnel move, getting one of the draft’s best receivers made sense, but fans rightfully wanted Quinn.
Unfortunately, Miami didn’t really win with the Ginn pick when it came to him as a receiver, but plenty of fans enjoyed what the Ohio State product did as an electrifying kick returner and Wildcat option. Ginn’s time in Miami came to a premature end as a result of drops and a benching in 2009, but before the Dolphins decided to start getting some picks right, Ginn could produce a highlight or two. Ginn has since gone on to have a solid NFL career. Miami’s certainly had worse picks; right, Dion Jordan?
12 Leonard Williams, New York Jets (2015 NFL Draft)
From a Jets fan's point of view, I think the boos came down for Williams two years ago not only for tradition, but because the Jets could have used some offensive line help - Brandon Scherff, maybe? - they should have went for the generational talent that Todd Gurley was supposed to be. But drafting Leonard Williams to fill the role that Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson already did? This was the Jets being the Jets yet again...
Or, was it? While Williams has only played two seasons in the league, he's quickly becoming a fan favorite among Jet fans and improved all of his rookie year numbers in season two. It's probably too early to suggest that Williams is on his way to becoming one of the league's best pass rushers, but with what the USC product has done in his first two years, the Jets' future on the defensive line remains bright.
11 Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (2014 NFL Draft)
Honestly, Ebron and Williams could be used interchangeably on this list, but the tight end gets a slight advantage because Detroit has made two playoff appearances compared to Williams' zero. Then again, Ebron only has five catches for 44 yards in those two playoff loses, so that argument could potentially be rendered null.
Regardless, Ebron drew the ire of Lions fans because while he was a piece that could help Matthew Stafford return to his previous form, there were much better options on the board including Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan and LSU wide reciever Odell Beckham Jr. Ebron was a fast-riser on draft boards, but given the Lions' history with those types of players, it only made sense for fans to be skeptical.
Ebron struggled to begin his NFL career, but broke through in the 2016 season for 61 catches and 711 yards. With Calvin Johnson surprisingly still retired and the Lions emerging as a dangerous threat in the NFC, look for Ebron to continue progressing into a solid tight end - and one that is making Lions fans wonder if booing was the right call.
10 Al Toon, New York Jets (1984 NFL Draft)
Yet again, the Jet fans booed a pick and yet again, the Jet fans were wrong. How is it that people point to fans of the Patriots, Cowboys, and Eagles as some of the worst in the NFL yet us Jet fans get a pass? Whenever Al Toon got a pass thrown his way, the Wisconsin product took advantage and hauled in 517 catches over his eight seasons with Gang Green.
Making three Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams from 1986-1988, Toon cemented himself as one of the greatest receivers in Jets history - if not the greatest - and was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2011. Unfortunately, a staggering nine reported concussions ended Toon’s career early - though his son, Nick, is still doing his best to pick up the pieces and will attempt to latch on with another team after barely playing for the Saints in 2015. Given their current rebuilding process, could a Jets-Toon reunion be in the mix?
9 Marvin Jones, New York Jets (1993 NFL Draft)
Like Toon, Jones rebounded from the early draft boos to become a Jets-lifer, but this was also a pick that made a lot of sense. Yes, Jerome Bettis was on the board and the Jets did need another running back but Jones also fit a need. It’s not like Jones was some type of raw, linebacking prospect who would need to sit for a year or two; in college, Jones was a two-time All American and a 1992 winner of both the Butkus and the Lombardi Award.
When the pick came in 1993, Jet fans booed, Jet fans complained, and Jet fans then mourned when Jones retired after the 2003 season. With a first-team All-Pro selection in 2000 and six straight seasons of 16 games played - a miracle for most linebackers - the ‘Shade Tree’ quickly became a fan favorite and figures to be inducted into the Ring of Honor sooner rather than later.
8 Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys (2014 NFL Draft)
Leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, Dallas Cowboys fans began a love-hate relationship with the idea of seeing former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel end up in Jerry World. With Tony Romo coming off three straight 8-8 seasons as the team’s starting signal-caller and the team only making one postseason appearance since the 2008 season, maybe change was warranted in the form of the hometown kid.
What really happened in that Cowboys war room is still uncertain, but the end result with the 16th pick was Dallas instead selecting Notre Dame guard Zack Martin. As was to be expected of a fanbase who had really warmed up to seeing Johnny Football throwing to Dez Bryant, plenty of Cowboys supporters booed and thought this was Jerry being Jerry yet again. Actually, it was Stephen Jones being Stephen Jones, making another draft pick that would immediately help the team and see Martin become a three-time All-Pro player - two of those times, Martin was named to the All-Pro First Team - and protect whoever was behind center for Dallas.
7 Ken O'Brien, New York Jets (1983 NFL Draft)
Now is the time to make jokes about the New York Jets' continuous revolving quarterback door because Ken O'Brien is the only Jets quarterback on this list - and rightfully so, because O'Brien was a game-changing quarterback during the 1980s. Part of the legendary class of 1983 that also featured John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly, Ken O'Brien was famously booed by Jets fans after being selected 24th overall. As O'Brien himself would say:
"Who blames [the fans], right? Who, in New York, has heard of Cal, University of California, Davis? Nobody ... I'm not sure I would have reacted any differently. Heck, some of my cousins grew up as Jets fans. They were probably doing the same thing."
Jet fans would certainly know Ken O'Brien soon enough, as the two-time Pro Bowler set several NFL records - including becoming the first quarterback to combine a perfect passer rating with 400+ yards in a game - over his career. While O'Brien would unfortunately never make a Super Bowl for Gang Green and has been lost in the mix because of what the quarterback situation has been since he left after the 1992 season (anyone remember when Greg McElroy played quarterback for the Jets?), he certainly proved his early doubters wrong.
But us Jet fans are always cynics, so proving us wrong isn't that hard if one plays well enough.
6 Eli Manning, San Diego Chargers (2004 NFL Draft)
Manning being put on this list is an interesting case because he wasn’t booed by the team he ended up playing for. As a result of the Manning-Chargers fiasco where the future two-time Super Bowl winner would go on the record and say he refused to play for San Diego if they drafted him, Archie’s son was showered in boos from the Chargers fans who traveled to New York - and from the football fans who thought Eli should have put up and quietly gone to wherever he was drafted.
But after the Chargers traded Manning to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers and draft picks, Manning had to prove something to both fanbases; that their teams didn’t make the wrong call in the trade. Mostly, Manning had to silence the San Diego fans who wanted him to tear an ACL before even stepping on the football field for daring to say he wouldn’t play for the Bolts. Even with his inconsistency, I’d have to think that Eli and his two Super Bowl rings with the Giants proved the Chargers’ fans wrong.
5 Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys (2013 NFL Draft)
When it comes to draft-eligible offensive linemen, no one really knows who the majority of them are; they’re not the flashy, fast players you see on Twitter highlight reels nor are they the brash, outspoken quarterbacks with a Tom Brady-esque smile. Offensive linemen are nothing more than the big uglies who keep your quarterback safe and have the best beards on the team.
So when a big-name team like the Dallas Cowboys who is known for those flashy, elite college prospects drafts a center in the first round, fans are bound to be confused and potentially angry. Frederick’s drafting in 2013 was exactly that, in large part because the Cowboys traded down with the 49ers for minimal compensation (a third-rounder used on Terrance Williams) and with other players who fit key needs - defensive tackle Kawann Short, much??? - still on the board. Head coach Jason Garrett even admitted that Frederick was a third-round prospect.
All Frederick has done since coming to Jerry World is make three All-Pro teams, including being named a First-Team All-Pro this past season, and help contribute to the league’s best offensive line. Now, people definitely know Frederick’s name.
4 Brady Quinn, Cleveland Browns (2007 NFL Draft)
The Brady Quinn saga is one of my favorites because after falling as far as he did and finally landing in Cleveland, the ruthless Browns fans booed the poor guy like there was no tomorrow. I get it; the fans were skeptical because they’d been burned by Tim Couch, whiffed with Kelly Holcomb, and weren’t yet sold on former third-round pick Charlie Frye. Here comes Quinn, the golden boy product from Notre Dame to be the savior, right?
And, like they eventually would for Johnny Manziel, Browns fans thought the former college prodigy falling to them was a gift from the football gods. Maybe Quinn would actually end up becoming the savior, especially when the Browns were able to get a team to buy high on the journeyman Derek Anderson. Well, Quinn actually got to prove Browns fans wrong twice: the first time in getting fans to think drafting him was a mistake, and the second time getting those same fans to believe he was the Messiah.
Quinn went 3-9 as starter of the Browns in 2008 and 2009, throwing for a pathetic 12-17 TD-INT ratio before being dealt to Denver for Peyton Hillis prior to the 2010 NFL season. At least the Browns were able to get a Madden cover out of Hillis...
3 Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles (1999 NFL Draft)
McNabb’s draft day story is well known by now, as the Philadelphia fans who traveled to Madison Square Garden showered the arena with boos when the former Syracuse star was picked second overall. Make your jokes about this being the same city that booed Santa Claus now, because McNabb certainly ended up doing more for the City of Brotherly Love than Jolly Ole St. Nick did - or that any other quarterback from the 1999 class did for their city.
Over 148 games with the Eagles, McNabb completed 59 percent of his passes for 32,873 yards, a 216-100 TD-INT ratio, and nearly 100 regular season wins (if the postseason is factored in, McNab had 101; 92 in the regular season and nine in the playoffs). While the McNabb-Eagles divorce wasn’t exactly the prettiest and there are some moments that I’m sure both sides would love to forget (that Terrell Owens romance comes to mind), McNabb definitely silenced those early haters with eleven, normally sunny years in Philadelphia.
2 Darrelle Revis, New York Jets (2007 NFL Draft)
To the credit of my fellow Jet fans, the pick of Revis wasn’t booed the way some of the Jets’ other picks were; even before Revis Island was a thing, the supporters of the Green and White knew that the Pittsburgh product was going to be something special. But, because Jet fans do love to boo their first-round picks out of tradition, Revis lands on this list.
Honestly, this may not even be a case of a player proving his fanbase completely wrong as it was proving them wrong in what his ceiling was. Who would have seen Revis becoming one of the greatest defensive backs in history by the time he hit 25 years old? Say what you want about Revis’ performance in his second stint back with the Jets after time in Tampa Bay and New England, but in the early years after he was drafted, there was no player that other teams were more hesitant to test.
1 J.J. Watt, Houston Texans (2011 NFL Draft)
Think about this for a second if you’re a football fan: the majority of the first-round prospects who fit the needs that the Houston Texans truly needed entering the 2011 NFL Draft - wide receivers, cornerbacks, maybe a strong safety - were already off the board. Houston may have wanted A.J. Green, Julio Jones or Patrick Peterson, but they instead decided to fill their hole at defensive end with a player who fit new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme perfectly: Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt.
And yet, Houston fans collectively lost their cool and booed the player that would almost immediately become the best player in the team’s relatively short history...oh, and one of the greatest defensive players in league history. The accolades and awards alone should be enough motivation for Watt to continue chasing his first Super Bowl, but the future Hall of Famer uses something else to keep him ready to excel.
In less than two months, a new batch of collegiate players will join the NFL ranks and some will be booed on draft night. Knowing the luck of the New York Jets, whoever they draft will not be booed and will be the worst of the first ten players selected. This game is rigged...
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