Jason Smith, OL, Los Angeles Rams
Career Accolades: Second overall pick in 2009 NFL draft from Baylor; 45 games played (26 starts); zero Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections
Following a strong string of success to the start the millennium, the Rams found themselves picking in the top-2 in three consecutive drafts starting in 2008. Two of their picks — Chris Long — no. 2 overall in 2008 — and Sam Bradford — no. 1 overall in 2010 — went on to have impressive careers. Long played for 11 seasons and tacked on two Super Bowl victories in ’17 and ’18. Bradford won Rookie of the Year in 2010, and earned upwards of $130 million during his playing days.
And then there’s Smith. The Baylor tackle suffered a concussion early in his rookie year which forced him to miss 10 games in ’09. It didn’t get much better from there, as Smith played just 21 more NFL games following his rookie season — ending his career as a New York Jet in 2012. It’s tough to put too much blame on the Rams, however, as the 10 picks which proceeded Smith in the 2009 NFL Draft produced just one Pro Bowler (Packers interior lineman B.J. Raji).
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Jimmy Clausen, QB, Carolina Panthers
Career Accolades: Second-round pick (48th overall) in 2010 NFL draft from Notre Dame; 22 games played (14 starts); 7 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 2,520 passing yards, 61.9 passer rating, 1-13 record as a starter
A highly-touted prospect out of Southern California, Clausen left a lot to be desired during his Notre Dame career. After going undefeated (42-0) at prep powerhouse Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Clausen managed to win just 16 games (in 35 starts) during his three years in South Bend.
Clausen’s disappointing college career didn’t stop him from being the third quarterback taken off the board in 2010 (Bradford and Tim Tebow were both first-round picks in ’10). Pundits still believed in his talent, and ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. even went as far as saying he would retire if Clausen didn’t have a successful NFL career. Well, Kiper remains at his position, but it doesn’t seem like Clausen — who won just one start in his NFL career and has been out of the league since 2015 — is turning it around anytime soon.
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Dion Jordan, DL, Miami Dolphins
Career Accolades: Third overall pick in 2013 NFL draft from Oregon; 50 games played (4 starts); 10.5 sacks, 91 tackles
2013 was a rough draft for the league as a whole. The first 24 picks produced just one All-Pro — Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson — and the most successful QB taken in the entire pool was Geno Smith — who narrowly beat out E.J. Manuel, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones.
The Dolphins actually traded up to the third slot to select Jordan who was coming off a monster year at Oregon. Jordan would go on to suit up in just 26 games for the Dolphins before missing the entirety of the 2015 season due to a failed drug test. He’s never accrued more than 4.0 sacks in a single season and is already 30 years old.
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Robert Aguayo, K, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Career Accolades: Second-round pick (59th overall) in 2016 NFL draft from Florida State; 16 games played; 22-of-31 field goals (71.0-percent)
Selecting a kicker in the first few rounds of the draft is shocking enough already. Selecting a bad kicker in the first two rounds is simply unforgivable. The former Florida State standout converted a sterling 88-percent of his field goal attempts in college, and converted on all 198 of his extra-point attempts as well.
However, Aguayo seemed rattled by kicking in the NFL. In his rookie season, the second-round pick finished dead-last in field goal percentage and even missed two extra points. He was never able to recover. The Buccaneers cut him the following offseason in favor of Nick Folk, and Aguayo has since lost kicking competitions to secure a starting role in Chicago, Carolina and Los Angeles.
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Christian Hackenberg, QB, New York Jets
Career Accolades: Second-round pick (51st overall) in 2016 NFL draft from Penn State; zero games played, zero pass attempts, zero downs played
Hackenberg’s NFL career was over before it ever really got going. It came as a surprise to some when the former Penn State hurler fell to the 51st overall pick in 2016, but it became abundantly clear Hackenberg wasn’t built to quarterback an NFL offense. Rumors of his struggles during Jets practices went viral across social media with reports stating Hackenberg sailed errant passes which struck reporters on the sideline on more than one occasion.
The Jets went with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center in 2017, with Geno Smith operating as the team’s primary backup and fourth-round pick Bryce Petty serving as the team’s third-string option. Hackenberg suited up for just one game in Year 1, and entered a battle with Petty the following year for the backup role. Hackenberg eventually lost out to Petty and was subsequently traded to the Oakland Raiders the following offseason in exchange for a seventh-round pick. He has yet to make his NFL debut in a regular season game.
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Dee Milliner, CB, New York Jets
Career Accolades: Ninth overall pick in 2013 NFL draft from Alabama; 21 games played (14 starts); 3 interceptions, 19 passes defended, 63 tackles
The Jets haven’t exactly had the greatest history of success as it pertains to the draft over the past several decades. In 2013, New York’s front office decided to try and play it safe. Just two years removed from their AFC Championship Game appearance, the Jets selected Milliner — a three-year starter, unanimous All-American, and two-time BCS national champion at Alabama — with the ninth overall pick
As Jets fans know all too well, there are no guarantees in the NFL draft. Milliner appeared to be a quality pick with a high-floor for success, but he struggled mightily during his Jets tenure. Named a starting cornerback in Year 1, Milliner was benched on three separate occasions during his rookie season. After an up-and-down year, Milliner struggled with injuries in the seasons that followed. He tore his Achilles in 2014, and played in just five games in 2015. He hasn’t made it on an NFL field since.
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Paxton Lynch, QB, Denver Broncos
Career Accolades: 26th overall pick in 2016 NFL draft from Memphis; five games played (four starts); 4 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 792 passing yards, 76.7 passer rating, 1-3 record as a starter
John Elway proves that being a Hall of Fame quarterback doesn’t necessarily mean you are the greatest evaluator of the position. Since taking over decision-making responsibilities in Denver, Elway has made some puzzling decisions at the QB position. His first major act was bringing in Peyton Manning — great move — but he quickly countered it by selecting Brock Osweiler in the second-round — not-so-good move.
Lynch is the only quarterback Elway has selected in the first round during his run as an executive. A dual-threat at Memphis, Lynch’s style of play never translated to NFL production. Lynch lost an offseason position battle to seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian, twice, and played in just five games as a Denver Bronco over two seasons. He’s currently occupying a third-string role on the Seattle Seahawks, and it’s unlikely he unseats Russell Wilson for a starting role anytime soon.
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Maurice Clarett, RB, Denver Broncos
Career Accolades: Third-round pick (101st overall) in 2005 NFL draft from Ohio State; zero games played, zero rushing attempts, zero downs played
A star collegiate running back, Clarett was heralded as a potential first-round pick after just playing one season at Ohio State. In that one season, Clarett set the OSU freshman record for rushing yards (1,237) while scoring 18 touchdowns and helping lead the Buckeyes to an undefeated 14-0 season.
Less than nine months after helping Ohio State win the 2003 BCS Championship, Clarett was dismissed from the program after he reportedly lied to the police about receiving illegal benefits. Despite his unfortunate ending to his college career, the Broncos took a shot on the talented rusher in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. After a dismal offseason, Clarett was cut before the regular season started and never returned to the NFL.
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Justin Gilbert, CB, Cleveland Browns
Career Accolades: Eighth overall pick in 2014 NFL draft from Oklahoma State; 35 games played (3 starts), 1 interception, 9 passes defended, 42 tackles
The Browns have become a bit infamous for their first-round blunders. Gilbert is one of the more memorable top-10 picks who flopped in Cleveland in recent years. The Oklahoma State cornerback was pegged as an elite athlete coming out of college, and ended up being the first defensive back taken off the board in 2014.
Two forgettable season in Cleveland later, and Gilbert was shipped to Pittsburgh for a sixth-round pick. Gilbert would be released by the Steelers following the 2017 season, and was later suspended for a full year after violating the league’s drug policy. He’s currently the only player who was selected in the top-15 of the 2014 NFL Draft that isn’t on an NFL roster.
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Amobi Okoye, DL, Houston Texans
Career Accolades: Tenth overall pick in 2007 NFL draft from Louisville; 87 games played (59 starts); 16.0 sacks, 177 tackles
Though many teams use the draft to fill in needs, the overarching theme of the NFL Draft will always be “potential”. Few prospects entered the NFL with more potential than defensive tackle Okoye. In fact, to this day, Okoye is the youngest player ever drafted. When the Texans selected him 10th overall in 2007, Okoye was still just 19 years old.
However, potential can only take you so far, and eventually you must start producing. Houston took a risk on a younger player. Meanwhile, three of the next four players selected after Okoye were Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch and Darrelle Revis. The Texans would probably like a do-over on this one.
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Fabian Washington, CB, Oakland Raiders
Career Accolades: 23rd overall pick in 2005 NFL draft from Nebraska; 81 games played (58 starts); 6 interceptions, 57 passes defended, 222 tackles
Washington was a prototypical Raiders pick during the Al Davis regime. He boasted track speed with excellent length and a strong pedigree coming out of Nebraska. In 2005, the Raiders were desperately looking for a corner to play opposite of emerging star Nnamdi Asomugha. 15 picks after selecting Washington, they took another speedy corner in track star Stanford Routt.
However, another position should have been on the Raiders mind — quarterback. And guess which QB was still on the board when the Raiders were on the clock at 23? Hint: he played his college ball 20 minutes away from Oakland Coliseum.
It was Aaron Rodgers. Not taking Rodgers set off a ripple effect which doomed the Raiders for years to come. Oakland’s starting QB at the time was Kerry Collins — a 34-year-old journeyman who was never a top-10 option. Oakland’s porous quarterback play led to wasting away Randy Moss’ prime and trading him for pennies on the dollar. It also led to the Raiders selecting a QB with their top selection two years later. More on that in a bit.
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Ron Dayne, RB, New York Giants
Career Accolades: 11th overall pick in 2000 NFL draft from Wisconsin; 96 games played (28 starts); 983 rush attempts, 3,722 rushing yards (3.8 YPC), 28 touchdowns
Dayne has unfortunately emerged as a poster child for highly-productive college running backs breaking down once they reach the pros. Dayne was a monster at Wisconsin, running for 7,125 career yards and 71 touchdowns while taking home the 1999 Heisman trophy. He was thought to become the Giants’ bell cow after being selected 11th overall, but another New York running back had other ideas.
The arrival of Dayne to New York coincides with the breakout of Tiki Barber. As soon as Dayne joined the team, Barber emerged as one of the top backs in the league and ultimately seized the starting role. Barber went on to rush for 1,000-plus yards in six of the next seven seasons, while Dayne never topped the 800-yard mark in any of his seven pro seasons.
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Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Career Accolades: 12th overall pick in 2011 NFL draft from Florida State; 38 games played (36 starts); 38 touchdowns, 36 interceptions, 6,658 passing yards, 75.9 passer rating, 14-21-1 record as a starter
Despite dealing with a plethora of injuries in college, the Vikings — who had just lost Brett Favre to his final retirement a few months prior — took Florida State’s Ponder with the 12th overall pick (one spot behind J.J. Watt). After sitting behind Donovan McNabb for the first half of the season, Ponder earned his first chance to start.
Unlike other rookies, Ponder was handed the keys to a very talented offense which featured Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin Toby Gerhart, and a rookie Kyle Rudolph. It comes as no surprise that Ponder was able to game-manage the Vikings to 10 wins the very next season — Peterson’s 2,097-yard campaign certainly helped. In 2013, Ponder was expected to make a leap but nothing substantial ever surfaced. He dealt with a rib injury and was even benched in favor of Matt Cassell at one point. The Vikings brought in a new coaching staff the next year, drafted Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater in the first round, and Ponder hit free agency after his rookie deal expired. He hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2014.
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Jamal Reynolds, DE, Green Bay Packers
Career Accolades: Tenth overall pick in 2001 NFL draft from Florida State; 18 games played (Zero starts); 18 tackles, 2 forced fumbles
For a top-10 pick to start zero games in his entire NFL career is an alarming sign. Teams put a significant amount of equity into first-round picks, and for the team to not even give that player a chance at a starting role speaks volumes to the type of player they are seeing day-in and day-out during practice.
The Packers traded up for the chance to take Reynolds 10th overall in 2001, a year after the defensive lineman was named a Consensus All-American at Florida State. Nagging injuries and the sudden emergence of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila forced Reynolds to miss the first ten games of his career. By the end of his second year in Green Bay, the Packers attempted to ship Reynolds to the Indianapolis Colts, but he failed the team’s physical. He was released shortly after, and after a very brief stint in Cleveland, Reynolds was out of the league by the time he was 24 years old.
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Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Career Accolades: Seventh overall pick in 2009 NFL draft from Maryland; 144 games played (71 starts); 202 receptions, 2,897 receiving yards, 18 touchdowns
Heyward-Bey was not the most polished receiver in the 2009 class — that was Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree. He wasn’t the most versatile — Florida’s Percy Harvin was. He wasn’t the deadliest deep threat — Mike Wallace averaged 18.9 yards per catch at Ole Miss. He wasn’t the most physically imposing — 6-foot-6 Ramses Barden was made out of granite. Heyward-Bey may have not even been the best receiver the Raiders selected in 2009 — Louis Murphy had a couple of nice years for the Silver and Black. So how was it that DHB ended up being the first WR taken off the board in 2009?
His 40 yard dash time — that is it. Al Davis was instantly enamored by Heyward-Bey after the former Maryland Terp ran a 4.30 40-time at 6-foot-2. He hoped to pair the big and fast wideout with his rocket-armed QB Jamarcus Russell. Heyward-Bey responded by catching 9(!) passes (on 40 targets) his rookie year for a whopping 124 yards. By Year 4 he was a full-time special teamer.
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Mike Williams, OL, Buffalo Bills
Career Accolades: Fourth overall pick in 2002 NFL draft from Texas; 59 games played (56 starts); zero Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections
Selecting a lineman with a top pick won’t elicit the same type of excitement as picking one of the glamour positions would, but it’s especially difficult on a team and its fans when the supposed “safe” pick ends up being a flop. Williams couldn’t stick at any one position on the offensive line during his tenure in Buffalo, eventually losing his starting job to an undrafted offensive tackle name Jason Peters.
After spending two years away from football, Williams made his return to the gridiron in 2009 joining Mike Shanahan’s Washington Redskins. He actually enjoyed a nice year playing guard in Shanahan’s offense, but was forced to retire after blood clots were discovered near his heart.
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Cade McNown, QB, Chicago Bears
Career Accolades: 12th overall pick in 1999 NFL draft from UCLA; 25 games played (15 starts); 16 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 3,111 passing yards, 54.6 passer rating, 3-12 record as a starter
The left-handed signal caller from UCLA parlayed a nice college career into being the 12th pick of the 1999 NFL Draft. The sixth QB taken off the board, McNown was put in an unenviable position as the starting QB for a Bears franchise which has never really been able to develop quarterbacks at a high level.
In 15 career starts for Chicago, McNown was sacked 45 times. Additionally, the Bears didn’t do much in way of helping McNown with more skilled offensive players. He certainly had his warts as a player, but he was put in an incredibly tough position during his time in the league.
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Joey Harrington, QB, Detroit Lions
Career Accolades: Third overall pick in 2002 NFL draft from Oregon; 81 games played (76 starts); 79 touchdowns, 85 interceptions, 14,693 passing yards, 69.4 passer rating, 26-50 record as a starter
Harrington began garnering national attention during his final two years at Oregon. After finishing fourth for the Heisman Award in 2001, Harrington was selected third overall by a Lions team in desperate need of a face for their franchise just four years after Barry Sanders abruptly called it quits.
Unlike other young quarterbacks, Harrington was protected well by his offensive line and only sustained 15 sacks in his first 30 career games. However, his decision-making was atrocious, at best, as he tossed 38 interceptions during his first two seasons. The Lions attempted to get Harrington receiving help by selecting first-round receivers in the ’03 (Charles Rogers), ’04 (Roy Williams), and ’05 (Mike Williams) drafts, but Harrington was out of Detroit by 2006.
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Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Career Accolades: Fifth overall pick in 2012 NFL draft from Oklahoma State; 20 games played (18 starts); 93 receptions, 1,280 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
Blackmon was a fairly productive player when he was on the field. With Chad Henne tossing the pigskin, Blackmon had a handful of extraordinary games while donning a Jaguars jersey. In his rookie year, Blackmon had a 236-yard performance against the Texans — the third-highest total by a rookie in a single game. The following season, Blackmon went for 136 yards against the Rams and followed that up with a 14-catch, 190-yard game against Broncos the very next week.
Unfortunately, Blackmon couldn’t stay out of his own way on the field. After serving a four-game suspension to begin 2013, Blackmon was suspended indefinitely during the team’s bye week. Since his last NFL game, Blackmon has been arrested numerous times and also checked himself into a rehab facility. As of 2019, Blackmon is still listed as a reserve on Jacksonville’s official roster even though he hasn’t played in a game in over seven years.
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Aundray Bruce, LB, Atlanta Falcons
Career Accolades: First overall pick in 1988 NFL draft from Auburn; 151 games played (41 starts); 32.0 sacks, 275 tackles, 4 interceptions, 9 forced fumbles
Once regarded as the “next Lawrence Taylor”, Bruce entered the league with unrealistic expectations given his limited skill-set. In the first two rounds of the 1988 NFL Draft, 26 would-be Pro Bowlers were selected including five future Hall of Famers. Bruce had no such recognition during his career, and was selected ahead of offensive studs including Tim Brown, Michael Irvin, and Thurman Thomas.
Bruce never tallied more than 6.0 sacks during any season, and enjoyed a fairly modest 10-year career. To this day, no linebacker has been selected No. 1 overall since Bruce in 1988.
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Troy Williamson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Career Accolades: Seventh overall pick in 2005 NFL draft from South Carolina; 49 games played (24 starts); 87 receptions, 1,131 receiving yards, four touchdowns
Williamson was selected seventh overall in 2005 with the pick that Minnesota received in the Randy Moss trade. Let’s put this all into perspective. Moss’ most memorable game as a Viking came against the Dallas Cowboys in 1998 on Thanksgiving Day.
Moss was on fire that day. As the third quarter ended, Moss had touched the ball three times and had scored on all three touches. Williamson scored three touchdowns in his entire Vikings career (39 games). It took Moss three quarters to accomplish what his replacement did in two-and-a-half season’s worth of games. You don’t have to be a math expert to realize Minnesota didn’t get equal value in the trade.
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David Carr, QB, Houston Texans
Career Accolades: First overall pick in 2002 NFL draft from Fresno State; 94 games played (79 starts); 65 touchdowns, 71 interceptions, 14,452 passing yards, 74.9 passer rating, 23-56 record as a starter
Carr is a cautionary tale for any team that is looking to bring in a young QB — build your offensive line first! The Texans made Carr the franchise’s first-ever draft pick when they picked him first overall in 2002 after a stellar career at Fresno State. Would Carr have been better off going to any other team in the NFL? How differently would his career play out?
As soon as Carr joined the team, he became a training dummy for opposing pass rushers. Carr was sacked 76 times as a rookie, and 249 total times over his five-year tenure in Houston. He may have been far more successful on a different team, but as it stands, Carr led the Texans to 22-53 record and set the expansion franchise back a number of years.
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Courtney Brown, DL, Cleveland Browns
Career Accolades: First overall pick in 2000 NFL draft from Penn State; 61 games played (60 starts); 19.0 sacks, 196 tackles, 6 forced fumbles
At a glance, Brown’s overall numbers during his playing career don’t look half bad. He was a starter for five seasons, produced steady sack numbers, and had great burst off the edge. However, when you consider all the players Cleveland passed up with the first overall pick, it’s easy to become less enamored with Brown’s production.
The Browns could have selected any number of defensive players from this draft and gained more value than what they got from Brown. Some of the players drafted later in the first round include Lavar Arrington, Brian Urlacher, Shaun Ellis, John Abraham, Julian Peterson, and Keith Bulluck — all of which enjoyed longer and more productive careers than Brown.
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Heath Shuler, QB, Washington Redskins
Career Accolades: Third overall pick in 1994 NFL draft from Tennessee; 29 games played (22 starts); 15 touchdowns, 33 interceptions, 3,691 passing yards, 54.3 passer rating, 8-14 record as a starter
Shuler became one of the country’s top passers during his final year at Tennessee. Going up against SEC defenses weekly, Shuler performed at an elite level and finished second only to future New York Knick point guard Charlie Ward in the Heisman voting.
Though the Redskins selected Shuler third overall and gave him a seven-year contract before playing a single game, the former Volunteer found himself in a QB battle with seventh-round pick Gus Frerotte. After a couple of up-and-down years as the starter, Shuler was eventually benched in favor of Frerotte by Year 3. Shuler was dealt to New Orleans for two late-round picks. He finished his career with 15 touchdowns to 33 interceptions and is regarded as one of the biggest QB busts of all-time.
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Steve Spurrier, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Career Accolades: Third overall pick in 1967 NFL draft from Florida; 106 games played (38 starts), 40 passing touchdowns, 60 interceptions, 6,878 passing yards, 51.9 passer rating, 13-24-1 record as as starter
Before he was a title-winning coach, Spurrier was a quarterback who was a colossus bust at the pro level. Spurrier was picked third overall in the 1967 NFL Draft — the first draft after the NFL/AFL merger. Though he was a high draft pick, the 49ers already had an All-Pro quarterback in John Brodie — which meant Spurrier would be used in a reserve role for several years.
Spurrier was finally given his chance in 1972, and he enjoyed a nice year guiding the 49ers to a 6-1-1 record during his starts. After San Francisco traded for Jim Plunkett, Spurrier decided to join the Buccaneers — which started the beginning of the end of his NFL career. Spurrier was the starting QB on the first team to go winless (0-14) in the modern era. He didn’t play again after that season. Safe to say, Spurrier has had more success from the sideline than he did under center.
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Vernon Gholston, DL, New York Jets
Career Accolades: Sixth overall pick in 2008 NFL draft from Ohio State; 45 games played (5 starts); 0.0 sacks, 42 tackles
Gholston was part of a quartet of 2008 defensive lineman selected consecutively who all flopped to varying degrees during this pro career — Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis, and Derrick Harvey being the other three. Gholston likely had the least impactful career of the whole bunch.
The 6-foot-4 lineman started in just five career games over three seasons, and couldn’t manage to secure a single sack. He was out of the league in 2010 at just 23 years old.
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Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans
Career Accolades: Eighth overall pick in 2011 NFL draft from Washington; 30 games played (23 starts); 27 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, 4,967 passing yards (644 rushing), 79.0 passer rating, 9-14 record as a starter
The 2011 NFL draft was a tale of two quarterbacks — prototype passer Blaine Gabbert and the freakishly-athletic one-year-wonder Cam Newton. Like many expected, Newton was the first player taken off the board, but the Titans shocked many pundits when they selected Washington’s Jake Locker with Gabbert still on the board. Though they likely wouldn’t have fared much better with Gabbert, when you factor in the other players who were selected in the top-11 of the 2011 draft it becomes clear that Locker wasn’t the greatest of selections.
Starting with Newton, the draft then went Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, Locker, Tyron Smith, Gabbert, and J.J. Watt. Needles to say, picking Locker (or Gabbert, for that matter) in arguably the most stacked first round ever is a giant let-down.
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Art Schlichter, QB, Baltimore Colts
Career Accolades: Fourth overall pick in 1982 NFL draft from Ohio State; 13 games played (6 starts); 3 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 1,006 passing yards, 42.6 passer rating, 0-6 record as a starter
Schlichter was a terrific high school and college quarterback. He went undefeated at Miami Trace High School, and finished in the top-6 of Heisman voting three times during his career at Ohio State. After getting drafted by the Colts, Schlichter lost the starting QB role to fourth-round pick Mike Pagel. However, Schlichter’s play on the field ended up being the least interesting thing about his career.
In 1983, Schlichter became the first NFL player in over 20 years to be suspended for participating in gambling. He had lost several thousands of dollars to his bookies, and in fear of being asked to throw game had he not paid up, Schlichter went to the FBI and testified to have the bookies throw into jail.
After being reinstated, Schlichter admitted to betting on games during his time off, and he played his last NFL game in in 1985. Schlichter found a second career in the Arena Football League, where he led the Detroit Drive to the 1990 ArenaBowl title.
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Jim Druckenmiller, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Career Accolades: 26th overall pick in 1997 NFL draft from Virginia Tech; 6 games played (1 start); 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, 239 passing yards, 29.2 passer rating, 1-0 record as a starter
Druckenmiller was picked in the first-round by the 49ers with the idea that the young QB would eventually take over for the aging Steve Young. It became abundantly apparent early on that Druckenmiller wouldn’t last long in the league. In his first piece of action, Druckenmiller completed just 10-of-28 passes for 102 yards and three interceptions while Young nursed an injury.
Druckenmiller’s time in San Francisco came to an end in 1998, after playing in just six game for the 49ers. The general manager of the 49ers at the time was legendary coach Bill Walsh who claimed that the only reason Druckenmiller was still on the roster for the previous season was because of salary ramifications. If Walsh thought so little of Druckenmiller’s skill-set, it probably means it was never going to work out for him.
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Russell Erxleben, P, New Orleans Saints
Career Accolades: 11th overall pick in 1979 NFL draft from Texas; 49 games played (24 starts); 280 career punts, 4-of-8 field goals (50.0-percent), zero Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections
Yes, New Orleans selected a punter with a first-round pick in 1979. With the 11th pick, no less! Regardless of how Erxleben’s career panned out, this was a wildly incompetent pick. Erxleben could have been the greatest punter of all-time, and he still wouldn’t have provided anywhere close to the same value as future Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow (who was selected two picks later) did.
And as it turns out, Erxleben wasn’t even a very good punter! He played six seasons and was never named a Pro Bowler. The Saints attempted to have Erxleben kick as well — in an attempt to save a roster spot — but that didn’t work out very well as he made just half of his field goal attempts. The Saints went on to take Morten Andersen three years later. Andersen would serve as the team’s primary placekicker for 13 years.
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Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Career Accolades: First overall pick in 1995 NFL draft from Penn State; 59 games played (14 starts); 319 rushing attempts, 1,144 rushing yards (3.6 YPC), 21 touchdowns,
There’s a parallel universe out there where Carter becomes one of the most prolific backs in NFL history. Carter was lightning in a bottle at Penn State, scoring 23 times while averaging a hair under eight yards per carry during his final season. Carter was expected to add some much-needed juice to Cincinnati’s offense, but an unlucky string of events prohibited him from reaching his full potential.
In his first ever preseason game, Carter blew out his knee and would go on to miss his entire rookie season. He was never the same after that, and lacked the wiggle and burst needed to succeed in the NFL. He could have been one of the greats, but now nobody will ever know just how good Carter would have eventually become.
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Todd Blackledge, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Career Accolades: Seventh overall pick in 1983 NFL draft from Penn State; 46 games played (29 starts); 29 touchdowns, 38 interceptions, 5,286 passing yards, 60.2 passer rating, 15-14 record as a starter
Before Patrick Mahomes came to town, no franchise (except maybe the Bears) endured more awful QB play than the Kansas City Chiefs. Blackledge is the most memorable draft flop to play for the Chiefs. The 1982 Davey O’Brien winner (given to the nation’s top QB) played under Joe Paterno at Penn State and led the Nittany Lions to a 31-5 record while under center.
Blackledge would go on to be a member of arguably the most popular and star-studded draft ever. Seven Hall of Famers were drafted in the first round of 1983, including three quarterbacks — John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. Blackledge was selected before the latter two and went on to make a whopping zero Pro Bowls while tossing more interceptions than touchdowns.
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Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland Browns
Career Accolades: 22nd overall pick in 2007 NFL draft from Notre Dame; 24 games played (20 starts); 12 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 3,043 passing yards, 64.4 passer rating, 4-16 record as a starter
NFL fans are all too familiar with the sights and sounds of the 2007 NFL Draft green room where Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn anxiously awaited his name to be called. Projected as high as the No. 1 pick overall, Quinn fell all the way to the 22nd overall pick where he was scooped up by Cleveland — also known as, “QB Purgatory”.
Quinn was flat-out bad during his NFL career. He started zero games as a rookie, and finally earned a shot in Year 2 — when he was already 24 years old. He went 3-9 as Cleveland’s starter while completing 52.1-percent of his passes to the tune of a 66.8 passer rating.
He would get one more shot before calling it quits in Kansas City where he went 1-7 as the Chiefs starting QB. The league might have been better off keeping Quinn in that green room.
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Todd Marinovich, QB, Los Angeles Raiders
Career Accolades: 24th overall pick in 1991 NFL draft from USC; 8 games played (all as a starter); 8 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 1,345 passing yards, 66.4 passer rating, 3-5 record as a starter
The subject of the popular ESPN documentary The Marinovich Project, Marinovich was mentally and physically engineered — by his father — to become the perfect quarterback. After a rocky collegiate career, Al Davis and the Raiders selected the “Robo QB” in the first-round of the 1991 draft.
As it turns out, you can’t just manufacture the perfect QB. Marinovich lacked the feel and passion to play the sport — which eventually hurt his playing career in the long run. After playing in just one game in his rookie season, Marinovich was given a chance to start in ’92. He played in seven games, completed just 49-percent of his passes, and notched a dismal 58.2 passer rating. After flaming out of the NFL, Marinovich enjoyed a nice career in the Arena Football League.
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Brian Bosworth, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Career Accolades: First overall pick in 1987 NFL supplemental draft from Oklahoma; 24 games played (all as a starter); 4.0 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, zero All-Pro or Pro Bowl selections
In his prime, “The Boz” was a great athlete and played with unbridled energy and an unquestioned motor. Bosworth is widely regarded as one of the very best college players ever, and to this day is the only player to receive the Butkus Award (awarded to the nation’s top linebacker) on two occasions.
After claiming he wouldn’t play for any team besides the Los Angeles Raiders, the Seahawks selected him in the first-round of the supplemental draft in 1987. Bosworth eventually came to terms with his new team, signing the richest rookie contract in the sport’s history at the time. Bosworth’s career was ended due to injuries, but it already had been effectively over years prior when he trash-talked Bo Jackson before a game and got ran over on a play while Jackson rushed for 221 yards on the evening.
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Rae Carruth, WR, Carolina Panthers
Career Accolades: 27th overall pick in 1997 NFL draft from Colorado; 22 games played (20 starts); 62 receptions, 804 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
Carruth was a first-round draft pick who fared well during his rookie year. In his first game during his second-year, Carruth broke his foot and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.
But Carruth’s inclusion on this list and label as a draft “bust” has little to do with his on-field play. His career was ended in 1999 when Carruth was arrested and later found guilty for conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to up to 24 years in prison. He is unequivocally the worst draft pick in Carolina’s franchise history.
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Aaron Curry, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Career Accolades: Fourth overall pick in 2009 NFL draft from Wake Forest; 48 games played (39 starts); 5.5 sacks, 203 tackles, 4 forced fumbles
There are no guarantees in the NFL draft. Until a player puts on an NFL jersey and competes with the best athletes the sport has to offer, there’s no telling how they will adapt and perform under said conditions. Coming out of Wake Forest, Curry graded as well as any prospect in the modern era. He boasted the ideal skill-set for a hybrid linebacker who could both rush the passer and drop back into coverage. He was considered a “can’t miss” prospect.
Well, he missed. Curry played four years in the NFL (three for Seattle, one for Oakland) and accrued 5.5 sacks and zero interceptions. He was never an impact player for the Seahawks, and Curry was out of the league before his 27th birthday.
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Charles Rogers, WR, Detroit Lions
Career Accolades: Second overall pick in 2003 NFL draft from Michigan State; 15 games played (9 starts); 36 receptions, 440 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
The Lions got 15 games out of the No. 2 pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Rogers was the first of three first-round picks the Lions used on receivers, and he was likely the biggest bust of the bunch. He struggled with the intricacies of playing the position in the NFL, but injuries also played a major part in Rogers’ decline as a player.
Rogers being sidelined for extended periods of time likely led to his derailment off-the-field. He was suspended for four games after violating the league’s drug policy in 2005, and was eventually released from the Lions a year later. He tried out for a number of teams, but his declining athleticism led to Rogers never earning another NFL job again.
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Andre Ware, QB, Detroit Lions
Career Accolades: Seventh overall pick in 1990 NFL draft from Houston; 14 games played (6 starts); 5 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 1,112 passing yards, 63.5 passer rating, 3-3 record as a starter
Ware was one of the nation’s most exciting quarterbacks during his time at the University of Houston. During his final season, Ware threw for 4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns. He was drafted by the Lions in 1990 and was expected to be one-half of an electric backfield alongside Hall of Fame tailback Barry Sanders.
It couldn’t have gone much worse for Ware in the NFL. The college star started just six total games over a four-year span, and was sacked on nearly 15-percent of his drop backs. Ware could never adjust to the NFL game, and was out of the league after appearing in a mere 14 games.
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Robert Gallery, OL, Oakland Raiders
Career Accolades: Second overall pick in 2004 NFL draft from Iowa; 104 games played (103 starts); zero Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections
Three of the first four players selected in the 2004 draft were dominant. Among the quartet (Eli Manning, Gallery, Larry Fitzgerald, Phillip Rivers), there are two Super Bowl rings, over 100,000 career passing yards, 17,000 receiving yards, and 23 Pro Bowl nods. Gallery contributed to exactly zero of those totals.
In a draft filled with stars, the Raiders selected the player who most resembles a professional wrestler. Gallery was a miserable left tackle, and had middling success once Oakland realized that and made him switch to guard. He played for eight years in the league, but was never recognized as one of the top linemen — a bad sign for a player who was selected second overall.
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Rick Mirer, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Career Accolades: Second overall pick in 1993 NFL draft from Notre Dame; 80 games played (68 starts); 50 touchdowns, 76 inteceptions, 11,969 passing yards, 63.5 passer rating, 24-44 record as a starter
With the top pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots (led by Bill Parcells) were reportedly torn between selecting Mirer or Drew Bledsoe. Going with Bledsoe was certainly the correct choice as Mirer wound up being a sizable flop for the Seahawks.
Though he had a decent rookie year, Mirer never developed into a player deserving of his draft spot. In Year 2, Mirer played 13 games for Seattle while throwing 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions — the only time in Mirer’s career that he ended a season with more touchdowns than picks. Over the next six years, Mirer’s touchdowns-to-interception ratio was 27-to-52 or about one score for every two turnovers. That’s not getting it done.
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Tony Mandarich, OL, Green Bay Packers
Career Accolades: Second overall pick in 1989 NFL draft from Michigan State; 86 games played (63 starts); Zero Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections
Mandarich had all the makings of a future 10-time All-Pro during his time at Michigan State. The former Big 10 offensive lineman was viewed as the quintessential tackle prospect — big, strong, quick, and had a bit of a mean streak. Leading up to the draft, Mandarich was even featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a feature which regarded him as, “the best offensive line prospect ever.”
The top-5 picks in the 1989 NFL Draft featured four Hall of Famers (Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders) and Mandarich. The Packers drafted Mandarich expecting him to protect their star QB Brett Favre. After three years of lackluster production and attitude issues, Mandarich was cut from the team and is now regarded as one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
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Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Career Accolades: Third overall pick in 2012 NFL draft from Alabama; 46 games played (37 starts); 614 rushing attempts, 2,032 rushing yards (3.3 YPC), 912 receiving yards, 19 touchdowns
Richardson is widely considered one of the biggest draft busts of the past decade. A star at Alabama, Richardson struggled to find his groove in the NFL. He was traded from the Browns to the Colts after just one season, and boasts a lifetime 3.3 yard per carry average.
T-Rich found a bit of success in other professional football leagues, including the Alliance of American Football. However, his stellar collegiate career would have led one to believe Richardson would have been able to stick around for longer in the NFL. His puzzling descent has led to teams to become more wary of selecting running backs at the top of the draft.
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Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns
Career Accolades: 22nd overall pick in 2014 NFL draft from Texas A&M; 15 games played (8 starts); 7 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 1,675 passing yards, 74.4 passer rating, 2-6 record as a starter
Johnny “Football” needs no introduction. The former Heisman winner was put on the map after toppling the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide in 2012. Despite his diminutive frame, the Browns rolled the dice on the enigmatic Manziel at the end of the first round in 2014.
The pairing was a disaster from the start. Manziel’s play on-the-field and his lifestyle off-the-field led to a short and disappointing career. Manziel lasted two years in Cleveland before getting the boot, and no other team was willing to give the troubled former college star a chance. He eventually made his return to the gridiron in the CFL, but he failed miserably at fulfilling his first-round draft position.
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Jeff George, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Career Accolades: First overall pick in 1990 NFL draft from Illinois; 131 games played (124 starts); 154 touchdowns, 113 interceptions, 27,602 passing yards, 80.4 passer rating, 46-78 record as a starter
A baseline level of expectations is set for any former No. 1 overall pick. George went first overall in the 1990 NFL Draft to the Colts and was rather bad for his tenure in Indy. In four seasons, George led the Colts to a 14-35 record with a 41:46 TD-INT ratio.
George eventually cleaned up his act later in his career — becoming serviceable, at best, for the Falcons, Raiders, and Vikings — but he was a colossal bust during his years with the Colts. As a first overall pick, the team that drafted George expected much more out of the top prospect.
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Akili Smith, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Career Accolades: Third overall pick in 1999 NFL draft from Oregon; 22 games played (17 starts); 5 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 2,212 passing yards, 52.8 passer rating, 3-14 record as a starter
Smith wasn’t the only first-round QB bust from the 1999 NFL Draft, but he arguably had the worst overall career. Cincy made the dual-threat Smith the third-overall pick in 1999, and Smith obliged the franchise in its optimism by connecting on five touchdown passes in his career – or the same amount that Lamar Jackson threw for in a single game three separate times in 2019.
Smith didn’t help matters much by holding out prior to his rookie year. He missed a majority of training camp due to a contract dispute, and reportedly never had a full grasp of the playbook at any point during his tenure. He was a good athlete, but Smith lacked the overall skill-set necessary to be a successful QB in the NFL.
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Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Career Accolades: Tenth overall pick in 2006 NFL draft from Notre Dame; 33 games played (18 starts); 15 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, 4,065 passing yards, 70.2 passer rating, 8-10 record as a starter
Leinart was an integral part of the USC Trojans’ historic run in college football. He was the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner and won the National Championship the same season. It would prove to be the peak of Leinart’s football career, though, as the lefty never found his groove in the NFL.
Aside from his rookie year (which wasn’t very good), Leinart was strictly a backup quarterback who never even threw for 1,000 yards in a season. He struggled to stay healthy, and his pitiful arm strength made him easy for defenses to scheme against.
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Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland Browns
Career Accolades: First overall pick in 1999 NFL draft from Kentucky; 62 games played (59 starts); 64 touchdowns, 67 interceptions, 11,131 passing yards, 75.1 passer rating, 22-37 record as a starter
In terms of well-known busts, Couch is a player often mentioned among the all-time gaffes. Following a Heisman Trophy finalist campaign at Kentucky in 1999, the lowly Cleveland Browns selected Couch with the first overall pick in the draft. Couch had all the makings of a franchise QB given his immense arm strength and winning pedigree. The Browns would quickly find out it takes more than that to become an elite quarterback in the NFL.
Couch would last just five seasons in the pros as he suffered from poor offensive line play, a lack of receiving depth, and a bevy of injuries. Although many consider him a top bust, some may argue he never received a fair shake in the league.
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Ryan Leaf, QB, San Diego Chargers
Career Accolades: Second overall pick in 1998 NFL draft from Washington State; 25 games played (21 starts); 14 touchdowns, 36 interceptions, 3,666 passing yards, 50.0 passer rating, 4-17 record as a starter
There isn’t much that needs to be said about this one. Leaf was selected second overall in the 1998 draft, one spot behind one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Peyton Manning — a thought that surely haunts Chargers fans to this day. Leaf didn’t have the maturity, arm strength, or decision-making skills to succeed as an NFL quarterback.
The unraveling of Leaf’s career likely began when he famously erupted on a reporter in the Chargers locker room with a profanity-laced tirade following a regular season loss. Leaf has since revitalized his image in the public eye, but that certainly doesn’t change the fact that he was one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.
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Jamarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders
Career Accolades: First overall pick in 2007 NFL draft from LSU; 31 games played (25 starts); 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 4,083 passing yards, 65.2 passer rating, 7-18 record as a starter
The greatest bust in the history of the NFL Draft is none other than Jamarcus Russell. Enamored by his immense arm strength and pedigree at LSU, former Raiders owner Al Davis made Russell the first pick of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Some of the names the Raiders passed on that year include future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, future Hall of Famer Patrick Willis, future Hall of Famer Marshawn Lynch, and future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis — and that’s just the first round.
We could delve into Russell’s numbers to prove why he didn’t succeed in the NFL, but there isn’t much that needs to be explained. The Raiders knew they made a mistake picking him before he had even played a game — Russell didn’t start until Week 17 of his rookie year. Once he was given the full-time starting job, the evidence was clear — he wasn’t the guy. He was out of the league by 2009, having played in less than two season’s worth of games.
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