It's Thursday as I post this, which means that it is draft day. Day one, which in 2016 terms (you may be reading this in 2004 for all I know), means that we will only get to see the first round of the draft. But let's be serious and say that without the first round, the draft would hardly be worth watching. I mean, can you imagine if we started at round two? That would be horrible!
And yet, the "first round" pick status is really overrated. Smart teams will tell you (sorry Rams) that most draft classes don't have more than 20 guys that get a first round grade. This is why the Seahawks trade back every year, because they're never on the board when their guys with a first grade are still available. However, sometimes you never know how high those overrated players will be drafted, or when they're going to be just flat out terrible. Or dumb. Or unlucky.
Well, I shouldn't say you never know. We do know now. We know which picks were the worst because time has played out since then and these picks didn't work out. Therefore, here are the picks at all 32 first round draft positions (it's the year 2016, in which there are 32 first round picks, except wait this is the year there aren't anymore) of the last 25 years that really, really did not work out. I decided not to discriminate based on the reasons for why the player didn't reach expectations -- which unfortunately means that sometimes the reason is very sad -- because if you discriminate for one reason, you have to discriminate against them all.
This is the Worst. Draft. Ever. (Of the last 25 years.)
1. JaMarcus Russell, Raiders, 2007
Russell's AV of six is the lowest of any first overall pick of the last 25 years, tied with Jadeveon Clowney, who has so far only played in 17 games. He's legitimately the worst QB to ever start 25 or more games, but Russell insists that he still wants to make a comeback seven years after his last season in the league. He said he'd play for free, which is funny because the last time he was on a field he looked like he was giving the effort of a player who wasn't being paid.
Went over: Oakland fans, just remember that you are good at drafting now. But Russell went over Calvin Johnson and Joe Thomas in the top three. Then Adrian Peterson went seventh, Patrick Willis went across the Bay at 11th, local boy Marshawn Lynch went 12th, and Darrelle Revis went 14th.
2. Ryan Leaf, Chargers, 1998
Ok, Leaf is legitimately the worst QB to start 20 or more games. He's worse than Russell, he's probably worse than Ryan Lindley, and don't forget that the Chargers traded up to get him. He went 4-17 in his career and had an AV of one.
Went over: Leaf will always be remembered for going one pick after Peyton Manning, but nobody talks about the fact that he went two picks ahead of Charles Woodson. San Diego didn't miss out on Manning, but both they and the Cardinals (who took Andre Wadsworth) passed on Woodson.
3. Akili Smith, Bengals, 1999
He went 3-14 over four seasons with the Bengals, throwing five touchdowns in his career.
Went over: Try not to kill yourselves, Bengals fans. These are the players who went, in order, after Smith: Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, Torry Holt, and Champ Bailey.
4. Aaron Curry, Seahawks, 2009
Yeah, he really was this bad. Looking at other terrible fourth overall picks you'll find Peter Warrick, Mike Williams (LT), Michael Westbrook, and Gaines Adams. There's also the interesting case of Desmond Howard, who played 11 NFL seasons and even made the Pro Bowl as a returner, but was an abysmal wide receiver and had just one season over 300 yards. But Curry was an atrocious NFL player from the start, which is still somewhat of a mystery considering he had no character concerns, no injuries, was an athletic freak, and had a monster career at Wake Forest. Sometimes players just can't figure it out.
Went over: Take solace that this was not a very good draft class. It includes Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Mark Sanchez, Andre Smith, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eugene Monroe, and many other busts. I guess Michael Crabtree would have been interesting.
5. Curtis Enis, Bears, 1998
This came down to Enis and Trev Alberts, both of whom played only three seasons, but I just felt like it's so much harder to fail at running back than it should be at any other position. Hell, the offensive line should be doing half of the work already. But Enis averaged 3.2 yards per carry in his second season and was relegated to being a fullback the next year. Yes, injuries derailed and ended his career, but at no point did we ever even see flashes of him being a good player.
Went over: Missing out on Woodson, Chicago took Enis over players like Grant Wistrom, Kyle Turley, Greg Ellis, Fred Taylor, Tra Thomas, Keith Brooking, and Takeo Spikes. Randy Moss fell to 21 but everyone knew he was talented enough to go in the top 10.
6. Vernon Gholston, Jets, 2008
Between 2009 and 2011, over 600 players had a sack. Gholston was not one of them. That's right, in his three-year career, Gholston -- a defensive end -- never got even a half-sack despite only missing three games.
Even Bark Mingo (also sixth overall) has seven sacks.
Went over: Picks 7, 8, and 9 were also really bad. Jerod Mayo went 10th, and he's pretty good.
7. Charles McRae, Bucs, 1991
Troy Williamson had just four career touchdowns, but was kind of productive as a kick returner sometimes? Byron Leftwich made just 50 starts but a few of them were good. Instead, I wanted to pull from the wayback machine and take McRae, a tackle who soon became a reserve offensive lineman by year three, making just 39 career starts. Speaking of which, it's been only three years but Jonathan Cooper could give McRae a run for his money.
Went over: Herman Moore went 10th
8. Justin Gilbert, Browns, 2014
Fuck it, let's just do this now. Gilbert hasn't just been horrible on the field but he's a nightmare case off of it too. I wonder if the new Cleveland regime is considering pulling the plug after just two seasons. Even when Joe Haden missed 11 games last year, Gilbert made only one start for one of the NFL's worst pass defenses. The eighth overall pick has some classic mistakes like Tim Biakabutuka, Jake Locker, Derrick Harvey, and David Terrell, but I'm not convinced Gilbert has much of a career left. Plus, we had to get the Browns on this list eventually.
Went over: Anthony Barr was one pick later, but they could have totally gotten away with drafting Odell Beckham, Jr or Aaron Donald.
9. Dee Milliner, Jets, 2013
The Jets are the first team to get on this list twice, this time missing big on Milliner out of Alabama with the pick they acquired in the Darrelle Revis-to-Tampa trade. Milliner became teammates with Revis last year but don't worry, none of Darrelle's talent has rubbed off on him. Milliner has played in eight games over the last two seasons.
Went over: The Jets were stupid to take Milliner over Sheldon Richardson, who they drafted four picks later.
10. Jamal Reynolds, Packers, 2001
There's a lot of competition at this spot -- Matt Leinart, one of the other Mike Williams', Blaine Gabbert, and you could make a case for Eric Ebron -- but Reynolds is unfuckwittable for being a bust. He has a career AV of just three, having made zero starts in three seasons with 18 total games played. He was a defensive end with three career sacks.
Fun fact: Green Bay got this pick by swapping first rounders with the Seahawks in the Matt Hasselbeck trade. Seattle chose Steve Hutchinson with the pick they got from the Packers.
Went over: Hutchinson.
11. Aaron Maybin, Bills, 2009
Michael Booker was a CB taken by the Falcons who made just 11 starts, but he did have eight interceptions. Ron Dayne was a disappointment but he rushed for over 700 yards in his first season and again in his last season. But Maybin fairly easily "wins" this spot. He had six sacks in four seasons, all of which came in his third year after he went to the Jets. He has a career AV of five.
Went over: Two picks ahead of Brian Orakpo.
12. Wendell Bryant, Cardinals, 2002
Cade McNown was super terrible and had just two seasons and the Raiders made two huge mistakes in the secondary with this spot -- Patrick Bates in 1993 and DJ Hayden in 2013 -- but Bryant fills my need for a horrible defensive tackle here at 12. He had two really unproductive seasons to begin, then played in three games, then was suspended for a year for violating the substance abuse policy, never to return. He also makes me think of the song "Mr. Wendall," which I don't like.
Went over: Was two picks ahead of Jeremy Shockey and Albert Haynesworth. Not a group of high class fellas, but they were good players at least.
13. Eugene Chung, Patriots, 1992
For the superstitious out there: 13 actually hasn't been unlucky. This spot hasn't produced a lot of busts, but has given us Tony Gonzalez, Donald, Richardson, Orakpo, John Abraham, and Marcus Stroud, among others. On the downside, Chung was a guard who didn't make another start after his second NFL season. The Pats have had much better luck from the unrelated Patrick.
Went over: Chester McGlockton went 18th
14. Bernard Williams, Eagles, 1994
When you see people shy away from Robert Nkemdiche or Noah Spence and balk at the idea of passing on a player just because he might like weed, remind them not only of Josh Gordon, but of Williams. He started 16 games at left tackle as a rookie for Philly in 1994 and could have been one of the greats, but instead he never even played on an NFL team again. Never. Williams tested positive and was given the opportunity to avoid suspension if he went to a rehab facility, but he walked out after only a few days. He was notified he'd be suspended for six games and that it would increase to a year if he tested positive again; He smoked that night and was tested the next day, getting suspended for a year. He never really made an effort to make it back.
Went over: Long-time reliable tackle Wayne Gandy went one pick later
15. Yatil Green, Dolphins, 1997
While Williams is a reminder of character red flags, Green is a reminder that sometimes shit happens. He tore his ACL on the very first day of his first training camp and when he came back a year later, tore it again. He didn't even make it to a preseason game until his third year in the NFL, and he ended up having 18 catches for 234 yards that season. He was cut by Miami after the year, hitting the free agent market with a right knee that had undergone 10 surgeries. He never played again.
Not-fun-fact: Huey Richardson was the 15th pick in 1991 by the Steelers. It was a panic move based on the fact that every player they wanted went off the board and he never really fit in their defensive scheme. Richardson was out of the NFL just two years later but he didn't let that discourage him: He went and got his masters in business administration and went to work on Wall Street. He was scheduled to have a meeting near the top of the World Trade Center on September 11, but it got pushed back and he was able to exit the building safely.
Went over: Tarik Glenn went five picks later
16. Dan McGwire, Seahawks, 1991
It was hard to pass up Justin Harrell, whose 14 career games are about as low as any player taken in the first round, but McGwire only played in 13 games. He made just five starts and threw two touchdowns in his career. Some of you even had the pleasure of watching it happen.
Went over: Alfred Williams was a solid defensive end who went 18th
17. David Pollack, Bengals, 2005
Bad news for Falcons fans this year: The 17th overall pick kinda seems to underwhelm every single time. The only exceptions are Hutchinson and Mike Iupati There's also Damien Woody, Sebastian Janikowski, and Chad Greenway. There's a lot of guys who had long careers, but not many spectacular ones. Pollack's career was doomed by injury, but either way, it was still doomed. He had the potential to be great but instead his career was over early in his second season due to a spinal injury. He recovered but not well enough to play again.
Went over: Cincinnati really couldn't have done that much better, this chunk of the draft was pretty bad. They also didn't need a QB, having just seen what Carson Palmer could do, so it made sense for them to pass on Aaron Rodgers, unlike many of the other teams that did.
18. Bobby Carpenter, Cowboys, 2006
I had a lot of choices here, but I just wanted to fill a need at middle linebacker. Much like running back, I have less of an ability to understand how a middle linebacker fails when given a ton of opportunities. At least make the tackles, dude. Carpenter was always healthy but he made three starts in his first four seasons with 72 total tackles for Dallas. He played three more seasons for three different teams, but never got more productive. Other horrible picks here are Erasmus James, Ernest Dye, Matt Stinchcomb, and Robert Edwards.
Went over: Antonio Cromartie and Tamba Hali were the next players off the board.
19. Tony Smith, Falcons, 1992
In '92, the Packers traded a first round pick to Atlanta for Brett Favre, and the Falcons used the pick to draft Smith, who was Favre's teammate at Southern Miss. The two had almost identical careers, with Favre being a top-10 all-time QB and Smith rushing for 329 yards in his career.
Number 19 hasn't been a great spot overall, but it is where the Seahawks found Shaun Alexander in 2000.
Went over: 4-time Pro Bowl defensive back Dale Carter went one pick later
20. Kenechi Udeze, Vikings, 2004
I know you're looking at Udeze and thinking "No, he couldn't have been that bad" but the weird reality is that 20 has been surprisingly successful and Udeze played just four seasons in the NFL. He was forced to retire after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (current draft prospect Shon Coleman beat that same disease from 2010-2012) and so that's what cut his career short. At that point he was a decent player, not great, having recorded 11 sacks in four years.
It's not like I'm in love with placing Udeze here after he retired for being diagnosed with cancer, he's probably a better player than the newly-overpaid Vinny Curry, but there just aren't any hardline busts at 20 either way.
Went over: One pick ahead of Vince Wilfork.
21. Sylvester Morris, Chiefs, 2000
In a game against the Chargers during his rookie season, Morris scored three touchdowns. Those would be the only three of his career. He played in 15 games that year and had 678 yards, but injuries limited Morris and he never got a second season in the league. For those reasons, he got the nod over Matt Jones, Rashaan Salaam, and Vaughn Dunbar.
Went over: Not a great group of guys behind him (Seattle took Chris McIntosh) but Chris Hovan went 25th.
22. Johnny Manziel, Browns, 2014, Brandon Weeden Browns, 2012, Brady Quinn, Browns, 2007
Moral of the story: Don't draft quarterbacks 22nd overall. No wait, the moral of the story is "Don't be the Cleveland Browns."
Other QBs going in this spot include J.P. Losman and Rex Grossman. It's just not a good spot for QBs. It's somewhat tongue-in-cheek because we're talking about all the shitty QBs drafted by Cleveland at 22nd overall recently (don't be surprised if they do it again) but really this seems like a Bermuda Triangle for quarterbacks. Other garbage men to get drafted at 22 include Phil Taylor (by the Browns), and Stan Thomas (1991, tackle, Bears, started seven games), and Seattle's own Chris McIntosh, but nothing will ever live up to Cleveland's propensity to draft shitty quarterbacks when the draft gets to double deuces.
Went over: 7 of the 9 players taken after Quinn made at least one Pro Bowl. As for Weeden, I actually don't think he was a more surprising pick than Russell Wilson would have been. Both were being downgraded for something highly unusual (height for Wilson, age for Weeden), so if the Browns took Wilson, they would have been ridiculed (as they were for Weeden), but justified. The two QBs off the board after Manziel were Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr.
23. Danny Watkins, Eagles, 2011
I feel at this point I should default to drafts that haven't been mentioned yet but there are three players that definitely standout as busts at 23: Watkins, Marcus Tubbs (who you remember as the Seahawks pick in 2004), and Rashard Anderson, whose career was cut short at just two seasons because of failed drug tests. But Watkins gets the nod as a dumb pick from the jump because really seemed to lack the desire to even play football and was already 27. Philly's draft strategy seems as ridiculous then as it is today. At least Tubbs actually seemed kinda good for a second.
Went over: Perhaps the greatest first half of a first round in NFL history, the latter half wasn't that inspiring. Watkins did go one pick ahead of Cameron Jordan though.
24. Todd Marinovich, Raiders, 1991
I'm giving Marinovich the automatic nod because he's got a 30 for 30 made after him, but holy shit is 24 a boom-or-bust draft position. We've got some of the best picks of all-time and some of the worst. You figure out which is which: Marinovich, Aaron Rodgers, Leonard Renfro, Ed Reed, Willie Middlebrooks, Chris Johnson, Reggie McGrew, Steven Jackson, Peria Jerry, Eric Moulds, Bjoern Werner, Dez Bryant, Thomas Lewis, Dallas Clark, and Darqueze Dennard.
It's a very divisive spot, perhaps the most unpredictable, but Marinovich was bred to be an NFL player and he ended up making eight career starts, so that seems less than ideal.
Went over: Ted Washington went one pick later
25. Freddie Mitchell, Eagles, 2001
When it comes to tiebreakers, in this case I chose Mitchell simply because I feel a stronger emotional bond to him than I do the other players. I distinctly remember Mitchell being drafted in 2001 during a time while I was still figuring out my obsession with the draft, and I believed that he would be a superstar based on what I had heard. Instead, he had just 90 catches over four seasons, mostly famously being remembered for his antics in the 2004 playoffs when Bill Belichick thought it fair to openly call him "terrible." That was the end of his career.
Others in this spot include Tim Tebow, William Joseph, Antuan Edwards, Jon Harris, Billy Milner, and Greg Hill, though why did I mention Tebow, who is a proven playoff winner.
Went over: The next receiver off the board was Reggie Wayne.
26. Jim Druckenmiller, 49ers, 1997
When I looked down the list, I immediately knew that Druckenmiller would be the choice. He is a first round QB that started just one game in his career, a 15-12 win over the Rams in '97, in which he threw three interceptions. He also had various off-field issues and accusations. Druckenmiller "beat out" Marcus Smith (another recent trash pick by Philly), Datone Jones, Jon Baldwin, John McCargo, Chris Perry, Jamar Fletcher, and Erik Flowers. Keep in mind this is also where Ray Lewis was drafted.
Went over: They passed a chance on a great murderer if they had picked Rae Carruth (one pick later) or a great player if they went with Trevor Pryce, who went after Carruth.
27. Todd Kelly, 49ers, 1993
The 27th overall pick has been quite successful for a while now with the worst pick recently appearing to be Robert Meachem in 2007, and even he had has had a few good seasons. The busts include Mike Rumph, Aaron Gibson, Carruth, and John Michels. But Kelly started five games as a rookie as a linebacker and just one more over the rest of his career.
Went over: It may have been seen as a reach, but Michael Strahan went 40th overall in 1993
28. Nick Perry, Packers, 2012
Not only did they take a player who has 12 sacks in his career, but they took him over Harrison Smith, Doug Martin, Coby Fleener, Courtney Upshaw, Derek Wolfe, Janoris Jenkins, Cordy Glenn, Alshon Jeffery, Mychal Kendricks, and Bobby Wagner, to name a few. Ted Thompson and his current front office staff are overrated.
Went over: All those guys mentioned
29. R Jay Soward, Jaguars, 2000
Good news if you're rooting against the Cardinals in the draft, as I assume you are: The 29th overall pick is awful. Aside from a few guys, like Nick Mangold, Ben Grubbs, Ryan Pickett, Ashley Ambrose, and Smith, this pick has produced very little in the last 25 years. Between 1998 and 2000, this pick gave us John Avery (Dolphins running back with 0 starts, under 600 yards), Dimitrius Underwood (Vikings DT with 0 starts, 19 games played), and Soward, who had two starts and played just one year in the league before being kicked out for substance abuse. I'm also not opposed to mentioning last year's pick, Phillip Dorsey, or the guy the Seahawks supposedly wanted two years ago, Dominique Easley, or Cordarrelle Patterson, Gabe Carimi, and Kentwan Balmer, In fact, the two guys taken in the years before Avery-Underwood-Soward both started less than 16 career games. Arizona is slated to pick someone here on Thursday, and history says he will one day be the answer to a difficult trivia question in a Phoenix area bar as a long-forgotten Cardinal who parents don't mention to their children.
Went over: Went one pick ahead of Keith Bulluck.
30. Andre Johnson, Redskins, 1996
This Andre Johnson was an offensive lineman drafted in '96, cut after his rookie season having never played in a game, then played two years with the Lions and appearing in just three games. That was his whole career ... and Washington traded up for him. Two years later, the Broncos took wide receiver Marcus Nash at this spot and he had 76 yards in his career. The year before Johnson, the Browns took linebacker Craig Powell, and he appeared in 14 games. In 2012, this is where the 49ers found a gem named A.J. Jenkins and in 2007 the Chargers selected Craig Davis.
Went over: Amani Toomer, Mike Alstott, and Lawyer Milloy went 34th, 35th, and 36th
31. Leon Bender, Raiders, 1998
I have made fun of a lot of the players taken at these positions (but not all, and this isn't about making fun), but I certainly don't want to give that impression. This isn't about calling Bender a "bad pick" but taking a moment to remember a player who has been forgotten. The Raiders took Bender out of my very own Washington State as a defensive tackle, and five weeks later his agent found him in his bathroom, dead from an apparent seizure. Bender was only 22 but already had a wife and a two-year-old daughter. It is an absolute tragedy, so no this was not a "bad pick" by Oakland, but an unfortunate situation that robbed us of a chance to see what his career could have been.
32. Nathan Davis, Falcons, 1997
Sometimes there just isn't a story behind it. Davis played in six games over three seasons as a defensive end because he was terrible. He spent a lot of time in the CFL after that. There you have it. I also want to take this time to remind you about Derrick Sherrod and that the Packers are overrated.
Went over: Tiki Barber went four picks later
QB - Russell, Leaf, Smith, Quinn, Weeden, Manziel, Marinovich, McGwire, Druckenmiller
RB - Enis, Smith
WR - Morris, Soward, Mitchell, Green
TE - Didn't draft one, so Ebron
OL - Johnson, Watkins, Williams, Chung, McRae
DL - Gholston, Reynolds, Maybin, Bryant, Udeze, Perry, Bender, Davis
LB - Curry, Pollack, Kelly, Carpenter
DB - Gilbert, Milliner
Well, I'm a little heavy at quarterback. Man, I suck at drafting.