The NFL Draft is near. Even the consensus wisdom turns out incredibly wrong sometimes. Here is a team composed of the worst draft busts by position. Incredibly, only two of the picks were the current iteration of the Cleveland Browns.
QB: JaMarcus Russell (No. 1 Overall, Oakland Raiders, 2007)
It’s hard to pick just one quarterback bust. There have been many. But, given where and when he was drafted, Russell has to top the list. He came in with all the tools in 2007. He was out of the league after 2009. The two most memorable parts of his NFL career are purple drank and this photo of him in a mink coat.
RB: Trent Richardson (No. 3 Overall, Cleveland Browns, 2012)
Running backs are expendable in the modern NFL. We knew this in 2012, when Cleveland used a top five pick on Richardson because he was just that damn intriguing of a prospect out of Alabama. Cleveland traded Richardson during his second season and he was out of the league after his third. He averaged 3.3 yards/carry for his career.
RB: Blair Thomas (No. 2 Overall, New York Jets, 1990)
The Jets used the No. 2 overall pick on a running back who suffered a major knee injury in college. Thomas produced just 2009 total yards and seven touchdowns for the Jets over four seasons. The next running back to come off the board was Emmitt Smith. The crosstown Giants also chose a running back in that first round, Rodney Hampton, who had five 1,000-yard seasons.
WR: Charles Rogers (No. 2 Overall, Detroit Lions, 2003)
Rogers was the worst 1st round pick of the Matt Millen era, which is saying something. Injuries and a drug problem saw the former Michigan State star amass 360 receiving yards and four touchdowns over three seasons with the Lions. Rogers was chosen one pick ahead of seven-time Pro Bowl wideout Andre Johnson.
WR: Justin Blackmon (No. 5 Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2012)
Blackmon looked to be can’t miss. He was a two-time Biletnikoff winner and Consensus All-American entering the 2012 Draft. He had a decent rookie season, then only played four subsequent games due to substance abuse suspensions.
TE: Derek Brown (No. 14 Overall, New York Giants, 1992)
Tight ends need to be really special to be picked high. Derek Brown did not fit that billing. He caught more than 10 balls during a season once, for Jacksonville in 1997. He scored one career touchdown.
OL: Tony Mandarich (No. 2 Overall, Green Bay Packers, 1989)
Mandarich was infamously billed as the greatest NFL offensive line prospects ever. College football basically not testing for steroids then played a role. He lasted three seasons in Green Bay before being cut in 1992. He’s best known for being a draft bust and the two SI covers book-ending that saga. The next three picks in succession were Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders. Ouch.
OL: Kevin Allen (No. 9 Overall, Philadelphia Eagles, 1985)
Allen had a hugely disappointing rookie season. Then he tested positive for cocaine during training camp in 1986, was released, and was charged and convicted of rape shortly after, pleading guilty. He later emerged for cameos in the World League of American Football and Arena Football.
OL: Jason Smith (No. 2 Overall, St. Louis Rams, 2009)
Remember when the Rams drafted Orlando Pace? This was not that. Smith never won the left tackle job and got slotted over to right tackle. A rookie won the left tackle job in 2010. Smith was out of the league after failing to catch on with two teams during training camp in 2013.
OL: Mike Williams (No. 4 Overall, Buffalo Bills, 2002)
Williams was a beast at 6’6” 370 pounds. He bounced around for four seasons with the Bills before being cut. He came back for a brief stint with the Redskins in 2009. The Bills chose him three picks ahead of Bryant McKinnie who spent a decade as a solid NFL starter and went to a Pro Bowl.
OL: Robert Gallery (No. 2 Overall, Oakland Raiders, 2004)
Seven of the Top eight players chosen in the 2004 Draft went to a Pro Bowl. Gallery, viewed as a clear franchise left tackle, was the eighth. He never locked down the left tackle spot. He wasn’t that great when used at right tackle or guard either.
DE: Andre Wadsworth (No. 3 Overall, Arizona Cardinals, 1998)
Wadsworth was ACC player of the year and a consensus All-American with 16 sacks at FSU. He was drafted after Manning/Leaf and one spot ahead of Charles Woodson. After a contract holdout and multiple knee surgeries, he was out of the NFL following the 2000 season.
DT: Steve Emtman (No. 1 Overall, Seattle Seahawks, 1992)
Emtman was a star on Washington’s undefeated 1991 team. He won just about every award, was a consensus All-American, and finished fourth in the Heisman voting. His NFL career was stymied by a myriad of devastating injuries. He played just 18 games for the Colts over three seasons and retired in 1997 with just eight career sacks.
DE: Vernon Gholston (No. 6 Overall, New York Jets, 2008)
Gholston was a big-time defensive end and first-team All-Big Ten at Ohio State. In the NFL, he just never panned out. He couldn’t crack the Jets’ starting lineup at linebacker or defensive end. He was out of the league after the 2010 season, without registering a sack.
LB: Huey Richardson (No. 15 Overall, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1991)
Richardson was a first-team All-American coming out of Florida in 1990. He didn’t fit in as an end or linebacker in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense. He made just five appearances for the Steelers before being traded for a 7th Round pick. He was out of football after the 1992 season.
LB: Mike Junkin (No. 5 Overall, Cleveland Browns, 1987)
The Browns traded up to get Junkin at No. 5. They did this knowing he had tested positive for steroids before the draft. They gave up a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Chip Banks to make the trade happen. He had injuries. The Browns tried to make him change positions. He was out of the NFL after 20 total appearances over three seasons with Cleveland and Kansas City. He did have a noteworthy run in with Joe Posnanski.
LB: Aaron Curry (No. 4 Overall, Seattle Seahawks, 2009)
Curry seemed about as sure a bet as one could make. He tore it up at the 2009 combine. He was coming off a Butkus award-winning 2008 season at Wake Forest with 16 tackles for loss. Fortunately for him, he got drafted before the rookie wage scale went into effect. Curry lost his starting job in year three in Seattle after two underwhelming seasons. He was out of the league after making only two appearances for Oakland in 2012.
CB: Bruce Pickens (No. 3 Overall, Atlanta Falcons, 1991)
Atlanta already had Deion Sanders. They used a top five pick on another corner. He didn’t lock down the starting job. He bounced around the league and was out after the 1997 season. He recorded just two interceptions during his career.
S: Jason Allen (No. 16 Overall, Miami Dolphins, 2006)
It’s unfair to lump Allen with the others on this list. But, not many safeties are drafted highly in the first round. Nick Saban selected Allen. He bounced between positions and teams after leaving the Dolphins and never quite panned out over a seven-year career. Three of the next four picks – Chad Greenway, Antonio Cromartie, Tamba Hali – were multiple-time Pro Bowlers on defense.
S: Mossy Cade (No. 6 Overall, San Diego Chargers, 1984)
Cade never played a down for the Chargers. He signed with the USFL. He eventually ended up back in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers. In 1987, he was convicted of sexual assaulting his 44-year-old aunt and was out of the league.
CB: Justin Gilbert (No. 8 Overall, Cleveland Browns, 2014)
Gilbert never panned out over two seasons in Cleveland. The Steelers traded a 6th round pick for him before the 2016 season. That trade looks bad on Pittsburgh’s end. Gilbert was just released by the Steelers without playing meaningful snaps on defense. Seven of the nine picks following Gilbert made a Pro Bowl. That does not include two DBs from that round – HaHa Clinton-Dix and Jason Verrett – who have also been to one as well.
K/P: Russell Erxleben (No. 11 Overall, New Orleans Saints, 1979)
Spending a top 15 pick on a kicker is foolish regardless of the outcome. Erxleben (pronounced Irks-Lay-Ben) did not even lock down the Saints’ kicker job, attempting only 8 field goals his entire career (and missing four of them). He caught on for a few years as the Saints punter. He was out of the league after the 1983 season but for a brief comeback attempt with the Lions. Erxleben was sentenced to federal prison in 2014 for running a Ponzi scheme.