Most of us will never experience being drafted in the NFL. Being an NFL draft pick is special and comes with high expectations. The NFL Draft has produced many great players, but even more busts. Check out the worst NFL Draft picks of all time.
Andre Ware personified that winning a Heisman Trophy, guarantees nothing. Ware won the Heisman in 1989, and was drafted by the Detroit Lions.
Even with Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders in the backfield, Ware struggled. Ware’s six games, five TDs, eight INTs, and seven fumbles.
The Washington Commanders rich history of drafting well at the QB position took a major blow when they drafted Heath Shuler, one of the worst draft picks in NFL history.
Shuler, drafted 3rd overall in 1994, completed 47% of his passes in four games, in three seasons with Washington.
With the nickname “Johnny Football”, the Cleveland Browns thought that the sky was the limit for 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Johnny Manziel.
Manziel’s on-field play was rivaled only by his terrible off-field legal issues. Manziel in 15 NFL games, threw seven TDs, and seven INTs.
“The Boz”, Brian Bosworth entered the 1987 NFL Draft with promise and controversy. Bosworth’s first NFL moves, drafted by Seattle, were a lawsuit involving wearing the #44, and a list of teams he would refuse reporting to.
Bosworth had four sacks and three fumble recoveries in two seasons.
The Green Bay Packers drafted Tony Mandarich #2 overall in the 1989 NFL Draft for a reason. Mandarich put up impressive pre-draft workout numbers, and did nothing more in seven NFL seasons.
Green Bay never started Mandarich, and he exited the league with two fumble recoveries total.
Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning, a Hall of Fame QB, and two-time Super Bowl champion, were in the same draft.
Leaf and Manning being in the same 1998 draft was their only similarity. Leaf’s career ended with a 48% completion percentage, and 22 more interceptions than TD passes.
JaMarcus Russell, considered widely by NFL pundits as the worst draft pick ever, was drafted first overall in the 2007 draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Russell started his career by refusing to play over contract issues. Russell started once for Oakland, and left the NFL after only three seasons.
Isaiah Wilson was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and played only 3 games as a rookie.
Tennessee traded Wilson to Miami, was cut without playing once, and unceremoniously left the NFL after a chance granted by the New York Giants.
Matt Leinart was selected 10th in the 2006 NFL Draft and played in 17 games for his career. The Arizona Cardinals drafted Leinart to transition the team from Kurt Warner, but that dream never came alive.
Leinart threw fifteen touchdowns, 21 interceptions, and had a 57% completion percentage.
Derrick Harvey has had his NFL career characterized by many as one of the worst ever. Holding out from the team that drafted him, the Jacksonville Jaguars, before playing your first-ever game, is not a great start. Harvey, the 8th pick, had only 8 QB sacks in 3 seasons.
West Virginia product, Kevin White, was one of the most highly touted wide receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft. White’s NFL debut was postponed until his second season as he was injured his entire rookie year.
White has zero TDs, and currently trying to stay in the league.
Former U.C.L.A. Bruins star QB Josh Rosen was drafted 10th in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
Rosen started thirteen games in his rookie season, with a horrendous offense in front of him. Rosen has twelve career TDs, 21 INTs, and currently is a Cleveland Browns backup.
Many of the cornerbacks drafted by the Cleveland Browns, are out of the league as fast as they enter it.
Justin Gilbert is no different, drafted 8th by Cleveland in 2014, and out of the NFL by 2016. Gilbert’s career ended with 1 INT and 1 defensive TD.
Past NFL analysts shared an overwhelming belief that Andy Katzenmoyer is among the worst NFL draft picks of all-time. The former 1999 NFL Draft pick of the New England Patriots, was once thought of as college football’s best-ever linebackers.
Katzenmoyer retired after one season, from a lingering neck injury.
Bobby Carpenter joined an impressive list of defensive lineman picked highly in an NFL Draft. Carpenter, picked 18th by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2006 NFL Draft, played for Dallas, Miami, Detroit, and New England, in his six NFL seasons.
Carpenter’s career ended with 3.5 total QB sacks.
When the St. Louis Rams, now the Los Angeles Rams, selected Jason Smith #2 overall, it was to fill a serious void on their offensive line.
St. Louis initially signed Smith for $50 million total, $33 million of which was guaranteed. A concussion ended Smith’s rookie season early.
A plethora of NFL pencil-pushers, believe that Vernon Gholston is the New York Jets’ worst-ever draft pick. Gholston, like many before and after him, fooled prospective teams with impressive pre-draft workout stats.
Gholston only played two complete seasons, in New York mostly, and had 0 total sacks.
A player that retired from the NFL with almost 3,000 rushing yards, should not be on this list, yet here is Archie Griffin. Griffin brought the spotlight on himself by twice winning the Heisman Trophy Award in college.
Remarkably, Griffin only rushed for seven TDs during his career.
Tony Smith was acquired by the Atlanta Falcons in a trade on the same night, they traded their pick of Brett Favre to Green Bay. Smith was not traded for Favre, a common misconception about his career.
Smith’s career ended with only two rushing TDs and 329 yards.
Jaw-dropping stats in college for Oregon made Akili Smith a lock for the Cincinnati Bengals when they drafted him 3rd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft.
Smith was awful in Cincinnati, completing less than 48% of his passes, throwing 5 TDs, and being intercepted 13 times by opposing defenses.
Roberto Aguayo represents the only kicker on the list of the 30 worst NFL Draft picks ever. Kickers have generally been selected in lower rounds or picked up as undrafted free agents.
Aguayo missed nine of his 31 career FG attempts, and 43 yards his longest FG made.
The Pittsburgh Steeler’s “Steel Curtain” is one of the greatest defenses ever assembled in NFL history. Pittsburgh thought they scored again defensively by drafting Huey Richardson 15th in the 1991 NFL DRaft, but missed badly.
Pittsburgh played Richardson out of his natural position, causing him to struggle heavily.
Lawrence Phillips exploded in college with 92 carries, 508 yards rushing, for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in his rookie season. Phillips was suspended 6 games over legal issues in his rookie season.
Off-field legal issues also plagued Smith’s NFL career, spending more time imprisoned than games that he started in.
Injuries shortened a potentially brilliant career for Steve Emtman, drafted #1 overall in the 1991 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
Emtman was released after three seasons and five total QB sacks. Emtman refused a 1994 pay cut offered over his injury issues, and his career ended in 1997.
With the second overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected wide-receiver Charles Rogers out of Michigan State University.
Rogers demonstrated abilities that of Hall of Fame potential, but problems with substance abuse marred his career. Nagging injuries and suspensions ended Rogers career in 2005.
Taken in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals, David Klingler was chosen to be the team’s savior. Instead, Klingler started 24 times in three seasons with Cincinnati, 20 of those starts resulted in Bengals’ losses.
Today, Klingler is an associate professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Anyone that stands at 6′ 7″, and weighs over 300lbs, seems built for the NFL. The Buffalo Bills believed that about Mike Williams when they drafted him in 2002.
After struggling with pass protection, Williams was released, sat out a few seasons, and attempted a failed 2009 comeback.
NFL players, and coaches, know about the league’s personal conduct policies, and are expected to abide by it. Apparently not Art Schlichter, drafted in 1982, a known gambler. Schlichter was suspended for gambling in his first season.
Schlichter started six games, completed 45% of passes, and lost every game.
Justin Blackmon was picked 5th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2012 NFL Draft. Jacksonville traded up to snag what they thought was a steal in Blackmon.
Blackmon currently attempts to comeback, after two suspensions for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, and his off-field legal issues.
The Miami Dolphins have not drafted well since 1983 pick, Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino. Dion Jordan adds to that list of draft busts, taken 3rd overall by Miami in 2013.
Jordan was suspended for the 2015 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, before missing 2016.