You’ll often hear the adage that the NFL Draft is more of an art than a science. After all, you have to combine a bunch of empirical data (like a player’s height, weight, speed, and strength) with a lot of totally subjective observations (game film, playing style, college scheme), and then use all of that to determine how that player will fare several years from now.
That’s why guys like offensive tackle Eric Fisher somehow end up being taken as the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and guys like Tom Brady end up being selected with the 199th pick in the NFL Draft.
So we decided that we’d go back and look through each NFL Draft since 2000, and determine the worst selection in each of those years — the guys that NFL teams went all in on, and totally missed on that pick.
2010: C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
With #9 pick in the first round, the Buffalo Bills selected Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. In college, Spiller was a human highlight reel, and a human Swiss-Army knife on the football field. He did it all, and he did it well. In his senior year, Spiller rushed for over 1,200 yards, had more than 500 yards receiving, and scored 5 touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns. But up against better competition, Spiller never found that magic in the NFL.
His lack of size (5-foot-11 and 200 pounds) limited him to 38 starts, throughout his injury plagued career. In the past three seasons Spiller has played for four different teams, and has been cut and resigned by the Chiefs three times in 2017.
By taking Spiller at the top of the draft, Buffalo passed on a boatload of talented players; safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and receivers Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant.
2011: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Many people thought Blaine Gabbert had the highest upside of any quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft, which led the Jacksonville Jaguars to trade up from the #16 overall pick to the #10 overall to select him. After a miserable three-year stint with the Jaguars, Gabbert spent three years in San Francisco, one year in Arizona and is currently serving as Marcus Mariota’s backup in Tennessee.
He’ll go down in infamy for being taken one spot before J.J. Watt, who seems destined to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame someday.
Even the Washington Redskins, whom the Jaguars traded with the for the #10 pick, were able to get a Pro Bowl player (Ryan Kerrigan) with the 16th overall pick (which originally belonged to Jacksonville). Some other players taken after Gabbert in the draft; Mark Ingram, Justin Houston, DeMarco Murray. Did we forget to say J.J. Watt?
2012: Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
In what appeared to be a star-studded 2012 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns were so enamored with Trent Richardson that they sent Minnesota three draft picks to simply move up from #4 overall to #3 overall, in order to draft Richardson.
But after a somewhat promising rookie season, Richardson had a miserable sophomore season in Cleveland, leading the Browns to trade him to Indianapolis. Over the next four years, Richardson bounced around three more NFL teams.
His most recent (and perhaps final) comeback attempt was with the Baltimore Ravens in the summer of 2016, but they waived him right at the start of training camp. Richardson will be known as the guy Cleveland took with their top pick ahead of Pro Bowl players like Luke Kuechly, Fletcher Cox, and Russell Wilson. The last time Richardson was in the news, he was the starting running back for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.
2013: EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
In fairness to EJ Manuel, when the Buffalo Bills took him with the 16th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, most analysts considered the pick to be a gross reach. But that pick looks even worse when you juxtapose it with the fact that DeAndre Hopkins, Le’Veon Bell, and Travis Kelce were all taken in the same draft, after Manuel.
In his 28 games as the Bills starting quarterback, he threw for just 19 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions. Manuel lasted four non-descript years in Buffalo before signing with the Oakland Raiders for the 2017 season. As of this writing, Manuel is a free agent, and there are no indications of that changing any time soon.
Manuel is one of many Florida State quarterbacks to produce very little at the pro level. Others on that list; Christian Ponder (2011), Chris Weinke (2001), and Danny Kanell (1996). The jury is still out on Jameis Winston.
2014: Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns
One of biggest questions entering the 2014 NFL Draft was around which team would have the chutzpah to draft the reckless Johnny Manziel. Eventually, the Cleveland Browns (of all teams) decided to take on that risk, which backfired in their face. Manziel made more headlines off the field than on it, for his partying ways and numerous allegations for substance abuse issues.
He never became a full-time starter for Cleveland and he went from “Johnny Football” to “Johnny Clipboard” — and then finally “Johnny Unemployed.” He lasted only two seasons in Cleveland, before they parted ways with him.
To date, no team has been ready to try and take on Manziel as a reclamation project.
2015: Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears
Coming out of West Virginia, Kevin White checked all the boxes for a star wide receiver. Does he have the size? White is 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds of solid muscle. Does he have the speed? In pre-draft workouts White ran a blazing 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash, easily one of the fastest times at the combine that year. With measurables like that, there was no way a talent like White would fall out of the top 10.
But fast forward four years, and White has played in only 5 games due to multiple season ending injuries.
It’s hard to label Kevin White a bust, because we’ve barely had the chance to see him play. But as the old saying goes, the best ability is availability. Players drafted after White; Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Marcus Peters and Landon Collins.
2016: Paxton Lynch, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
The NFL has way too much of a tendency to fall in love with the “measurables” — height, wingspan, 40-yard dash time, bench press repetitions, and things like that. So when Paxton Lynch entered the 2016 NFL Draft standing 6’7, weighing 245 lbs, and showing off elite arm strength, people thought Lynch — who played in a spread offense in college — could be a taller Marcus Mariota.
In the process, they overlooked all the important parts of playing quarterback, which Lynch totally lacked: reading defenses, throwing accurately while throwing on the move, and being able to anticipate passing windows (throwing to where a receiver will be instead of where they currently are).
The Broncos waived Lynch prior to the start of the 2018 season.
2017: John Ross, WR, Bengals
With the 9th overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted receiver John Ross, hoping to form one of the NFL’s top pass catching duos alongside All-Pro A.J. Green. In his final year at Washington, Ross played 13 games and hauled in 76 receptions for 1,122 yard and 17 touchdowns.
But things haven’t gone according to play for Ross and the Bengals. In his rookie season, Ross logged one touch, a 12-yard rush which ended with him fumbling the ball. He was placed on injured reserve on December 4, 2017 with a shoulder injury, ending his rookie season.
To make matters worse… After the Bengals drafted Ross with the 9th pick, here are the next three players off the board (sit down before you read this) … Patrick Mahomes (#10), Marshon Lattimore (#11) and DeShaun Watson (#12). All three players are on their way to becoming elite players at their respective positions.
2018: Josh Rosen, QB, Cardinals
We tend to overlook just how much bad circumstances can set even the most talented rookies up for failure. In 2018, Josh Rosen was drafted by a team who strongly preferred another quarterback in his draft class (the Arizona Cardinals were desperately hoping to land Josh Allen), and put him in a situation with a head coach who was hilariously in over his head (Steve Wilks) and an offensive coordinator who developed a reputation of not having evolved his offense in over a decade (Mike McCoy).
And to make matters worse, after deposing of both of those individuals, the Cardinals went out and hired a new head coach who made no secret about wanting to bring in “his guy” (Kyler Murray), to effectively replace Rosen.
2019: Daniel Jones, QB, Giants
Make no mistake: there wasn’t a single team in the NFL who would’ve drafted Daniel Jones with a top 15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, which makes New York Giants’ General Manager David Gettleman’s public posturing that much more ridiculous.
It’s well understood around the NFL that Gettleman was infatuated with Jones because of the fact that he “looked” like an NFL quarterback, and he was coached by Duke University head coach David Cutcliffe, who famously coached Peyton and Eli Manning when those two were in college. So, the Giants badly reached when drafting Jones with the 6th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and have put him in a situation where he’ll face enormous pressure from a fan base and media ready to pounce on every mistake he makes.