Not only does the NFL Draft represent an oasis of football in the abyss that is the NFL’s offseason, but it also represents an annual source of hope for fans of all 32 NFL teams. Maybe this year, their favorite team will take that player that transforms the franchise into a perennial contender, if not a Super Bowl champion.
Of course, there are plenty of times when, after all that hype and hoopla and hysteria, the exact opposite happens: teams totally “bomb” on their top draft pick, after months of scouting, probing, and research. Those types of mistakes often set teams back years in being competitive, not to mention all the time and money spent in scouting.
So at the risk of dampening anyone’s mood who might otherwise be amped up for the NFL Draft, here’s our list of the worst top selection by each NFL team since the turn of the century (2000).
Arizona Cardinals — Jonathan Cooper (2009):
A top-10 pick in a rather miserable 2013 NFL Draft (in hindsight), Jonathan Cooper was one of the two “can’t-miss” interior lineman taken among the top 10 picks of said draft. The Arizona Cardinals selected the unanimous All-American with the 7th pick in the draft, but instead of getting a guy who’d solidify the interior of an offensive line that seemingly always needs help, Arizona barely ever got to see what Cooper could have been at all.
Cooper broke his left leg before his rookie season ever started, and many have speculated that he was never the same player after returning, as he both lacked the same abilities when he got back on the field, and struggled to stay on the field with even more nagging injuries that would follow.
Atlanta Falcons — Jamaal Anderson (2007):
A highly-coveted defensive end prospect because of his “ideal measurable” at 6’6 and 282lbs, there was a lot of talk that University of Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson would go among the top five picks of the 2007 NFL Draft. When he fell to the 8th overall pick, many people said that the Atlanta Falcons had gotten great value with Anderson’s selection there.
But instead of “great value,” what the Falcons really got was a badly underperforming — and generally underwhelming — draft bust who recorded 4.5 sacks in his first four years in the NFL. By the end of the 2012 season, Anderson was already out of the league. This pick looks even worse when you consider the Falcons passed on guys like Patrick Willis and Marshawn Lynch in the same draft.
Carolina Panthers — Jimmy Clausen (2010):
Never in history has there been a player for with the combination of breathtaking hype and incredible failure like Jimmy Clausen. The most over-recruited player in NCAA history to date, Clausen’s lackluster career at Notre Dame led him to fall to the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
The Carolina Panthers, who selected him, decided to throw him to the proverbial wolves in his rookie year, and Clausen got eaten alive: three touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 games as a starter. He had a huge hand in the Panthers finishing with a 2-14 record, and Carolina saw enough of him in that one year to decide to draft his replacement — Cam Newton — just one year after taking Clausen.
Chicago Bears — Kevin White (2015):
An All-American wide receiver from West Virginia University who had the body of a Marvel superhero, there were plenty of people who thought that Kevin White was the hands-down best receiver in the 2015 NFL Draft, not only worthy of a potential top five pick in said draft, but also worthy of being taken before fellow All-American wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Seduced by White’s combination of size (6’3 and 216lbs) and speed (4.35 seconds in the 40 yard dash), the Chicago Bears took White with the 7th overall pick in that draft. But right from the get-go, White’s career has been completely marred by injuries. Through his first three seasons in the NFL, White missed 43 of 48 possible games. Through the end of 2018, White had yet to score an NFL touchdown.
Dallas Cowboys — Felix Jones (2008):
While it’s something of a secret that the Dallas Cowboys have been a really good drafting team over the past decade, that started after owner Jerry Jones couldn’t resist forcing his team to tap into Jones’ old University of Arkansas connection (Jones’ alma matter), to select Felix Jones.
As the “Robin” to Darren McFadden’s “Batman,” Jones ran for 2,954 yards in three years with the Razorbacks. But in five years in Dallas, Jones was little more than a change-of-pace running back, carrying the ball 127 times or less in four of his five years. By the end of the 2012 season, his time in Dallas was over.
Detroit Lions — Charles Rogers (2003):
One of the studs the Lions drafted to catch passes from Joey Harrington turned out to be a world-class draft bust. The warning signs were there; after a prolific career at Michigan State, the Lions remained undeterred in taking Charles Rogers with the #2 overall pick in the 2003 draft, despite the fact that he had twice tested positive for marijuana while at Michigan State, and also tested positive for a masking agent just days before the 2003 NFL Draft. There was also the incident where a girlfriend had stabbed him (with a fork) in 1999. He did show flashes of his incredible talent while in Detroit, but the issues never went away. He fought with cornerback Dre Bly in a bye week practice, and ended up breaking his clavicle (collar bone) in the skirmish, ending his rookie season after just five games.
The next year, he broke his collarbone again in just the third play from scrimmage in the Lions season opener, sidelining him for the rest of the season. The team allowed Rogers to rehab away from the Lions facility — even excusing him from having to attend team meetings or practices, or watch film — and that’s where his recreational use of marijuana exploded. At one point, he was so badly out of shape that his recorded time in the 40 yard dash went from 4.28 seconds to 4.8 seconds. After just three seasons in the NFL, Rogers was released by the Lions. His post-NFL career has been marred by domestic assault charges, positive drug tests for prescription narcotics, and a DUI arrest that lead to a 93 day jail term.
Green Bay Packers — Derek Sherrod (2011):
The reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers made offensive tackle Derek Sherrod the first player taken from Mississippi State in the first round of the NFL Draft in 15 years. However, Sherrod couldn’t make his fellow Bulldog alumni proud, as he suffered a nasty injury late in the 2011 season that would force him to miss all of the 2012 season as well.
Despite the hopes of the team’s coaches and front office, before the end of the 2014 season, having barely played with the team since his rookie year, the Packers eventually released Sherrod after running out of patience with his recovery.
Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams — Jason Smith (2009):
An absolute “dancing bear” of an offensive tackle prospect, the 6’5 and 310lb Jason Smith from Baylor University was a named a third-team All-American. In the days leading up to the draft, teams salivated over Smith’s combination of strength (he did 33 reps of 225lbs on the bench press at the NFL Combine) and dexterity (ran the 40 yard dash in 5.09 seconds).
After the then-St. Louis Rams selected Smith with the #2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, he spent three totally unremarkable seasons with the team; the only time you ever heard about him was when he was dealing with concussion issues. Before the start of the 2013 seasons,
Minnesota Vikings — Laquon Treadwell (2016):
A big (6’2 and 221lbs), strong, physical, and super productive receiver out of Ole Miss, many draft pundits had Laquon Treadwell as their top wide receiver in the 2016 NFL Draft, despite concerns about his playing speed (he reportedly ran the 40 yard dash in 4.63 seconds).
Many of those same pundits also thought that the Vikings got a steal when they got him with the 23rd pick in the draft. But for a guy who scored 11 touchdowns his last season in Oxford, Treadwell had zero touchdowns in his first two seasons in Minnesota, catching a grand total of 21 passes over two years. Through three years in the NFL, Treadwell has a total of 40 receptions, and only one NFL touchdown.
New Orleans Saints — Reggie Bush (2006):
It’s not the fact that Reggie Bush was a terrible player in general; he did finish his career recording two seasons with more than 1,000 yards rushing. But despite investing the #2 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft on Bush, and considering everyone assumed Bush was this generational, franchise-changing talent, the Saints never got a season with more than 600 yards rushing out of him.
Bush didn’t even lead the Saints in rushing during the 2009 season, when the team ended up defeating the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.
New York Giants — Ereck Flowers (2015):
It’s no secret that in the 2015 NFL Draft, the New York Giants were absolutely sure that stud offensive lineman Brandon Scherff would fall to them at the 9th overall pick, and they would snap him up. Instead, when Scherff got taken earlier than expected, the Giants’ — seemingly always with needs along the offensive line — panicked, and reached for mammoth offensive tackle Ereck Flowers.
Many draft analysts saw this as an egregious pick, as Flowers was, at best, a developmental tackle that should’ve been taken late in the first round (at the very earliest). After just over three years of watching Flowers get blown past more often than a turnstile, the Giants finally released him, after being unable to trade him away.
Philadelphia Eagles — Danny Watkins (2011):
There are few things you ever want to be referred to as, when you’re a football player, and it goes doubly so as an offensive lineman. Among the worst of those is being labeled as “soft.” But that’s basically how the Philadelphia Eagles publicly described Danny Watkins, just over two years after taking him late in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
After sitting for the majority of his first two seasons in the NFL, Eagles’ personnel executive Howie Roseman said Watkins lacked the “innate toughness” that prompted the team to select him in the draft in the first place.
San Francisco 49ers — AJ Jenkins (2012):
The speedy Alfred Alonzo “A. J.” Jenkins was admittedly a solid reach when the San Francisco 49ers selected him with the 30th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. While Jenkins did Amass 1166 yards during his final season at the University of Illinois, scouts were concerned with his lack of size (he was only 190lbs) limiting his ability to get open, and his inconsistent motor that made him prone to taking plays off.
But Jenkins’ time in San Francisco was such a catastrophe that before the start of his second season in the league, the 49ers already had enough of him, trading him away to the Kansas City Chiefs. Less than two years after that, the Chiefs released him, with his NFL career being all but over.
Seattle Seahawks — Aaron Curry (2009):
Aaron Curry was one of the hottest names in the days leading up to the 2009 NFL Draft, and looked like one of the true “can’t miss” prospects in the draft. But Curry’s failure in the NFL once again proves how much of an inexact science the NFL Draft really is. Curry was taken 4th overall by the Seattle Seahawks, ahead of future Pro Bowl linebackers like Clay Matthews III, Brian Cushing, and Brian Orakpo.
For all of Curry’s physical gifts, it appeared that he could never really master the mental aspects and work ethic required to succeed in the NFL. Perhaps he’s taken those lessons learned, and is trying to teach them to other athletes, as he’s currently the head coach for the 49ers of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Gaines Adams (2007):
Gaines Adams came to Clemson as an unheralded two-star recruit, but left Clemson as a unanimous All-American and highly-touted draft prospect after trying the university record with 28 career sacks, and being a defensive end who stood just under 6’5 and 258lbs, but ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds.
But Adams was a total non-impact player in the NFL, registering a career-high 6.5 sacks in his second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who took him with the 4th overall pick in 2007), but finishing his 3-year career in Tampa with a total of 13.5 sacks. Shorty after the 2009 season, Adams was found tragically dead in his home, as a result of cardiac arrest due to a cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart) condition.
Washington Redskins — Malcolm Kelly (2008):
It was literally no secret to anyone in the entire NFL Draft process that University of Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly had enormous “red flags” concerning his medicals, as the ligaments in his knees basically had the durability of wet tissue paper.
After Washington traded out of the 1st round of the 2008 NFL Draft, they managed to secure three 2nd-round picks in the draft, and used the third of those three to take Kelly. In what should have been a surprise to nobody, Kelly would miss 27 of the first 48 games of his NFL career, including all of the 2010 season, after which his NFL career was officially over.