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Pi Network

Lou: Kevin Duffy of has provided this article as a special for Draft King, outlining his opinion of the best and worst NFL picks of the past 10 years and thirteen "unlucky" players. Enjoy!

Best Picks of the Last Ten Years

40. Justin Tuck DE New York Giants 74 overall (3rd round) 2005
Tuck wasn’t even on the radar for this list until February 3rd, but after turning Tom Brady’s fourth Super Bowl an utter nightmare, he deserved to be mentioned. Of course, putting Tuck here is partially based on potential, because it looks inevitable that the he’ll turn into a perennial all-pro.

39. Grady Jackson DT Tampa Bay Buccaneers 193 overall (6th round) 1997
There’s a fine line between being fat and being good. Jackson is straddling that line— and it’s not pretty.

38. DeMeco Ryans LB Houston Texans 33 overall (2nd round) 2006
The 2006 Defensive Rookie of the Year followed up a season in which he led the NFL in tackles by being named All-Pro in 2007. Not bad for a 236-lb middle linebacker who was thought to be too small to play in the pros.

37. Shaun Phillips LB San Diego Chargers 98 overall (4th round) 2004
Phillips may not be the most famous Shaun in the San Diego linebacking corps, but he has been a huge part of the Chargers defense since joining the team four years ago. He is yet to make a Pro Bowl, but aided pass rushing extraordinaire Shawne Merrimane with 8.5 sacks of his own this past season.

36. Devin Hester KR Chicago Bears 57 overall (2nd round) 2006
Hester was drafted to be a cornerback. He turned out to the most dominant kick returner in NFL history. In his first two seasons, Hester has run back 11 kicks (both punts and kickoffs) to the house. Eventually teams will start to realize that Hester is the only chance the Bears have at scoring and just kick the ball out of bounds, but until then, he remains one of the most dangerous weapons in the league.

35. Mario Williams DE Houston Texans 1 overall (1st round) 2006
On Draft Day 2006, all we heard was how Williams will forever follow in the shadows of future game-changers Reggie Bush and Vince Young.

But what a difference a two years makes. After racking up 11 ½ sacks in 2007, Williams was named AP Defensive Lineman of the Year (I didn’t know that was an award either) and even got votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Bush, whose longest run of his NFL career is just 22 yards— 16 yards fewer than Williams’ fumble recovery touchdown dash— proved that he may never be anything more than an explosive third-down back. Young passed for 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and was limited to 395 rushing yards while operating one of the NFL’s most anemic offenses.

All of the sudden, it appears that Bush and Young are now chasing the legacy of Williams. Hats off to Charlie Casserly for making that pick. And by the way, hats back on to Casserly for resigning immediately after the draft.

34. Logan Mankins G New England Patriots 32 overall (1st round) 2005
New England has had success drafting offensive lineman in all rounds of the draft. Matt Light was a second-round pick in 2001 and Dan Koppen was a fifth-rounder in 2003, so why is Mankins a more impressive pick than those two?

Because the Pats invested first-round money in him. If a fifth-round guard doesn’t pan out, it’s not a big deal. But if a first-round choice fails, then you’ve wasted a lot of money and the opportunity to draft another very talented player. When Mankins was drafted with the last pick of the first round in ’05, everyone had the same reaction…”Who?” With well-known players like USC’s Shaun Cody, Oklahoma’s Dan Cody, and Tennessee’s Kevin Burnett available, it took some Mel Kiper analysis to calm everyone down and convince the world that Mankins was indeed a wise choice. After being named to the Pro Bowl, however, Mankins no longer needs Kiper’s backing to prove that he is one of the best offensive lineman in the NFL.

33. Jared Allen DE Kansas City Chiefs 126 overall (4th round) 2004
Allen, who struggled with DUI’s early in his career, has cleaned up his life and now gets drunk off sacking the quarterback. He led the league with 15.5 sacks this season and was named to his first Pro Bowl.

32. Rudi Johnson RB Cincinnati Bengals 100 overall (4th round)
Cincinnati didn’t miss a beat when Johnson stepped in for Corey Dillon several seasons ago. Rudi’s bruising running style seems to have taken its toll, however, as his career appears to have peaked in 2005 when he totaled a franchise-record 1,458 yards and 12 touchdowns.

31. Brandon Marshall WR Denver Broncos 119 overall (4th round) 2006
Elvis Dumervil DE Denver Broncos 126 overall (4th round) 2006

It’s rare for a team to find two impact players seven picks apart in the fourth round. The 6-foot-4 230 lb Marshall was low on the draft radar because he went to a small school (UCF), but in 2007 he emerged as one of the top gamebreakers in the NFL, hauling in 102 passes for 1,365 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Dumervil, a NCAA-record setter at Louisville, fell on draft boards because of his 5-foot-11 frame. However, he has a 6-foot-7 wingspan and a non-stop motor that has led to 21 sacks in his first two seasons.

30. Frank Gore RB San Francisco 49ers 65 overall (3rd round) 2005
A big-time recruit at Miami (Fl.), the 5-foot-10 workhorse suffered two gory (see what I did there) knee injuries that shortened his college career and hurt his draft stock. People knew Gore could play—he was Big East Freshman of the Year after averaging a whopping 11.3 yards per carry and had beaten out Willis McGahee for the starting job before suffering a torn ACL in his sophomore campaign—but his history of injuries and a 4.68 40-yard dash time scared away potential suitors. The Niners took a small gamble in the third round and it paid off big, as Gore rushed for an NFC-high 1,695 yards in 2006.

29. Marc Bulger QB New Orleans Saints 168 overall (6th round) 2000
It’s a shame that the Saints couldn’t make room for Bulger. He was cut shortly after the draft and eventually caught on as the Rams No. 3 quarterback. Thanks to injuries to Kurt Warner and Jamie Martin, Bulger got a chance to start in his second season and never looked back. West Virginia’s all-time leading passer threw for a league-high 4,301 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2006, was elected to the Pro Bowl twice, and was even named MVP of the meaningless game in 2004.

28. Matt Birk C Minnesota Vikings 173 overall (6th round) 1998
Birk may not be the smartest guy out there, but he makes up for his embarrassing lack of general knowledge with raw strength and technique. He slid on the draft board for two reasons: 1. Teams are reluctant to use a first-day pick on a center and 2. Teams are reluctant to draft a player with such immense off-the-field problems. Luckily for the Vikings, Birk was able to put his shoddy past behind him and become a six-time Pro Bowler.

27. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila DE Green Bay Packers 150 overall (5th round) 2000
KGB recently surpassed Reggie White as Green Bay’s all-time sack leader. Originally dubbed a pure speed rusher, the San Diego State product has developed into a reliable every-down defensive end.

26. Edgerrin James RB Indianapolis Colts 4 overall (1st round) 1999
It’s not often than the fourth player chosen in the draft constitutes a “great pick,” but this is the case with James. Edge set records at Miami, but until a 299-yard 3-touchdown outburst against UCLA, James didn’t take much attention away from Ricky Williams and his chase for the all-time rushing record. Williams was considered the best running back prospect in years, but Bill Polian instead selected James with Williams still on the board. At the time it certainly wasn’t the popular pick, but it turned out to be the correct one. Edge led the NFL in rushing his first two years and brought a new dimension to the Indianapolis offense that helped it become the league’s dominant attack for James’ seven years with the team. Of course, when James demanded a big money deal, Polian let him walk, drafted Joseph Addai, and won the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, the fact that Indy finally got over the hump as soon as James left is a mere coincidence. He has still succeeded in Arizona despite playing behind a sub-par offensive line, and is sure to be a Hall of Famer when his career is over.

25. Antonio Cromartie CB San Diego Chargers 19 overall (1st round) 2006
Marcus McNeil T San Diego Chargers 50 overall (2nd round) 2006

A few players away from becoming a serious contender, San Diego took a lot of heat for using a first-round pick on Cromartie, who started just one game in an injury-riddled career at Florida State. Fortunately, Cromartie has lived up to the pressure of being a first-round pick and exceeded all expectations. At 6-foot-2 205 lbs, he is essentially Randy Moss playing defensive back. Cromartie, one of the most athletic cornerbacks to ever play the game, set an NFL-record with a 109.9999-yard missed field-goal return, snagged 10 interceptions, and was named First Team All-Pro in his second season.

McNeil unexpectedly was thrust into the starting left tackle spot as a rookie and excelled in the role. He received votes for Rookie of the Year, made the Pro Bowl, and helped lead the Chargers to a 14-2 regular season record.

24. Marion Barber III RB Dallas Cowboys 109 overall (4th round) 2005
Brandon Jacobs RB New York Giants 110 overall (4th round) 2005

Two of the most physical young running backs in the NFL were back-to-back Day 2 picks in 2005. Barber flew under the radar after sharing carries with Laurence Maroney in college and Jacobs, considered to be a short-yardage specialist coming out of Northern Illinois, fell because teams doubted his ability to be a feature back. Clearly, there aren’t many questions about either anymore. Both Barber and Jacobs have developed reputations for punishing defenders early in their careers and have seen their roles expand greatly each season. The best is yet to come for both youngsters.

23. Willis McGahee RB Buffalo Bills 23 overall (1st round) 2003
A possible No. 1 overall pick at the end of the regular season, McGahee’s gruesome knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl vs. Ohio State had NFL teams questioning whether he’d ever be able to play again. Somehow, McGahee, with a little help from agent Drew Rosenhaus, convinced several teams that he’d be able to return to his college form. The Bills took a huge risk in spending first-round money on McGahee, who sat out his entire rookie season, but it paid off. He was one of the most consistent tailbacks in the NFL with Buffalo and earned his first Pro Bowl last season with Baltimore.

22. (tie) Lance Briggs LB Chicago Bears 68 overall (3rd round) 2003
Jason Witten TE Dallas Cowboys 69 overall (3rd round) 2003

Three years after drafting Brian Urlacher out of New Mexico, the Bears scoured the great southwest for another star linebacker, and they found one in Arizona’s Lance Briggs. Most teams get top talent high in the first-round, but what separates the average teams from the contenders is the ability to find standouts like Briggs deep in the draft. With that being said, what separates the Bears from the contenders are Rex Grossman, Brian Greise and Kyle Orton.

One pick after the Bears nabbed Briggs, the Cowboys found a gem of their own. Witten has emerged as the second best pass-catching tight end in the NFL and responsible for much of the success Tony Romo has enjoyed in his two years as the Dallas starter.

21. Mike Anderson RB Denver Broncos 189 overall (6th round) 2000
The 27-year-old rookie was one of the greatest stories in the last decade of football. Anderson, who was a member of the marching band in high school because the football coaches thought he was too big to play running back, spent four years in the marines before enrolling at Utah, where he teamed with Carolina Panther wide receiver Steve Smith. Anderson came out of nowhere to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 when starter Terrell Davis went down and Anderson stepped in with 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns.

20. Mike Vrabel OLB Pittsburgh Steelers 91 overall (3rd round) 1997
If Pittsburgh had held onto Vrabel, he would have undoubtedly landed higher on this list. After four seasons with the Steelers, Vrabel signed with New England, where he anchored three championship defenses and discovered a talent for catching 1-yard touchdown passes.

19. Brian Westbrook RB Philadelphia Eagles 91 overall (3rd round) 2002
The Eagles didn’t have to go far to find Westbrook. A graduate of nearby I-AA Villanova University, Westbrook was an unknown to most teams in the draft. He didn’t play against top competition in college and because of his size, he wasn’t considered to be an every down back. In his five-year career, Westbrook has debunked all of those myths en route to becoming a top-five back in the NFL. His combination of speed, agility, and lower-body power is the closest thing the league has seen to Barry Sanders in years. Now if only Philly could find some receivers…

18. Cato June LB Indianapolis Colts 198 overall (6th round) 2003
A standout at the University of Michigan, June was considered too small at 6-foot 220 lbs to play linebacker in the NFL. His speed and quickness was a perfect fit in the Indianapolis defense, however, as June was voted All-Pro in 2005 and led the Colts with 142 tackles in their 2006 Super Bowl winning season. Though June didn’t have nearly as much success in his first season with Tampa Bay after signing as a free agent, his contribution to the Colts Super Bowl run makes him a true draft-day steal.

17. Steve Smith WR Carolina Panthers 74 overall (3rd round) 2001
It wouldn’t be outrageous to say that Smith is the best wide receiver in the NFL. Smith led the league in yards and touchdowns a few seasons ago while facing constant triple coverage, and even put up respectable numbers this year despite Jake Delhomme, David Carr, Vinny Testeverde, Matt Moore, Chris Weinke, Steve Buerlien, Rodney Peete, Kerry Collins, and Frank Reich all going down with injuries.

16. Tiki Barber RB New York Giants 36 overall (2nd round) 1997
Ronde Barber CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers 66 overall (3rd round) 1997

One will go down as the face of his immensely successful franchise. The other will go down as the running back who foolishly passed up a Super Bowl to take a job with NBC.

15. Marques Colston WR New Orleans Saints 252 overall (7th round) 2006
Everyone expected New Orleans’ top young talent to burst out of the gates with 2,240 yards and 19 touchdowns in his first two seasons. But no one expected that young talent to be Colston. For all the hype Reggie Bush has garnered, Colston has been the Saints’ most dangerous weapon since ’06.

14. Peyton Manning QB Indianapolis Colts 1 overall (1st round) 1998
It’s difficult to consider the first pick of a draft to be a “great pick,” but in this case, Indianapolis deserves a lot of credit for its choice. At the time, many experts thought Ryan Leaf would turn out to be a better pro than Manning. Leaf was the fast-riser, he was the talk of the football world after a gutsy performance against Michigan in the Rose bowl, and in terms of upside, he was considered to be one of the best quarterback prospects in years. Of course, we all know how that turned out. Bill Polian and the Colts drafted arguably the best quarterback of all-time, and the Chargers settled for Leaf, who turned out to be one of the worst.

13. Al Harris CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers 169 overall (6th round) 1997
Tampa Bay may have drafted Harris, but the Bucs were not patient with the sixth round pick, who has since become one of the league’s premier cornerbacks with Philadelphia and Green Bay. Harris has dominated receivers over the years with his physical bump-and-run coverage, and perhaps more importantly, he was the pioneer of the “dreadlocks-flowing-out-of-the-helmet” movement that became intensely popular over the past few years.

12. Donald Driver WR Green Bay Packers 219 overall (7th round) 1999
As comfortable as Brett Favre is with Wrangler, I’m sure he’s a million times more comfortable with Driver. Green Bay’s electric wide receiver picked up right where Antonio Freeman left off as Favre’s go-to target, and ultimately played a large role in the success Favre had at the end of his career.

11. Dwight Freeney DE Indianapolis Colts 11 overall (1st round) 2002
The Colts actually took some heat for drafting Freeney early in the first-round. Though he was dominant at Syracuse, there were questions of how well his undersized frame would translate to the NFL. One Super Bowl, three Pro Bowls, an NFL-sack title, and $72 million dollars later, it’s safe to say Freeney has proved to be one of the most dominant pass rushers in the league.

10. Joey Porter OLB Pittsburgh Steelers 73 overall (3rd round) 1999
General managers are often reluctant spend Day 1 picks on small-school players such as Porter, who attended Colorado State, but in this case the gamble paid off big-time for Pittsburgh. Drafted after major-conference linebackers Chris Claiborne, Andy Katzenmoyer, Barry Gardner, Rahim Abdullah, and Johnny Rutlegde, Porter turned out to be the gem of the class. He was a three-time Pro Bowler for the Steelers and was instrumental in their Super Bowl XL victory.

9. Ed Reed FS Baltimore Ravens 24 overall (1st round) 2002
The Ravens built the franchise with late-first round picks from Miami. Baltimore drafted Ray Lewis 25th overall in 1996 and then came away with gem in Reed six years later. The former Hurricane didn’t waste much time in making an impact, as he was named All-Pro every season since 2003 and won 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, when he broke the single-season record for interception return yardage. Reed will likely be the second Baltimore Raven behind Lewis to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

8. Asante Samuel CB New England Patriots 120 overall (4th round) 2003
Samuel highlights the ’03 draft that saw the Pats also select Ty Warren, Eugene Wilson, and Dan Koppen. The Central Florida alum was forced into the starting lineup as a rookie when Ty Law and Tyrone Poole went down with injuries. Samuel held onto his starting role the next season and improved every game as he helped lead the Pats to two Super Bowls. He was named All-Pro and voted into the Pro Bowl for the first time this season.

7. Jason Taylor DE Miami Dolphins 73 overall (3rd round) 1997
Taylor, the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year, was considered a project when he was drafted because of his skinny frame and lack of experience against top competition at the University of Akron. Taylor’s superior quickness and length have given opposing tackles fits for the past ten years. The former third-round pick’s 117 career sacks rank third among all active players.

6. TJ Houshmandzadeh WR Cincinnati Bengals 204 overall (7th round) 2001
Drafting Chad Johnson in the second round was a steal itself, but nabbing his college teammate TJ Houshmanzilla…or is it TJ Whosyourmomma, was an even better pick. While he’s played in Johnson’ shadow for his entire career, Houshmandzadeh is just beginning to receive his due as one of the top all-around wide receivers in the game. He tied Wes Welker for the 2007 reception lead with 112 en route to his first Pro Bowl.

5. Adalius Thomas LB Baltimore Ravens 186 overall (6th round) 2000
Thomas won a Super Bowl in his rookie season and was named to the Pro bowl in his third year (2003), but didn’t officially take over a starting job until 2004. Since then, he has proved to be the most versatile defensive player in the NFL. The 6-foot-2 270 lb Thomas became the only player in league history to play 5 defensive position in one game when he lined up at outside linebacker, middle linebacker, defensive end, safety, and cornerback for the Ravens. Quickly recognized for his unreal combination of size and speed, Thomas became too expensive for Baltimore and signed a free agent contract with New England, where he played an integral role on the first team to start the season 18-0.

4. Bob Sanders SS Indianapolis Colts 44 overall (2nd round) 2004
Without Sanders, Indianapolis’ defense yielded an NFL-record 173 yards per game in the 2006 regular season. With him, they gave up only 73 per game en route to winning the Super Bowl. Considered a risky pick because of his lack of height (5-foot-8), Sanders took home the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 and has arguably become the single most valuable player to his team.

3. Hines Ward WR Pittsburgh Steelers 92 overall (3rd round) 1998
Ward embodies the Steelers’ hard-working, blue-collar attitude that has made them among the most successful franchises of the past decade. The Steelers’ career leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns does much more than catch passes, however. His value as a downfield blocker and locker-room leader make him a truly special draft-day find.

2. Randy Moss WR Minnesota Vikings 21 overall (1st round) 1998
The Detroit Lions wish they had Matt Millen and his wide receiver fetish for the 1998 draft, when they selected cornerback Terry Fair the pick before Moss came off the board. Moss fell due to character issues, but teams quickly learned that character doesn’t exactly matter when you’re flying by and jumping over every cornerback thrown at you. Moss is certain to go down as one of the top five wideouts of all-time, if not the best.

1. Tom Brady QB New England Patriots 199 overall (6th round) 2000
What is there to say? Brady is not only the top pick of the last ten years, but arguably the best draft choice in the history of any sport. I’ll just leave you with the list of quarterbacks selected ahead of Brady in this draft: Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn.

Worst Picks of the Last Ten Years

40. Byron Hanspard RB Atlanta Falcons 41 overall (2nd round) 1997
Hanspard won the Doak Walker award as a senior at Texas Tech back in the days when the Red Raiders recognized the position of running back. A pure speed back, Hanspard was drafted ahead of Corey Dillon and Duce Staley, which in retrospect proved to be huge mistakes. Atlanta lucked out because former seventh-round pick Jamal Anderson turned into a superstar, so Hanspard’s disappointing transition to the NFL didn’t affect his team much.

39. Rod Gardner WR Washington Redskins 15 overall (1st round) 2001
The Skins have been looking to add size to their receiving corps ever since Gardner flopped. A big, physical target out of Clemson, Gardner’s lack of speed ultimately doomed a once-promising career. He had a career-high 1,006 yards receiving in his second season, but quickly faded and has since been a member of the Packers, Panthers, and Chiefs.

38. Rae Carruth WR Carolina Panthers 27 overall (1st round) 1997
To an extent, the Panthers got unlucky with this pick, but Carruth is an example of why teams need to do extensive character checks before drafting a player. Carruth flashed potential in his first few seasons—he made first team all-rookie—but his career came to a crashing halt in 1999 when he was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Carruth hired a hitman to murder his girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time. She was shot four times in a drive-by shooting and eventually fell into a coma and died a month later. Carruth was found guilty and his football career was rightfully cut short.

37. Maurice Clarett RB Denver Broncos 101 overall (3rd round) 2005
Mike Shanahan is usually pretty good at pegging running backs, but he made a huge mistake with the last pick of the third round. All off-the-field issues aside, Clarett ran a disgustingly slow 40 time and didn’t seem to be a fit in Denver’s one-cut system. Marion Barber and Brandon Jacobs, who came off the board at 109 and 110 respectively, would have each been scary in the Broncos offense.

36. Dimitrius Underwood DE Minnesota Vikings 29 overall (1st round) 1999
No one denied Underwood’s physical abilities, but there were serious concerns about his character. His college coaches at Michigan State said he wasn’t mentally prepared for the NFL, and they were right. Underwood quit the Vikings on his first day of training camp and signed with the Dolphins, who released him after he attempted suicide. Shortly thereafter, Underwood was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and for whatever reason, the Cowboys decided it would be a good idea to sign him. After he ran into traffic in a second attempt to kill himself, Jerry Jones cut him and ended the experiment. Underwood was drafted one pick ahead of perennial Pro Bowl (and mentally stable) defensive end Patrick Kerney.

35. William Green RB Cleveland Browns 16 overall (1st round) 2002
Green’s was a tremendous talent with burning speed, but there’s a reason why he fell to No. 16 overall. Off-the-field issues plagued Green before the draft, and they continued to haunt him throughout his three-year career. Between drunk driving charges, problems with marijuana, and domestic violence issues, Green quickly wore out his welcome in Cleveland.

34. Kenyatta Walker OT Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 overall (1st round) 2001
The Bucs expected Walker to be their cornerstone left tackle for years to come when they used the No. 14 pick on him. Walker never was capable of handling the left tackle responsibilities, and though he started on the right side for several years, he was ultimately released in 2005. New England’s Matt Light, Detroit’s Jeff Backus, and Jacksonville’s Maurice Williams all were drafted shortly after Walker.

33. Kevin Dyson WR Tennessee Titans 16 overall (1st round) 1998
Dyson certainly made his mark on the franchise in his seven-year career. Along with Frank Wycheck, he was responsible for the “Music City Miracle” and was famously stopped one-yard short of scoring a game-tying touchdown in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXXIV. With that being said, Dyson’s career year consisted of 825 yards and 7 touchdowns, which doesn’t quite match the numbers of the receiver drafted five picks after Dyson—Randy Moss.

32. Rashard Anderson CB Carolina Panthers 23 overall (1st round) 2000
The Panthers took a gamble on this small-school prospect, and it didn’t pay off. Anderson, a 6-foot-2 205 pound corner out of Jackson State, recorded just one interception in two seasons before a year-long suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. He was released and never was able to sign on with another team.

31. Robert Gallery OT Oakland Raiders 2 overall (1st round) 2004
The scouting reports out of college were golden. Everyone pegged him as a “can’t miss” prospect, and even though players at his position don’t normally go this high, no one questioned Oakland’s selection. But in a few short years, we all quickly learned that the Raiders had essentially wasted a very high pick on this bearded, 300-pound drunken mess of a football player. Oh wait, I thought we were talking about Sebastian Janikowski.

30. Michael Haynes DE Chicago Bears 13 overall (1st round) 2003
The city of Chicago is very fond of a certain Michael and his Haines, but unfortunately it isn’t this one. The defensive end out of Penn State totaled just 5.5 sacks in three years with the Bears, but did manage to score a touchdown on a 45-yard interception return in 2004.

29. Bryant Johnson and Calvin Pace Cardinals 16 and 17 (1st round) 2003
The Cards missed an opportunity to draft can’t miss pass rusher Terrell Suggs, and instead traded down to select two extreme reaches in Pace, an undersized defensive end, and Johnson, an unpolished wide receiver. Neither panned out, although Pace is living more than comfortably after signing an inexplicable six-year $42 million contract with the New York Jets. On a positive note, the Cardinals made up for their first-round debacles by drafting Anquan Boldin with their second-round choice (54 overall).

28. David Carr QB Houston Texans 1 overall (1st round) 2002
It’s difficult to term this a “bad pick” because of the circumstances Carr was forced into, but the fact of the matter remains that he hasn’t produced anywhere regardless of his supporting cast. Carr, who didn’t face major competition at Fresno State, had a rough transition to the NFL. He set the single-season record for sacks taken behind a woeful offensive line. Even when his protection improved and the Texans added playmakers (Andre Johnson, Dominick Davis), Carr still looked uncomfortable behind center. He posted a miserable 58.5 quarterback rating in six games with Carolina last year and has since signed on with the Giants to back-up Eli Manning.

27. Ron Dayne RB New York Giants 11 overall (1st round) 2000
The all-time leading rusher in college football was far from a sure-thing on draft day; many teams were rightfully concerned with his weight and lack of speed. After a few seasons of splitting carries with Tiki Barber, the Giants backfield quickly became a lot of lightning and very little thunder. Dayne has since re-established himself as a serviceable back with the Houston Texans, but never has proved to be a capable full-time starter.

26. Andre Wadsworth DE Arizona Cardinals 3 overall (1st round) 1998
An elongated training camp holdout and several knee injuries quickly derailed the career of a defensive end so powerful and so athletic that nearly every draft expert dubbed him a “can’t miss.” Wadsworth attempted a comeback as recently as 2007 with the Jets, but it’s safe to say he’ll never live up to the lofty expectations set upon him after his career at Florida State.

25. Jimmy Kennedy DT St. Louis Rams 12 overall (1st round) 2003
It’s safe to say the Jimmy Kennedy experiment failed. The former Penn State standout had trouble finding time in a crowded defensive line and was eventually shipped out to Denver, where he was released after just one season.

24. Cedric Benson RB Chicago Bears 4 overall (1st round) 2005
Like Curtis Enis seven years before him, Benson was drafted in the top five to provide the Bears with a hard-nosed, between-the-tackles feature back. A camp holdout allowed Thomas Jones to win the job outright, and Benson never really got a chance until last season when Jones was dealt to the Jets. We all knew the Bears couldn’t throw, but with Benson, we found out they couldn’t run either. Benson averaged a paltry 3.4 yards per carry before going down with a season-ending ankle injury. He still has time to resurrect his career, which is why he is only No. 24 on this list.

23. Travis Taylor WR Baltimore Ravens 10 overall (1st round) 2000
Taylor flashed phenomenal potential at Florida, but like many other Gator receivers, he failed to fulfill it. Partially held back by poor quarterback play in Baltimore, Taylor has bounced around the league as a No. 3 receiver. His collegiate teammate, Darrell Jackson, has proved to be the better pro despite being selected with the 80th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

22. Jacquez Green/Ike Hilliard/Reidel Anthony
Note to GMs: Don’t draft wide receivers out of Florida.

Steve Spurrier’s system produced inflated stats for both receivers and quarterbacks, but over the years none of them—with the exception of third-round pick Darrell Jackson—have translated to the NFL. Anthony and Green, both drafted by Tampa Bay, both flamed out of the league quickly, but Hilliard enjoyed a mildly successful career. Still, he did not come close to living up to expectations as the No. 7 overall pick.

21. Damione Lewis DT St. Louis Rams 12 overall (1st round) 2001
Lewis was considered to be the best defensive lineman in the country at Miami (Fl.), so the Rams thought they were getting an absolute gem, but for whatever reason, Lewis never became a productive starter in his four years in St. Louis. To make matters worse, All-Pro nose tackle Marcus Stroud came off the board with the very next pick.

20. Michael Booker CB Atlanta Falcons 11 overall (1st round) 1997
Booker never established himself and lasted just five seasons in the NFL. He was drafted over defensive backs Sam Madison, Ronde Barber, Chad Scott, and Darren Sharper.

19. Tom Knight CB Arizona Cardinals 9 overall (1st round) 1997
Knight never established himself and lasted just five seasons in the NFL. He was drafted over defensive backs Sam Madison, Ronde Barber, Chad Scott, and Darren Sharper.

18. Wendell Bryant DT Arizona Cardinals 12 overall (1st round) 2002
Bryant was drafted two picks ahead of Albert Haynesworth, who for all intents and purposes is the most dominant nose tackle in the game today. In just three seasons with Arizona, Bryant totaled an abysmal 29 solo tackles and 1.5 sacks.

17. Peter Warrick WR Cincinnati Bengals 4 overall (1st round) 2000
Warrick was the Reggie Bush of the late 90s. As a wide receiver at Florida State, no one could touch him. The man played at a different speed than everyone else. But once he reached the NFL, it seemed as though everyone figured him out. Warrick averaged less than 500 receiving yards per season in his six-year career.

16. Gerard Warren DT Cleveland Browns 3 overall (1st round) 2000
Warren didn’t perform terribly, but he certainly did not live up to being the third overall selection. He averaged 44.3 tackles 4.2 sacks per game in three seasons with Cleveland before being traded to Denver, but what made this a bad pick were the players taken after him. At the time, the Browns needed any kind of playmaking they could get, and LaDanian Tomlinson, who came off the board two picks later, would have certainly qualified. Richard Seymour, the sixth pick, also would have been a better addition on defense.

15. Cade McNown QB Chicago Bears 12 overall (1st round) 1999
As bad as Tim Couch and Akili Smith were, McNown may have been worse. In his three-year NFL career, McNown mustered only 3,111 yards passing while tossing 19 interceptions. Luckily for Chicago fans, the Bears solved their quarterback problems in 2002 when they drafted Rex Grossman. Oh, wait.

14. David Terrell WR Chicago Bears 8 overall (1st round) 2001
Physically, Terrell was equipped for stardom. At 6-foot-3 218 pounds, the former Michigan Wolverine never was able to give Chicago the playmaker it desperately needed. Of course, some of his struggles can be attributed to poor quarterbacking, but even after he was released by the Bears, Terrell was unable to find work elsewhere. His “career” season came in 2004 when he exploded for 699 yards and one touchdown.

13. Charles Rogers WR Detroit Lions 2 overall (1st round) 2003
Rogers, perhaps the most highly-touted wide receiver prospect since Randy Moss, was the pick that started Matt Millen’s wide receiver addiction. Despite clocking a 4.28 40-yard dash at the combine, Rogers was never able to translate his speed to the field because of a penchant for smoking weed and breaking his collarbone. After three injury-riddled, unproductive seasons in Detroit, Rogers was released. Looking back, Millen may have been able to fill his glaring need for a new wide receiver with Miami’s Andre Johnson, who has fought off injuries to emerge as one of the most explosive playmakers in the league.

12. Ryan Sims DT Kansas City Chiefs 6 overall (1st round) 2002
Drafted ahead of two of the NFL’s best defensive tackles — Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson — Sims registered a paltry 54 tackles and five sacks in 74 career games with the Chiefs.

11. Troy Williamson WR Minnesota Vikings 7 overall (1st round) 2005
The Vikings certainly reached to select Williamson, who was expected to immediately fill Randy Moss’ shoes as Minnesota’s deep-threat. After running a 4.32 40-yard dash at the Combine, Williamson boosted his stock, but he still was fairly unpolished and not ready to assume a starting role in the NFL. The bottom line is that Williamson had no business going seventh overall. Minnesota made a desperate pick and has since paid for it.

10. Courtney Brown DE Cleveland Browns 1 overall (1st round) 2000
The 2000 NFL Draft wasn’t chock-full of top prospects, but Cleveland certainly made a mistake selecting Brown first overall. A dominant player at Penn State, Brown had trouble adjusting in the pros despite freakish size and athleticism. Several injuries in his first few seasons didn’t help his development either.

9. Curtis Enis RB Chicago Bears 5 overall (1st round) 1998
Enis, a “can’t miss” power runner who set records at Penn State, was drafted in the top five to be the Bears’ workhorse for the next decade. Unfortunately, his intense workload in college and lack of breakaway speed and shiftiness caused major problems in a pro career that only lasted four seasons.

8. Johnathan Sullivan DT New Orleans Saints 6 overall (1st round) 2003
At the time, the pick was considered a bit of a reach and that perception turned out to be true. Sullivan spent three unproductive seasons in New Orleans before he was traded to New England, who released him following charges off marijuana possession.

7. Joey Harrington QB Detroit Lions 3 overall (1st round) 2002
Next time the Lions draft a quarterback, they should make sure that he doesn’t play the piano. Harrington, who graced New York City billboards during his “Heisman campaign” as a senior at Oregon, proved to be all hype and very little substance. Harrington has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in five of his six seasons in the NFL.

6. Matt Jones WR Jacksonville Jaguars 21 overall (1st round) 2005
If anyone ever needed to thank the NFL for instituting the Combine, it’s Matt Jones. The 6-foot-6 242 pound college quarterback ran a 4.37 40 and jumped 39.5 inches prior to the 2005 Draft, which catapulted him into the first-round as a wide receiver. Sure, Jones has the physical tools, but it’s very difficult to learn a new position at the professional level, and the Jaguars may have overlooked that when they spent first-round money on Jones.

5. Akili Smith QB Cincinnati Bengals 3 overall (1st round) 1999
It became clear early on that Smith was a product of the system at Oregon and was hardly ready for the NFL. He started just 17 games for the Bengals and compiled a miserable 52.8 career quarterback rating, including 5 career touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Smith now plays in the CFL.

4. Tim Couch QB Cleveland Browns 1 overall (1st round) 1999
The Browns were fortunate enough to revive their franchise with the top pick in “the year of the quarterback.” Unfortunately, they chose Couch over Donovan McNabb, who was snatched up by Philadelphia with the following pick. On a more positive, personal note, Couch married Playboy model Heather Kozar despite having to fend off the gamesmanship of fellow 1999 draftee Cade McNown, who briefly dated her before she tied the knot with Couch. If football was the reason she chose Couch, he should be very thankful because there are very few quarterbacks that can make Couch look good. McNown is one of them.

3. Sebastian Janikowski K Oakland Raiders 17 overall (1st round) 2000
There is no kicker ever worth taking in the first round, especially one with character issues and more importantly, accuracy issues. Janikowski has a powerful leg, but he’s been wildly inconsistent in his pro career. In fact, Oakland’s fifth-round pick in 2000, punter Shane Lechler, proved to be the better kicking specialist. Lechler has been elected to five Pro Bowls and Janikowski is still waiting for his first trip to Honolulu. Just a few players drafted after Janikowski: Shaun Alexander, Keith Bulluck, Mike Brown, and Ian Gold.

2. Mike Williams OT Buffalo Bills 4 overall (1st round) 2002
Mike Williams WR Detroit Lions 10 overall (1st round) 2005

Both are big. Both are slow. And both failed miserably to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon them after standout college careers. Though they are tied on this list, it’s clear that Detroit’s Mike Williams was the worst of the two choices. A year after the Lions spent a first-round pick on Roy Williams (and two years removed from drafting Charles Rogers), Matt Millen ignored Detroit’s defensive issues and passed up on Shawne Merriman and DeMarcus Ware to select the 6-foot-5 bust from USC.

1. Ryan Leaf QB San Diego Chargers 2 overall (1st round) 1998
You know you’ve had a bad career when this is your most memorable highlight.

The “Unlucky” 13—Picks that never lived up to their potential due to extenuating circumstances.

13. Jerome McDougle DE Philadelphia Eagles 15 overall (1st round) 2003
It would be a serious understatement to say injuries have hampered McDougle’s career. Back, ankle, and knee injuries held the former Hurricane back in his first two seasons, followed—in no particular order—by a severe knee sprain, an irregular heartbeat, and a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

12. Yatil Green WR Miami Dolphins 15 overall (1st round) 1997
A 6-foot-2 speedster out of Miami, Green’s NFL potential was never fulfilled due to back-to-back training camp injuries. On the first day of camp his rookie season, Green tore his quadriceps, right ACL, and the cartilage in his right knee. He came back for training camp the following season only to tear his ACL again. In three NFL seasons, Green racked up more knee surgeries (10) than games played (9).

11. Thomas Jones RB Arizona Cardinals 7 overall (1st round) 2000
Jones looked like a total bust in Arizona. He couldn’t beat out Michael Pittman and Marcel Shipp, and concluded his three-year career in Arizona with just 1,264 yards. But as soon as he left the desert, things turned around. When he signed with Tampa Bay, Jones showed brief flashes of the speed and power that made him the seventh overall pick in 2000. After a one-year stint there, he took his game to Chicago and excelled. He’s proved to be one of the most tough and durable runners in the league, and even enjoyed success in New York despite running behind a weak Jets’ offensive line.

10. David Boston WR Arizona Cardinals 9 overall (1st round) 1999
Once considered one of the most promising young wideouts in the game, Boston quickly became one of the most promising young bodybuilders. His obsession with getting big (and drunk driving) took over his career. The 6-foot-2 Boston topped out at 250 pounds of pure muscle, and his bulkiness and steroid contributed to a series of injuries that derailed his football career. There is no way Arizona could have seen this coming, and for that reason this pick is termed “unlucky.”

9. Alex Smith QB San Francisco 49ers 1 overall (1st round) 2005
The Niners just picked the wrong year to be terrible. San Fran had a glaring need at quarterback, and given the success of recent No. 1 overall QB’s, Bill Walsh made Utah’s Alex Smith the top pick. Within two years, it became very clear that Smith was more or less a system quarterback in college and would never live up to his draft stock. Unfortunately, the Niners didn’t have much of a choice— Aaron Rodgers was the next quarterback off the board at No. 25.

8. Bryant Westbrook CB Detroit Lions 5 overall (1st round) 1997
A tough, physical corner out of Texas, Westbrook showed promise in his first few seasons with Detroit. He was named to the All-Rookie team and was Detroit’s top corner within a few years, but a stellar 2000 campaign came to an end when he tore his Achilles tendon. After bouncing around and finding a home in Green Bay two years later, Westbrook tore his Achilles again and was done for good.

7. David Pollack LB Cincinnati Bengals 17 overall (1st round) 2005
Pollack was the epitome of an energy player during his career at Georgia. His speed off the edge, coupled with his non-stop motor and elite intensity made him a candidate to help spark a slumping Bengals defense. Pollack’s career took a wrong turn, however, when he was nearly paralyzed in an early season game vs. the Browns. His career was thought to be over, but he is still trying to rehab and make a return to the NFL.

6. Leon Bender DT Oakland Raiders 32 overall (2nd round) 1998
Bender, the first pick of the second round, died from a seizure he suffered roughly five weeks after the draft. At 6-foot-5 318 pounds, Bender was considered to have great potential, only to see it taken away by what his agent called a “freak accident.”

5. Robert Edwards RB New England Patriots 19 overall (1st round) 1998
Edwards bursted onto the scene, rushing for 1,115 in his rookie season before suffering a gruesome knee injury in a beach football game. Edwards blew out every tendon and ligament in his knee and there were concerns that he’d need to have his leg amputated. Obviously, he never returned to top-form, but after over three years of rehab, Edwards briefly returned to the NFL with the Dolphins and then went on to play in the CFL. That in of itself is a miracle.

4. Pacman Jones CB Tennessee Titans 6 overall (1st round) 2005
Jones lives his life by one motto: “Make it rain on dem hoes.” While Fat Joe didn’t intend for anyone to take his hit single to heart, Pacman made a habit of throwing $80,000 onto groups of strippers. In the long run, his dirty habit cost him more than $80,000 though—it cost him an entire year’s paycheck.

3. Michael Vick QB Atlanta Falcons 1 overall (1st round) 2001
In the five years Vick played in Atlanta, he revitalized a struggling franchise and became one of the most popular players in the NFL. But there was still so much more left to accomplish. There’s been enough dog-fighting jokes made, so I’ll take the high road here.

2. Darrent Williams CB Denver Broncos 46 overall (2nd round) 2005
In just his second season, Williams was on the verge of becoming one of the game’s most dominant No. 2 corners. A dynamic one-on-one cover man with the ability to take the ball the distance on any given interception, Williams was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Denver on the first day of the offseason. Williams’ death, followed by the collapse of fullback Damien Nash during the summer, had a dramatic impact on the Denver Broncos organization.

1. Sean Taylor SS Washington Redskins 5 overall (1st round) 2004
At Miami, Taylor looked the part of a player who would re-define the safety position. He didn’t disappoint in Washington. Taylor’s unique ability to cover the pass like a corner and stuff the run like a middle linebacker helped him earn a strong reputation early on. The two-time Pro Bowler was sure to become one of the all-time greats if his life wasn’t taken away prematurely by the four cowards who robbed his home and shot him.


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