With the NFL Draft approaching, now is a good time to look back at some of the players that didn’t really live up to expectations.
No matter the vast selection of scouting tools and evaluation methods each franchise has at their disposal, each draft class consists of certain players that prove to be over-drafted, bad fits, or just flat out busts.
Today let’s take a look at the seven worst first round picks in the last seven drafts, plus the one to come in this year’s draft.
2005: Alex Smith, #1 overall
Some people may argue the fact that Alex Smith has had to work under a revolving door at offensive coordinator and head coach. I’ll give you that.
And yes, Smith did play QB for the 49ers team that went 13-3 and wound up in last year’s NFC Championship Game. I’m not sure who couldn’t have played QB for last year’s 49er’s team, though. The 49ers had one of the very best defenses in the league last season plus a running game that consumed clock. Smith took the snaps and threw when absolutely necessary.
Remember, the 49ers wanted Peyton Manning, even at his current age. They know what they have with Smith, and so do I.
If Alex Smith was taken at say, 20th overall in the first round, I would not have him on this list. But the fact is Smith was the number one overall selection in the 2005 Draft.
Since then, Smith has:
- Never thrown more than 18 touchdown passes in a season
- Finished two seasons on injured reserve
- Thrown for 3,000 yards only once in a season
- Has a TD/INT ratio of 68:58 – that’s nearly 1:1!
This is not what you envision when selecting a QB number one overall.
For some, the jury is still out on this guy. For me, he stays right here atop this list based on where he was selected and the performance that has followed.
Dishonorable Mention from 2005:
Troy Williamson was drafted 7th overall by the Minnesota Vikings. He was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007 for a 6th round pick after a 240-yard, 1-TD season and later cut by the Jags in 2010.
2006: Matt Leinart, #10 overall
Pretty good first round overall, and the bust pick now sticks out like a sore thumb.
Matt Leinart: he was selected 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals then lost his starting job twice, once to Kurt Warner and again to…..Derek Anderson!
Leinart was over-hyped coming out of college and never did anything with the opportunity given to him in the pros.
Since 2007 Leinart has thrown for four touchdowns and eight interceptions. He had an opportunity last season to step in for Matt Schaub in Houston after Schaub suffered a season ending injury, but Leinart lasted all of one whole quarter before finishing the season on IR himself.
Leinart will be holding a clip-board again somewhere in 2012.
2007: JaMarcus Russell, #1 overall
Are you beginning to see a trend with QB’s here?
JaMarcus Russell was another QB taken with the top overall pick in the draft, and he is perhaps the biggest #1 bust of all time.
After being selected by the Raiders after his size and arm strength were touted by the experts as “once in a lifetime”, Russell proceeded to hold out until into the first week of the season. The Raiders eventually signed him to a $61 million dollar contract with over $30 million guaranteed.
Russell finished the 2007 season with 373 yards passing, two TDs, and four picks.
After making it through the 2008 season, JaMarcus found his way to the bottom of the depth chart in 2009 after reporting to camp at nearly 300 lbs and doing little to answer lingering questions about his work ethic. The Raiders cut Russell after the 2009 season. Just three years after selecting him #1 overall.
During his time in Oakland JaMarcus Russell compiled a 7-18 record with a total QB rating of 65.2.
In 2010, Russell was back in the news after being arrested for possession of codeine cough syrup following a two-month long investigation.
It was not uncommon to catch a glimpse of JaMarcus Russell pulling candy out of his uniform and snacking on the sidelines during a loss.
Russell has not even sniffed a backup spot on another team since, and he is still out of the NFL.
2008: Vernon Gholston, #6 overall
This guy would have made me look like a fool.
Vernon Gholston had it all coming out of college: size (6’3); strength (tied the Combine record for bench press); speed (4.5’s); and at 265 pounds he was everything anyone could have dreamed of for an outside pass rusher. Gholston appeared to be a future beast in the NFL. Even I was clamoring for him.
Gholston didn’t wait long into the first round before hearing his name being called by the New York Jets at #6 overall. Rex Ryan had found a new toy, or so he thought.
Yet Gholston finished his career with the New York Jets after three seasons in which he did not record even a single sack. He then attempted to join the Chicago Bears but didn’t even survive training camp cuts.
Vernon Gholston is still a free agent in the NFL.
An all-time bust.
2009: Darrius Heyward-Bey, #7 overall
I won’t label this a bust as much as I will a bad case of over-drafting a player.
Darrius Heyward-Bey turned in a 4.2 second 40-yard dash and that was all it took to sucker in the Oakland Raiders at 7th overall in the first round of the ’09 Draft.
For perspective, Heyward-Bey was taken ahead of fellow wideouts Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, Michael Crabtree, and Jeremy Maclin. Yet since being drafted in the top 10, he has career numbers of 99 catches for 1,465 yards and just six TDs. That averages out to 33 catches, 488 yards, and two TDs a year.
Heyward-Bey took a step forward last season, but if I am taking a wideout in the top 10 I want immediate production from a skill position player.
Once again, this isn’t so much a “bust” selection as it is a bad pick based on position and draft slot.
2010: Gerald McCoy, #3 overall
The further we get into this, the more difficult it is to nail down the bad pick since it is customary to give a draftee at least a couple of years to develop and become acclimated to the NFL.
But….if I had to pick one guy from the 2010 draft who has been a major disappointment so far it would be Gerald McCoy.
This is the guy that had people drawing comparisons to Warren Sapp and Ndamukong Suh. In fact, Suh went one pick earlier at #2 while McCoy flew off the board immediately at #3.
McCoy has finished each season with the Buccaneers on IR since arriving. Health concerns and even talk that he is a soft player have the Buccaneers asking themselves already, “Is this guy a bust?”
After being selected #3 overall, I would say he is deserving of a spot on this list until proven otherwise.
2011: Blaine Gabbert, 10th overall
Alright, I’m gonna go for it.
If I’m wrong, I’m wrong; and if I’m not you can label me a genius in a few seasons.
2011 was a pretty good draft. We saw Cam Newton wow the masses, A.J. Green set records, Julio Jones blow past defenders, and Von Miller dominate offenders. Even Jake Locker stepped in and played decently.
The one guy that just doesn’t fit in here is Blaine Gabbert.
Maybe it’s his hair, or maybe it was the 14 fumbles to lead all QBs, or the fact that only Tim Tebow had a worse completion percentage than him (50.8), but I just don’t see Gabbert, who was taken 10th overall, as a future franchise QB.
I know rookie seasons on a QB can be rough, but look what Cam Newton did. Gabbert just seems like the misfit in this bunch.
Football Outsiders calculated that Gabbert’s 2011 season was the fifth worse season they had ever measured.
Just a hunch, but I don’t see Gabbert being the answer for the Jaguars. To be fair though, it really is difficult to pin down a bad pick after only one season, though.
2012: One To Come…
If you think it is easy calling out a bad pick so quickly, here is your chance to predict who will be this year’s bad pick, bust, over-draftee. Just for fun.
I won’t hold you to this in five years, but it’s your only chance to say “I told you so!”
I know my answer and I’ll reserve it for now, but here’s a hint: There is only a single prospect being labeled as a “can’t miss”, and those are the ones who have the most to live up to, especially when they are being touted as the surest thing since John Elway. Better have a career culminating in Super Bowl championships to fulfill this type of hype.