The NFL’s biggest draft busts since 2000
Every NFL team enters the draft dreaming of finding that next superstar, the one guy who can either reverse a franchise’s bad fortunes or put a contender over the top.
Teams are just as likely, if not more so, to be disappointed. There is a seemingly never-ending list of players who flopped once they entered the NFL. Guys like Rashaun Woods, the No. 31 pick in 2004, who caught all of seven passes for the 49ers. Or Derrick Harvey, Jacksonville’s pick at No. 8 overall in 2008, who cost the Jags a first-round pick, two third-rounders and a fourth-round pick and returned eight sacks in three years.
The list goes on and on. But which players made for the worst of the worst draft picks in recent memory? We’ll give the class of 2011 another year to shape up — eyes on you, Blaine Gabbert — so instead, a look back at the biggest draft busts from 2000-10.
10. Jamal Reynolds (Green Bay, 2001, No. 10)
In his senior season at Florida State, Reynolds recorded 12 sacks and won the Lombardi Award, handed out annually to college football’s best lineman. He looked like a sure bet to make his mark in the NFL, so Green Bay traded up for him — sending the 17th overall pick and one Matt Hasselbeck to Seattle.
Reynolds would play just six games his rookie season and register two sacks, making that his best year as an NFL player. He had one sack in seven games in 2002, no sacks in five outings in 2003, and the Packers tried to trade him to Indianapolis prior to the 2004 season. Reynolds failed his physical with the Colts, voiding the trade, so Green Bay released him. He never played another down in the NFL.
9. David Terrell (Chicago, 2001, No. 8)
His career numbers are pretty much right in line with another player on our countdown, Troy Williamson. In four seasons with Chicago, Terrell made 128 catches for 1,602 yards and nine touchdowns. The Bears gave him every chance to make an impact, starting him six games his rookie season and 15 times in 2004, his final year with the franchise.
By the end of that campaign, in which Terrell scored just once despite a career-high 699 yards, it was apparent that Chicago had struck out with its top-10 pick. The Bears released Terrell, who then tried (and failed) to latch on with New England, Denver and Kansas City over the following few years. At last check, Terrell was being held on $10,000 bond for allegedly threatening to throw his girlfriend off a balcony.
8. Jonathan Sullivan (New Orleans, 2003, No. 6)
The Saints entered the 2003 draft with a pair of first-round picks, Nos. 17 and 18 overall. They wound up with just one, No. 6, after packaging those other selections as part of a deal with the Cardinals. New Orleans’ goal in moving up: To select Sullivan, a defensive tackle out of Georgia.
As a reward for their aggressiveness, New Orleans got 1.5 sacks from Sullivan in three years. Sullivan wound up being traded to New England, where he was cut prior to the 2006 season.
7. Troy Williamson (Minnesota, 2005, No. 7)
Had he been taken in, say, Round 6 or 7, Williamson’s 87 career receptions and 1,131 yards receiving could have been considered something of a minor success story. But since he was the seventh player off the board in 2005, those numbers are a colossal letdown. Making matters worse, consider some of the other guys who went after Williamson in Round 1 that season: Antrel Rolle, DeMarcus Ware, Aaron Rodgers, Roddy White, Heath Miller and Logan Mankins.
6. David Carr/Joey Harrington (Houston, 2002, No. 1; Detroit, 2002, No. 3)
You want to put Carr and Harrington higher on this list, I know it. But stay with me here …
Both quarterbacks heard their names called very early in 2002, with the Panthers taking Julius Peppers at No. 2 between them. And both Carr and Harrington were expected to be superstars for their respective franchises — Carr with the expansion Texans and Harrington with the downtrodden Lions. Harrington, though, mustered a mere 18 wins over four seasons as Detroit’s starter, before also flopping in Miami and Atlanta. Carr, meanwhile, averaged just 4.4 wins over a five-year stretch in Houston.
An argument in their favors, though: Carr and Harrington found themselves in near-impossible situations, playing behind horrific offensive lines and on terrible teams. Neither was good, but neither was as bad as the final numbers indicate.
Oh, and Carr picked up a Super Bowl ring last season as Eli Manning’s backup in New York. That should count for something.
5. Wendell Bryant (Arizona, 2002, No. 12)
The Cardinals reached for the former Wisconsin defensive lineman with the 12th pick, and that turned out to be a miserable decision. Bryant recorded 1.5 sacks in three years with Arizona, then was cut after being hit with a year-long suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He resurfaced in 2009 in the UFL.
4. Courtney Brown (Cleveland, 2000, No. 1)
Brown was the No. 1 overall pick by the Browns. What could go wrong with that type of symmetry? Apparently, just about everything.
Brown flashed some promise as a rookie, starting all 16 games, while scoring 4.5 sacks and 69 tackles. It was all quickly downhill from there. Brown missed 11 games in 2001 with ankle and knee injuries, had another knee injury in 2002 that cost him five games, tore his biceps in 2003, sat out almost all of 2004 because of a foot ailment, hurt his elbow in 2005 and finally injured his knee one last time in 2006. By that time, he was a member of the Denver Broncos, but he never suited up again.
3. Vernon Gholston (New York Jets, 2008, No. 6)
Gholston was a star at the NFL scouting combine, throwing up a 455-pound bench press. He also racked up 14.5 sacks, an Ohio State school record, during his junior season with the Buckeyes. The NFL.com 2008 pre-draft profile of him describes him as “a remarkable talent” who has “only just begun realizing his vast potential,” then compares him to John Abraham.
Gholston played three seasons for the Jets and recorded … zero sacks. New York released him prior to the 2011 season, then Chicago did the same after giving him a tryout.
2. Charles Rogers (Detroit, 2003, No. 2)
One year after taking Harrington, the Lions used another high pick on Rogers, in the hope that those two could form a Joe Montana-to-Jerry Rice duo that would help turn the franchise around. It worked for all of one game.
Rogers caught two touchdowns in Week 1 of the 2003 season as the Lions routed Arizona, 42-24 at home. Rogers would catch just two more TD’s for the remainder of his career, matching the number of season-ending broken collarbone injuries he suffered (one in 2003, another in ’04).
The Lions released Rogers prior to the 2006 season, and he has had numerous run-ins with the law since then.
1. JaMarcus Russell (Oakland, 2007, No. 1)
Forget just the 2000-10 stretch; Russell may be the biggest draft bust in NFL history, period. He’s at least in the conversation, following a disastrous career in which he threw 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and appeared to eat about two million cheesecakes.
The trouble started right away for Russell, who held out through all of his rookie year training camp and did not sign with Oakland until the regular season had begun. He finally worked his way into the lineup late in the year and did enough to be named the team’s starter for 2008.
Oakland went 5-10 in Russell’s starts that season, and he was benched by new Raiders coach Tom Cable after posting a 2-7 mark to open the next year.
And that was it for Russell — the Raiders released him on May 6, 2010, and he’s yet to sign anywhere else.