worst nfl draft picks ever

Worst NFL Draft Picks Ever: Draft Day Regrets and Busts

The NFL draft is a pivotal moment for teams, as they attempt to select future stars who will lead them to success on the field. However, with great expectations, comes great disappointment, and some draft picks have failed miserably, leading to regret and financial loss for their teams. In this article, we will take a look at the biggest draft busts in NFL history, examining their stories and what led to their downfall.

worst nfl draft picks ever

  • Some of the biggest regrets and draft day blunders in NFL history serve as cautionary tales for future drafts.
  • Picks like Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Tony Mandarich, Charles Rogers, Johnny Manziel, and Trent Richardson are widely regarded as some of the worst NFL draft picks ever.
  • Teams and fans can learn from these mistakes to avoid repeating history’s biggest draft blunders.

The Ryan Leaf Debacle: A Case of High Expectations

Ryan Leaf was one of the most highly anticipated NFL draft selections of all time. He was the second overall pick in the 1998 draft, chosen by the San Diego Chargers. At the time, many experts believed he had the potential to be a future Hall of Fame quarterback. However, Leaf’s career quickly turned into one of the biggest draft day mistakes in NFL history.

Leaf’s NFL career started with promise, but it quickly took a turn for the worse. He struggled with injuries and inconsistent play, and his off-field behavior was a source of concern for many. Despite his early promise, he only played in 25 games over four seasons – all with the Chargers – and threw just 14 touchdown passes.

Sadly, Leaf’s story is one of the most disappointing NFL draft selections in history. His struggles on the field, combined with his off-field issues, led to his rapid fall from grace. He was released by the Chargers in 2001 and made brief appearances with the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks before ultimately retiring from professional football in 2002.

Leaf’s story serves as a cautionary tale for future NFL draft picks. It shows how high expectations can lead to disappointment, and how important it is to select players who not only have talent but also the work ethic and character to succeed at the professional level.

As we look back on Leaf’s career, we are reminded of the biggest draft day mistakes in NFL history. His legacy is one of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities.

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When the Oakland Raiders selected JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, they had high hopes for the LSU quarterback. Russell had the size, arm strength, and accuracy to become a successful NFL quarterback.

However, Russell’s lack of work ethic and dedication to the game quickly became apparent. He struggled to adapt to the NFL game, and his off-field issues only added to his problems. Russell’s NFL career lasted only three seasons, during which he threw for 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.

Russell’s epic NFL draft failure serves as a cautionary tale for teams drafting high-profile quarterbacks with questionable work ethics. It also highlights the importance of thorough background checks and character evaluations in the drafting process.

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He had the physical skills, but his work habits, his study habits, his ability to come in and prepare to play, mature, all those things, were not there,” former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said of Russell.

Russell’s legacy as a draft day bust continues to haunt the Raiders organization and is a reminder of the consequences of poor decision-making on draft day.

The Darko Milicic of the NFL: Tony Mandarich

Tony Mandarich was a highly touted offensive lineman who was selected second overall in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. Nicknamed the “Incredible Bulk,” Mandarich was expected to be a force in the league, but his career quickly fizzled out, making him one of the biggest regrets in NFL draft history.

Despite his impressive physique and strength, Mandarich struggled with substance abuse and a poor work ethic, which ultimately hindered his success in the NFL. He played just three seasons with the Packers before being released due to underperformance.

Mandarich’s story serves as a cautionary tale for teams, reminding them to look beyond physical attributes and consider a player’s character and work ethic before making a draft pick. His failed career also highlights the importance of proper scouting and evaluation, as well as the unpredictability of the NFL draft.

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The 1998 NFL Draft will always be remembered for the highly debated decision between Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning. The Indianapolis Colts held the first overall pick and ultimately chose Manning, who went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. However, the San Diego Chargers selected Leaf with the second overall pick, hoping to find their own franchise quarterback.

Unfortunately, Leaf’s performance on the field did not live up to his potential. He struggled with injuries and inconsistent play, ultimately being released by the Chargers after just three seasons. On the other hand, Manning enjoyed a long and successful career, winning five MVP awards and two Super Bowls.

While Leaf’s poor performance certainly qualifies him as one of the worst draft choices in NFL history, it’s important to remember that hindsight is always 20/20. At the time, many experts believed that Leaf had just as much potential as Manning. The decision ultimately came down to each team’s evaluation of the two players and their individual needs.

Despite the controversy surrounding the Leaf vs. Manning debate, it serves as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of the NFL draft. Even the most highly touted prospects can end up being the biggest draft disappointments in NFL history.

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Charles Rogers, a standout wide receiver at Michigan State University, was selected second overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2003 NFL draft. He had all the physical tools to excel in the league, including size, speed, and athleticism. However, off-field issues and injuries derailed his career, making him one of the worst NFL draft picks ever and one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.

Rogers’ off-field issues began during his college career, where he was suspended multiple times for violating team rules and failed drug tests. Despite these red flags, the Lions drafted him with high hopes, envisioning him as a key piece in their offense.

Rogers’ professional career started off promisingly, as he scored touchdowns in each of his first two games. However, a fractured clavicle in his third game forced him to miss the remainder of his rookie season. He then suffered another injury the following year and was suspended multiple times for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Rogers’ off-field issues and injuries continued to mount, and he was ultimately released by the Lions in 2006 after just three seasons with the team. He attempted to make a comeback with the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 but was released shortly after signing a contract.

Charles Rogers’ legacy as one of the worst NFL draft picks ever serves as a cautionary tale for future draft picks. His inability to overcome off-field issues and injuries led to his downfall, and his potential as a star wide receiver went unfulfilled. He remains one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, a reminder to teams and fans alike of the risks and unpredictable nature of the NFL draft.

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Johnny Manziel, also known as “Johnny Football,” was a highly polarizing figure who was selected 22nd overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. Despite his college success, Manziel’s off-field behavior and lack of commitment led to his rapid descent in the NFL.

Manziel’s struggles began as soon as he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. He was frequently caught partying and drinking excessively, leading to concerns about his ability to lead a team on and off the field. Despite this, Manziel showed signs of promise in his first start for the Browns in December 2014, leading the team to a comeback victory over the Tennessee Titans.

However, Manziel’s progress was short-lived, as he struggled with consistency on the field and faced numerous off-field controversies. He spent two stints in rehab and was eventually released by the Browns in 2016 after failing to meet the team’s expectations. Manziel later had brief stints with the CFL and AAF, but ultimately failed to make an impact in professional football.

Manziel’s story serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of character and commitment in the NFL. Despite his undeniable talent on the field, his epic NFL draft failure can be attributed to his inability to stay focused and dedicated to the game. His case also highlights the biggest draft day mistake that teams can make- focusing too much on a player’s potential without considering the risks.

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“I think my work ethic and my passion for the game were lacking, and I think that contributed to me not playing at the level that I wanted to,” Manziel said in a 2018 interview.

Ultimately, Manziel’s lack of commitment and dedication to the game of football led to his unfulfilled potential and his status as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.

The Disappointing Career of Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson was a highly anticipated draft pick in 2012, selected third overall by the Cleveland Browns. As a star running back at the University of Alabama, Richardson was expected to make an immediate impact in the NFL. However, his professional career did not live up to the hype.

Richardson struggled to find success on the field, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry during his rookie season. He was eventually traded to the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, where he failed to make a significant impact before being released in 2014.

The biggest disappointment of Richardson’s career came when he was signed by the Oakland Raiders in 2015, but was cut before the start of the regular season. This marked the end of his NFL career, leaving Richardson as one of the most disappointing draft selections in recent history.

Most Disappointing NFL Draft Selections

Several factors contributed to Richardson’s lack of success in the NFL. He struggled with injuries and weight gain, which impacted his performance on the field. Additionally, Richardson struggled with off-field issues, including legal troubles and a lack of professionalism, which affected his standing with coaches and teammates.

While Richardson’s career may have been disappointing, it serves as a reminder that the NFL draft is not an exact science. Many highly touted prospects fail to live up to expectations, while others exceed them. It is up to teams to make informed decisions based on a player’s skills, character, and potential, rather than relying solely on hype and media attention.


In conclusion, the NFL draft has witnessed some of the biggest disappointments and regrets in its history, from Ryan Leaf to Trent Richardson. These draft day blunders serve as reminders of the unforeseen challenges teams and players face in the league. Despite the meticulous research and scouting that go into the draft, it is impossible to predict a player’s career trajectory with absolute certainty.

Lessons Learned

One lesson that can be gleaned from these draft failures is the importance of character evaluation. A player’s off-field behavior and personality traits can have just as much of an impact on their success as their physical abilities. Teams need to prioritize a comprehensive evaluation of each prospect’s character and attitude before drafting them.

Another lesson is the need for patience and realistic expectations. Many of these busts and disappointments were hyped up with unrealistic expectations from fans, media, and even the teams themselves. It is essential to remember that success in the NFL is not solely determined by draft position or college accolades.

Moving Forward

As future NFL drafts unfold, it is crucial to learn from these mistakes and make informed decisions. Teams must prioritize character evaluation, realistic expectations, and patience in their drafting strategy. While the NFL draft may never be perfect, these lessons can help mitigate the risk of future draft day regrets and busts.

Ultimately, the NFL draft represents a new beginning for players and teams alike. While some may go on to become superstars, others may fall short of their potential. However, as long as the NFL draft remains an unpredictable and exciting event, it will continue to captivate fans and inspire hope for future success.

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