The 2022 NFL Draft is officially here – and it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of it.
Draft picks have always been a bittersweet time for coaches and players. Usually when a player secures the No. 1 overall draft pick spot, it’s a result of a successful collegiate career. Historically, All-SEC, All-American and Butkus Award-winning college players tend to light up the draft. However, these players do not always execute once they step onto the pro field.
It’s always frustrating for coaches to realize their instincts failed, but it’s even more devastating for the athletes who have sizable potential but fall short of expectations.
And now that it’s time for the NFL’s biggest postseason event of the year, let’s take a gander at some of the worst NFL draft picks of all time:
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns (2012, No. 3 overall pick)
Richardson’s career only lasted three years in the NFL and yet two teams spent first-round picks on him. The RB started as the third overall draft pick in 2012 and was considered one of the best running back performers since Adrian Peterson. However, once Richardson began, he quickly fell. His final season was in 2014 with the Colts and then Richardson played in the CFL where he appeared in four games, rushed 48 times for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
Ryan Leaf, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (1998, No. 2 overall pick)
When Leaf began his career, he was posed as the potential top pick before going second overall in the draft. His two years with the Chargers were less than ideal – he threw 15 interceptions on 245 pass attempts with only two touchdowns. Leaf went on to play for the Cowboys, but his career did not improve much. He finished with a total of 36 interceptions and 14 touchdowns.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders (2007, No. 1 overall pick)
Russell’s LSU collegiate career as a quarterback was undeniable. He entered as the number one overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, making his way to the Raiders – but only for a limited time. His downfall was almost foreshadowing considering Russell missed training camp as a rookie due to contract issues. The QB signed a six-year contract but his career lasted only three seasons because the amount of interceptions thrown consistently outnumbered touchdowns.
Tony Mandarich, OT, Green Bay Packers (1989, No. 2 overall pick)
Expectations were high with Mandarich coming out of Michigan State as an All-American and nicknamed the “Incredible Bulk.” Nonetheless, once the offensive lineman’s career began with the Packers, things shifted. He was out of the league just two years later in 1991. Questions rose around steroids as being the catalyst for Mandarich’s royal downfall.
Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland Browns (1999, No. 1 overall pick)
Kentucky alum Couch aligns right beside Johnny Manziel (who we will get to later) as being the worst QB selections in NFL draft history. Couch played for the Browns for five seasons and finished his career in the NFL with 64 touchdowns, 67 interceptions and a 22-37 record.
Akili Smith, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (1999, No. 3 overall pick)
Smith was named as one of the two worst QB picks from the 1999 NFL draft, right behind Tim Couch. Coming out of Oregon as the PAC-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year, the NFL had lofty expectations for Smith. But his career never seemed to see the light, which is why he only spent four seasons in the league. In his first two seasons, he threw 12 interceptions total and completed only around 47 percent of his passes in his entire career.
Charles Rogers, WR, Detroit Lions (2003, No. 2 overall pick)
This Michigan State star was awarded the Fred Biletnikoff Award in 2002, All-Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, as well as USA Today’s High School All-America Award in 19999. Rogers entered the draft as one of the most highly anticipated wide receivers, however he could not execute. He played in just 15 games and caught only about 43 percent of his passes. Rogers finished his career with 36 receptions, 440 yards and four touchdowns.
Brian Bosworth, LB, Seattle Seahawks (1987, Supplemental draft)
Oklahoma’s very own Brian Bosworth came out of high school in very high demand by the pros. He is the only two-time winner of the Butkus Award, which awards the top linebacker at all levels of the game. Surprisingly, the linebacker was kicked out of Oklahoma for steroid use but was then selected by the Seahawks in the 1987 Supplemental Draft for a 10-year, $11 million contract. By 1989, Bosworth was forced to retire after experiencing a shoulder injury in the 1988 season.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns (2014, No. 22 overall pick)
Straight out of Texas A&M, the NFL perceived Manziel as being one of the greatest potential QBs in the league. He received the Heisman Trophy, the Davey O’Brien Award and the Manning Award in 2012. He was also the Associated Press Player of the Year, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year and All-American in 2012. And ironically, Manziel is named as one of the worst QB selections in NFL draft history, alongside Tim Couch, who was selected by the Browns and Akili Smith, who was selected by the Bengals, both in 1999.
Isaiah Wilson, OT, Tennessee Titans (2020, No. 29 overall pick)
Though Wilson was not exactly a front end pick in the draft, he still suffices as one of the biggest busts in the NFL. Coming out of Georgia as Second-team All-SEC in 2019, Wilson was highly anticipated by the league. However, Wilson blew two major chances in the NFL within 12 months of his rookie career. Once the Titans picked him in 2020, Wilson only completed four snaps in total for Tennessee, and when he was traded to the Dolphins in 2021, he was waived just three days into his contract after showing up late to practice.