From the top, flops


First-round blunders prove process is as much art as science

On The NFL Draft

April 24, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

In some cases, they were simply bad players. In others, they were bad people. And some of them just had bad, bad luck. But whatever the reason, here is a team-by-team rundown of each NFL franchise's all-time worst first-round draft pick.

Arizona: Steve Little, K, 1978 (No. 15). A rare first-rounder as a punter and kicker, Little hit just 40 percent of his field-goal tries. Shortly after he was cut by the then-St. Louis Cardinals, he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed. He died in 1999.

Atlanta: Aundray Bruce, LB, 1988 (No. 1). A tippy-top draft selection, Bruce started well enough with 12 sacks in his first two seasons. But he regressed and spent the back end of his career as a backup with the Raiders.

Ravens: Travis Taylor, WR, 2000 (No. 10). Actually, the Ravens have a stellar record with their first-rounders. Taylor had some OK years with the Ravens, but he just didn't live up to the Pro Bowl standard set by other first-round picks by the team.

Buffalo: Al Cowlings, DE, 1970 (No. 5). Yes, that Al Cowlings. The Bills took him the year after they drafted his car-pool buddy, O.J. Simpson. "Bronco" Al played nine years with five teams and had zero starts.

Carolina: Rae Carruth, WR, 1997 (No. 27). Carruth's infamy is not in a disappointing NFL career but in having orchestrated the murder of his pregnant girlfriend in 1999. He was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison.

Chicago: Curtis Enis, RB, 1998 (No. 5). Enis was one of several highly rated but star-crossed Penn State running backs whose careers were derailed by injuries. Enis never played a full season in three years and gained fewer than 1,500 yards.

Cincinnati: Ki-Jana Carter, RB, 1995 (No. 1). What I said about Enis goes double for Carter, another Nittany Lion. The top pick overall, he gained fewer than 1,200 yards in seven seasons with three teams.

Cleveland: Mike Junkin, LB, 1987 (No. 5). I'm sure many Browns fans would vote for Tim Couch, but Junkin started just seven games in three seasons.

Dallas: Mike Sherrard, WR, 1986 (No. 18). Sherrard was injured so much he missed all or most of three seasons after his rookie year. His Job-like string of calamities included breaking his leg while running on the beach.

Denver: Tommy Maddox, QB, 1992 (No. 25). You know nothing good can come of being selected as the heir to John Elway. Maddox had a couple of decent seasons with Pittsburgh, but that was long after he was run out of Denver.

Detroit: Andre Ware, QB, 1990 (No. 7). Given the Lions' track record, this was a toughie. In a close race, Ware's six starts in four seasons get the nod.

Green Bay: (tie) Barry Smith, WR, 1973 (No. 21) and Barty Smith, RB, 1974 (No. 12). The two Smiths might not be the worst Packers picks individually, but the symmetry is fascinating. In 1975, Barry and Barty combined for 460 yards rushing and receiving. Do you think they were even sober in that Packers' draft room? Honorable mention: Tony Mandarich.

Houston: David Carr, QB, 2002 (No. 1). The Texans have a short draft history, but when you whiff on the No. 1 overall who is also your first pick ever, well, that's just bad karma for the franchise.

Indianapolis: Art Schlichter, QB, 1982 (No. 4). Six starts in three seasons and a pathological gambling problem.

Jacksonville: R. Jay Soward, WR, 2000 (No. 29). Troubled by substance abuse, he played just one season, when he had 182 yards receiving and rushing.

Kansas City: Todd Blackledge, QB, 1983 (No. 7). Chiefs passed up both Jim Kelly and Dan Marino in the famed quarterback draft.

Miami: Yatil Green, WR, 1997 (No. 15). Green was Mike Sherrard all over again but worse. He missed his first two seasons with injuries and, in his third year, had 18 catches for 234 yards. Period, end of career.

Minnesota: Dimitrius Underwood, DE, 1999 (No. 29). Underwood was tormented by psychological problems. A day after he signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Vikings, he walked out of camp. He never did play for Minnesota and spent time on the rosters of Miami and Dallas.

New England: Kenneth Sims, DT, 1982 (No. 1). An overall top pick, Sims had an eight-year career but started in only about half the games.

New Orleans: Ricky Williams, RB, 1999 (No. 5). Yeah, I know he gained more than 3,000 yards in three seasons with the Saints, but he cost the team one entire draft class and the heart of the following one.

New York Giants: Jarrod Bunch, RB, 1991 (No. 27). He gained just 629 yards in three seasons with the Giants but has gone on to have a decent acting career. Maybe you caught him in CSI: Miami.

New York Jets: Johnny "Lam" Jones, WR, 1980 (No. 2). The speed of a sprinter with the hands of a stonemason.

Oakland: Todd Marinovich, QB, 1991 (No. 24). In the 17 years since this draft pick, the Raiders have had just six winning seasons. Coincidence? I think not.

Philadelphia: Kevin Allen, OT, 1985 (No. 7). Started four games, which were just enough to take a couple of years off Ron Jaworski's career. Went to prison for sexual assault.

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