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Every NFL team's biggest draft whiff of all-time

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The NFL Draft is one of the most anticipated days of the sports calendar year-in and year-out.

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NFL teams worst draft picks ever
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Every NFL team's biggest draft whiff of all-time

Arizona Cardinals: Matt Leinart

Matt Leinart gained tremendous hype before the 2006 NFL Draft, largely due to a decorated and high-profile college career at USC. As a result, the Arizona Cardinals selected him with the 10th overall pick.

Given his resume, he looked like a future star in the making. In college, he won a national championship, Heisman Trophy and was named a first team All-American twice.

Unfortunately, none of that success translated to the NFL. At USC, Leinart benefited from having talent-laden roster that included fellow Heisman winner Reggie Bush, as well as a solid offensive line and dangerous receiving threat in Dwayne Jarrett.

In the NFL, he could not simply rely on the talent around him, and some glaring weaknesses in his game were revealed quickly. Despite having an all-time great wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald to throw to, Leinart never thrived as a starter in the league, and finished his career with more interceptions than touchdowns thrown.

He also struggled with injuries tremendously. After suffering a second consecutive season-ending injury five games into his second season, Leinart was never able to establish himself as a starter in the league again. He was replaced the following year by Kurt Warner, who stepped in and led the Cardinals to an NFC Championship, before losing a thrilling Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Leinart was able to bounce around the league as a backup for several years, but he has not appeared in a game since 2012, and has only played in a total of four games since 2009.

Adding to the pain, Leinart was selected one pick before Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. While Cutler is not an elite quarterback by any means, mainly due to his mental makeup, he is an elite talent and has been a starter throughout his entire career.

A decade of Cutler to Fitzgerald would have been fun to watch to say the least, and it definitely would have been an improvement over Leinart.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Atlanta Falcons: Aundray Bruce

Aundray Bruce was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the first overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft, and while he had a respectable 11-year NFL career, it was far from what you would expect from a top pick.

Bruce never reached the potential that many scouts saw in the two-time All-SEC linebacker from Auburn. He recorded a very mediocre total of four sacks during his four years in Atlanta before being cut by the team.

What puts this pick over the top as the worst in the Falcons’ history, however, is the fact that they passed on four future Hall of Fame players, including all-time great wide receivers Michael Irvin and Tim Brown who were selected in the next 10 picks.

This was a very rough period for the Atlanta Falcons franchise. They had a more than serviceable quarterback in Chris Miller that was a first round pick the year before. While he had an abysmal overall record of 23-43 during his stretch as the team’s starting quarterback from 1988 to 1992, he still put up respectable numbers. Miller had his best season in the league in 1991, when he finished with 3,103 passing yards and 26 touchdowns and led the team to a playoff victory.

You have to imagine that having a dominant receiving threat like Tim Brown or Michael Irvin would have put the Falcons over the top and made them an annual playoff fixture, if not a serious contender, during this time.

Instead, Aundray Bruce was very subpar for a No. 1 overall pick, and the Falcons proceeded to win just one playoff game over the next 10 seasons.

(Otto Greule/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens: Travis Taylor

Ever since Art Modell picked up and left Cleveland, taking the Browns with him and renaming them the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, the team has been fairly successful in the draft and not made many bonehead selections.

The biggest two busts for the team would have to be either wide receiver Travis Taylor or quarterback Kyle Boller. It is a tough decision, but given that Taylor was selected with the No. 10 pick in the draft versus Boller at No. 19, I have to go with the Taylor here.

Taylor was selected with high hopes as a top 10 pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, but the wide receiver from Florida never came close to filling those expectations. His best season came in 2002, That would end up being the only year of his career where he amassed more than 700 yards or four touchdowns.

Baltimore would eventually part ways with Taylor after five very average seasons. Although he played nine years in the league, he only totaled 4,017 receiving yards and caught just 22 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, seven of the next nine players selected after Taylor would go on to appear in at least one Pro Bowl.

One of the biggest problems that Travis suffered from was a lack of stability at the quarterback position. During his five season with the team, he had eight different starting quarterbacks throwing the ball to him.

Travis Taylor was never going to be an all-time great, but given the disaster of a quarterback situation in Baltimore during his time there, he never had much of an opportunity for success.

(Brian Bahr/Allsport)

Buffalo Bills: Tom Cousineau

With the Buffalo Bills, it is hard not to go with Mike Williams, the No. 4 overall pick of the 2002 draft as the team’s biggest bust. The offensive tackle out of the University of Texas came in with high expectations, but was cut four years later after not fulfilling them, and has been out of the league since 2009.

But he is not the worst pick in team history. The worst pick in the Bills history is Tom Cousineau, a player that never played a down for them. The Bills selected him with the first overall pick in the 1979 draft, but he opted to play in Canada after the Montreal Alouettes offered him significantly more money.

The linebacker from Ohio State was highly sought after around the league, even after three years in the CFL, and Buffalo was able to swap him for a first round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft.

Cousineau had a very average career after the trade, and only made 6.5 sacks during his six years in the NFL. There did end up being a silver lining for the Bills, though.

With the first round pick they received in the trade, the team selected Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly who would go on to lead the them to four AFC Championships.

The Bills did, however, own an earlier pick in that draft, so if they thought Kelly was going to be as great as he turned out to be, they could have easily picked him up.

(Graham Bezant/Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers: Tim Biakabutuka

The most regrettable pick in Carolina Panthers history came in 1996. The team had the No. 8 pick on the draft and was in desperate need of a running back. The Panthers decided to go with Tim Biakabutuka out of Michigan instead of the Heisman winner Eddie George from Ohio State, something that turned out to be a very poor decision to say the least.

Biakabutuka was a prospect who had an extremely high ceiling coming into the NFL Draft. He never played football until high school, when his family moved from Zaire to Canada. He excelled immediately, gaining tremendous popularity and recognition from college teams. He went on to play for three years at the University of Michigan, where he had a successful career. Despite only starting during his final season, Biakabutuka managed to run 1,818 yards in 1995, setting the school’s single-season rushing record.

The outstanding junior campaign caused his draft stock to skyrocket, so much so that the Panthers saw him as a more impressive prospect than George, who won several national awards that season.

Biakabutuka’s dominating 313-yard performance in an upset of George’s Ohio State Buckeyes likely played a role in the Panthers’ poor decision. The success for the former Michigan Wolverine would end there, however, while George would go on to have a Hall of Fame career, amassing 10,000 yards in just nine seasons in the league.

Biakabutuka, on the other hand, never rushed for more than 750 yards and washed out of the league after six unimpressive seasons. The disparity between careers of the two running backs gives him a slight edge over Kerry Collins, the fifth overall pick in the 1995 draft, for the title of biggest bust in team history.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Chicago Bears: Curtis Enis

For the Chicago Bears, Curtis Enis and Cade McNown are side-by-side for the worst draft pick in team history.

McNown was a Johnny Unitas Award winner, given to the nation’s top senior quarterback, and All-American coming out of UCLA when he was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. In Chicago, however, he displayed a poor attitude and subpar arm strength. McNown was traded for to the Miami Dolphins for sixth and seventh round picks after just two seasons with the Bears, throwing  total of 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He never played in an NFL game again.

Enis, however, gets the nod over McNown for two reasons.

First off, he was a No. 5 overall pick, and was widely considered a top prospect in the 1998 draft after the running back had back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons to finish his career at Penn State, unlike McNown who had many question marks surrounding his abilities. Enis’ was never realized, unfortunately, as knee injuries cut his career short. During his three short seasons in the NFL, he started just 18 games and ran for a total of four touchdowns.

Even worse, though, is who the Bears missed out on as a result of the pick.

Sure, Pro Bowl running Fred Taylor was available at the time, but the miss that hurts the most is Randy Moss. The Bears showed strong interest in the troubled wide receiver out of Marshall, but his off the field concerns caused him to fall to the Vikings at pick No. 21.

Moss would go on to torch the Bears for seven seasons with their division rival, on his way to a historic NFL career.

(Jonathan Daniel /Allsport)

Cincinnati Bengals: Akili Smith

Akili Smith was one of five quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft, and was arguably the worst of the bunch.

Tim Couch went No. 1 overall and was absolutely a bust, as well as Cade McNown, who the Bears selected at pick No. 12. While Couch was far from what you expect from a top pick and McNown did nothing in Chicago, Smith’s brief NFL career was so bad that he threw more than twice as many interceptions than touchdowns during a four-year NFL career.

Smith shot up the draft boards after an impressive senior season at Oregon in which he threw for 3,763 yards with 30 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. He also showed off his running abilities, adding four more touchdowns on the ground.

The Cincinnati Bengals saw him as franchise quarterback material, and selected him third overall that year. None of that success translated to the NFL game, however.

In college, Smith relied heavily on his athleticism to dominate opponents, and as a result he never thrived in the NFL. During his four seasons in Cincinnati, he finished with five touchdowns, 13 interceptions and just over 2,0000 passing yards in 17 starts. He also completed less than half of his passes, had a passer rating of 52.8 and fumbled 19 times, losing nine of them.

Six total touchdowns compared to 22 turnovers is terrible no matter what way you look at it, and it is an apparent result of Smith’s struggles grasping the playbook and handling the mental aspects of the game.

The young quarterback was simply not ready for the big-time, and unfortunately for the Bengals, seven of the next eight picks went on to appear at Pro Bowls during their careers. To make matters worse, they turned down Mike Ditka’s insane offer of all six of his draft picks and two the next season for the pick, which the Redskins accepted and used to acquire elite defenders Champ Bailey and LaVar Arrington.

Ki-Jana Carter deserves an honorable mention as well for his selection as the first overall pick in the 1995 draft. Carter was plagued by injuries, but still managed to score 15 touchdowns during a healthy two-year stretch. Unfortunately he only appeared in four games during his other three seasons in Cincinnati.

Regardless, Smith’s brief, yet atrocious, NFL career still takes the top spot for the Bengals, and makes him one of the biggest busts in league history.

(Jonathan Daniel /Allsport)

Cleveland Browns: Tim Couch

The Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 as an expansion team, and owned the first pick in the draft. As expansion teams almost always are, they were in the market for a franchise quarterback with the No. 1 pick. The Browns selected Tim Couch, a quarterback from Kentucky with an impressive resume.

Couch looked like a solid pick at the time. Donavan McNabb was nearly booed off the stage by Philadelphia Eagles fans when he was selected with the next pick. After finishing 1998 as a Heisman finalist, first team All-American and the SEC Player of the Year, Couch looked like a sure thing. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

His five-year career was filled with ups and downs, but mostly downs. He was the starting quarterback for the duration of his whole career, but injuries and mediocre play was eventually Couch’s downfall.

Couch did show flashes of promise, especially in 2002, when he led the franchise to their only playoff appearance since they came back into the league. Besides that year, though, he was very subpar, and considering the player selected immediately after him in McNabb was a Pro Bowler that made his team a perennial playoff contender nearly every season, the pick was a flop to say the least.

Trent Richardson deserves an honorable mention as well. As a No. 3 overall pick, he was an absolute disappointment, and was traded just two games into his second season with the team.

Botching the first pick in the team’s history and missing out on a franchise quarterback in McNabb, however, slightly edges Richardson as the biggest bust in team history.

Couch attempted to make a comeback in 2007, but was continuously linked to rampant steroid and potential HGH use. He was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and was released after a poor showing in the preseason. He was suspended by the league for failing a drug test shortly after, and has not been heard from again.

Post-NFL life has not been too harsh on Couch however, as he is married to Playboy Playmate Heather Kozar. I know the saying ‘there are no moral victories in football’, but in this case, Tim Couch may have found one.

(Photo by Phil Long/Getty Images)

Dallas Cowboys: Bobby Carpenter

The Dallas Cowboys make it difficult to choose a top draft bust. Despite owner and general manager Jerry Jones’ crazy antics throughout his decades at the helm of America’s Team, he has managed to not make too many Draft Day blunders (although I am nearly positive he had to be locked out of last year’s draft War Room to prevent a Johnny Manziel to Dallas fiasco), and there were not many before he arrived in Dallas, either.

The final three for the team’s biggest bust came down to Morris Claiborne, David LaFleur and Bobby Carpenter.

Claiborne was the highest pick of the three, selected with the No. 6 overall pick in 2012. He was a highly decorated cornerback out of LSU, where he received tremendous hype from scouts after earning All-American honors, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the Jim Thorpe Award during his junior season. Claiborne has been far from productive for the Cowboys during his brief career so far, however. If not for the small sample size, and him still having time to turn things around in Dallas, he would be the team’s top bust.

LaFleur, a fellow LSU Tiger, also deserves mention on this list. In 1997, the Cowboys were looking for the next great tight end after Hall of Famer Jay Novacek’s recent retirement. He was supposed to be the next go-to receiving threat for Troy Aikman, something that never came close to happening. He scored 12 touchdowns in four seasons, and besides a decent 1999 season, never reached 200 receiving yards.

The honors for biggest bust in Cowboys history, however, goes to Bobby Carpenter, the highly-touted linebacker from Penn State. Dallas selected him with the 18th pick of the 2006 NFL Draft after a successful college career at Ohio State.

Carpenter came into the league recovering from a fractured fibula, but the Cowboys saw promise in him regardless. The promise they saw did not translate to NFL success, unfortunately. In four years in Dallas, he only started three games and recorded just 3.5 sacks.

The list of players selected after Carpenter in the 2006 draft includes several successful Pro Bowlers, including defensive back Antonio Cromartie, who was picked immediately after him, and Defensive Rookie of the Year linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who was still available at the time as well.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Denver Broncos: Tommy Maddox

Amidst a growing feud between head coach Dan Reeves and star quarterback John Elway, the Denver Broncos selected Tommy Maddox with the 25th pick in the 1988 NFL Draft. Elway was in the prime of a Hall of Fame career and the team had several glaring needs at the time of the pick, something that further angered him and worsened the relationship.

Imagine if Denver had given Maddox the reigns of the franchise. Fortunately for the organization, they did not. Reeves was out of a job following the season, and the former UCLA quarterback received his only four starts with the team during is rookie year while Elway was injured, losing each one.

Maddox did redeem himself, however, and revived his career in 2001 with the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL. The league folded after one season, but during that one year, Maddox took home MVP honors and led his team to the only XFL Championship.

The performance was enough to land himself back in the NFL, and he went on to start 27 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the next two years. Maddox won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2002, but he would eventually lose his starting job to a rookie quarterback named Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.

The pick was really not that bad when looking at all of the busts in league history, and is a testament to the Broncos success in the draft.

Ted Gregory, a defensive tackle for Syracuse is a close second to Maddox.  Gregory was a highly-touted player, but was too undersized to play on the line in the NFL. The team drafted him with pick No. 26 of the 1988 draft, and he would never play a down for the team.

Regardless, you have to wonder what the Broncos were thinking, drafting a quarterback in the first round with seven years remaining in John Elway’s decorated career.

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Detroit Lions: Charles Rodgers

Charles Rodgers is one of several top draft picks who simply could not handle the pressure and responsibilities of the NFL, and is also one of the biggest draft busts of all-time.

Rodgers was a record-setting wide receiver, Biletnikoff Award winner and All-American during his time at Michigan State, but his arrival in the NFL was a rude awakening for the player selected by the Detroit Lions with the No. 2 overall pick in 2003.

Rodgers career was a huge disappointment to say the least. He put up only 440 yards and 4 touchdowns during his brief career, and was out of the NFL for good after just three seasons that were marred with injuries and substance abuse issues. Rodgers failed numerous drug tests, resulting in suspensions, and admitted after he retired to being addicted to pain killers and smoking marijuana regularly throughout his brief playing career.

Who was the player selected immediately after him?

Future Hall of Fame and perennial Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson. I imagine that the Lions wish they could have this disaster of a pick back, considering that despite all of Matt Millen’s horrible moves as a general manager, none come close to Charles Rodgers.

Rodgers’ life after football has been troubling as well, which has featured at least seven arrests in the years since he ran himself out of the league.

(Photo By Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Green Bay Packers: Tony Mandarich

When offensive tackle Tony Mandarich was selected by the Green Bay Packers with the No. 2 overall pick in 1989, he was arguably the top prospect of a draft that was loaded with talent.

Mandarich was an absolute monster of a physical specimen. He spent his whole career at Michigan State dominating opponents. He was freakishly athletic and had unmatched strength, and when that was combined with his 6-foot-6, 320 pound frame, you had a potentially transcendent player. Sports Illustrated even went as far as to call him the ‘best offensive line prospect ever’ in a cover article titled The Incredible Bulk.

As it turns out, his dominance in college and impressive strength that amped up the hype surrounding him and left scouts in awe while leading up to the NFL Draft was all fueled by steroid use.

Mandarich stopped using steroids before the draft in fear of failing drug tests at the NFL Combine, but a much bigger problem was secretly emerging in his life. He was becoming severely addicted to painkillers, and it was just the beginning of a downward spiral of alcohol and prescription drug abuse that was a constant during his four-year stretch in Green Bay.

He did sober up and redeem himself with the Indianapolis Colts in 1996 after a five-year absence from football, and had three successful seasons before retiring.

Regardless, considering the next three players selected after him were future Hall of Famers Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders, it is safe to say that the Packers blew this pick.

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

New England Patriots: Ken Sims

Ken Sims was selected by the New England Patriots with the first overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft, and never lived up to the hype or success that came along with the selection.

Sims had a very average career. Although he lasted eight seasons in the league, the defensive end out of the University of Texas only accumulated 17 sacks during that time, quite subpar for a player who was supposed to be an elite pass rusher. He also struggled with injuries and constant problems on and off the field throughout his career. Sims was released in 1990 after being arrested for cocaine possession.

The picks that came after him, however, are what makes the selection such a bust.

Two Hall of Fame players in Marcus Allen and Mike Munchak were selected in the next 10 picks that year, and given Sims’ mediocre play, the move must have had the Patriots organization kicking themselves for the next decade.

Tony Eason was another awful pick with the 15th pick in the 1983 draft. He had a decent NFL career, but is best known for a horrible performance in Super Bowl XX in which he went 0-for-6. This made him the only starting quarterback to not complete a pass in the Super Bowl, something that earned him the title of worst Super Bowl starter in NFL history.

Almost as bad as his performance on the big stage was the fact that he was drafted over Dan Marino.

Fortunately for the Patriots organization, they have been masterful in the draft during their successful run under Bill Belichick. Their draft day success, most notably selecting Tom Brady in the sixth round, has played a large role in their five Super Bowl wins since the turn of the century.

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

San Francisco 49ers: Rashuan Woods

Rashuan Woods appeared to be a major steal for the San Fransisco 49ers with the No. 31 in the 2004 draft. With two-time first team All-American receiver from a high-powered Oklahoma State offense, what could go wrong?

Apparently a lot.

Woods had a very subpar rookie season, catching seven passes for 160 yards and one touchdown, and it turns out that would be all for the decorated college star, with injuries playing a big role in his problems. He spent the next season on injured reserve, was released the following offseason and he never played a down in the NFL again. Woods spent the next few years bouncing around practice squads, the CFL and NFL Europe, but never was able to make it back into the leagues

I hate to put such a late first round pick on the list, but the fact that he only caught seven passes and lasted just one season makes him a worthy choice.

Jim Druckenmiller, the No. 26 pick in the 1997 draft is right behind Woods in second place. The organization saw him as a future starter with a cannon arm, but instead only played in six games over two seasons, completing just 21 of 52 pass attempts, while throwing only one touchdown to go with four interceptions.

The decision was a tough one, but given that Woods was an elite wide receiver in college that was supposed to be replacing all-time great Terrell Owens, he gets the nod over Druckenmiller.

(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

St. Louis Rams: Lawrence Phillips

Lawrence Phillips was a monster on the football field in college, and was part of a legendary Nebraska Cornhuskers rushing attack.

He was also a monster off the field, a major head case and the perfect example of what happens when star athletes are coddled to the point of no return.

Phillips had numerous red flags from his time at Nebraska, including an arrest for assaulting his girlfriend, but that did not stop the St. Louis Rams from taking a chance on the troubled running back with the No. 6 pick in the 1996 draft. The decision backfired quickly.

Phillips continued to find himself in trouble off the field once he reached the NFL, and the Rams grew so tired of his constant trouble that they decided to part ways with him after his second season. By 2000, he was out of the league completely.

His post-football life was as much of a disaster as his NFL career, and he has served several stints in jail. He is currently imprisoned for domestic abuse, vehicle theft and an array of other charges. To make matters worse, he allegedly murdered his cellmate earlier this month.

The worst part about the Rams choosing Phillips as their running back of the future, and what makes this pick even worse than it is already was the young player they traded away upon his arrival; Jerome Bettis.

So to sum up the St. Louis Rams’ 1996 offseason, they traded away a Hall of Fame running back and replaced him with a lifelong criminal that finished his career with 1,453 yards, and 3.5 yards per carry. Ouch.

(Brian Bahr /Allsport)
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Whether it is a chance to redeem a horrible season by selecting the next big superstar, witnessing your favorite team make a franchise-changing blockbuster trade or cheering on your fellow alumni who are embarking on their new career and hopefully bringing good exposure to your school, the draft gives sports fans plenty of reasons for optimism.

It also gives them plenty of reasons to worry.

Every team has botched important draft picks over the years, whether it has been selecting a coveted player that completely flops, passing over a future Hall of Fame player or drafting someone who never even suits up for them.

The Minnesota Vikings even failed to get their selection in on time one year. As a result, they dropped two spots back, as the next two teams rushed their picks to the podium.

More craziness is sure to ensue as the draft kicks off on Thursday, and no matter how smart you think your team's Draft Day braintrust is, even the best football minds in the business have their regrettable moments from this fateful day. In the NFL Draft, no team is safe from big-time blunders.

The draft may have moved from New York City to Chicago, but the stakes are just as high as they always are, and each organization has plenty of room to make the next disastrous move.

Here we take a look at each team's biggest mistake in the draft, and in doing so, remind people that there is no such thing as a sure thing come Draft Day.

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