Draft Day Disaster: The NFL Draft’s Biggest Losers

Darren - April 18, 2023

Draft Day Disaster: The NFL Draft’s Biggest Losers

Darren - April 18, 2023


St. Louis Rams (2006)

It looked like the Rams made the right selection in 2006 when they chose Tye Hill as their first-round pick. The former track athlete boosted their secondary and had a decent rookie season. But that was all she wrote because injuries took their toll on him after this. This wasn’t a great class overall but the Rams made it look even worse.

Bleacher Report

They missed players like Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. Instead, they drafted luminaries like Joe Klopfenstein and Claude Wroten. Some people might think we made those names up but they were real players. Unfortunately, this year the Rams were the Draft’s biggest losers (via SBNation).

Fox 8

Mike Ditka

In 1999, Ditka became one of the biggest losers in NFL Draft history when he bet the house on Ricky Williams. Williams had a good career with one All-Pro appearance but he wasn’t the player Ditka thought he was. This didn’t stop the former Bears coach from trading all of New Orleans’ draft picks to secure Williams’ arrival.

NBC Sports

It was ludicrous because nobody does this for a running back. This was also the first time that a team only selected a single player in the Draft but Williams wasn’t worth it. Ditka lost his job after a bizarre season. Fans remember a bizarre ESPN photoshoot that saw Ditka and Williams dress up as a groom and bride (via Sportskeeda).

Sky Sports

Miami Dolphins (2006)

Sometimes context is very important when it comes to analyzing draft success. The Dolphins opted to sign the ghost of Daunte Culpepper instead of pursuing Drew Brees in 2006. Yes, we’re talking about the same Brees who later became a Hall of Fame talent in New Orleans. The worst part was that the Dolphins traded a second-round pick to Minnesota for the veteran QB.


Meanwhile, there wasn’t much to say about the rest of their business that year. First-round pick Jason Allen was okay but he never fit the schemes he played in. It was a strange situation and that’s another reason why this was one of the worst Draft classes ever. But the Culpepper trade was a horrific piece of business (via The Ledger).

Cleveland Browns

We’ve given Johnny Manziel a special mention later in this article. But the former Texas A&M quarterback is far from an anomaly when it comes to Cleveland messing up the Draft. They are one of the biggest losers when it comes to picking talent. The list of names is seemingly endless and sends shivers down their fans’ spines.


Since 2011, they’ve drafted players like Brandon Weeden, Barkevious Mingo, and Trent Richardson. Meanwhile, over the past couple of decades, we’ve seen legacy busts like Tim Couch and Courtney Brown. Luckily, they aren’t architects because there would be a lot of construction disasters across Ohio (via The Sun).

Sporting News

Paxton Lynch

Peyton Manning sailed off into the sunset after his 2015 Super Bowl win with the Broncos. This left Denver in a difficult position because they wanted to find a new starting quarterback. They decided that Lynch was the man to contend with Manning’s former backup, Trevor Siemian. Denver made the Memphis star a first-round pick.

Denver Post

Many people forget about Lynch but he was one of the worst busts in modern Broncos’ history. Lynch made four starts for the team before he annoyed them too much to continue. They gave up on the experiment after they gave him the chance to prove himself. Instead, they became the biggest losers of 2016 (via Fansided).

NBC Sports

Akili Smith

First-rounder Smith was another player who underwhelmed so much that he earned a special spot on this list. Joe Burrow would have been more useful than him when he had his ACL injury. That’s how bad Smith was but it wasn’t meant to be this way. The Bengals thought that he was the answer to their QB problem in 1999.

Oregon Live

Hilariously, the Bengals rejected a crazy Raiders trade offer that would have seen them gain nine draft picks. Mike Ditka wanted Ricky Williams more than an addict who craves a fix. Smith did nothing to justify Cincy’s faith in him. He fell out of the NFL after four seasons with more interceptions than touchdown passes (via Sports Illustrated).

NFL Spin Zone

JaMarcus Russell

Russell is one of the worst draft busts ever and sends shudders down the spines of Raiders fans. Oakland drafted the LSU star after a star turn in the Sugar Bowl. They thought that he would be their franchise quarterback but things started badly. Russell held them to ransom until they agreed to a rookie-record $60 million contract.

Sports Illustrated

But the Raiders became the biggest losers because he didn’t earn his money. Russell had notorious weight problems and didn’t take his opportunity seriously. The Raiders even sued him because they wanted to make some of his contracts back. It was an unmitigated disaster and remains the stuff of infamy (via USA Today Sports).


Detroit Lions

The Lions have indeed found elite talent in the Draft before. Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson are names that stand out but these athletes are like diamonds in a coal pile. Usually, the Lions fail to achieve anything meaningful from their selection with more busts than a Renaissance museum.


They infamously drafted receivers for three straight years from 2003 to 2005. But none of these players succeeded in the NFL. Meanwhile, they had horrible quarterback selections like Joey Harrington and Andre Ware. In sum, the Lions turned failure into an art form and they’ve never snapped out of it. Don’t mention Charles Rogers (via Detroit Sports Nation).

NBC Sports

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals did well in recent Drafts with the likes of Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow. But their fans endured years of poor choices before this. Akili Smith was one of the worst quarterbacks that the league ever saw. His selection set the franchise back for years. Meanwhile, there were other disasters like Ki-Jana Carter and John Copeland.


Check any list of the worst draft picks in history because these names will appear. The Bengals secured this disproportionate representation through their inept front-office management. Meanwhile, their tight-fisted owner, Mike Brown, didn’t spend money on big-name trades (via WKRC).

CBS Sports

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have a horrible draft record because of several perplexing picks over the years. We’ve already gone into detail about JaMarcus Russell but he’s not an anomaly. It looked like they got it right when they selected Henry Ruggs III in 2022. He exploded in his sophomore year before he killed a woman in a drunk-driving incident.

Florida Times-Union

There have been many horrible choices over the years but some names stand out. They opted for D.J. Hayden in 2013 over players like DeAndre Hopkins or Xavier Rhodes. Darius Heyward-Bey was another first-rounder who failed to live up to his full potential. Unfortunately, the Draft is synonymous with failure for the Raiders (via NBC Sports).


Denver Broncos (2023)

The Broncos were one of the biggest losers of the 2023 Draft before it even started. However, this was a problem that they created after they traded for Russell Wilson the previous year. They gave away their first and second-round picks for 2023 amongst others to secure the former Super Bowl champion (via


Denver thought that it was a no-brainer because he was a nine-time Pro Bowler and a perennial MVP contender. But Wilson suffered an immediate decline when he moved to Mile High City. He didn’t gel with teammates and rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett was out of his depth. It made the entire enterprise a disaster for the franchise and the player.


Johnny Manziel

It’s possible that Manziel was the worst draft pick in Cleveland’s history. They spend decades trying to find a franchise quarterback but no one worked out. Finally, they went for Texas A&M’s polarizing star, Manziel. There was no doubt about his talent but many NFL scouts questioned his mentality.

NBC Sports

Regardless, the Browns made him a first-round pick but it didn’t work out. Manziel had infinitely more parties than touchdown passes. His petulance rubbed up teammates and coaches the wrong way. In the end, he fell out of the league after a couple of seasons. He set the franchise back and broke hearts across the nation (via Sportskeeda).

Bleacher Report

New York Jets

The Jets are another franchise with a historically bad NFL Draft record. They’re often the biggest losers because they desperately scramble for an elite young quarterback. But it never works and they trade them a couple of seasons later. Then they repeat the process and send their fans into a further state of despair.

New York Post

We’ve already talked about the Sam Darnold debacle but there were many more. Zach Wilson is arguably one of the biggest disappointments in Draft history. Meanwhile, there were other failures like Mark Sanchez and Ken O’Brien. They infamously chose the latter over future Hall of Famer Dan Marino (via Bleacher Report).