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

Set to take place next week from Kansas City, the NFL Draft is one of the most interesting parts of the football calendar. It’s a chance for franchises to select the best college talents and assimilate them into their rosters. One brilliant pick can turn a mediocre team into a contender. But the wrong choice can transform them into the league’s biggest losers.

For that reason, today we’ll look at the biggest losers in NFL Draft history. It won’t just be your normal list of early picks who were busts. We’ll analyze some of the worst picks as well as teams with a history of bad selections. We’ll also go more even in-depth and look at the worst individual years for different franchises. It’s a wild list with some blasts from the past. Let’s get started.

Pro Football History

Isaiah Wilson

Wilson is one of the worst draft picks of the past decade. The offensive tackle played a key role in Georgia’s National Championship win. Then the Titans confidently selected him in the first round because they believed that he had everything. Wilson was a hulking figure and played brilliantly for the Bulldogs.

New York Post

But the Titans became arguably the biggest losers of the 2020 Draft. Wilson had more arrests than appearances for his new team and didn’t do anything for them. He broke team rules and led the police on a high-speed chase. After his failed year in Nashville, he went to Miami but barely lasted for two weeks (via Sports Illustrated).

New York Times

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are traditionally one of the Draft’s biggest losers because they rarely made the right picks. They’ve turned a corner in recent years since they got their hands on Josh Allen. But it even looked like he would be a disaster after a tough rookie year. They spent decades trying to replace franchise legend Jim Kelly but never succeeded.

NBC Sports

We’ve seen disastrous selections all over the field like Nathan Peterman and Tony Hunter. Sometimes it felt like they had a random name generator and chose the first one to appear. Yes, at times they were very unlucky but it became a systematic problem as time passed by. Their fans suffered a lot because they witnessed every agonizing moment (via USA Today Sports).

SF Gate

San Francisco 49ers (2012)

The Niners had a garbage 2012 Draft after they made some of the worst choices in their history. A.J. Jenkins had a great college career in Illinois so San Francisco made him a first-round pick. But this proved to be a terrible mistake because he was trash. They targeted him for a single pass in his rookie year and he dropped it.

They didn’t give him another chance because they immediately offloaded him to Kansas City. It says a lot that their most successful player was Joe Looney who only made four starts for the team. He broke out with the Dallas Cowboys but didn’t contribute much to the Niners (via SF Gate).

New York Post

Adam Gase

Sam Darnold became the youngest Week One starting quarterback of the modern era after the Jets picked him in 2018. But his spell with the franchise was a disaster because of their inept head coach, Gase. The legendary Peyton Manning allegedly recommended Gase to the Jets because he was a ‘quarterback whisperer.’

On paper, it seemed like Gase and Darnold would be a match made in heaven. Instead, Gase failed to use his young star properly and broke his confidence. In the end, the franchise fired him because they were going nowhere. Meanwhile, Darnold found himself in Charlotte after the Jets moved on and traded him to the Panthers (via North Jersey).


The 1992 Draft Class

In 1992, the NFL welcomed arguably the worst Draft class ever. None of its first-rounders made the Hall of Fame, a failure that remains a record today. The Colts made the first two selections but they both failed miserably. Steve Emtman played nine games in three seasons for Indy but suffered devastating injuries (via Fox Sports).

Fox Sports

Meanwhile, Quentin Coryatt dropped a notoriously-bad interception in the 1995 AFC Championship Game. The Colts were the biggest losers but there wasn’t a clear winner. None of the first-round quarterbacks amounted to much with David Klinger and Tommy Maddox failing. However, sixth-rounder Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers.

Florida Times-Union

Jacksonville Jaguars

It looks like the Jags have finally struck gold in Trevor Lawrence. But that’s only through their ineptitude because they were terrible before this. They have a horrific draft record with an incredible number of busts. Quarterback names include the likes of Blake Bortles and Blaine Gabbert (via First Coast News).

Bleacher Report

Their record is remarkable because it is so consistent. Unfortunately, it’s the same kind of consistency that bakers get when they forget to add yeast to bread. Justin Blackmon, Dante Fowler, and Eugene Monroe are a few names that we picked as an example of their failures. It would be funny if they didn’t have fans who cared.

NBC Sports

Minnesota Vikings (2005)

Troy Williamson had the unenviable task of replacing Randy Moss in 2005. The Vikings acquired a draft pick when they traded Moss to the Raiders because they thought he was finished. In the end, Minnesota was the biggest loser because it replaced a Cadillac with a rail car (via CBS News).


The Vikings made seven picks in the 2005 Draft but none of them helped the team. If we’re generous we can say that C.J. Mosley – no not that one – was a solid support player. But the less said about the rest of them the better. It was one of the worst draft selections in franchise history.

Washington Post

Washington Commanders

Washington has been one of the Draft’s biggest losers for as long as we can remember. Even when they make the right choice, like with Robert Griffin III, something goes wrong. Their quarterback record is one of the worst in the NFL. Many people think that Heath Shuler was one of the worst busts in NFL history (via NBC Sports).

Sky Sports

Dwayne Haskins is a modern QB failure who never set the league alight. But there have been so many athletes over the years that it’s difficult to remember them all. Andre Johnson never played for Washington after they made him a second-round pick in 1996. Then there were players like Josh Doctson, Bobby Wilson, and Rod Gardner.

Sporting News

Tennessee Titans

Some people will point at former second-round pick Derrick Henry, but he was the exception, not the rule. The reality is that Tenessee has a horrible draft record. Occasionally it feels like they’re just participating because everybody else is doing it. We’ve looked at Isaiah Wilson already but he’s one of many failures.

Pro Football History

The Titans picked Marcus Mariota in 2017 and that was as successful as a driverless Tesla. Vince Young was arguably their biggest bust because fans had massive expectations when the Titans picked him. They’re good at finding running backs but their quarterback record is disastrous (via Fanbuzz).

Sports Illustrated

Ryan Leaf

It’s laughable now but many hipster analysts speculated that Leaf had more potential than his class member, Peyton Manning. Manning was the first overall pick in 1998 as he joined the Colts. But the Chargers felt smug when Leaf fell into their laps. They thought that he would be a future superstar but they were the biggest losers that year.


Leaf wasn’t mentally ready for the NFL and had substance abuse problems. He struggled to connect with his teammates and became a polarizing figure with his petulant antics. However, San Diego also deserved criticism because they didn’t support him. That’s why Eli Manning also refused to play for them when he entered the Draft (via Sportskeeda).

New York Times

The 2013 Draft Class

This is only the second Draft Class that we’ve completely written off. There were some star players like Sheldon Richardson and LeVeon Bell. But overall, this class was one of the weakest we’ve seen in the NFL. The Chiefs made Eric Fisher the first-overall pick. He recovered after a weak start to become a decent player and a two-time Pro Bowler.

However, he wasn’t a world-beater as they expected. Dion Jordan is a historically bad selection and one of the most notorious busts in history. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks class left a lot to be desired. It says a lot that Geno Smith was arguably the most successful selection. Buffalo chose EJ Manuel but he didn’t do anything for them (via

Kansas City Star

Kansas City Chiefs

These days the Chiefs are one of the stablest and most competitive franchises in the sport. They struck gold when they drafted a Texas Tech quarterback named Patrick Mahomes. But there are many reasons why they went 50 years without winning a Super Bowl. One of these is because they were traditionally one of the Draft’s biggest losers.

Sports Illustrated

Older fans will recall the walking nightmare that was Todd Blackledge. The quarterback threw more interceptions than touchdowns during his spell in Missouri. But there’s a Hall of Shame of infamous names including Trezelle Jenkins and Sylvester Morris. They couldn’t choose a decent first-rounder if it meant saving their lives – until Mahomes (via Fansided).


Chicago Bears

It’s laughable how bad the Bears are in the Draft. Yes, it looks like they finally found their longtime starting quarterback in Justin Fields. But this was a problem position for the franchise for decades. They were one of the league’s biggest losers because they kept drafting players like Mitchell Trubisky and Rex Grossman.

Sports Illustrated

Then they wondered why they weren’t becoming contenders. The franchise has made many mistakes over the years. In 1995, they picked Rashaan Salaam in the first round but he loved marijuana more than football. Meanwhile, names like Cedric Benson and Alonzo Spellman continue to haunt them (via USA Today Sports).


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).