5 Worst Draft Picks in NFL History

by Rob Joyce

It’s officially a lost cause for the Buccaneers. After struggling mightily in his rookie season, a missed field goal and an extra point in their first preseason game was enough for Tampa Bay to cut kicker Roberto Aguayo. While at first glance it’s not a noteworthy move – kickers are signed and cut regularly – the Bucs are alas facing ridicule because Aguayo was a second-round draft pick in 2016, the highest kicker drafted in a decade. What’s worse, Tampa traded up to get the Florida State product, arguably the most decorated kicker in college football history, when most kickers are selected in the seventh round (if at all).

What they got for their efforts was 21-of-33 field goals and 32-for-34 on extra point attempts. Claimed off waivers by the Bears, Aguayo has a chance to turn his young career around, as there is a precedent for young kickers to struggle before finding their footing in the NFL. Still, for the Bucs their second-rounder is flirting with this company as some of the worst draft picks of all-time:

5) Russell Erxleben:

Aguayo is (at least in Tampa’s eyes) a second-round bust, which isn’t ideal. At least the Bucs didn’t have it as bad as the Saints did with their selection of Erxleben in the first-round. The 11th overall pick in the 1979 draft, Erxleben was supposed to be the kicker and punter for New Orleans, yet in his five seasons with the team made just 4-of-8 career field goals. While an acceptable punter for five seasons, he was out of football for good by 1988.

Two picks after Erxleben was selected, the Chargers nabbed future Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow.

4) Charles Rogers:

charles rogers 5 Worst Draft Picks in NFL History

(Photo by Allen Kee/Getty Images)

The Biletnikoff Award winner in 2002 as college football’s best wide receiver, Rogers’ career was cut short by injuries and off-the-field behavior. The second overall pick in the 2003 Draft, Rogers got off to a solid start to his career, with 243 yards and three touchdowns in his first five games. Then he broke his clavicle to end his rookie season prematurely. In his second year he repeated his injury on the third play of the season, again placing him on injured reserve.

Then came the off-field problems that included three violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, causing the Lions to file a grievance claiming Rogers should pay back some bonus money. Combine that with a perceived poor work ethic, and within three seasons he was cut.

Making matters worse for Detroit, who was the third overall pick in 2003? Andre Johnson, a seven-time Pro Bowler with over 14,000 career yards.

3) Akili Smith:

akili smith 5 Worst Draft Picks in NFL History

(Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/ALLSPORT)

The Bengals selected him third overall in the 1999 Draft, behind fellow quarterbacks Tim Couch (Cleveland) and Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia) and things looked doomed from the start. A contract dispute with the team caused Smith to miss much of training camp, and in seven games his rookie season he threw two touchdowns to six interceptions. His sophomore campaign in 2000 was no better, as he tossed just three TDs to six picks in 12 games, while completing just 44 percent of his passes. Cincy cut ties after 2002, with Smith throwing five total touchdowns in his NFL career.

In an alternate universe, the Bengals could have accepted a proposed package from the Saints that included nine draft picks for the chance to move up to the third pick so New Orleans could nab Ricky Williams.

2) JaMarcus Russell:

jamarcus russell 5 Worst Draft Picks in NFL History

(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

A massive arm and a 21-4 collegiate record helped make Russell the top pick in the 2007 Draft to Oakland. He then held out for a contract through Week 1 of the season before signing a $68 million deal ($31.5 million guaranteed). For that $31.5 million, Russell played in four games as rookie, making one start. He started 15 games in 2008 and looked competent, with more touchdowns (13) than interceptions (eight) but Oakland finished 5-11.

Then the wheels fell off in 2009, as he went 2-7 as a starter, with three TDs to 11 INTs, completing just 49 percent of his passes as rumors of his conditioning and playing shape spread. In 2010 he was lost in the shuffle at the quarterback spot, causing the Raiders to release him after just three years.

Though none of the 11 quarterbacks selected in 2007 made a Pro Bowl, Oakland missed out on the likes of Calvin Johnson (No. 2 pick), Joe Thomas (No. 3), Adrian Peterson (No. 7) and Darrelle Revis (No. 14), among other Pro Bowlers.

1) Ryan Leaf:

ryan leaf 5 Worst Draft Picks in NFL History

(Photo Credit: Jeff Gross /Allsport)

In 1998 the Colts, holding the first overall selection, had two choices: Leaf or Peyton Manning, with San Diego taking which ever was left. Indy chose the latter, and it changed the course of history. Manning, of course, is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. Leaf, meanwhile, never got going in San Diego. As a rookie he completed 45 percent of his passes, throwing two touchdowns to 15 interceptions in 10 games before being benched, while garnering a reputation for poor behavior.

His second year was lost 20 minutes into training camp, when Leaf tore his labrum – though he still managed to get suspended after getting into an argument with Chargers’ general manager Bobby Beathard. In 2000, his final season in San Diego, more drama ensued off the field, while on it he threw 11 TDs to 18 INTs in 11 games. In three seasons he won just four total games with the team. In 2001 he was cut prior to the season by Tampa Bay, before playing in four games with Dallas to end his regular season career. Indy selecting Leaf over Manning remains one of the great “what-ifs?” in NFL history.

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