Spring may be the NFL’s offseason, but that doesn’t mean the excitement wanes. For many, waiting for the multi-day NFL Draft is one of the most exciting times of the year. Sure, there’s no kickoff, but there’s intrigue, last-minute deals, and an incoming generation of talent to be impressed by.
From major sports content producers to sport management undergrads, the analysis of draft pick placement is one of the most heated in the league. For many sportsbooks and fantasy league providers, draft pick placement and selection in the annual NFL Draft help experts create NFL odds and insights for the regular season.
This creates a bevy of speculation—especially concerning top picks. Factors like preseason injuries, dynamics between the team and staff, and even conditions in the team’s home city can affect how well a draftee integrates onto their new squad.
Though it’s not nearly as fulfilling as watching a draft pick like Rob Gronkowski (2010) or Patrick Mahomes (2017) go on to achieve greatness, many fans don’t turn off the TV when it comes to watching a prime draftee crash and burn, and actually enjoy the show.
Many fans also wait for a comeback story like Michael Vick or Kurt Warner, but these don’t always come. Barring serious injuries that prevented players from competing, here are some of the biggest busts of first-round NFL Draft picks from 2000 onward.
Known throughout the league as one of the biggest draft busts in history, JaMarcus Russell leaves something for all fans to ponder. When he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2007, he was considered a prodigal quarterback by ESPN analysts and big-name pundits.
Following a Sugar Bowl MVP title, Russell’s draft by the Raiders was projected to be one of the biggest turnarounds for a franchise in recent history. But Russell couldn’t hack it in the major leagues—though no one is quite sure why.
A $68 million-dollar deal ended with a .280 winning percentage and a 52 percent pass completion. By 2010, Russell disappeared from the NFL.
Like Russell, quarterback Joey Harrington was one of the top prospects drafted by a team looking to turn their franchise around, the Detroit Lions. As a Heisman Trophy finalist and the Pac-10 Player of the Year, Harrington was a favorite amongst pundits and NFL coaches alike heading into the 2002 Draft.
Chosen as the third overall pick, Harrington faced a tough battle in Detroit. Aside from difficult dynamics from staff and a change to the offensive line, Harrington simply couldn’t hack it despite his place in the Oregon University Hall of Fame. His record was 26-50 in his starting year with a passer rating of 69.4 percent.
Offensive tackle Mike Williams isn’t a statistical bust at the same level as other players on this list. However, he’s remembered as one of the century’s worst draft picks because of the success of another tackle (drafted after Williams) who went on to greatness.
The Buffalo Bills drafted Williams with the expectation that he’d help rebuild their offensive line. Instead, he struggled to adjust and, within three seasons, was released by the Bills. If it weren’t for the success of fellow tackle Bryant McKinnie of the Minnesota Vikings, who went on to make the Pro Bowl team, Williams (and his failures) may have been forgotten altogether.
Wide receiver Reggie Williams excelled in his NCAA career, leaving fans and pundits excited to see what the dynamic runner could do for the Jacksonville Jaguars when drafted in 2004. Behind him, Williams had a consensus All-American award, Washington’s co-Offensive MVP award, first-team All-Pac-10, and a Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year award.
Though he wasn’t short on accolades, Williams received only 27 passes for his first season, and only one was a touchdown. As his career advanced, his receptions increased, as did his touchdowns (which peaked in 2007). However, he bounced around from the Jaguars to the Seahawks, and then to the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts before being released in 2013.