NFL Draft Busts: The Worst Top-10 Draft Picks of the Past Decade
The best NFL general managers and personnel staffs around the league find hidden gems later in the draft or undrafted free agents.
When selecting one of the best, or at least first, 10 players in any given draft, however, those players should become perennial Pro Bowlers or at least valuable contributors.
As Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network has recently tweeted, the goal of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is to select players with high floors in order to not miss in the first round. Even without swinging for the fences, several doubles will turn out to be home runs.
That said, many personnel staffs certainly share that same philosophy, but even the best front offices whiff on occasion.
With the benefit of hindsight, I looked back at the past 100 players selected within the first 10 picks since 2003 to find the 10 worst draft picks.
Counting down in reverse order, here are the worst top-10 draft picks of the past decade:
10. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (10th overall pick in 2011 NFL Draft)
Perhaps it's too soon to declare Gabbert a bust, but it was obviously a mistake for the Jaguars to trade up to select the former Mizzou Tiger.
While he made some improvements from his first to second season, those strides were relatively modest and the team's offense found a spark when the reins were handed over to Chad Henne down the stretch last year.
Gabbert was sacked 40 times, third most in league, as a rookie and had a league-high 14 fumbles that season. His development seems to have been stunted by the hits he has taken and his perceived fear in the pocket. Michael Lombardi once wrote of Gabbert, "When the ball is in his hand, he treats it like a hot potato."
Through two seasons, Gabbert has completed just 53.8 percent of his passes for 155.0 yards per game as he has posted a 21:17 touchdown-to-interception ratio during that span.
9. Aaron Curry, LB, Seattle Seahawks (4th overall pick in 2008 NFL Draft)
Characterized by many as the "safest pick" in the 2009 draft, Curry never lived up to his can't-miss expectations. In 48 career games over four seasons with the Seahawks and Raiders, Curry recorded a total of 5.5 sacks.
The Seahawks received a seventh-round pick last year and the fifth-round pick this year in a trade with the Raiders, who have since released Curry. Even worse for the Raiders, he still has dead money that will count against their salary cap this year.
8. Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals (10th overall pick in 2006 NFL Draft)
The Cardinals quarterbacks posted a 11:21 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions last season, but Leinart did not throw any of those. Leinart, who is currently a free agent, has played for three different teams in the past three seasons: Arizona, Houston and Oakland.
Leinart's career TD-to-INT ratio (15:21) is similar to the Cardinals' signal-callers last season. Eleven of those 15 touchdowns came as a rookie in 2006. Since then, he has thrown four touchdowns and nine interceptions.
7. Jason Smith, OT, St. Louis Rams (2nd overall pick in 2009 NFL Draft)
As the second-overall pick, Smith got a contract that guaranteed him $33 million. Smith was traded to Jets for Wayne Hunter, another disappointing right tackle, last year and is now a backup with the Saints.
6. Derrick Harvey, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars (8th overall pick in 2008 NFL Draft)
Over the past decade, the Jaguars have had seven top-10 picks, two of which appear on this list.
As a pass-rusher, Harvey managed only eight sacks over his entire 52-game career and never had a season with more than 3.5 sacks, which he had as a rookie. He last played in a game with the Broncos in 2011 and was on the Bengals roster in 2012 before being released in August.
5. Troy Williamson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (7th overall pick in 2005 NFL Draft)
While hindsight is 20-20, Williamson's vision was not, sort of. Although he had 20-20 vision straight ahead, his depth perception appears to be part of the problem that led to his frequent drops.
Williamson had 87 receptions for 1,131 yards and four touchdowns, which would be a solid season, but that was over a five-year career including two years with the Jaguars.
4. Johnathan Sullivan, DT, New Orleans Saints (6th overall pick in 2003 NFL Draft)
The Saints traded two first-round picks to move up to No. 6 to select Sullivan. Instead of getting what should have been two quality players, they got a defensive tackle that turned out to be a bust with only 1.5 sacks. The full sack occurred in his second game of his 36-game career meaning he "peaked" early.
3. Vernon Gholston, DE, New York Jets (6th overall pick in 2008 NFL Draft)
A freakish athlete loaded with potential, Gholston never realized his potential and is currently a free agent. Since his stint with the Jets, the 26-year-old workout warrior has also spent brief stints (training camps only) with the Bears and Rams in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Having played in 45 career games, Gholston has yet to record a sack.
2. Charles Rogers, WR, Detroit Lions (2nd overall pick in 2003 NFL Draft)
Beginning the run of first-round receivers for Detroit (three in five years), Rogers has literally been a "bust" if you count his past legal troubles.
Rogers got off to a solid start as a rookie with 22 receptions for 243 yards and three touchdowns in his first five games. But it was downhill from there.
Not only did he break his clavicle after the first five games as a rookie, he broke it again in Week 1 of his sophomore campaign. In addition, he failed numerous drug tests, which led to a league-imposed suspension in his third year.
Injuries, suspensions and poor work ethic limited Rogers to 15 career games and a total of only 36 receptions for 440 yards and four touchdowns.
1. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders (1st overall pick in 2007 NFL Draft)
Arguably the biggest (no pun intended) draft bust of all-time, Russell is clearly the worst pick of the past 10 years.
With a rookie wage scale in place now, teams won't be set back as badly when they draft busts. When the Raiders selected Russell first overall, however, that gave him $39 million guaranteed in three seasons. With a career 18:23 touchdown-to-interception ratio, that equates to $2.167 million per touchdown pass.
A couple of months after Russell was released by the Raiders, he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. Three years later, he is attempting a comeback and an NFC scout tells Mike Freeman of CBS Sports that there's a "good chance he gets a second shot."
While I doubt it will happen, I'm personally rooting for the Jets to be that team.
Thoughts on my list the 10 worst draft picks in the top 10 since 2003? How would you change it up?
With only four days to go until the 2013 NFL Draft, check out my latest five-round mock draft here. (The plan is to add Rounds 6 and 7 before the draft.)
Or get a jump on 2014 with my 2014 NFL mock draft.