The 2020 NFL Draft is right around the corner, so now is as good a time as any to look back at the worst NFL Draft picks of the past decade. Hindsight is always 20/20, and this exercise is the definition of hindsight analysis. For the sake of clarity, most of these selections will be top-15 picks, as late-first round picks don’t carry the same type of value as early-first round picks. Additionally, it’s hard to blame a team for taking Josh Doctson over Michael Thomas when everyone (including the New Orleans Saints) missed on Thomas. That said, if there’s a truly egregious decision after the top 15, it will find its way onto this list.
Top 10 Worst NFL Draft Picks of the Last Decade
10. Leonard Fournette, 4th Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Fournette is a fine running back, but nobody would argue he’s worthy of the fourth-overall pick. At the time, the Jacksonville Jaguars had a championship-caliber roster led by an objectively bad quarterback in Blake Bortles. Bortles had spent the past four seasons under center for Jacksonville, so they should have known he wasn’t the answer. However, instead of looking to upgrade the most important position in football (in a draft featuring Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson), the Jaguars opted to draft the most interchangeable position in football. It doesn’t help that the Jaguars also took Fournette over objectively better running backs like Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt.
9. Luke Joeckel, 2nd Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars
The 2013 draft class is one of the worst in recent memory. It’s hard to put too much blame on not getting a hit, but the Jacksonville Jaguars still found a way to fail more than the rest. Armed with the second pick in the draft, Jacksonville placed their bets of Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel. This proved to be a bad decision, as Joeckel spent four years in Jacksonville as one of the worst tackles in the league. They moved him to guard for a little bit, but that didn’t make the situation any better. Joeckel spent one season in Seattle and hasn’t played an NFL down since.
8. Justin Blackmon, 5th Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars continue their string of bad picks with Justin Blackmon. Based on raw talent alone, Blackmon was the best receiver in the 2012 draft class. He occasionally put that talent on display, recording 64 receptions for 865 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. However, he couldn’t keep his head out of trouble received an indefinite substance abuse suspension in November of 2013. Even though he’s technically still a member of the Jaguars organization, he only played 18 games and hasn’t seen NFL action since 2013. Not exactly what you want from a top-five pick.
7. Justin Gilbert, 8th Overall, Cleveland Browns
The Factory of Sadness makes their first appearance with cornerback Justin Gilbert. A character concern coming out of school, Gilbert never came close to playing up to his draft stock. After two subpar seasons with Cleveland, the Browns traded Gilbert to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a sixth-round pick. Gilbert didn’t do any better in Pittsburgh, as he lasted just one season before getting released.
This was a bad pick that is made worse by the players that came after it. Each of the next nine players selected made at least one Pro Bowl, including elite players like Odell Beckham, Aaron Donald, and Zack Martin. This pick was an absolute failure in player evaluation and basically serves as a snapshot of everything wrong with Cleveland Browns football.
Poor Cleveland pic.twitter.com/hugU9JE976
— Dave Latham, Lifelong Bucs Fan (@DLPatsThoughts) March 29, 2020
6. Johnny Manziel, 22nd Overall, Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns spent countless hours researching quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft, but ownership got in the way and ruined everything. All reports indicate that Ray Famer wanted to take Teddy Bridgewater, but Jimmy Haslam didn’t like his handshake. Seriously. Following the advice of a homeless man hanging around outside the stadium, Haslam forced Farmer to take Manziel with the 22nd overall pick. The rest, as they say, is history. Manziel spent two disaster-ridden years in Cleveland before finding himself out of a job. Manziel spent some time in the CFL and AAF, but never earned another shot in the NFL.
5. Robert Griffin III, 2nd Overall, Washington Redskins
Did the Washington Redskins fail Robert Griffin III, or did RG3 fail the Redskins? The answer is, yes. While Washington did everything in their power to make Griffin fail, chances are the Baylor product wouldn’t have had too much NFL success, no matter where he landed. After an electric rookie campaign, Griffin struggled to stay healthy and was pretty bad even when he was on the field. This pick, while bad on its own, is made even worse considering the Redskins had to surrender three separate first-round picks to draft Griffin in the first place.
4. Blake Bortles, 3rd Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had their share of bad picks over the past decade, but nothing tops taking Blake Bortles with the third overall pick. Self-described as “not a natural thrower of the football”, the Jaguars hedged their bets on the UCF product. That bet didn’t work out, as Bortles was arguably the worst quarterback in the league during his five-year run in Jacksonville. After his first three seasons ended in ruin, Bortles managed to stay out of the way enough to bring the Jaguars to the 2017 AFC Championship Game. Had he played better, the Jaguars probably would have made it to the Super Bowl.
Still, he somehow earned a massive extension and proceeded to regress to the typical form. Jacksonville cut bait after just one season and essentially blew up their championship-caliber roster in the course of one offseason.
3. Quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft
The 2011 NFL Draft is one of the most talented in recent memory, and just about every team was happy with the players they selected. That is, every team that didn’t select a quarterback early. Cam Newton was obviously worth the first-overall pick, but the trio of Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder left a lot to be desired. All three flamed out on their respective teams, while later picks like J.J. Watt, Tyron Smith, Mike Pouncey, and Ryan Kerrigan went on to be some of the best at their respective positions. Adding insult to injury is the fact that second-round quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick had much better NFL careers.
2. Trent Richardson, 3rd Overall, Cleveland Browns
You shouldn’t draft a running back in the first round. If you do, you should get one that’s better than your typical undrafted free agent. It’s crazy to think about now, but Trent Richardson was supposed to be the next Adrian Peterson. The Alabama product supposedly had unmatched power, burst, and vision, but all of that disappeared at the NFL level. Richardson was objectively one of the worst running backs in the league, seemingly incapable of reading his blocks and constantly being chased down on the rare instances he actually made it into the open field. The Indianapolis Colts bailed out the Browns by trading a first-round pick for his services, but this is still one of the biggest mistakes of the past decade.
1. Mitchell Trubisky, 2nd Overall, Chicago Bears (2017 NFL Draft)
Just about everything that can go wrong with the Mitchell Trubisky selection, did go wrong. The Bears had the second pick in the draft and had their choice of quarterback. Rather than taking superstar quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, general manager Ryan Pace took North Carolina’s own Mitchell Trubisky. It’s safe to say that decision didn’t pan out. While Watson and Mahomes are two of the best young quarterbacks in football, Trubisky is probably going to lose his job to Nick Foles. The Bears are currently in disarray, and most of it is because they took the wrong quarterback. The fact that Chicago gave up a fourth-round pick to move up one spot in the draft is just the cherry on top of this disastrous sundae.
Honorable Mention: Bryan Anger, 70th Overall, 2012 NFL Draft
The Jacksonville Jaguars took a punter over Russell Wilson. Granted, nobody knew Russell Wilson would be anything close to the player he is today, but this is why you need to take shots at important positions. Had Jacksonville drafted the best player on the board instead of taking the least important position in football with a top-70 selection, Jacksonville would probably have at least one or two championships by now.
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