Even the most talented prospects can fall in the draft.
There are many factors that play into a prospect’s evaluation. Talent, leadership and work ethic are just some of the key factors that influence a player’s draft stock. College success doesn’t always equal success in the NFL. Although one may be a phenomenon on a college field, some players can only fit into a college scheme (Tim Tebow) and have limited or little success once they reach the NFL.
Injuries play a large part in many players sliding lower than projected, especially in the higher rounds. The more serious the injury, the less likely a team will take a chance on that player, mainly in the first couple of rounds where the picks are valued higher than the mid round and late round selections.
However, one of the biggest killers for young NFL prospects can be off the field problems. Getting into trouble before you even enter the league is never a good sign for NFL GMs and Owners, especially when they’re considering giving theses players millions of dollars.
Hesitation exists for every team when selecting a player in the draft because they are seen as investments. Prospects are scouted, interviewed and studied vigorously over the course of the season, all to make sure that they don’t become the next Ryan Leaf.
But all this precaution can cause some teams to let talented yet troubled players slip through their hands. Here are the Top 10 Worst NFL Draft Slides of All Time.
10. Brady Quinn – 22nd Overall in 2007
During his time at Notre Dame, Brady Quinn set 36 Fighting Irish records in four seasons. By the time he entered the NFL Draft, Quinn was considered one of the top prospects in the country. Labelled a franchise quarterback and having drawn comparisons to Carson Palmer, Quinn was expected to go in the top 5. However, when the Browns passed on him at number 3 he would fall all the way to the later half of the 1st round where the Browns took him with the 22nd overall pick. His career in Cleveland lasted three years and since then he’s had a journeyman’s career, landing on five other rosters since being drafted.
9. Rey Maualuga – 38th Overall in 2009
Part of a core that was comprised of Brian Cushing and Clay Mathews, Rey Maualuga was a standout at linebacker during his career at USC. In his senior year, Maualuga was named first team All-American and was winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award. Although he was projected to go in the first round with his USC teammates Mathews (26th overall) and Cushing (15th overall), Maualuga fell all the way to the second round after the Chargers passed on him at 16, opting to go for Larry English instead. He was taken early in the second round by the Bengals, who just a year prior had drafted his USC teammate Keith Rivers in the first round.
8. Eddie Lacy – 61st Overall in 2013
After sitting behind Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson for his first three seasons at Alabama, Eddie Lacy finally got the starting job in 2012. Finishing the year with over 1,300 yards and 19 total touchdowns, along with the Offensive MVP Award for the BCS Championship game, Lacy entered the 2013 Draft as the top prospect at running back. Surprisingly, three other backs were taken ahead of Lacy, primarily due to concerns over his past problems with injuries. It was not until the end of the second round that the Packers drafted Lacy. He thrived in Green Bay , rushing for over 1,000 yards and earned a Pro Bowl nomination as well as the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, solidifying his place in the Packers backfield.
7. Troy Polamalu – 16th Overall in 2003
Troy Polamalu could very well have been a member of the San Diego Chargers. After suffering an injury to his knee in the Orange Bowl, Polamalu missed the Senior Bowl and 2003 Combine, but made up for it with a strong showing at USC’s Pro Day. Expected to go in the top 10, Polamalu slipped to the Chargers at 15 who at the time needed a replacement for Rodney Harrison. When the Chargers passed on the future All-Pro, the Steelers traded up from the 27th pick to the 16th in order to grab him.
6. Warren Sapp – 12th Overall in 1995
The night before the ’95 NFL Draft, rumours started spreading that University of Miami DT Warren Sapp failed several drug tests, testing positive for marijuana and cocaine. The rumour caused Sapp – who was expected to go fairly high in the draft – to be taken off of some teams’ draft boards, most notably the New York Jets who opted to draft Penn State’s Kyle Brady and the Minnesota Vikings who took Florida State DT Derrick Alexander a spot before Sapp was selected. In Tampa, Sapp won a Super Bowl and was a seven-time Pro Bowel selection, four-time first team All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year.
5. Ray Lewis – 26th Overall in 1996
As one of top rated linebackers entering the 1996 NFL Draft, Ray Lewis was seen as one of the best prospects at his position. Although he was praised for his speed and ability to tackle, Lewis’ size scared teams away. Standing in at 6’1″ Lewis was about three inches shorter than the draft’s top inside linebacker prospect Kevin Hardy. He fell down to the 26th overall pick, almost getting pushed to the second round. During his Hall of Fame career in Baltimore, Lewis won two Super Bowls, made 13 Pro Bowl appearances and was voted Defensive Player of the Year twice.
4. Randy Moss – 21st Overall in 1998
Randy Moss’ transition from College to the NFL was one filled with scrutiny and second guessing. After his decision to enter the NFL Draft, Moss’ past problems became a popular topic of debate, especially after rumours of him avoiding the Combine to skip the drug test started spreading around the league. On the day of the Draft, Moss – who was expected to go high in the first round – was passed up by many teams who had pressing needs at wide receiver. One of those teams was the Dallas Cowboys, who at 8th overall selected North Carolina linebacker Greg Ellis. Moss fell to the Vikings at 21 – much to their pleasure – and went on to have one of the greatest rookie seasons any wide receiver has ever had, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and catching a rookie record 17 touchdowns.
3. Aaron Rodgers – 24th Overall in 2005
It’s a strange thing to be projected as the first overall pick in the draft, only to get passed on by your favourite team and then fall 23 spots. For Aaron Rodgers, the 2005 Draft must have been a very long day. After the San Francisco 49ers took Alex Smith with the 1st overall pick, Rodgers went from being a projected top 5 pick to barely making the first round. With no teams in the top 20 having any gaping holes at quarter back, Rodgers fell to the Green Bay Packers in the hopes of him becoming Brett Favre’s eventual replacement. After spending his first three years on the sidelines, Rodgers took over for Favre in 2008 and is currently the NFL’s all-time leader in career passer rating with a rating of 104.9.
2. Drew Brees – 32nd Overall in 2001
Although successful in College, Drew Brees wasn’t able to sneak into the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. He was projected to be a mid first round pick but Brees’ size (6’0″), lack of arm strength and success in a spread offense caused him to fall into the second round. The Chargers took him with the first pick in the second round and he went on to win the starting job from Doug Flutie in his second season. It was in New Orleans that Brees’ career really took off. There he became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 40,000 and 50,000 yards passing, and is the Saints’ all-time leader in career wins, passing touchdowns, pass attempts, pass completions and passing yards.
1. Dan Marino – 27th Overall in 1983
To this day it’s still hard to believe that Dan Marino almost slipped out of the first round. After a weak senior season and widespread rumours of drug abuse, Marino was taken off many teams’ draft boards. In the 1983 NFL Draft – famous for the strong quarter back class it produced – Marino was the sixth quarter back taken. Two of those (John Elway, Jim Kelly) were enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Marino, while the other three (Ken O’Brien, Tony Eason, Todd Blackledge) had less memorable careers. Marino used his draft day fallout as motivation throughout his career and was known as one of the greatest of his generation, though his lack of a Super Bowl title still haunts his legacy.