Most painful NFL Draft slides of last 20 years
A few years ago, Myles Jack, the UCLA linebacker with the otherworldly skills and the incredibly suspect knee, was bypassed in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, even though he was one of the highest-rated players available. His free-fall ended in Jacksonville at No. 36. That gave him membership in a dubious club: most memorable draft slides ever.
Here is the list of the worst free-falls since 1998, two decades of uncomfortable squirming and awkward camera close-ups.
Sorry, the cut-off means two legendary slides — Dan Marino and Warren Sapp — miss out.
1 Randy Moss, 1998, 21st, Vikings
By the time the Vikings took the plunge, there was serious concern that the brilliant Marshall receiver draped with red flags was going to go completely undrafted. His slide has merely become part of NFL lore, and so has his career-long vengeance against the Cowboys, who he thought betrayed him by passing on him at eighth overall.
2 Aaron Rodgers, 2005, 24th, Packers
The slide by which all recent slides are measured, mainly because the Cal product was a quarterback, he was considered on par with the first overall pick (Alex Smith, by the 49ers), and because he was subject to the classic green-room waits. But everyone knew he’d landed in the perfect place, as Brett Favre’s heir apparent.
3 Matt Leinart, 2006, 10th, Cardinals
After winning the Heisman Trophy and a second straight national championship at USC as a junior, Leinart toyed with the idea of leaving school then, but returned believing he could boost his stock (and the Trojans could win it again). They didn’t repeat, and then he dropped on draft day behind, among others, Vince Young, the Texas quarterback who beat him in the BCS title game and went third to the Titans.
4 Brady Quinn, 2007, 22nd, Browns
Yes, kids, there once was a raging debate over which was the true franchise quarterback that year: Quinn, from Notre Dame, or JaMarcus Russell, from LSU. Russell went first to the Raiders, then teams started passing on Quinn over and over. The Dolphins took a particular beating by snubbing him at ninth, for Ted Ginn Jr. Quinn’s home-state Browns finally took him.
5 Dez Bryant, 2010, 24th, Cowboys
The Oklahoma State receiver had been suspended during his final season for a recruiting violation; he had what they call a “troubled” past and was subject to the now-infamous question about his mother by the Dolphins general manager in a pre-draft interview. The Cowboys refused to repeat the Moss mistake, traded up and caught Bryant before he fell further.
6 Vontaze Burfict, 2012, undrafted FA, Bengals
It was practically unanimous that the Arizona State linebacker was a first-round talent, but it was just as unanimous that he was the riskiest player of that draft class. Between all his on-field personal fouls, a reported failed drug test and a disastrous combine, teams ran from him as if he was a typhoid carrier. Not surprisingly, some of the same issues surfaced with the Bengals over the years — and so did the immense ability.
7 Geno Smith, 2013, 39th, Jets
Smith, the West Virginia quarterback, was one of the top prospects at the position in a draft not loaded with them. He was as closely watched as any player on site at the draft. He also was left in the room when the first round was over, and the experience soured him so much he fired his agent soon after. Not that he played like a first-rounder … but neither did E.J. Manuel, taken 12th overall, 27 picks earlier.
8 Johnny Manziel, 2014, 22nd, Browns
No quarterback, and no player, had more drama surrounding him coming out of school that year than the Heisman Trophy-winning Johnny Football. His every word and deed was scrutinized, as was his pro day, which was attended by the first President George Bush. He was the second quarterback picked ... but long after the first, Blake Bortles at No. 3. The rest has been history, and so is his Browns and NFL career.
9 Randy Gregory, 2015, 60th, Cowboys
The Nebraska pass rusher admitted failing a Combine drug test, and everybody immediately knew his top-five status was toast. Then he fell out of the first round, and the next day he kept falling. When the Cowboys took him five picks from the end of the second round, he vowed to use the slide as motivation. He hasn’t quite done it yet: He is suspended indefinitely for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
10 La’el Collins, 2015, undrafted FA, Cowboys
Collins’ tumble down the draft board eclipses that of Laremy Tunsil, considering the horrific circumstances that caused it. The LSU tackle projected by many as a top-10 pick was named in a murder investigation two days before the draft. He was never a suspect, but he wasn’t cleared by police until after the draft — and after he offered to pull his name from the draft and enter it a year later. Going undrafted made it irrelevant. The Cowboys grabbed him, moved him to guard, and he started 11 games as a rookie.
11 Laremy Tunsil, 2016, 13th, Dolphins
The Ole Miss tackle didn’t have the steepest fall, just the most dramatic, downright cinematic — and that’s not a metaphor. It was a Twitter video of him inhaling marijuana, surfacing minutes before the draft, that scared teams off of him until the Dolphins grabbed him. Before the flurry of quarterback-focused trades, he was the consensus No. 1 pick.
12 Myles Jack, 2016, 36th, Jaguars
Jack, the UCLA linebacker with the otherworldly skills and the incredibly suspect knee, was bypassed in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, even though he was one of the highest-rated players available. His free-fall ended in Jacksonville at No. 36.
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