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Stacking the worst classes in NFL draft history

Late Raiders owner Al Davis authored one of the least consequential draft classes in NFL history. Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

We recently looked at which draft classes were the best for each NFL team, so we thought it might be just as fun to look at which draft classes were the worst for each.

Similar to the "best of" exercise, we're using Pro Football Reference's approximate value (AV) metric, a composite measure of a player's value to his team, based roughly on game appearances, game starts and awards such as Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. Meaningful individual stats also help determine a player's AV, and the metric is boosted for players who are members of winning teams.

We limited our rankings to the start of the common draft era (since 1967), and excluded any classes that still include active players, because those selections continue to generate both positive and negative AV value and the verdict is not in on those classes.

We added the AV for every pick in every class for the period in which the player was on the team that drafted him -- AV accumulated for a team other than the one that drafted the player doesn't count for this exercise.


1. (tie) 1975 Kansas City Chiefs (0 AV)

It's hard to imagine a draft going worse than this draft went for the Chiefs. They already had traded away their first-round pick (No. 6 overall), along with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Curley Culp, for the rights to defensive end John Matuszak. Matuszak lasted 22 games as a Chief before he was traded to the Redskins following an incident in which his heart reportedly stopped beating following a Valium and alcohol binge.

Thanks to the Matuszak deal, the Chiefs' first pick in '75 turned out to be tight end Elmore Stephens (second round), who was traded to the Giants in training camp, subsequently released, and later that year charged with murder after strangling and dumping the body of a man who had previously robbed Stephens and some friends. (Stephens was ultimately found guilty of kidnapping and reckless homicide charges, and sentenced to 21 years in prison.)

"When your highest draft choice is arraigned for murder you know you haven't had too good a year," Chiefs coach Paul Wiggin would later be reported as saying.

Ultimately, the only player among the Chiefs' 11 selections to make the roster (or any NFL roster) was running back Morris LaGrand (sixth round), who appeared in 11 games with Kansas City as a special-teamer. He gained a lifetime total of 38 rushing yards.

1. (tie) 1989 Los Angeles Raiders (0 AV)

The Raiders technically made just five picks in '89 -- all in the sixth round or later -- and none made the roster that season. (To be fair, the Silver and Black also made a draft-day deal with the Cowboys to obtain second-round guard Steve Wisniewski, who would go on to make eight Pro Bowls over 13 seasons with the Raiders.) Of those who were officially recorded as Raiders draft picks, running backs Doug Lloyd (sixth round) and Derrick Gainer (eighth round) would eventually play for the team, but combined for only two career rushes.

1. (tie) 1989 Minnesota Vikings (0 AV)

The Vikings traded their first-round pick to the Steelers for linebacker Mike Merriweather on the eve of the draft, making linebacker David Braxton (second round) their first pick. Braxton joined tight end Darryl Ingram (fourth round) as the only two of the team's nine draft picks to play a game with Minnesota -- and neither lasted long there. The lone bright spot in the Vikings' draft was running back Brad Baxter (11th round), who went on to score 35 career touchdowns ... for the Jets.

1. (tie) 1976 Washington Redskins (0 AV)

The Redskins were not big on the draft in the '70s, as evidenced by the fact that they didn't have a pick earlier than the fourth round (fourth round!) between 1972 and 1980, and had zero first-round picks between Jim Smith in 1968 and Art Monk in 1980. The team's earliest pick in '76 was in the fifth round, and only one of the Redskins' 11 picks made the roster -- returner Brian Fryer (eighth round), who had all of nine career returns.

5. 1967 Philadelphia Eagles (4 AV)

Despite 19 picks in 17 rounds, just two players generated any value for Philadelphia: first-round running back Harry Jones (44 carries) and fourth-round wide receiver Chuck Hughes (six receptions).

6. (tie) 1978 Chicago Bears (5 AV)

Chicago had neither a first- nor a second-round pick in 1978, dealing the top pick for QB Mike Phipps and the second-rounder for DE Tommy Hart. The only players from the nine-man class who made the squad had brief careers as backups: defensive tackle Brad Shearer (third round) and running back John Skibinski (sixth round).

6. (tie) 2012 and 1977 San Francisco 49ers (5 AV)

San Francisco's recent woes can be traced back to its disastrous 2012 draft. First-round pick A.J. Jenkins appeared in only three games for the 49ers, dropping one pass and catching none before being traded away the following offseason. Running back LaMichael James was taken in the second round, but never developed into anything beyond a part-time returner and occasional backup to Frank Gore before being released one game into the 2014 season. Guard Joe Looney (fourth round) was the only other pick that year to catch on with the 49ers, starting four games in 2014 before moving on as a free agent.

In 1977, the 49ers were only a few years from the start of a dynasty but first had to flush that year's draft class out of their system. Without a first- or second-round pick thanks to the 1976 acquisition of Jim Plunkett from the Patriots, their top selection was third-round wide receiver Elmo Boyd, who started seven games for San Francisco before washing out in Green Bay. It's always darkest before the dawn.

8. 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers (7 AV)

The Steelers could afford a down year after their 1971 and 1974 classes were among the very best in the common draft era and propelled them to four Super Bowl titles. Defensive back Dave Brown was their first-round pick in '75 and went on to start for 14 seasons ... all of them with the Seahawks and Packers, none with Pittsburgh. Brown (who was lost to Seattle in the 1976 expansion draft) was part of a whopping 20-man draft class, none of whom ever started a game for the Steelers.

9. (tie) 1984 Los Angeles Rams (9 AV)

The Rams traded away five of their top six picks in 1984 (including a first-rounder that went to the Chiefs in exchange for CB Gary Green), meaning their first was in the fifth round. Of the team's 10 picks, only 10th-round backup linebacker Norwood Vann ever played a game with the Rams.

9. (tie) 1995 Miami Dolphins (9 AV)

First-round pick Billy Milner started most of his rookie season at tackle with the Dolphins, but was traded to Rams before his second year and suffered a career-ending neck injury shortly thereafter. Only tight end Pete Mitchell (fourth round) and defensive tackle Norman Hand (fifth round) amounted to much in the NFL -- both on other teams.

9. (tie) 1972 San Diego Chargers (9 AV)

San Diego traded its first-round pick in 1972 for defensive tackle Kevin Hardy, who played in 19 games over two seasons with the Chargers. Despite 15 more picks across 17 rounds, only second-round DE Pete Lazetich managed to make an impact, starting 15 games over three seasons with the Bolts.

12. 1975 St. Louis Cardinals (11 AV)

Defensive back Tim Gray was chosen No. 21 overall, but started no games for the Cardinals before establishing himself as a starter with Kansas City for three seasons. Backup running back and return man Jerry Latin (11th round) was the only pick of the Cardinals' 15 selections to make an impact in a Cardinals uniform, lasting three-plus seasons in St. Louis before washing out.

13. (tie) 2009 Dallas Cowboys (12 AV)

Dallas had no first-round pick after dealing it to the Lions for wide receiver Roy Williams the previous season, and Jerry Jones traded out of the second round as well. The Cowboys ended up with 12 picks in Rounds 3 through 7, but didn't strike much gold. Third-round linebacker Jason Williams played sparingly over a season-plus with the Cowboys but had only one tackle. Linebacker Victor Butler (fourth round) was a decent special-teamer and backup for four seasons with Dallas. Backup tight end John Phillips (sixth round) played in the NFL as recently as last season. He had 20 starts in backup duty over three seasons with Dallas before leaving in free agency.

13. (tie) 1991 Indianapolis Colts (12 AV)

The Colts didn't have a first-round pick in 1991, thanks to the 1990 deal with the Falcons that delivered Jeff George to Indianapolis at No. 1 overall. Their top selection was defensive end Shane Curry (second round), who totaled one sack in nine games for the Colts before being murdered in a dispute over a parking space in the offseason following his rookie year. Apart from tight end Kerry Cash (fifth round), who started 48 games over four seasons, none of Indy's 10 picks from 1991 made an impact in an Indianapolis uniform.

15. 2000 Buffalo Bills (13 AV)

First-round pick Erik Flowers began his second season as a starting defensive end for the Bills, but was released after the 2001 season with only 25 total tackles and four total sacks during his time there. He never started another NFL game. Safety Travares Tillman (second round) and running back Sammy Morris (fifth round) had decent careers, but had very little production over 10 and nine starts, respectively, for Buffalo. Seventh-round LB DaShon Polk played in 53 games over four seasons with the Bills and perhaps offered the best value of the team's eight picks.

16. (tie) 1996 Atlanta Falcons (14 AV)

After relinquishing their first-round pick in the Jeff George trade, and dealing their second-round pick to the Raiders for safety Patrick Bates, the Falcons' first pick this year was defensive tackle Shannon Brown in the third round. Brown never made an NFL roster. Of Atlanta's five remaining picks, only DB Juran Bolden (fourth round) and LB Craig Sauer (sixth round) would see meaningful action in a Falcons uniform.

16. (tie) 1968 New Orleans Saints (14 AV)

The Saints used the No. 7 overall pick on LB Kevin Hardy, who never played a down for New Orleans -- he was awarded to the 49ers by commissioner Pete Rozelle as compensation for the Saints' signing of ex-49ers tight end Dave Parks in the days before unrestricted free agency in the NFL. Of the Saints' remaining 16 picks in 1968, only seventh-round corner Gene Howard ever started a game for the team.

18. 1978 Denver Broncos (15 AV)

The best of the reigning AFC champion Broncos' five picks in 1978 was second-round defensive end William Gay, but Gay was immediately traded to Detroit, where he spent 10 successful seasons. (In return, Denver got veteran defensive back Charlie West, who started only seven games for the Broncos before retiring.) Denver's first-round pick, nose tackle Don Latimer, spent six seasons with the Broncos, primarily as a backup. The Broncos' small number of picks was due to previous veteran acquisitions, including a fifth-round pick that went to the Giants in exchange for veteran QB Craig Morton (who had already led Denver to a Super Bowl appearance by the time the '78 draft rolled around).

19. 2013 Cleveland Browns (16 AV)

Linebacker Barkevious Mingo was taken with the No. 6 overall pick, but never came close to fulfilling his promise. He had only 17 starts over three seasons with the Browns, who declined his fifth-year option. He was traded to the Patriots in 2016 for a fifth-round pick, and in what might be the ultimate insult to Cleveland fans, Mingo is now a Super Bowl champion.

Beyond Mingo, the cupboard was bare for the Browns that year, who had just a third-, a sixth- and two seventh-round picks after surrendering a second-rounder for the right to take Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft, and dealing for WR Davone Bess. Cornerback Leon McFadden (third round), defensive back Jamoris Slaughter (sixth round), defensive end Armonty Bryant (seventh round) and tackle Garrett Gilkey (seventh round) combined for only 12 starts for the Browns.

Incidentally, by our rule that we're counting only AV produced for the drafting team, the 1995 class would be the Browns' worst by technicality. The team became the Ravens in 1996, taking the players but leaving behind all records, so only one season of production counts toward Cleveland. Beyond technicality, Cleveland's '95 class was awful, with a first-round bust (LB Craig Powell), a third-round pick who started 12 NFL games (QB Eric Zeier), and only one more player who appeared in an NFL game (DE Mike Frederick). To add insult to injury, the Browns traded down in the 1995 first round, obtaining a 1996 first-round pick who would be taken No. 26 overall ... and become Ray Lewis.

20. 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars (19 AV)

Defensive end Derrick Harvey was the eighth overall pick in 2008, but had a short and disappointing three seasons in Jacksonville, making eight sacks and starting 32 times over three seasons. The Jags traded up to draft Harvey (surrendering a third- and a fourth-round pick), leaving them with just five total picks, none of which made a meaningful impact.

21. (tie) 2005 Detroit Lions (21 AV)

Due to legal wrangles, wide receiver Mike Williams sat out a year from football before being the 10th overall pick in 2005. He never panned out for the Lions, making only 37 receptions with six starts before being traded to the Raiders during his third season. Second-round pick DT Shaun Cody was a backup for most of his four seasons with the Lions. Fifth-round QB Dan Orlovsky, who started seven games during the Lions' notorious 0-16 season of 2008, was the other notable from this class.

21. (tie) 1991 Green Bay Packers (21 AV)

The Packers made 14 picks spread over 12 rounds, selecting in every round but the fourth, and still came away largely empty-handed. Their top three picks -- cornerback Vinnie Clark and defensive linemen Esera Tuaolo and Don Davey -- all went on to have solid careers, mostly with other teams. Of Green Bay's final 10 picks, eight never appeared in an NFL game.

21. (tie) 1986 New York Jets (21 AV)

Guard Mike Haight, the No. 22 overall pick, started 43 games over six years with the Jets, and was the biggest notable among the 11 picks in the 1986 class. Later in the proceedings, ninth-round RB Nuu Faaola hung around for parts of four seasons, primarily as a special-teamer.

Honorable mention goes to the class of 2010, which was limited to four players thanks in part to the Jets' acquisition of WR Braylon Edwards and CB Lito Sheppard. Cornerback Kyle Wilson was taken in the first round but was a major disappointment, starting for only one season in 2012. Tackle Vlad Ducasse was taken in the second round and is still in the league, but never was a contributor in New York. Running back Joe McKnight might have appeared on some desperate fantasy owners' rosters and was an All-Pro as a special-teamer, but generated just 679 yards from scrimmage for the Jets before being released. Fullback John Conner made the roster before becoming a journeyman veteran. He came full circle and had a somewhat productive year back with the Jets in 2014, his final season.

21. (tie) 1992 Seattle Seahawks (21 AV)

Tackle Ray Roberts was the No. 10 overall pick and was the only true hit in this draft for Seattle. But most of his best seasons came after he left Seattle for Detroit. Sixth-round pick Michael Bates played 10 seasons in the league as a kick returner, the first two coming in Seattle. The Seahawks surrendered second- and fourth-round picks for LB Keith Millard and RB Rueben Mayes, and only two of Seattle's nine picks beyond Roberts and Bates ever played an NFL down.

25. 1989 Cincinnati Bengals (22 AV)

The Bengals traded out of the first round, but had 14 picks in the second round and beyond. Of those, only running back/kick returner Eric Ball (second round), quarterback Erik Wilhelm (third round) and defensive end Natu Tuatagoloa (fifth round) hung on in the league for an extended period, mostly as backups and/or special-teamers.

26. 2007 New England Patriots (24 AV)

Ironically, the Patriots had their worst-ever draft in the year they had the league's best-ever regular season. First-round safety Brandon Meriweather was the only pick to turn into a starter. New England had no second-round pick (thanks to the Wes Welker acquisition) or third-round pick (the Pats traded down), but made eight low-impact selections from Rounds 4 to 7. Sixth-round DB Mike Richardson was the only player among the eight to play a game with the Patriots.

27. (tie) 2004 Baltimore Ravens (26 AV)

Ozzie Newsome traded the Ravens' first-round pick to grab quarterback Kyle Boller the previous year. Of Baltimore's seven picks, only defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (second round) made a real impact in Baltimore, becoming a starter for two seasons before moving on to Buffalo and then Carolina.

27. (tie) 1967 New York Giants (26 AV)

The Giants had no picks before the fourth round after dealing for QB Fran Tarkenton and DT Jim Garcia, but also made 12 mostly bad picks from Rounds 4 to 17. Only two of the 12 ever made an NFL roster, and only one, defensive back Scott Eaton, turned into a starter with the Giants.

29. 1989 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (35 AV)

No. 6 overall pick Broderick Thomas had a solid career as a linebacker and accounts for nearly all of the AV the Buccaneers harvested from this 14-player draft. Punter Chris Mohr (sixth round) had a 15-year career, but never provided much value in Tampa, lasting just one season.

30. 1974 Houston Oilers (36 AV)

The then-Oilers were wheeler-dealers back in this era, and did not have picks in the first three rounds after trading for DE Tody Smith, WR Billy Parks and pass-rusher Al Cowlings. Of Houston's 10 picks, wideout/return man Billy "White Shoes" Johnson (15th round) was the only one who panned out -- he is credited for 34 of the Oilers' 36 AV from that draft. Seven of the 10 selections never played a down in the NFL.

31. 2005 Houston Texans (39 AV)

Only defensive tackle Travis Johnson (16th overall) and defensive back C.C. Brown (sixth round) had any seasons as starters, though Jerome Mathis (fourth round) was an All-Pro as a rookie return man before quickly flaming out.

32. 1998 Carolina Panthers (41 AV)

First-round pick Jason Peter was forced to retire after just four seasons due to a chronic neck injury and was never a big star, peaking in his second season with 4.5 sacks in nine games. Carolina's best pick in this draft was probably tight end Donald Hayes (fourth round), who developed into a starter over his final two seasons with the Panthers (2001-02).

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