General managers insist it takes at least three years to grade a draft, but that doesn’t stop the media from giving out report cards less than 24 hours after Mr. Irrelevance is announced and Mel Kiper Jr. climbs back into his basement. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Nobody knows how Jerel Worthy will play in the NFL – not even the scouts who studied him 24/7 for the past six months. How big a crapshoot is the draft? Well, the Packers under Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson have been about as good in late April as any team, and yet the past two decades have still produced an awful lot of early round busts in Green Bay (granted, many of them occurred under Mike Sherman’s reign of terror). Anyway, here’s a list of the 20 worst picks over the past 20 years:
20- LB ABDUL HODGE (2006/3rd/67): He was a tackling machine at Iowa, but a lack of speed and bad knees ended his time in Green Bay after only 8 games and 10 total tackles. He kicked around for three more seasons before his career ended in 2010.
19- DB MARQUES ANDERSON (2002/3rd/92): The former UCLA star showed some potential as a rookie (62 tackles and 4 INTs), but he regressed in his second season and was traded to the Raiders after the ’03 season. He went on to play with the Broncos and 49ers before finding himself out of the league for good in 2006.
18- DT STEVE WARREN (2000/3rd/74): Many scouts thought he was too small (6’0, 295) to play in the NFL, but Wolf wasn’t one of them. They were right and he was wrong. The former Nebraska star amassed only 14 tackles and 1 sack in three seasons and was out of the league by 2003.
17- RB LESHON JOHNSON (1994/3rd/84): The former Northern Illinois star ran like the wind and put up spectacular numbers in college, but he lacked toughness. He would run to the sideline at the first hint of contact. He was cut by the Packers after two seasons and wound up rushing for a total of 955 yards in his career.
16- DL JONATHAN BROWN (1998/3rd/90): The former Tennessee star was released by the Packers after only one season. That almost never happens to a third-round pick. After failing to stick with the Broncos in 2000, he went on to have a successful professional career in Europe and Canada.
15- LB TORRANCE MARSHALL (2001/3rd/72): Wolf’s last draft was one to forget. The former Oklahoma star looked like the next Lawrence Taylor, but unfortunately, he played more like Elizabeth Taylor. He managed only 65 tackles in his first three seasons before moving to fullback in ’04.
14- CB JOEY THOMAS (2004/3rd/70): The former Montana star was part of one of the worst draft classes in league history (thanks Sherman). Beating up Ahmad Carroll was the only memorable thing he did in his two seasons with the Packers. Spent time with New Orleans and Miami, but was out of the NFL by 2009.
13- P B.J. SANDER (2004/3rd/87): Sherman traded up to get the former Ohio State star and then compounded the mistake by keeping him around in ’04 as the backup punter. It’s always risky to draft a punter in the third round, but it’s downright foolish to draft one in the third round with a weak leg. He was out of the league after two seasons.
12- PK BRETT CONWAY (1997/3rd/90): Wolf drafted the former Penn State star to replace Chris Jacke, but he was a disaster in his first training camp. He missed kick after kick and eventually injured a hamstring. While he sat on IR, Ryan Longwell got the job and held it for the next decade.
11- WR DERRICK MAYES (1996/2nd/56): The former Notre Dame star was the original Mr. August. He would put up staggering numbers in the preseason and then do next to nothing once the real games started. He caught only 54 passes in three season with the Packers before being traded to Seattle for a late pick.
10- DL DONNELL WASHINGTON (2004/3rd/72): He’s the second member of the class of ’04 to make this list. The former Clemson star had incredible physical ability, but he was an underachiever in college. He reported to his first training camp out of shape and quickly got hurt. He didn’t play a game for the Packers in two seasons.
9- DB GEORGE TEAGUE (1993/1st/29): His 101-yard interception return in the 1993 playoffs was his one highlight in three seasons with the Packers. He then made headlines with the Cowboys in 2000 when he shoved Terrell Owens off the star logo at midfield. Unfortunately, he did little in the years in between.
8- CB FRED VINSON (1999/2nd/47): Drafted to help defend against Randy Moss, the former Vanderbilt star never had the speed or quickness to cover NFL receivers. That didn’t stop Mike Holmgren from trading for him in 2000. All the Packers got back in return was Ahman Green, who went on to rush for 9,205 yards.
7- CB ANTUAN EDWARDS (1999/1st/25): The former Clemson star had prototypical size and speed, but he was a tweener. He wasn’t quick enough to play corner or tough enough to play safety. The Packers moved him all over in a desperate attempt to salvage his career, but they gave up after five nondescript seasons.
6- OT JOHN MICHELS (1996/1st/27): Baltimore chose Ray Lewis right before the Packers were to pick, so Wolf settled for the former USC star. He looked more like a tight end than a left tackle when he reported to his first training camp. He eventually showed some potential, but knee injuries ended his career by 2000.
5- CB AHMAD CARROLL (2004/1st/25): Along with Thomas and Washington, he was part of a draft class so bad that Vinny Cerrato laughs at it. The former Arkansas star ran fast, but he lacked height and had absolutely no instincts. Thompson couldn’t wait to get rid of him, and he did just that early in the ’06 season.
4- CB TERRELL BUCKLEY (1992/1st/5): Wolf’s first pick as GM was one of his worst. He chose the diminutive former Florida State star over local hero Troy Vincent and lived to regret it. Buckley wound up intercepting 50 passes in 14 seasons, but his three years in Green Bay had far more lows than highs.
3- QB BRIAN BROHM (2008/2nd/56): There aren’t too many Thompson picks on the list, but here’s the second of three. The former Louisville star was a prolific passer in college, but he looked scared from the moment he arrived in Green Bay. He was so bad that the Packers parted ways with him after only one season.
2- DL JUSTIN HARRELL (2007/1st/16): Here’s the second Thompson pick, and it’s a doozy. The former Tennessee star battled injuries in college and his bad luck continued in the NFL. But it wouldn’t be fair to place all the blame on injuries for his disappointing three-year career. He showed little even when healthy.
1- DL JAMAL REYNOLDS (2001/1st/10): We still don’t know who was responsible for this pick. Wolf and Sherman have blamed each other for years. The former Florida State star never showed any of the explosiveness he flashed in college. Without that, he had no answer for tackles who outweighed him by 60 pounds.
Looking at this list, it’s hard to believe that the Packers have been one of the best teams in the NFL for the past 20 years. It just goes to show how difficult it is to judge college players, and how absurd it is to assign grades the day after a draft. By the way, I didn’t include Mark D’Onofrio (1992/2nd/34) or Terrence Murphy (2005/2nd/58) on this list because their careers were busts due to injury and not incompetence. Defensive linemen Darius Holland (1995/3rd/65) and Kenny Peterson (2003/3rd/79) and safety Aaron Rouse (2007/3rd/89) just missed being included. Here’s hoping that none of the young men selected by Green Bay last weekend end up on a list like this five years from now.