The NFL Draft is known for its bad picks as much as its success, and the Green Bay Packers have missed on some big chances to help their team in the first round.
Here is one person’s thoughts on the top 10 first-round draft busts in team history:
10. Randy Duncan, QB, Iowa (No. 1 overall, 1959): New Packers head coach Vince Lombardi had the first overall pick and used it on the best quarterback in college football – Duncan, who’d led the Hawkeyes to a pair of Rose Bowl victories. The day the Packers drafted him, Duncan finished as the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting. The only problem? Duncan never played a snap for the Packers – choosing instead to play in Canada for more money.
9. Bruce Clark, DT, Penn State (No. 4 overall, 1980): Speaking of players who opted to go to Canada rather than play in Green Bay, Clark warned the Packers before the draft that he did not want to play for them – although when the Packers’ brain trust visited with Clark on the Penn State campus, he might not have been as clear with his intentions as legend may have it. Nevertheless, Clark made good on that vow, went instead to the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and didn’t come back to the NFL until 1982.
8. Brent Fullwood, RB, Auburn (No. 4 overall, 1987): The Packers, coached by legendary tough-guy Forrest Gregg, wanted was a workhorse back who could carry the offensive load and give the pass-first offense a rugged running game. Tom Braatz, the head of football operations, thought Fullwood was that player – despite scouts on his staff who disagreed with him. Although Fullwood did have one productive season in 1989 (821 yards) and was selected to the Pro Bowl, his penchant for fumbling was too much to overcome.
7. John Michels, OT, USC (No. 27 overall, 1996): A one-year starter in college, Michels was a disappointment, to be sure. Forced into the starting lineup (after veteran left tackle Ken Ruettgers’ retirement) as a rookie on a Super Bowl-bound team, he was so bad that journeyman Bruce Wilkerson took over on the road to Super Bowl XXXI. Michels lost the starting job again the following year to first-round pick Ross Verba, suffered a knee injury in 1998 and was traded to Philadelphia in 1999.
6. Ahmad Carroll, CB, Arkansas (No. 25 overall, 2004): After Ron Wolf took Terrell Buckley in 1992 and he flopped, the Packers set a height threshold of 5-foot-11 for drafting a cornerback. Coach/GM Mike Sherman ignored that measurable when he took Carroll, who famously got into a post-meeting fistfight with fellow cornerback Joey Thomas – drafted two rounds later in 2004 – when Thomas (rightfully?) claimed that the only reason Carroll was playing ahead of him was his draft status.
5. Terrell Buckley, CB, Florida State (No. 5 overall, 1992): Buckley ended up having a more-than-respectable 14-year NFL career that included 50 interceptions. But his three-year stay in Green Bay was a colossal disappointment. One of the lowest points: When he let Minnesota’s Eric Guilford get behind him for a 45-yard last-minute completion to set up a game-winning field goal in 1993 because he didn’t think Vikings quarterback Jim McMahon could throw the ball that far – which he confessed to thinking afterward.
4. Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State (No. 10 overall, 2001): After sending backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to Seattle in a February trade, the Packers moved up from No. 17 to No. 10 in the 2001 draft. Future Pro Football Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, not wanting to step on coach/GM-to-be Mike Sherman’s toes, bowed to the coaching staff’s wishes on several picks, including Reynolds. Reynolds, degenerative knee problem and all, registered just three sacks in three years before the Packers dumped him.
3. Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee (No. 16 overall, 2007): General manager Ted Thompson was booed for the pick by fans at the team’s annual draft party that year, and while fans aren’t always rational about draft picks, they were right on the money with Harrell, who came to Green Bay as damaged goods – he missed most of his final season at Tennessee with a torn biceps – and was constantly hurt during his short stay in Green Bay. Ankle, back and knee injuries limited him to just 14 regular-season games, and he had no sacks in four years.
2. Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State (No. 2 overall, 1989): On other lists of all-time draft busts – not just Packers picks, but in NFL Draft history – Mandarich’s name is at or close to the top of the list. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated before the draft with the moniker “The Incredible Bulk.” By 1992, he was back on the cover of SI as “The Incredible Bust.”
There’s no denying that the 6-foot-5, 311-pound admitted steroid user was a bust, starting 31 games at right tackle in 1990 and ’91 before missing the 1992 season because of post-concussion issues and a thyroid problem. And it didn’t help that the other four players taken in the top 5 – Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders – all went on to Pro Football Hall of Fame careers.
1. Rich Campbell, QB, California (No. 6 overall, 1981): No moment epitomized why the Packers spent so much of the 1970s and ‘80s wandering in the wilderness than what happened in the draft room when Campbell was selected. Campbell, with an unorthodox throwing style and less-than-NFL caliber arm strength, was supposed to be coach Bart Starr’s quarterback of the future. West coast scout Lloyd Eaton, who personally scouted Campbell, thought it was a terrible idea – but Starr and assistant coach Zeke Bratkowski didn’t listen. They were certain Campbell was the guy.
Campbell spent four forgettable seasons in Green Bay, playing in just seven games — starting zero — while backing up Lynn Dickey, David Whitehurst and Randy Wright.