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Bottom of the Barrel: 10 Worst NFL Draft Classes Since 2012

NFL Quarterback Marcus Mariota

What a mess.

That’s the best way to sum up this list of miscalculations, bad decisions and poor management during specific drafts. Naturally, the players who fell flat deserve just as much blame. 

Some failed due to off-field woes, like the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars. Some suffered significant injuries that diminished their chances for success like with the New York Giants.

Others in this Series:

Worst Draft Classes

2012 San Francisco 49ers

Draft Picks (by round) First: A.J. Jenkins, WR; Second: LaMichael James, RB; Fourth: Joe Looney, OG; Fifth: Darius Fleming, LB; Sixth: Trent Robinson, DB; Jason Slowey, OL; Seventh: Cam Johnson, DE

We know the San Francisco 49ers went to the Super Bowl after this fiasco of a draft, losing to the Baltimore Ravens. So 2012 wasn’t a complete bust.

The draft selections turned out misguided, starting with top pick A.J. Jenkins, a wide receiver from Illinois chosen No. 30 overall. It didn’t take long for the 49ers to discover he couldn’t run professional routes or hang onto the ball, and Jenkins was gone after one campaign. Although fourth-round guard Joe Looney lasted eight seasons in the league, only the first two were with San Francisco. He was the only pick to stick around beyond 2016.

The 49ers made up for it by getting starters, and some All-Pros (George Kittle, Fred Warner), from the rest of the decade’s grab bags.

Cornerback Gareon Conley

2017, 2020 Las Vegas Raiders

2017 Draft Picks (by round) First: Gareon Conley, CB; Second: Obi Melifonwu, S; Third: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT; Fourth: David Sharpe, OT; Fifth; Marquel Lee, LB; Seventh: Shalom Luani, S; Jylan Ware, OT; Elijah Hood, RB; Treyvon Hester, DT 

2020 Draft Picks (by round) First: Henry Ruggs III, WR; Damon Arnette, CB; Third; Lynn Bowden Jr., WR; Bryan Edwards, WR; Tanner Muse, S; Fourth: John Simpson, OG; Amik Robertson, CB

A double dose of despair for the Raiders, once while in Oakland and once in Sin City.

The biggest problem for the Raiders has been drafting players whose off-field troubles plagued, shortened or ended their NFL careers. 2017 top-pick cornerback Gareon Conley (24th overall) was cleared of a civil charge of sexual assault after lasting two inauspicious seasons in Oakland. Meanwhile, second-round safety Obi Melifonwu and third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes got just one year with the Raiders. No one else made a positive impact.

It got worse in 2020.

Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III had a solid rookie season, then played seven games in 2021. However, he was arrested following a car accident in which a woman and her dog were killed in part due to Ruggs' reckless driving. The former Alabama receiver was consequently released by the team. Seven spots later, Las Vegas chose cornerback Damon Arnette, whose troubles included, but were not limited to, being accused of injuring a woman in a car crash and leaving the scene. He also was cut by the Raiders.

So both first-round picks were busts in every way. 

Although the remainder of that class brought some serviceable players, only guard John Simpson, taken No. 109 overall, and corner Amik Robertson 30 spots later, have had recent roles in Las Vegas.

2013 Cleveland Browns

Draft Picks (by round) First: Barkevious Mingo, DE; Third; Leon McFadden; Sixth: Jamoris Slaughter, DB; Seventh: Armonty Bryant, DE; Garrett Gilkey, OT 

No surprise to see the Cleveland Browns here; even when they seem to get it right, such as with Baker Mayfield in 2018, it goes wrong. Everything went wrong in 2013 when no one had any lasting power.

First-round defensive end Barkevious Mingo made 16 starts over three mediocre seasons in Cleveland, hardly what’s expected from a No. 6 overall selection. Defensive backs Leon McFadden (pick No. 68) and Jamoris Slaughter (pick No. 175) combined for 20 tackles as Browns – all by McFadden because Slaughter didn’t make the squad as a rookie. Defensive end Armonty Bryant stuck around for three seasons, mostly on special teams. The other seventh-rounder, tackle Garrett Gilkey, barely played in his one season as a Brown.

2014 New York Jets

Draft Picks (by round) First: Calvin Pryor, S; Second; Jace Amaro, TE; Third: Dexter McDougle, DB; Fourth; Jalen Saunders, WR; Shaquelle Evans, WR; Dakota Dozier, OL; Fifth: Jeremiah George, LB; Sixth: Brandon Dixon, DB; Quincy Enunwa, WR; IK Enemkpali; Tajh Boyd, QB; Seventh: Trevor Reilly, LB

Among all the spotty groups the Jets have drafted, this one is at the bottom. Only one player, guard Dakota Dozier, remains in the NFL, and he’s with Chicago. 

Safety Calvin Pryor went No. 18 overall and struggled on and off the field in three pro seasons, leading to New York using its first two picks in 2017 on safeties. Tight end Jace Amaro contributed little, while safety Dexter McDougle never built off a promising rookie season. The only other selection who seemed to have a strong future was sixth-round wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, but injuries curtailed his career.

The Jets got almost nothing out of 12 picks.

2012 Atlanta Falcons

Draft Picks (by round) Second: Peter Konz, C; Third: Lamar Holmes, OT; Fifth: Bradie Ewing, RB; Jonathan Massoquoi, DE; Sixth: Charles Mitchell, DB; Seventh: Travian Robertson, DT

Of the six players the Atlanta Falcons chose in 2012, none stuck with the team beyond 2014. That’s three seasons, tops. 

The first two choices were blockers, center Peter Konz at No. 55 and tackle Lamar Holmes at No. 91. Konz made 28 starts in his short tenure with Atlanta, while Holmes had 19. Fifth-round defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi had the biggest impact of the half-dozen selectees, but it was moderate, with six sacks and 70 tackles. 

Running back Bradie Ewing, safety Charles Mitchell and defensive tackle Travian Robertson showed nothing.

To their credit, the Falcons had dealt their first-rounder to Cleveland the previous year for the opportunity to select wide receiver Julio Jones, who became a seven-time Pro Bowl pick and five-time All-Pro 

2013 Indianapolis Colts

Draft Picks (by round) First: Bjoern Werner, DE; Third: Hugh Thornton, OG; Fourth: Khaled Holmes C; Fifth: Montori Hughes, DT; Sixth: John Boyett, DB; Seventh: Kerwynn Williams, RB; Justice Cunningham, TE

A year after lucking into Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts came up empty, starting with Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner at No. 24 overall. He had 6.5 sacks and 81 tackles during three seasons. That might impress for one year.

No player chosen by the Colts in 2013 lasted beyond 2017 in the NFL. That was running back Kerwynn Williams, who played all of one game for the Colts.

Guard Hugh Thornton started 32 times for the Colts, but center Khaled Holmes did little, while defensive tackle Montori Hughes managed all of 17 tackles in two seasons. They were the best of a weak lot.

Wide receiver Justin Blackmon

2012 Jacksonville Jaguars

Draft Picks (by round) First: Justin Blackmon, WR; Second: Andre Branch, LB; Third: Bryan Anger, P; Fifth: Brandon Marshall, LB; Sixth: Mike Harris, DB; Seventh: Jeris Pendleton, DT

At least the Jacksonville Jaguars got one long-time starter from this group, third-round punter Bryan Anger. If you take a punter No. 70 overall, he’d better work out. Anger did, but no one else came through.

Top selection Justin Blackmon, a supposed game-breaking receiver from Oklahoma State, was taken N0. 5 overall. He had a good rookie campaign, then off-field issues, including substance abuse, cut short his second season – and any further NFL time. 

With the No. 38 pick, the Jaguars got a serviceable linebacker in Andre Branch, but fellow linebacker Brandon Marshall spent only one of his seven pro seasons in Jacksonville. Blackmon’s flop led to the Jaguars selecting Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson early in the 2014 draft. Those worked out.

2012 New York Giants

Draft Picks (by round) First: David Wilson, RB; Second; Rueben Randle, WR; Third: Jayron Hosley, DB; Fourth: Adrien Robinson, TE; Brandon Mosley, OT; Sixth: Matt McCants, OT; Seventh: Markus Kuhn, DT

This draft went south quickly for the Giants when David Wilson, selected with the final pick of the opening round after a Super Bowl title, fumbled on his first pro carry. He barely played for a few weeks, though he excelled on kick returns, and eventually found a role in the offense. But the speedy running back from Virginia Tech injured his neck in his second season, hurt it again in the 2014 preseason and was done. 

Every Giants' pick in 2012 was out of the NFL by the end of 2016, with nobody distinguishing themself except perhaps second-rounder Rueben Randle, who had four productive seasons in the Meadowlands. Seventh-round defensive tackle Markus Kuhn lasted four seasons as well, while two offensive linemen chosen late, Brandon Mosley and Matt McCants, combined for one start with the Giants.

2015 Tennessee Titans

Draft Picks (by round) First: Marcus Mariota, QB; Second; Dorial Green-Beckham, WR; Third: Jeremiah Poutasi, OG; Fourth; Angelo Blackson, DT; Jalston Fowler, FB; Fifth: David Cobb, RB; Sixth: Deiontrez Mount, OLB, Andy Gallik, C; Seventh: Tre McBride, WR

The Tennessee Titans sought their franchise quarterback with the second overall slot, taking Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. He was functional enough but hardly sang any No. 1 hits during his five-year tenure in Music City, going 29-32 as a starter. Subsequently, Mariota has been a backup or sometime starter elsewhere.

That alone doesn’t turn this group into a flop. But second-round wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and third-round guard Jeremiah Poutasi each lasted one season in Nashville, and fourth-round defensive tackle Angelo Blackson spent two seasons with the Titans, though he’s still in the league. Every other choice was gone within three seasons.

Barry Wilner was a sportswriter for the Associated Press for 46 years. He has covered virtually every major sporting event, including 14 Olympics, 9 World Cups, 34 Super Bowls, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup Finals, and has written 75 books. Follow him on Twitter @Wilner88