Biggest Trade Busts in NFL Draft History

In our continuing series on NFL Draft debacles, these NFL teams on this list did everything they could to score money players but ended up just taking money shots. These are the top 5 biggest trade busts in NFL Draft history.

5. Bengals move up for Ki-Jana Carter

Cincinnati had not picked a running back in the first round since they selected Charles Alexander in 1979 who exited the NFL with only 2,645 yards and 13 total TDs.

Like Alexander, Carter showed promise in his last couple years at Penn State, rushing for 1,539 yards and 23 TDs in 1994, then capping off his college career with an outstanding performance in the ’95 Rose Bowl putting up 156 yards and 3 TDs, and with an underperforming running game, Carter seemed like a no brainer. 

Unfortunately the Bengals and the NFL wouldn’t see Carter duplicate that magic as injuries would plague Carter for most of his career. His first injury may as well have occurred on his way up to the podium at the draft. On just his third carry in his first preseason game, Carter tore his ACL and was lost for the season. In ’97 it was a torn rotator cuff,  ’98 a broken left wrist, and ’99 a dislocated right knee. By 2000 he was out of Cincinnati  

The Deal

We have no idea why a team would give up a No. 1 pick, but the expansion Carolina Panthers did it. Looking back now, Carolina were the winners in that deal – well kinda – they drafted QB Kerry Collins (5) and DE Shawn King (36) who weren’t total busts but also missed out on multiple players who would eventually end up in the HOF. The Bengals managed to snag the top pick by sending the 5th overall and 36th overall pick to the Panthers.  

4. Browns trade picks for Johnny Footjob.

The Browns carried their on-field ineptitude right into the 2014 NFL draft when they decided to trade up in order to draft Johnathan Manziel.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is quoted as saying while out to dinner, a homeless man looked up at him and said “draft Manziel.” I’ll let you process that info however you’d like… The Browns were hoping Manziel’s history of off-field issues would be exactly that, history. Hope in one hand, shit in the other.

(David Richard/Associated Press)

After Manziel was caught up in more legal trouble in the form of a domestic violence case, the Browns were left with a handful of shit and a still losing franchise.

They finally parted ways just two years after drafting him – not by trade, but by straight cutting him. Since then, Manziel has tried his luck in the Spring League,  the CFL (kicked out for violating conditions of his contract, the specifics not disclosed by the CFL) and then the immediately defunct AAF.

The Deal:

Cleveland sent one of their first-round picks along with a third-round pick to Philadelphia after passing on Manziel and selecting CB Justin Gilbert at No. 8 in exchange for the Eagles 22nd overall pick, which they used to make their mistake.

This was a draft where Cleveland could have maneuvered for OBJ instead of taking Gilbert, who is now a Free Agent, and Teddy Bridgewater, who was the last selection of the first round.

Regarding Bridgewater, the Browns reportedly spent 100K on a study that found Bridgewater to be a better prospect than Manziel.  But why listen to research when you live in a city that has the wisest homeless man in America?

3. Skins move up for RG Knee

You can’t have a botch list without including the Washington Redskins. The 08-11 season saw many different QBs helm the burgundy and gold. Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, and John Beck all failed to provide winning seasons for Washington. Like a meth-addicted alcoholic looking to escape life, the Redskins were desperate to get their franchise quarterback and what they gave up reflected exactly that. 

(Associated Press)

The Deal:

For the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, Washington gives the Rams three years worth of 1st round picks (2012, 2013, and 2014) along with a 2012 2nd round pick as. Since then the Rams have seen a NFC championship and Super Bowl appearance while Washington is still struggling to build a contender.

Maybe had Griffin’s leg not fallen out of his leg, this would be talked about as slightly misguided, considering the run-first QB did manage to get the Skins to the playoffs for the first time in a long time.

2. Chargers make a move for Ryan Leaf

The Chargers were determined to get a stud quarterback in the first round of the 1998 draft, but when Peyton Manning was selected first, they chose immediate dud Ryan Leaf. In his two tragic seasons with San Diego, he threw for just 3,172 yards and 13 TDs. Like many other PAC-10 QBs, Leaf torched college competitors with massive numbers but ultimately couldn’t translate his collegiate success to the pros. Like Tebow, Leaf’s career only lasted 3 seasons, but unlike Tebow, Leaf sucks at all sports.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Deal:

Chargers send WR Eric Metcalf, LB Patrick Sapp, the 3rd, and the 33rd pick of the ’98 draft as well as, the No. 8 pick of the ’99 draft to the Cardinals.

While the Chargers were a dumpster fire in ’98, the Cardinals went on to win their first playoff game in 61 years. Also, Arizona used the No. 8 pick the following year to draft WR David Boston.

1. The Vikings give away their future for Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker had an amazing career on the gridiron first hitting the USFL by way of the University of Georgia, his rights were then obtained by the Dallas Cowboys in 1985. Walker had three solid years in Dallas, solid enough for Minnesota to drop off a busload of compensation on Jimmy Johnson’s doorstep.  

(Jim Mone/Associated Press)

The Deal:

The Vikings sent Dallas five players AND 1990 1st round (Traded to Steelers), 1990 2nd round, 1990 6th round, 1991 first-rounder (WR Alvin Harper), 1991 2nd round (LB Dixon Edwards) 1992 2nd round (S Darren Woodson), 1992 3rd round, 1993 1st round.

While Walker was out of Minnesota by 1992, the Cowboys used that 1990 trade with the Steelers to select RB Emmitt Smith. Dallas traded 4 more picks received away to help build the eventual Dallas Cowboys dynasty.  Fun fact: Walker made his MMA debut in 2010 at 48 years of age and is 2-0 both by way of TKO. He has since retired mainly due to lack of getting fights.

Sound off on your favorite draft day trade busts. Follow us @FlaggedSports on Twitter.

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