Lions Top 5 NFL Draft Busts Over The Past 30 Years

Joey Harrington

Getty Joey Harrington battles the Cowboys in Dallas.

The Detroit Lions have struggled to put everything together during the last few decades, and a big reason for that is their inconsistent work on the field in terms of the NFL Draft.

No doubt, over this span, the team has struggled to find the right mix of players in order to get them over the top. As a result, it can be hard to name the biggest busts and biggest mistakes over this period of time. Still, when thinking about it, some of the top busts become obvious.

Here’s a look at which players represent the worst busts for the team in this span of time.

Joey Harrington, Quarterback

Detroit needed a quarterback to build around in 2002, and they went all in on Harrington during the draft. It was a dreadful draft at the position, but the Lions didn’t do their homework and ended up with a player who struggled and didn’t fit their scheme whatsoever no matter how hard they tried. Harrington would only last 4 seasons in Detroit, and had some dreadful career numbers given only 79 career touchdowns to 85 career picks. Other names which could have helped Detroit went later, such as Bryant McKinnie, safety Roy Williams, defensive lineman Dwight Freeney, and future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed. Detroit would still be looking for their quarterback until 2009 when Harrington was supposed to be the answer. He never was, and is a huge bust as a result. Considering his position and the hype with which he entered, he is likely the biggest bust over this period of draft time for Detroit.

Mike Williams, Wide Receiver

Like other picks during this time, Matt Millen was bound and determined to get a wideout that he felt could change the game for his team. Williams, who was a big play machine at USC, was the pick for the team at 10 in 2005. The Lions could have drafted DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Thomas Davis or Derrick Johnson to help their defense. Instead, Williams was the pick and he was dreadful and out of shape with the team. As it stands, he only put up 127 yards and 5 touchdowns in his NFL career, and represents a colossal bust for the team. He tried to make a comeback, but it just never took off. This mistake helped set the Detroit defense back.

Charles Rogers, Wide Receiver

Following his career at Michigan State, Rogers went on to the NFL and was the No. 2 pick by the Lions in the 2003 NFL Draft. His career started with a bang, as he hauled in two touchdowns in his first game against the Arizona Cardinals. Rogers would finish with 440 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns in just three seasons in the NFL. It was a stunning fall for a player who looked like the next big thing. Sadly, for Rogers, injuries and personal problems had prevented him from truthfully taking off for his hometown team and making an impact. As a result, he has to be counted as one of the biggest busts not only in Lions history, but NFL Draft history as well.

Aaron Gibson, Offensive Tackle

It’s a toss up whether to go with Gibson, the 27th pick in the 1999 draft or Stockar McDougle, who was the 20th pick for Detroit in 2000. Both were massive players up front who were supposed to change the face of the team’s offensive front and both were massive busts instead. Safe to say hopes were significantly higher for Gibson given how big he was and how he looked as if he could be the solution for a decade or more at tackle. Injuries quickly intervened and Gibson wasn’t the same player he was while in college. Detroit’s troubles the last few decades have always stemmed from not having an elite offensive line. Gibson was supposed to be a big solution along with McDougle, but each turned into frustrating first round busts for the team.

Andre Ware, Quarterback

Ware was supposed to be the answer for the Lions at quarterback as the Heisman Trophy winner and 1990. Instead, he barely put up any stats at all in the NFL and struggled to adapt to Detroit’s offense. He threw only 5 touchdowns while in the league. Ware’s selection was met with scrutiny given Wayne Fontes wanted him, but struggled to get him into a groove with the team. It’s tough to argue Ware’s status as a bust given what happened after he came to the Lions, and he makes the list.

Honorable Mention – Terry Fair, Cornerback

It wasn’t that Fair didn’t have a nice career in Detroit. He did alright with 7 picks 215 tackles and 4 seasons with the team, but the bust element with Fair was simply who he was picked one selection before. Randy Moss would go one pick later to the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, representing arguably the biggest draft whiff in recent memory by Detroit. The Lions would not only get scorched by Moss regularly in the division, but would lose out on the chance to pair a few future Hall of Famers together in the wideout and legendary running back Barry Sanders on the same offense. If there was no Fair in Detroit, it’s possible Sanders would have been rejuvenated to continue his career past 1998. Quite possibly, this move is the ultimate “what could have been” involving a Lions draft.

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