Hello, Blitzers. It’s MZE back to talk about another topic that’s been on my mind. We are watching some really bad football this 2019 season coming from Miami, Cincinnati, our nation’s capital, and New Jersey (twice). Being bad sometimes can be considered good. Being the worst in the NFL nets a team the first overall choice in the coming draft. The motto for awful football in 2019 is, “Tank for Tua,” as in Alabama quarterback, Tua Tagavailoa. I began to wonder how well this ‘tanking’ philosophy has worked for teams in the past. I grabbed the laptop and investigated number on picks from 1995 through 2014 to see who has gone big and who has gone home. You may ask, “But MZE why stop at 2014?” Then again you may just leave the page to grab a brew and a sandwich. For those asking my reasoning is I wanted to give the draftees time to play through their rookie contract in order to make a ruling on these picks and what they did with the team that drafted them. Question out of the way, I give you my personal three biggest flops and three biggest props.
David Carr (Houston Texans – 2002)
David Carr lit up the college scene at Fresno State University. He threw for 4,839 yards and 46 touchdowns in his senior year in leading the Bulldogs to an 11-3 record. The expansion Houston Texans thought they had their ride for years to come. Unfortunately this Carr turned into a hoopty that barely made it down the block. Carr had 75 starts for the Texans with his team going 22-53 in them. He threw for 13,391 yards with 59 touchdowns against 65 interceptions over that time. His offensive line didn’t wasn’t exactly Turtle Wax either in terms of protection the Carr as he was sacked 249 times during his time in Houston. This Carr turned out to be quite the lemon.
Ki Jana Carter (Cincinnati Bengals – 1995)
Ki Jana Carter was part of one of the best offensive teams in Penn State history. He ran for 1,539 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per carry during the 1994 Penn State regular season and added three touchdown runs in the Rose Bowl including an 83-yarder on Penn State’s first play from scrimmage to complete an undefeated season (which should have netted them the National Championship but I digress). The Bengals were coming off of a 3-13 season and had no clear cut bell cow running back. Carter seemed to be the perfect fit so they traded with the Carolina Panthers up to the one spot to get him. In his first preseason game, Carter blew out his knee at the Silverdome and his career never reached the level everyone had hoped. He was with the team for 64 games getting just 227 carries for 747 yards and 16 TDs. He also had 52 catches for 375 YDS and a touchdown. The team won just 22 of those games the former Nittany Lion never did earn his Bengal stripes.
Jamarcus Russell (2007 Oakland Raiders)
Russell was a strong-armed QB out of LSU. In total he threw for 6,625 yards over three years with a 61.9% completion rate, which improved in each of his three seasons 52 touchdowns and just 21 interceptions. The Raiders finished 2006 with a 2-14 record and between Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks their quarterback situation looked dismal. Russell seemed to be a match for the Raiders but he quickly proved to be a bigger headache than help. He held out prior to his first training camp and made just one start as a rookie. After a 5-10 second year, Russell must have gotten a thumbs down from Chuck Norris or something as he showed up for camp weighing over 300 pounds. He would make just nine more NFL starts and ended his career with a 7-18 record, 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. The man who allegedly could throw a football 70 yards from his knees couldn’t seem to push himself away from the dining table.
Orlando Pace (1997 St. Louis Rams)
Pace was a mountain of an offensive lineman out of Ohio State University. The St. Louis Rams were coming off of a 6-10 season looking to bolster their offensive line. They traded their first round pick to the Jets, who held the top spot, and took Pace. In his 12 seasons with the team, the Rams made five playoff appearances and won a Super Bowl. Pace was named to seven Pro Bowls, was a three-time Pro Bowler and in 2016 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seems like the Rams were smart to keep Pace.
Eli Manning (2004 San Diego Chargers/New York Giants)
Right now you’re probably saying, “MZE, what the hell?” I get it but hear me out. This is an interesting case. In 2004 the San Diego Chargers had the first pick in the NFL Draft and chose Eli Manning from Ole Miss. It was here when we first got the professional version of the “Eli Pout.” Manning did not want the Chargers to choose him and let it be known. The Spanos family stuck its collective fingers in their ears and chose Eli anyway. He lasted about an hour with the Chargers and was dealt to the Giants for their first pick, Phillip Rivers, as well as other choices in the draft. Manning has made it to the Pro Bowl four times and took two Super Bowl rings away from Tom Brady, warranting him a place in my heart forever. As of the writing of this piece, Eli has a 116-116 record as a starter with 56,537 yards, 362 touchdowns, and 241 interceptions. He is also 8-4 in six playoff appearances. While Rivers has had a nice career with the Chargers, the Book of Eli has been an overall better read.
Peyton Manning (1998 Indianapolis Colts)
Peyton Manning had a fabulous career with the Tennessee Volunteers (remember when they actually fielded a good football team?). In his four-year college career, Peyton threw for 11,201yards, 89 touchdowns, and just 33 interceptions. The Colts were coming off of a miserable 3-13 season with Jim Harbaugh behind center and chose Manning with their first pick. He did not pout his way out of town. Instead Peyton started 208 games with the Colts, going 141-67 in that time. He amassed 54,828 passing yards and threw for 399 touchdowns in his time there. The Colts made 11 playoff appearances with Peyton at the helm and won a Super Bowl ring in 2006. He was named to 11 Pro Bowls and garnered five All-Pro honors as well. It’s clear that in the 1998 draft, Peyton found his place.
While most of the number one overall draft picks in this study had at least one playoff appearances with several having multiples, only Peyton Manning and Orlando Pace won Super Bowl rings with the team that drafted them. The individual honors among this group are many but is tanking for the top pick really worth it? If rings are the ultimate goal, MZE says it’s a no.
Until next time my friends, may all your number one picks be stars, may all your needs be filled, and may the only tanking you do involve choosing a lobster for dinner with your special someone.
Yours in football,
Mike Zimmers Ears is a Minnesota Vikings expert ad regular columnist with Blitzed Football. You can listen to his new Vikings podcast, Heart and Skol here.