NFL Draft’s Top 10 Unforgettable Moments
Depending on who you ask, the NFL Draft is either a colossal bore or pro football’s equivalent of Christmas, as fans are rewarded with new shiny toys to play with. It appears most fans believe the latter, as the draft is set to debut in prime time next Thursday. So while critics claim it’s an endless cycle of watching a countdown clock, here’s the Top 10 Most Unforgettable Draft Moments since ESPN started telecasting it in 1980 that have made it must-watch TV.
10. Heyward-Bey heads to the Bay (2009)
Al Davis’ obsession with rocket-armed quarterbacks and speedy wide receivers is well-chronicled. But this was just crazy. In last year’s draft, Davis made Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey and his 4.3 40-yard dash the No. 7 overall pick, over Michael Crabtree and Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin. Said ESPN’s Todd McShay: “To me, this has bust written all over it. To be obsessed with a 40 time is one reason Al Davis continues to pick in this spot.” As a rookie, Heyward-Bey had 9 catches. Total!
9. Benson breaks down (2005)
The lead up to the 2005 Draft was contentious for Cedric Benson, who had to endure a character assassination from just about every fan base as teams brought him in for interviews. Benson said he was treated at times “like I had murdered somebody or something. It was like no appreciation or respect for me putting myself in the position to be sitting in front of the guy in front of me. I just thought it was a slap in the face.” So when Benson was selected fourth overall by the Bears and asked by Suzy Kolber “Who is the real you?”, Benson snapped. He broke down crying and answered he didn’t even know, turning the draft into an episode of Oprah.
8. Bills take chance on McGahee (2003)
One of the main subplots of the ‘03 NFL Draft was just how far would Willis McGahee fall after his knee exploded during the national championship game. The debate raged in the weeks leading up to the draft until the Bills shocked everyone, McGahee included, by making the injured running back the first running back taken in the draft at No. 23 (showing how weak the class was that year). The draft is also remembered for agent Drew Rosenhaus, who took credit for McGahee’s pick because he pretended to be on the phone with other teams when the ESPN cameras showed McGahee waiting.
7. Jets’ fans not exactly Brady Bunch (1995)
Disappointed Jets fans have become a draft staple, but the 1995 Draft may have been the most entertaining they’ve ever been. While fans chanted “We want Sapp! We Want Sapp!”, Paul Tagliabue went up to the mic and announced Kyle Brady as the No. 9 overall pick, sucking the life out of Jets fans who remember how horrible the Johnny Mitchell pick three years earlier went. So they booed and booed lustily. They had a good reason. The Jets needed a pass rusher or a wideout and Warren Sapp along with J.J. Stokes were available. Instead the Jets took Brady. That’s not a safe choice. That’s a dumb one. But you still have to feel for Brady, who said: “I hope they were booing the decision and not me,” he said.
6. Brady Quinn’s green room debacle (2007)
How do you mask shock and disappointment on national television? Don’t ask Brady Quinn, who looked about as crushed as a child with coal on Christmas morning. His classic “That’s surprising” after it was announced the Dolphins chose Ted Ginn Jr. at No. 9 only made the moment feel more awkward. The Dolphins even upset his girlfriend: “I cannot wait until he gets to play the Dolphins.” She also refused to sit with the Dolphins at lunch next period.
In fact, Quinn’s entire family wasn’t too thrilled, which added more of a high school element to the whole situation. The snub was so epically embarrassing that Roger Goodell invited the clan into his private suite to avoid more embarrassment on camera. He may have been doing all of us a favor, as Quinn slid all the way to No. 22 in the draft.
5. Ditka bets farm on Ricky Williams (1999)
If there was any doubt that Mike Ditka was losing his way, the 1999 Draft erased it. While Ricky Williams was an amazing talent coming out of college, trading away all of your picks, plus two the next season in order to move up two spots is pure lunacy. To top it off, Ditka showed up to Williams’ introductory presser with a dreadlocked wig.
Not too many people outside of New Orleans liked the move. Even Dave Wannstedt criticized him: “Before (Williams) lines up in the NFL, that’s awfully tough to do. If he has been inducted into the Hall of Fame, that’s another story.” Think about that for a minute: even Dave Wannstedt wouldn’t make that deal. Naturally, despite guaranteeing a Super Bowl win, the grand plan backfired horrendously and the Saints went 3-13. Ditka was fired.
4. Jets take pass on Marino (1983)
Finding evidence for the Jets’ logic in picking Ken O’Brien from UC Davis over Pitt’s Dan Marino is difficult to find these days - maybe because it was difficult to find logic in the decision. In all seriousness Marino did have a mediocre senior year where he threw for 625 fewer yards (not that bad) and 20 fewer touchdowns (yikes!). He also threw 45 interceptions his final two years at Pitt. But even without the benefit of hindsight, it baffles people’s minds how the Jets could pass up on Marino for a player that wasn’t even in Division I-A. Jets fans were crushed - again - and we all know how that turned out.
3. Vikings draft…. no one (2003)
To the viewer, watching the clock tick down on draft day can be a bit tedious, but it sure wasn’t in 2003 when the Vikings ran out of time and missed their pick. What happened? The Vikings finally had a deal with the Baltimore Ravens to trade down to No. 10. The Ravens could then use the No. 7 pick on Byron Leftwich. But the terms of the deal were finalized with just 32 seconds on the clock and the Ravens couldn’t communicate their end of the deal to the NFL in time.
As a result, the Vikings missed their pick and allowed Jacksonville (Leftwich) and Carolina (Jordan Gross) to sneak in and make picks. The Vikings still drafted who they wanted (Kevin Williams) but the ensuing embarrassment could not have been fun the rest of the day. Fortunately, Williams turned into a perennial Pro Bowler.
2. McNabb mercilessly booed (1999)
Philadelphia is like sports’ equivalent of Bizzaro World. This is the place where fans cheered Michael Irvin’s career-ending injury and booed Santa Claus. But no one could have expected the brutal reception Donovan McNabb received after being taken 2nd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft instead of Ricky Williams. With McNabb’s recent trade to D.C., the clip has been shown countless times in the last several weeks to aptly summarize his time in the City of Brotherly Love.
1. Bill Tobin’s rant (1994)
After the Colts drafted Nebraska’s Trev Alberts fifth overall in the 1994 draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper was very critical of the move. So when ESPN got Colts GM Bill Tobin on the phone, he had a few choice words for the ESPN pundit.
Said Tobin: “Who in the hell is Mel Kiper, anyway? I mean, here’s a guy who criticizes everybody, whoever they take. In my knowledge of him, he’s never even put on a jockstrap, he’s never been a player, he’s never been a coach, he’s never been a scout, he’s never been an administrator, and all of a sudden, he’s an expert. Mel Kiper has no more credentials to do what he’s doing than my neighbor, and my neighbor’s a postman and he doesn’t even have season tickets to the NFL.”
Kiper certainly got the last laugh. Alberts retired by the age of 26 due to injuries and Tobin was fired in 1996. Said Kiper: “I’m going to be linked to Bill Tobin for the rest of my life. I think on my tombstone, I should have something about that.”
Inexplicably, this video is not on YouTube. Where are the YouTube gods?