As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, and anticipation builds, do the Packers really know what they will be getting with their first round draft pick? History says, um, not necessarily. Submitted for your approval:
1980 Bruce Clark, DT - Selected fourth overall
(taken before Art Monk, Matt Millen, Otis Wilson, Dwight Stevenson)
Out of Penn State University, Bruce Clark was a College All American and the first player to win the Lombardi Trophy as a junior. He went on to have a good career, but not for the Packers. Drafted by the Packers with the 4th pick of the draft, he instead signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
While money was one factor, reportedly the main reason he went north was he didn't want to play middle guard (now known as nose tackle) in the Packers 3-man line. This was easily Bart Starr's biggest blunder as GM. Most likely the topic was discussed with Clark, but Starr probably was confidant he could convince Clark to do what is best for the team. Unfortunately, he underestimated the new attitude among athletes - me first.
This selection makes the list not because of the player's lack of talent, but simply because the Packers got absolutely nothing out of a high first round pick. An inexcusable blunder.
1987 Brent Fullwood, RB - Selected fourth overall
(taken before Shane Conlan, Rod Woodson, Jim Harbaugh, Tim McDonald)
Out of Auburn University, Brent Fullwood gained 3700 yards rushing and scored 24 touchdowns for the Tigers. Green Bay made him the fourth overall pick of the draft, and expected big things. Fullwood never really delivered, however. Fullwood lasted only 4 years with the Packers, starting 30 games and rushing for 1700 yards. Almost half of those yards came in 1989, where he actually was named to the Pro Bowl.
Unfortunately, his career took a nosedive after that. Constant injuries and a seeming lack of motivation caused the Packers to tire of him quickly. The next training camp they were willing to waive him, but managed to convince the Cleveland Browns to take their former number one draft pick for a future low-round draft choice. Fullwood never played a game for Cleveland.
One decent year for a top-five first round draft pick... spells B-U-S-T
1965 Larry Elkins, WR - Selected tenth overall
(taken before Joe Namath, Lance Rentzel, Fred Biletnikoff)
Out of Baylor University, Larry Elkins was a consensus All-American his junior and senior years. He was MVP of the 1965 Hula Bowl and still holds the Baylor single game receiving record with 12 catches. The tenth pick of the draft, Elkins was actually the second of the Packers' two first round picks (fortunately the first one, Donnie Anderson, worked out a little better).
This was the era of the competing leagues, and Elkins never played a down for the Packers. Instead, he signed with the Houston Oilers of the rival American Football League. He never started a game, injured his knee his rookie season and broke his collarbone his second season. He decided to retire after that.
In 2001, Elkins was quoted as describing what happened in his pro career as "rather unlucky". The same could be said for the Packers.
1969 Rich Moore, DT - Selected twelveth overall
(taken before Fred Dryer, Gene Washington, Ted Hendricks)
Out of Villanova University, Rich Moore appears to be a true man of mystery. After much searching, there appears to be no information out there about his college career. After joining the Packers, he lasted only 20 games over two years. He never started a game and his stat sheet looks like a baseball no-hitter box score - nothing but zeros.
What can I say? he was an unknown at the time and has apparently disappeared from the planet (or at least the internet). Major blunder.
1959 Randy Duncan, QB - Selected first overall
(taken before Richie Pettibon, Joe Morrison, Dick Bass)
Out of the University of Iowa, Randy Duncan was a consensus first team All-American. He won the Walter Camp Award and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting to Billy Cannon. A can't-miss prospect, Duncan was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the very first pick of the first round of the 1959 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, he decided to go play for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. Duncan only played for two years in Vancouver before coming back to the USA and signing with the Dallas Texans (now the Kansas City Chiefs). Duncan hardly played for the Texans, and when Texans coach Hank Stram traded for Len Dawson, Duncan retired from football.
Maybe this one should be higher on the list - A number one overall pick that never plays for your team and is out of football in two years - wow!
1981 Rich Campbell, QB - Selected fourth overall
(taken before Ronnie Lott, Mike Singletary, Mark May)
Out of the University of California, Rich Campbell was a college All-American. Despite a knee injury that cut short his senior season, Campbell passed for 7,174 yards in his college career. It was a school record at the time and is still fourth-best in Cal history.
Selected as a can't-miss pick, Campbell was a major disappointment with the Packers. He appeared in only seven games over four years, completing 31 of 68 passes for 386 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, His career quarterback rating was a whopping 38.8. A religious-studies major in college, Campbell entered a seminary after leaving the Packers and became a Baptist minister.
Forrest Gregg thought Rich Campbell was going to be the Green Bay Packers' quarterback of the future. Campbell's utter failure certainly helped along Gregg's resignation three years later.
2001 Jamal Reynolds - DE - Selected tenth overall
(taken before Freddie Mitchell, Todd Heap, Drew Brees)
Out of Florida State University, Jamal Reynolds had proclaimed himself "the greatest defensive end the world has ever seen, period." In his senior year, Reynolds won the Lombardi Award and was a finalist for the College Defensive Player of the Year Award. He recorded 12 sacks and 58 tackles during that season.
The Packers were so enamored of him, they traded their first round pick (#17) and QB Matt Hasselbeck to the Seattle Seahawks for the chance to take Reynolds. Jamal Reynolds was Ron Wolf's last first-round draft pick with the Packers, leaving a nasty blemish on Wolf's stellar reputation as the Packers' GM.
After only 2 seasons with the Packers and recording only 1 sack, Green Bay attempted to trade Reynolds to the Indianapolis Colts, but he failed the physical and the Packers released him 10 days later. The following season, Cleveland picked him up, but he was cut before the season started.
This one is near the top of the list because we actually paid a lot more than a first round pick to go get this guy. Unfortunately, his talent did not match his ego, but it did match his size, which was not that of a typical DE. Packer fans took to calling him "Too-Small". This pick was "too-awful".
1989 Tony Mandarich - OT - Selected second overall
(taken before Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Deion Sanders, Trace Armstrong, Eric Metcalf, I could go on...)
Out of Michigan State University, Tony Mandarich was called "the best offensive line prospect ever" by Sports Illustrated. Nicknamed "The Incredible Bulk", Green Bay was hardly the only team enamored with Mandarich. For example, NY Giants GM Tom Boisture said of Mandarich, "he's the best college football player I've ever seen... this kid is better than Anthony Munoz."
Mandarich would later be renamed "The Incredible Bust." How could so many be so wrong? The Packers signed him to a huge 4.4 million dollar per-year four-year contract. For the first two years, Mandarich played only on special teams. In his third year, the Packers made him the starter, hoping he would show some improvement. No such luck.
In the last year of his contract, Mandarich developed a mysterious parasitic infection which supposedly sapped him of his strength. He couldn't play at all, and most people assumed it was the result of no longer taking steroids. Mandarich vehemently denied steriod use, but the Packers had no interest. After paying him for 3 years, they decided to cut their losses and let him go. Five years later, he returned to the NFL and played 3 non-descript years with the Indianapolis Colts, before retiring for good.
In the Fall of 2008, Mandarich finally admitted for the first time that he had been a steriod user at Michigan State. In an interview, he recounted how he faked a drug test before the 1988 Rose Bowl, using someone else's urine sample. He didn't take steroids in the NFL, but he reported to the Packers addicted to a drug called Staydol, injecting himself 6-7 times a day. Getting high became all that mattered to him, and destroyed his career.
Mandarich is possibly one of the top-3 all-time NFL busts (look at who was taken after him) and there is not doubt he holds the top spot in dubious Packer History.
Keep an eye out for my follow-up article, "the BEST Green Bay Packer first round draft picks of the last 50 years."
You can read more of Al's Green Bay Packer articles on his Packers Blog.