Top 10 NFL Draft Busts Top 10 Selections

Charles Rogers: #4 NFL Draft Bust

Synopsis: Despite having numerous high draft picks in the early 2000s, the Detroit Lions were unable to reverse their fortunes as basement dwellers. Specifically, the Lions failed with their selections of Joey Harrington (3rd overall pick in 2002), Charles Rogers (2nd overall pick in 2003), and Mike Williams (10th overall pick in 2005). As a starting NFL quarterback, Harrington had a pathetic win-loss record of 26-50, but wasn’t a Top 10 Bust (or even an ordinary bust) based on his career totals of approximately 15,000 passing yards and 80 touchdowns. Not quite a Top 10 Bust, Williams receives an Honorable Mention after finishing his career with paltry totals of approximately 130 receptions and 1,500 yards from scrimmage. Unlike these other Lions, Rogers couldn’t escape the countdown. As a former consensus All-American at Michigan State who finished his professional career with fewer than 50 receptions and 500 yards, Rogers deservedly is the #4 NFL Draft Bust.


#4 NFL Draft Bust: Charles Rogers

For as unsuccessful as the Cincinnati Bengals were with their draft picks in the 1990s (e.g. #9 Bust David Klingler in 1992 and #5 Bust Akili Smith in 1999), the Detroit Lions were equally bad in the 2000s. Not surprisingly, both teams had abysmal records during those decades with the Bengals averaging five wins/season during the 1990s and the Lions averaging four wins/season during the 2000s, including a magical 0-16 season in 2008. Both teams were stuck in their own vicious cycles: bad records led to high draft picks and busted high draft picks led to bad records. Those cycles were finally broken after both teams used their #1 overall picks on top quarterback prospects who panned out. Within three years of selecting Carson Palmer in 2003, the Bengals were back in the playoffs after a 14-year absence. Similarly, the Lions were back in the playoffs within three years of selecting Matthew Stafford in 2009. In the case of the Lions though, they “only” had an 11-year hiatus between playoff appearances.

Just as the Bengals were about to become relevant again, the Lions were headed into years of irrelevancy. Interestingly, the exchange of misfortunes can be tied to the 2003 Draft when the Bengals hit the jackpot with their selection of Palmer as the 1st overall pick and the Lions crapped out with their selection of wide receiver Charles Rogers as the 2nd overall pick. In an effort to find a top notch receiver, the Lions used four top ten overall draft picks on receivers during a five-year span from 2003-2007. Eventually, they got it right by selecting Calvin Johnson with the 2nd overall pick in the 2007, but there were plenty of losers (e.g. Mike Williams) along the way.

CHARLES ROGERS AND MIKE WILLIAMS
CHARLES ROGERS WITH MIKE WILLIAMS - TWO BUSTS
Williams (#88) was bad, Rogers (#80) was worse

On the surface, the Lions’ selection of Rogers in the 2003 draft was understandable. After taking QB Joey Harrington with the 3rd overall pick in 2002, the team hoped to find a wide receiver who would be a strong complement to their new franchise quarterback. As a highly touted receiver coming out of college, Rogers seemed like a logical choice.

CHARLES ROGERS – MICHIGAN STATE STATISTICS
 

Receiving

Rushing

Year Rec Yards Avg TD Att Yards Avg

TD

2001

67 1,470 21.9 14 4 36 9.0 1
2002 68 1,351 19.9 13 6 74 12.3

0

Totals

135 2,821 20.9 27 10 110 11.0

18

 

During his time at Michigan State, Rogers was one of the most prolific receivers in the NCAA. In particular, he finished in the top ten in yards and top five in touchdowns for both the 2001 and 2002 seasons. As a junior in 2002, Rogers earned both the Fred Biletnikoff Award and Paul Warfield Trophy as the NCCA’s top receiver. With nothing else to prove, Rogers decided to forego his final season of eligibility and declared for the 2003 Draft.

Rogers’ rookie season was off to a reasonable start with 22 receptions for 243 yards and three touchdowns through five games when disaster struck. During practice before the Lions’ sixth game, Rogers broke his collarbone and was done for the rest of the year. In Rogers’ absence, Az-Zahir Hakim led the team in 2003 with 449 yards and four touchdowns. Due to continuing concerns at receiver, the Lions selected WR Roy Williams out of Texas with their 7th overall pick in the 2004 Draft. With potentially two top notch receivers to target, Harrington must have been excited going into the new season.

Unfortunately, Rogers’ bad luck continued when he re-injured the same collarbone in the first game of the 2004 season. In place of Rogers, who suffered his second season-ending injury, Roy Williams had a productive rookie year and led the Lions with 54 receptions for 817 yards and 8 touchdowns. Even without Rogers, Harrington had a decent year throwing for over 3,000 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Still, the Lions apparently wanted an even deeper receiving corps and opted to take another wide receiver with a top pick in the ensuing draft

Going into the 2005 Draft, Mike Williams’ prospects were uncertain because he hadn’t played organized football in over a year. As a consensus All-American and finalist for the Biletnikoff Award during his sophomore season at USC in 2003, Williams impressed teams enough to be considered an early first round pick. Even though the NFL requires players to be out of high school for at least three years, he declared for the 2004 Draft after Maurice Clarett won a court case challenging the rule. Unfortunately, the court case was overturned after Williams had already hired an agent so the door was slammed shut on him playing in the NFL or NCAA in 2004. Despite being out of football since the 2003 college season, he was taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2005 Draft.

At the start of the 2005 season, the Lions had three wide receivers who were all top ten overall picks in the prior three drafts. Regardless, the trio didn’t produce: Roy Williams led the group with 687 yards and eight touchdowns; Mike Williams finished next with 350 yards and one touchdown; and Rogers finished last with 197 yards and one touchdown. Of note, Rogers’ stats were negatively impacted by a four-game suspension he received for being a three-time violator of the NFL’s drug policy. Apparently, Rogers had been self-medicating with illegal substances while recovering from his injuries. The trio’s combined total of 1,234 yards and 10 touchdowns is a good year for one receiver, not two, and certainly not three.

After starting all 16 games in the two previous seasons, Harrington was benched when the Lions began the 2005 season with a 2-3 record. Lions’ head coach Steve Mariucci replaced Harrington with Jeff Garcia, a quarterback with whom he had success while coaching the 49ers several years earlier. Garcia couldn’t deliver either, so Harrington regained his starting job a couple games later. Starting 11 games in 2005, Harrington had a 4-7 record and threw for 2,021 yards with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Since he couldn’t make the most of the team’s significant investment in the three wide receivers, Harrington was traded for a conditional 5th or 6th round pick at the end of the season. It took a while, but the Lions finally realized that The Harrington Experiment had failed and they appropriately viewed him as a sunk cost.

Kip Pardue (Remember the Titans)
Don’t look so sad, Sunshine. You did your best.

 

joey-harrington
Sorry, wrong Sunshine. Maybe, I should have said Blue Skies instead. The reference is for any despondent Lions fans.

In addition to Harrington, Rogers was done in Detroit after the 2005 season. While both players underperformed, Rogers also had drug problems that were considered serious enough for the Lions to sue him for a significant portion of his guaranteed signing bonus. Ultimately, the Lions were awarded $6.1 million out of Rogers’ $9.1 million signing bonus after a judge ruled that Rogers’ excessive drug use was indeed a violation his contract.

Even though Mike Williams was still with the Lions for the 2006 season, he was declared inactive for eight games because he was not in “game shape.” The official NFL report stated “Inactive (coach’s decision), but it should just have stated, “Inactive (fat).” Even after being activated, Williams was ineffective and only had eight receptions for 99 yards and zero touchdowns. When Williams showed up out of shape before the start of the 2007 season, the Lions had reached their limit and traded him. By the time the 2007 season arrived, only Roy Williams, who had a Pro Bowl season with the Lions in 2006, remained from the high profile group of receivers.

With career totals of 14,693 passing yards, 79 touchdowns and a passer rating of 69.4, Harrington was a disappointment for a top three pick. At the same time, he wasn’t a bust. On the other hand, Rogers and Mike Williams had bust-worthy careers. Their receiving stats are summarized in the following tables, along with the totals of Roy Williams and Andre Johnson.              

CHARLES ROGERS AND OTHER LIONS’ WIDE RECEIVERS FROM 2003-2005 DRAFTS

Player

Draft (Pick) Weighted Avg. Value (WAV) Games Receptions Yards from Scrimmage

TDs

Charles Rogers 2003 (#2) 4 15 36 457

4

Roy Williams

2004 (#7) 42 115 393 5,732 44
Mike Williams 2005 (#10) 12 56 127 1,526

5

ANDRE JOHNSON – A MUCH BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO CHARLES ROGERS

Player

Draft (Pick) Weighted Avg. Value (WAV) Games Receptions Yards from Scrimmage

TDs

Andre Johnson

2003 (#3) 90 155 933 12,808

61

 

For as bad as Mike Williams’ numbers were, career totals for Charles Rogers were much worse. It’s important to note, however, that Williams’ stats were augmented by the second, third, and fourth chances he got from his USC connections. When Oakland traded for Williams prior to the 2007 season, he was given the opportunity to restart his career for new Raiders Head Coach Lane Kiffin, who had been his wide receivers’ coach at USC. Williams was overweight and unproductive tallying only seven receptions for 90 yards and zero touchdowns in six games for Oakland. After dropping a key pass on 4th down during a last minute, potential game-winning drive, he was released from the team. Signed by the Titans one month later, Williams was reunited with his offensive coordinator (Norm Chow) from USC. Williams was useless and had no receptions in two games with Tennessee, so he was cut before the following season. Regardless, he was given yet another chance in Seattle when former USC Head Coach Pete Carroll became the Seahawks’ head coach in 2010. With a renewed commitment, Williams showed up in decent shape and was productive enough to be in the running for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

 

vick dog
Unfortunately for Williams, Michael Vick won the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year Award after a productive season with the Eagles following an 18-month prison sentence related to his involvement with a dog-fighting ring.

Based on two productive seasons with the Seahawks, during which Williams effectively tripled his career numbers, the wide receiver avoided Top 10 Bust status. Regardless, he still deserves an Honorable Mention.

Without the same NFL connections as Williams, Rogers’ career ended with the Lions. Nick Saban was the head coach of the Dolphins at the time, but he had left Michigan State the year before Rogers had gotten there. Rogers had bigger problems than his playing weight so he wouldn’t have been worth the risk anyway. As previously discussed, he had failed the NFL drug policy three times during his three seasons with the Lions. Once he left the NFL, Rogers’ problems got even worse. He was arrested in September 2008 for domestic violence, but the charges were eventually dropped. Over the next 15 months, he violated probation on three separate occasions for a variety of drug and alcohol-related issues and served a 93-day jail sentence. In a moment of self-awareness, Rogers admitted in an interview with ESPN’s Jamel Hill, “I got a little greedy. The girls played a part in it. I f#cked up. Point blank, simple.”  Clearly, Rogers was a lost cause, but hopefully his story is told annually at the NFL Rookie Symposium.

Based on his limited contributions, Rogers was a bad pick for the Lions. In addition, the cost resonated for several years as the team kept picking receivers at the top of the first round. Ultimately, the Lions’ fortunes changed with a series of successful early first round picks, including Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, Ndamukong “Donkey Kong Suit” Suh, and Nick Fairley. Perhaps, Lions’ fans have forgotten the bad years from 2001-8 because the team is stockpiled with superstars that it otherwise wouldn’t have. If so, they can look back at the selection of Charles Rogers as the pick that made it all happen.

#4 NFL DRAFT BUST: CHARLES ROGERS

 

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