Packers Worst No. 1 Pick Ever

On April 27, 2015, in NFL, by Stephen

Who was your favorite NFL team’s worst first-round pick ever?

I’ll start. My team is the Green Bay Packers.

But my choice isn’t Tony Mandarich even though the Packers took him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1989 draft and he was the only player out of the top five that year who didn’t make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The first five players taken were Troy Aikman, Mandarich, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

Teams are far more serious and diligent about drug testing and checking out character flaws than they were back then. Every team would have taken Mandarich high up in the draft. Aikman was looked upon as a franchise quarterback – which he turned out to be – but Mandarich was right there with Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders as the choice for the second player to be picked.

Deion Sanders, with his flamboyant style and cockiness, wasn’t thought to be a good fit for the Packers. Mandarich, from Michigan State, was hyped by Sports Illustrated among others as the greatest offensive linemen to enter the draft with the most intriguing size, speed and talent ratio of all-time.

Unfortunately that was the result of chemical enhancement. Mandarich was a complete bust for the Packers although he later resurfaced and played better for the Colts from 1996-98. So I didn’t have a problem with the Packers taking Mandarich. At the time, I loved the pick. I just wish the Packers would have done more homework on Mandarich.

Green Bay’s worst first-round pick was in 1981 when it had the sixth overall pick.The player I wanted and sweated out through the first five choices was safety Ronnie Lott of USC.

Lott was there for Green Bay when the sixth pick came. But Bart Starr made the choice of California quarterback Rich Campbell. I was stunned. Immediately the next two picks were Hugh Green and Lott to the 49ers.

Campbell was tall at 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds – now this is going back 34 years – and had a high completion percentage. But he was soft, immobile and lacked arm strength. He just threw short, dump-off type passes. He also didn’t enjoy playing football.

Campbell was so bad his rookie season that Packers offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker couldn’t stand it any longer and just ripped Campbell hoping to get Green Bay to trade Campbell. Starr stubbornly stuck with Campbell from 1981-84 before giving up. Campbell’s lifetime stats were 31 of 68 (45.5 percent) completions for 386 yards, three touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

If I had to compare Campbell to a slightly more modern quarterback I’d say he was a poor man’s version of Mark Rypien. A very poor man’s version.

Luckily the Packers got it right the next time they drafted a quarterback in the first round. That was Aaron Rodgers, also from Cal, in 2005 with the 24th overall selection. This was a pick I loved for the value even though Brett Favre was still highly productive.


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