I got a ton of mail about last week’s edition of The Hot List, which looked at the top five first-round flops in Patriots’ history. Everyone from Tony Eason to Ken “Game Day” Sims to Gerhardt Schwedes and Ron Sellers was called into question. Basically, just about every first-round pick of the 1960s, the early 1970s (until John Hannah in 1973), the late 1980s and early 1990s was called a bust by the readers.
So, inspired by the raft of e-mails I received, here’s Volume 2 of the worst first-round picks in franchise history.
1. Ken “Game Day” Sims
Kenneth Sims doesn’t lead or even make the list? You gotta be kidding.
What about Kenneth Sims? Wasn’t he drafted #1 overall? Back in the day, we always commented that Kenneth Sims was the first guy to congratulate the player that sacked the QB, rather than sack the QB himself!!!
Hi Chris, I believe you missed the worst #1 pick our Pats ever made -- Kenneth Sims, I believe he was out of Texas if memory serves me right. He was supposed to be the best defensive lineman since Deacon Jones at the time. I believe he was the #1 draft choice that year. He was a complete bust. Check it out and see if I’m wrong. Thank you for your interesting topics you bring to the table.
No Kenneth Sims? I can still picture Ron Meyer promising fans that Ken Sims was going to change the way the game was played and also the Pats fortunes. All I remember from Ken Sims is the broken leg he received when he tried to leg whip someone while on the ground............ good article though!!
I got so much mail calling me crazy for not including Sims in the list of first-round busts, you would have thought I went to Texas. Sims was a bust, especially considering the fact that he was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in 1982. Coming out of Texas, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive lineman appeared to be the sort of player you could build a team around. The winner of the Lombardi Trophy, he certainly had all the physical earmarks of a classic defensive tackle.
And while he had decent career numbers, they were hardly the sort of stats you want from someone taken first overall. In his eight-year career, Sims played in 74 games and finished with just 17 sacks. That sort of time in the league is nice, but not the sort of impact you’re looking for from your No. 1 pick. Making things worse for Sims was his infamous exchange with a reporter, who questioned why he looked so disinterested in practice. Sims replied, “I’ll be there on game day.” (Unfortunately, Sims didn’t say that he was only there on a handful of game days in his career.)
To his credit, Sims recently told the Dallas Morning News that his mistake was that he got caught up in the hype that came with being the No. 1 pick, and didn’t realize how difficult it would be to adjust to life in the NFL.
“I was the guy opening up the bar tab and paying for everyone’s drinks at the end of the night,” Sims said. “It got a little carried away at times. ... When I first got to the pros, I didn’t keep it real. My ego got the best of me. It took me a year to realize it was a job and to put my hard hat on. Those are the principles I live by today.”
In June of 1990, Sims was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine. Shortly afterwards the Patriots released him, and he eventually retired.
“I have no regrets,” Sims added. “I played hard and I was the No. 1 pick. The people in football respect me and, more importantly, my peers respect me. That’s all that matters.”
Guys the Patriots drafted after him: While the Patriots may have swung and missed on Sims, they weren’t totally asleep at the switch in 1982. They took eventual Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett in the second round out of Iowa, and defensive back Fred Marion in the fifth round out of Miami.
2. Trevor Matich
Everyone you mentioned was a better player than Trevor Matich.
Wow — every player? Worse than Chris Canty? Bruce, I’ll give you that Matich was a reach in the first round, especially when you consider his draft history: In 1985, the Patriots and 49ers had a massive trade of draft picks. New England sent its first-round pick (16th overall), as well as its third-round choice (75th overall) to San Francisco for the 28th, 56th and 84th overall choices in the draft. The Patriots used the 28th pick on Matich, an offensive lineman out of Brigham Young. The 49ers used the first-round selection they got back from New England on a wide receiver -- you might have heard of him. Fast guy out of Mississippi Valley State who turned out OK. Guy named Jerry Rice.
That aside, Matich was able to carve out a nice career for himself. He played 12 years in the league with a variety of teams. After spending four years in New England, he moved on to Detroit (1989), the New York Jets (1990-91), Indianapolis (1992-93) and Washington (1994-96). He never started more than six games a season, but his positional versatility and his long snapping abilities allowed him to stick around the NFL and pick up a paycheck long after he should have been out of the league. Today, he’s an analyst for ESPN. Check out his personal web site here -- Bruce, you might want to send him an e-mail telling him what you really think of him.
That being said, you shouldn’t be using a first-round pick on a long snapper. While I don’t agree that he’s the worst first-round pick in New England history, he deserves a spot in our ring of dishonor.
3. Karl Singer
What’s a matter did you forget about the all time worst choice in the history of the game... Karl Singer 1st round, 3rd overall choice !!!! [Dennis] Byrd started 14 games. Hart lee dykes had some production. Canty nor Katzenmoyer was drafted nearly as high. Singer...number 1 with a bullet!!!
Michael, I gotta plead ignorance on this one. The name sounds like an Austrian chemist to me. I had no idea who Karl Singer was or just how bad he might have been, so I went back and checked him out. Turns out, he was drafted by two teams — the Patriots took him third overall out of Purdue in the 1966 AFL Draft, while the Cleveland Browns took him in the 19th round that same year in the NFL Draft. (More than likely, it was simple another chapter in the continuing struggle between the NFL and the AFL for talent.)
Things looked good early on for Singer. A 1966 AFL preview in Sports Illustrated read thusly: “To patch up the offensive line [coach Mike] Holovak signed two excellent prospects -- 6-foot-3, 250-pound Karl Singer of Purdue and 5-foot-11, 254-pound Dick Arlington of Notre Dame -- and moved strongboy Len St. Jean over from the defense. Singer is bulky enough to occupy three positions, and his work in the exhibition games brought an immediate improvement in the blocking of the Patriots’ line, as well as a marked decrease in the number of men pouring in to push [quarterback Babe] Parilli’s face into the ground.”
Needless to say, the Cleveland personnel office was a lot more on the ball than the Patriots. An offensive lineman, Singer played just three seasons in New England, never starting a single game. As for being one of the worst first-rounders in franchise history, he’s up there, especially when you consider Pete Banzak, Walt Garrison and Jan Stenerud were all drafted after Singer. But when you consider these were really the dark ages of the draft, I’m willing to cut the Patriots and Singer some slack. Let’s put Singer into our “dishonorable mention” category.
4. Tony Eason
With the draft approaching, great concept with your article today. BUT, like any “Hot List,” I’m sure that you realized that you’d stir up opinions that completely differ from you. Most of yours are good, but you also swung and missed with Katz and Canty. They were both picked at the bottom of the round and anyone expecting big results was foolish. How about --
- Trevor Matich: They traded the pick that resulted in Jerry Rice, only to get a servicable OL.
- Ken Sims: OVERALL Number 1 pick. Enough said.
- Tony Eason: Serviceable and one Super Bowl, but DAN MARINO!!!
- Chris Singleton: Again, serviceable, but he was the #8 pick. We would lose your minds if Mayo had turned into this guy.
- Ray Agnew: Average at best and he was the #10 pick.
Thanks for making the afternoon interesting though.
Giles had a great e-mail with plenty of good ideas, but he was the first of several to bring up Eason. The quarterback out of Illinois was taken with the 15th overall selection in the 1983 draft, and might be the single most polarizing pick the franchise has made in the last 26 years. As Giles indicates, his critics would point to the fact that he’s not Dan Marino, who was taken 12 spots later in the first round by Miami. And he certainly lacked the ability to rally a team like Steve Grogan, with whom he shared quarterbacking duties for much of his time in New England.
But to call him one of the worst first-round picks in franchise history is engaging in a bit of hyperbole. Six quarterbacks were taken in the first round that year, and he was middle of the pack -- better than Todd Blackledge and Ken O’Brien, but nowhere near the level of John Elway, Jim Kelly or Marino. And really, that’s not bad. He appeared in just as many Super Bowls as Marino, and played almost three full seasons as the New England starter. Splitting duties with Grogan during the 1985 regular season, he took over in the postseason and was the quarterback as the Patriots won three road games en route to Super Bowl XX. (I’ll admit that Super Bowl XX was not his finest hour.)
He ended up passing for 11,142 yards in his nine-year career (which ended with two years with the New York Jets), and is still in the Top 5 in Patriots’ history in several offensive categories, including passing yards in a game (414), completed passes in a game (36), most career completions (876), career completion percentage (.584) and completion percentage for a season (.616).
In the end, he wasn’t Marino or Grogan, but he was certainly good enough not to be consigned to the scrap heap of Patriots’ history with a spot on our infamous list.
Guys the Patriots drafted after him: Craig James (seventh round via USFL), Ronnie Lippett (eighth round).
5. Vagas Ferguson
Here are a couple of my favorites:
* Kenneth “game day” Simms DT 1st pick overall never lived up to the hype of his college career!!
* Lester Williams DT drafted 1st round that same year 82 (last pick 1st round) out of the league in 2 years!!
* Trevor Matich C 1st round Pats trade down 16 to 31 with SF who takes Jerry Rice with the 16th pick...nice!!!
* “Football Phil Olsen” DE 1st round pick back in the early 70’s taken because he’s Merlin Olsen’s brother...out of the league in three years !!
* Reggie Dupard RB and Vagas Fergerson RB 3 year and 2 year career with Pats respectively
These are some of my favorites.
There are a lot of good ones here, but we’re going to go with Ferguson, the 25th overall pick out of Notre Dame in 1980. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Ferguson was a stud coming out of college, an All-American who looked to be a worthy successor to Sam Cunningham, who powered the New England ground game throughout the mid to late 1970s. Ferguson still ranks third all-time for total yards gained (3,472) among Notre Dame running backs, having averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
But after a fine rookie season — 818 yards and a pair of touchdowns — Ferguson fell off the cliff. He never came anywhere come to replicating his performance as a collegian or a rookie in the NFL. He had brief stints with the Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns, as well as the Chicago Blitz of the USFL, but retired after four seasons in pro football. Ferguson, who was an assistant principal in Richmond, Indiana, at last check, told Sports Illustrated in 1999 that his pro football career was “a luxury. College wasn’t about me going to the next level. I got my experience, I enjoyed it, and I was prepared to do something else.”
Guys the Patriots drafted after him: Linebacker Larry McGrew (second round), defensive tackle Steve McMichael (third round).
Also receiving votes: Running back Reggie Dupard (1986). Out of SMU, spent five years in the league and gained just 704 yards. Defensive tackle/center Phil Olsen (1970). The brother of Merlin, a knee injury at a college all-star game derailed what could have been a promising career. Defensive tackle Lester Williams (1982). Taken right after Sims, he managed just 13 starts in four years in New England. Linebacker Chris Singleton and defensive end Ray Agnew (1990). Like Sims, Singleton had a fair career, sticking around the NFL for eight seasons, but never lived up to his first-round status. Agnew had a pretty good career, playing 11 seasons in the league — five with New England — and winning a Super Bowl ring with St. Louis in 1999.
Christopher Price covers the Patriots for WEEI.com. Got a mock draft online you think he should take a look at? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.