Just as quickly as it started, the NFL season is over, and a new year begins. After a season filled with stadiums, packed with viewers, and loaded with drama, the Los Angeles Rams win it all. Now begins the following season. Draft season. Over the next few months, The Sports Wave will bring loads of draft content in preparation for the 2022 NFL draft. To begin our draft wave, we’ll reflect on the numerous draft stories behind us.
There has been no shortage of fascinating storylines from Laremy Tunsil falling to Kyler Murray choosing football. In this edition, we will go on a journey of the craziest moments of the 21st century. But what constitutes ‘crazy’? For one, it must be unique, a moment that rarely, if ever, occurs in the draft. Secondly, there must be drama tied to it, creating some fun.
Finally, the moment must captivate us, forcing us to rewatch it as it’s just as crazy the 50th time as the 1st time. Overall, these are the five craziest draft moments in the 21st century.
5. 2003 Vikings Miss their Pick TWICE
After an infamous 1985 draft where the Vikings missed their pick, it seemed inevitable that it would happen again. Heading into the 2003 NFL draft, the Vikings made their intentions clear; they wanted DT Johnathan Sullivan. After a monstrous 2002 season at Georgia, Sullivan was projected as a top-10 pick. What followed created a draft day moment forever. Firstly, the Saints pull off a trade with the Cardinals to move right in front of Minnesota to choose Sullivan. Obviously, Vikings were a bit upset. However, with both the Jaguars and Ravens calling for a trade-up, they became optimistic of a trade down. Thus, enters QB and Marshall legend: Byron Leftwich.
In the 2003 NFL draft, many teams in the 6-13 range, like the Ravens and Jaguars, coveted Byron Leftwich. Carson Palmer was undoubtedly the number one QB prospect, but Leftwich came closer to number two. As a result, teams frantically made calls to higher selections for a chance to select the Marshall legend. The Ravens were one of them.
After the Vikings lost their case with Sullivan, coach Mike Tice called the Ravens about potentially moving up to pass the Jaguars. At first, the Ravens were reluctant, believing Leftwich would be available at ten anyways. However, after some deliberation, it appeared a deal was struck, at least from the Vikings’ point of view. Thus, the Vikings waited for the Ravens to call the league and officially trade up. But nothing happened.
As the clock struck 0:00, the Vikings stilled failed to select anyone. Shortly after, the Jaguars rushing to select Leftwich got their pick in and chose before the Vikings. After that, the Panthers ran to get their selection and selected Jordan Gross. Finally, after missing their slot TWICE, the Vikings selected future All-Pro Kevin Williams.
4. College QB Stars Get Picked Late Manziel/Tebow
College football has the innate ability to create legends and stories that anybody from wherever can gravitate towards. Manziel and Tebow are no different. Firstly with Tim Tebow. At Florida, Tim Tebow took on football like a man destined to save the world. Tebow won the 2007 Heisman Trophy as a full-time starter, beating Darren McFadden in his first season. However, 2008 indeed forced Tebow into stardom.
Tebow led the team to a 13-1 record and a National Championship on a Florida team riddled with NFL talent and characters. Although 2009 did not produce a back-to-back National Championship, Tebow-fever did not die down. Thus, nobody knew where Tebow would fall heading into the 2010 wild card round. Former coach Tony Dungy thought he was a top-10 pick while analyst Mel Kiper Jr. believed he was a 2nd or even 3rd round pick. What happened next shocked everyone.
From nowhere, 2nd-year coach Josh McDaniels desperate for some explosiveness, trades up and takes Tebow. As seen by the NFL broadcast, almost nobody thought Tebow would get selected in the first round. However, for some reason, McDaniels made the pick and forever solidified an all-time draft moment. Four years later, a nearly identical event occurred with Johnny football.
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Johnny Manziel exploded into the college football world with multiple 500-yard performances and crazy wins. However, the biggest upset came against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, which set the world on fire. Johnny Manziel went from relative obscurity to absolute phenom in a single night.
From there, it was only a matter of time before he saw action in the NFL. Fast forward to 2014, and nobody knows how to value Manziel. Apparent concerns about his off-field problems created doubts in the minds of every organization. Although Manziel played flashy and explosive, many believed his skills wouldn’t translate into the NFL. Nonetheless, every fan wanted to hear Johnny’s name for their team. The Browns and the Cowboys were the two obvious choices as the Cowboys were potentially moving on from Tony Romo and the Browns needed a QB.
Yet, as picks came and went, nobody selected Manziel. Awkward pictures of Manziel sitting alone in the green room made every broadcast. Eventually, the Cowboys were on the clock with a selection that screamed Johnny football. But, that pick never came, and instead, the Cowboys chose Zack Martin, a future HOFer. However, as the draft made its way to Cleveland with the 22nd pick, everyone knew Johnny was the pick.
With the entire crowd shouting and the broadcast booth almost laughing, Johnny Manziel’s name was finally read, and the crowd screamed louder than at any point that night. While we do get the benefit of hindsight to realize that this pick was a disaster, watching Johnny Football walk across the stage is nothing short of iconic.
3. Top Players Falling Rodgers/Tunsil
Watching players fall draft boards is like watching your best friend get into a fight with his long-time girlfriend. You want the matter resolved quickly and quietly but can’t help yourself to watch the drama unfold. In the case of Rodgers and Tunsil, their problems certainly weren’t solved rapidly or peacefully. Starting with Aaron Rodgers, his journey to the Packers seemed nearly impossible.
The 2005 NFL draft already was a wild one with Cedric Benson crying, to athletic freak Shawne Merriman flying up boards, the best was yet to come. At the time, analysts projected Aaron Rodgers as a no-brainer top-5 pick. Additionally, with Aaron’s hometown team in San Francisco at number one, many thought it was a match made in heaven. Instead, Rodgers’ dream broke at the name of Alex Smith. What followed created a draft-day media story for the ages.
The drama added to the theater, continuous shots of Aaron Rodgers looking bleakly at cameras hounding him in an empty green room. While it’s slightly funny to watch a miserable Aaron Rodgers today, the NFL was still naïve to Aaron in 2005. Nobody likes watching a potential young star shunned from the NFL despite playing like an all-star.
After waiting for 24 picks and watching every other player in the green room leave, Aaron finally heard his name. Overall, the spectacle was fascinating as it was like watching someone’s dreams get crushed on live TV. Luckily for NFL fans who love drama, 11 years later, we saw the exact scenario happen again.
Laremy’s Horrible Day
If you polled every draft analyst before the 2015 season for their top prospect heading into the season, Laremy Tunsil was the consensus top pick. However, teams became concerned after a series of domestic violence accusations and NCAA rule violations. Yet, no one thought it was terrible enough or concerning enough to drop Tunsil in the draft.
Additionally, Tunsil’s final season at Ole Miss proved he dominates the line of scrimmage, especially against Myles Garret and Texas A&M. Most NFL draft analysts, including Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock, placed Tunsil at the very top of their boards above Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, and Ronnie Stanley. Unfortunately for Tunsil, his step-father wanted to ruin his night and, potentially, his future.
On April 28, 2016, at 7:47 PM, Laremy Tunsil’s Twitter account uploaded a video that shocked everyone. It was a video of Tunsil smoking a bong with a gas mask on. At the time, the NFL started cracking down hard on marijuana charges earning the nickname ‘No Fun League.’ Thus, the video sent teams in panic mode as the character concerns rose from the ashes into the lungs of fearful squads.
Laremy began to tumble and tumble as the video gained millions of views. Eventually, the Dolphins ended the nightmare for Tunsil and selected him with their 13th pick. Although he was still a first-round pick, Tunsil lost an estimated 8 million dollars and was embarrassed on live television. Overall, one of the weirdest moments ever.
2. The Chargers Select Eli Manning
When future NFL players held more power for their preferred landing spot, Eli Manning stood out as the weirdest of all. In college, Eli was a beast. Although he never had the chance to play in the biggest games like Tim Tebow or even his brother, everyone still considered him the top prospect in 2004. NFL prospects Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Larry Fitzgerald, and Sean Taylor also rounded at a solid draft class.
At pick number one stood the San Diego Chargers, who were only six years removed from taking Ryan Leaf at two. Not wanting to miss out on another Manning, the Chargers released their intentions to draft Eli first. However, a few days before the draft, Archie Manning told the Chargers privately that Eli would refuse to play for the Chargers if drafted by them. The Chargers were furious and wanted to make a bad situation worse.
Instead of keeping the information private and taking their next best QB, Philip Rivers, they told the entire world. Further releasing an avalanche of media stories and rumors. When the draft day finally arrived, nobody knew what the Chargers would do. They had two choices: call the bluff by Eli and draft him or take their next best QB, Philip Rivers. After some brief deliberation, they chose the former.
With the first pick in the 2004 NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers selected Eli Manning. This picture of Eli holding the jersey tells all and is awkward Eli at his best. However, the Giants came to save the day. After realizing the repercussions of a disastrous holdout, the Chargers traded Eli Manning to the Giants for Philip Rivers. Overall, it’s one of the NFL’s most extraordinary ‘What If’s.’ I recommend watching the draft packed with iconic moments.
1. 2020 Virtual NFL Draft
The wildest and most unique draft moment comes during a time when uncertainty plague the nation; simply put- the 2020 NFL Draft is crazy enough by itself. Choosing one singular moment from a draft where every little thing was laughed at is impossible. The 2020 Virtual Draft brought so many funny and significant bits of humor that the entire draft was a spectacle. Especially when the nation started to feel fatigued and nervous, the NFL Draft brought fun, sports, and an escape from the brutal outside world. To reflect on the grand spectacle, let us go through some of the most iconic moments.
Starting with ESPN, who showed every tragedy and heartbreak possible to seem sympathetic towards the players. We saw Bill Belichick transform into a dog on live TV in a lighter tone. Overall, it was amazing to see the many players celebrate with their families and was the NFL at their best.
As an NFL fan, seeing Javon Kinlaw’s dad roll around on the ground and the Okwara brothers celebrate together as teammates was incredible. Other iconic moments include Jordan Love, Mike Vrabel’s meme family, and the many impressive team war rooms. Overall, as NFL fans, the 2020 NFL draft created memories and joy when many lacked it. No draft moment compares to the bizarre nature of 2020.