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Sunday, October 1, 2023


Draft musts turn into busts

I don’t care what calendar date summer officially begins. The dog days of summer are here.

The weather is quite humid, and we’re between the NBA and NFL seasons with only mediocre Astros’ baseball to hold over sports fans.

The sports world is also in the middle of its draft season, with the completion of the Major League Baseball draft and the upcoming NBA drafts. Plus, NFL mini-camps are giving fans a glimpse of this year’s picks.

This made me think about the batch of wasted draft picks among our city’s three major sports franchises (sorry Dynamo, but Major League Soccer and its draft is still evolving).

The parameters are set at the last 20 years to give players sufficient time to pan out. These players were selected only from franchises that still reside in Houston.

There’s a thin line between being a bust and having your bust put in a hall of fame. Let’s take a look at the top 10 selections of the last 20 years who qualify as the former rather than the latter.

Included at the end of each entry is a short list of those who could have been selected instead of the bust.

10. Chris Burke (Astros No. 10, 2001)
At this point, his 18th-inning series-winning home run in the 2005 playoffs doesn’t outweigh the talent we passed up on to draft him at No. 10.

One common thread with most of these players is how quickly they were out of the organization. Baseball drafts are the biggest crapshoots of them all, but Burke never panned out. He didn’t even have the arm to stay at shortstop, the position he played at Tennessee.

(Bobby Crosby No. 25, Jeremy Bonderman, No. 26, J.J. Hardy No. 56, Dan Haren No. 72)

9. Luther Head (Rockets No. 24, 2005)
With Head, there wasn’t as much expectation as some of the others. Compared to who was taken after him, he turned out to be a wasted pick.

Never the greatest shooter, Head eventually lost his shot altogether and was released during the 2008-2009 season. He is proof that the college game doesn’t always translate to the NBA.

(David Lee No. 30, Brandon Bass No. 33, Ronnie Turiaf No. 37, Monta Ellis No. 40)

8. Travis Johnson (Texans No.16, 2005)
This selection is bad because the Texans traded down in the draft, indicating they weren’t enamored with a particular player. He’s the only one on the list who has a realistic chance of making something of himself. At this point, however, having to fight for a job this season doesn’t bode well.

(Derrick Johnson No. 15, Marcus Spears No. 20, Aaron Rodgers No. 24, Roddy White No. 27, Heath Miller No. 30, Frank Gore No. 65)

7. Derick Grigsby (Astros No. 29, 2002)
I hate to knock a player whose career was derailed because of personal issues, but draftmate Zack Greinke has turned it around under similar circumstance. Grigsby is now racing cars in rural Texas towns, while Greinke has a 1.72 ERA this season, entering Wednesday.

(Zack Greinke No. 6, Joey Votto No. 44, John Lester No. 57, Jonathan Broxton No. 60, Brian McCann No. 64, Curtis Granderson No. 80)

6. Eddie Griffin (Rockets No. 7, 2001)
I almost left him off because of how his life ended, but I have to be fair; this is for his performance on the court.

The Rockets traded three first-round picks to acquire Griffin, and one of them – Richard Jefferson – is having an excellent career. When all is said and done, Griffin’s story is probably the saddest of anyone on the list.

(Joe Johnson No. 10, Tony Parker No. 28, Gilbert Arenas No. 31)

5. Rashard Lewis replacements (Rockets three first-round picks, 1998)‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The Rockets showed their ability to screw up having three picks in the first round in the 1998 draft. But, to be fair, everyone in the league passed on this guy until round two.

What made it worse for Rockets fans was the amount of chances the Rockets had to select the Alief Elsik High product. Almost every time Lewis plays in Houston, he torches the Rockets to provide a constant reminder of what could have been.

4. Jason Babin (Texans No. 27, 2004)
The Texans traded picks in the second, third and fourth rounds to draft Babin. Today, he’s out of the league.

Drafting Babin was a classic Charley Casserly move, but maybe that’s why he’s not an NFL general manager anymore.

(Bob Sanders No. 44, Bernard Berrian No. 78, Chris Cooley No. 81, Jerricho Cotchery No. 108)

3. Bennie Joppru (Texans No. 41, 2003)
Selecting Jopru was another brilliant move of Charley Casserly’s.

Jopru was a fixture on the injured reserve list. He never played a down for the Texans. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have Jason Whitten, a Pro-Bowl tight end who was drafted one round later.

(Anquan Boldin No. 54, Osi Umenyiora No. 56, Whitten No. 69, Asante Samuel No. 120)

2. Phil Nevin (Astros No. 1, 1992)
Nevin is the only player on this list who was selected when some students were still in diapers. But, as I said before, sometimes these picks take a while to bust.

Nevin’s case was complicated. The Astros traded him for refusing to cross the picket line during the 1995 MLB strike. When a player is selected No. 1 overall, he is more likely to end up on one of these lists.

(Derek Jeter No. 6, Jason Kendall No. 23, Todd Helton No. 55, Jason Giambi No. 58)

1. David Carr (Texans No. 1, 2002)
This should come as no surprise unless one has been living under a rock for the last eight years.

Some say the Texans set up Carr for failure by putting him behind a horrible offensive line, but several quarterbacks dealt with worse and made it work.

Carr was more concerned with his off-field persona, which included cutting his hair after successive victories, than doing all that he could to become a better player.

After the Texans released him, he wore a Mickey Mouse glove when he played for the Panthers. Real quarterbacks don’t do that.

(Julius Peppers No. 2, Roy Williams No. 8, Dwight Freeney No. 11, Ed Reed No. 24)

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