The NFL Draft is harder to predict than games themselves. But one thing you can almost always guarantee: There will be drama. It looks a little bit different every time, but as draft boards and strategies are finalized, misdirections (most of us call them lies) get leaked to the media in the run-up to Thursday night's first round, we look back on the moments that stand out in the event's history.
Laremy Tunsil and The Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Draft, 2016
Less than an hour before the first pick of last year's draft, a video of Ole Miss offensive tackle Tunsil taking a bong hit through a gas mask surfaced. Worse, it came from his own Twitter account. Countless athletes have used the tired "I got hacked!" excuse, but for Tunsil, it was actually true. At one point, he was a possible No. 1 pick and a likely top-five selection, but he fell all the way to Miami at No. 13. After he got drafted, he faced questions on the podium about his NCAA suspension and admitted he took money at Ole Miss, re-igniting an investigation on campus that has since led to sanctions for the program. Tunsil had a great rookie season, but he's got a strong case as the player with the worst draft night ever.
Aaron Rodgers free falls into the perfect situation, 2005
Quarterback is a fickle position. They're consistently overvalued, but only a portion of teams are interested in drafting a position where you really only need 2-3 guys. Rodgers' hometown 49ers passed on making him the No. 1 pick, and he fell all the way down to Green Bay at No. 24. That meant spending three years behind a legend in Brett Favre, inheriting an offense full of weapons and being the cornerstone of a franchise with a rock-solid front office. That's not a bad trade-off for a few hours of anger and embarrassment.
Geno Smith vs. The Green Room, 2013
Just like Rodgers, Smith endured a tumble down the draft board. He came to New York City for the draft in '13, but after opening night, he hadn't been drafted. It was a first, and Smith declined to do any interviews with ESPN or anyone else in the wake of the first round, where EJ Manuel was the only quarterback selected. Smith planned to leave New York but was talked into staying for Day 2. The Jets made him the seventh pick of the second round, but he's started only one game since 2014.
John Elway makes the right call in the right era, 1983
The Baltimore Colts picked Elway first overall from Stanford, but coach Frank Kush's harsh style was a poor fit for Elway's personality and the Colts were a long way from being ready to compete. Elway threatened to play baseball and wouldn't sign, essentially forcing the Colts to trade Elway to Denver for an offensive lineman, a backup quarterback and its first-round pick the following year. Elway was looking out for himself and faced some criticism for it, but in today's news cycle, it would have hounded him his entire career. Instead, Elway is known as one of the greats and his draft saga is little more than a footnote.
Saints get really high on Ricky Williams, 1999
We've seen plenty of blockbuster draft day trades, but New Orleans made history for the wrong reasons. The Saints literally traded away every one of their draft picks to move up and make Williams the No. 5 pick in the draft. It also spawned this ESPN The Magazine cover, which only grows more surreal with time. There's a reason why no one had ever done this before and no one has done it since: It's a major handicap on the roster, especially for a New Orleans franchise with a bad depth chart to begin with. Williams was a Heisman Trophy winner and the NCAA's all-time rushing leader, but even with two 1,000-yard seasons in his three seasons with the Saints, the move ultimately got Mike Ditka fired.
Brady Quinn gets awkward with America, 2007
No amount of passive-aggressive sips from a water bottle can distract from reality: Quinn was furious. His long wait in the green room felt like one of the first times cameras getting a reaction with every passing pick became a storyline. The record-breaking Notre Dame passer had an NFL pedigree after two seasons under then-genius Charlie Weis and got the Irish to a BCS bowl. He was a sure-fire franchise quarterback who felt certain to go in the top 10 at the latest. As more and more picks rolled in, Quinn actually left the green room for a private suite. Only eight players got invitations to New York City, and after the first seven picks, Quinn was the only one left. He didn't hear his name called until the 22nd pick. Worse, he ended up in Cleveland and never ended up holding onto a starting job after a circuitous NFL career. He spent two seasons in Denver, and even a young Tim Tebow moved ahead of him on the depth chart, earning the starting job midway through the 2011 season.
Bo Knows Negotiation, 1986
Elway merely threatened to play baseball. Bo Jackson actually did it. He was the No. 1 pick in 1986 after winning the Heisman Trophy, but he refused to play for Tampa Bay. A mixup from Jackson's pre-draft visit to the Bucs cost him his last year of college baseball and Jackson warned the team not to take him. They did it anyway, and Jackson held to his word: He went to play for the Kansas City Royals instead after being drafted in the fourth round. He was focused on playing baseball, but the Raiders made him a seventh-round pick after the Bucs surrendered his rights and talked him into joining the team after hashing out a deal that allowed him to play both sports.
All aboard the Tebow Train, 2010
Tim Tebow remains one of the most polarizing draft prospects in history. He's got a case as the greatest college football player ever, but spotty accuracy, zero history in an NFL system and a wonky delivery with an ugly hitch offered plenty of fodder to pick apart during the draft process. Some argued he should go in the top five. Some argued he was undraftable. With a dramatic trade, we found out where he'd go. The Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels traded their second-, third- and fourth-round picks to move up and grab the lefty from Florida. (We should note this was before John Elway took over the decision-making.) They were all-in, full investors in the Tebow business. His career in the NFL was just as polarizing, as he sprinkled in dramatic fourth-quarter comebacks and a playoff win amid historic inaccuracy and ineptitude during the first three quarters of games. After two seasons, Denver was out of the Tebow market, trading him to the Jets after winning the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes entering the 2012 season.
Tampa, you've got the wrong guy, 1982
The Bucs wanted to make defensive end Booker Reese its first-round pick in 1982, but a phone mix-up involving garbled noise meant officials on the other end heard Sean Ferrell instead. Amazingly, Reese was still on the board in the second round. Tampa pulled the trigger once again. Reese went on to be a historic bust. After two seasons, he was gone from the roster, landing in rehab to deal with his issues with alcohol and cocaine. Those issues eventually forced him out of the league by 1985.
Donovan McNabb's rude welcome to Philly, 1999
When the Eagles made Donovan McNabb the No. 2 pick in 1999, green-clad fans in New York City booed lustily. McNabb got the last laugh, winning those fans over with five NFC East titles and a trip to the Super Bowl. And even better, Tim Couch went No. 1 ahead of McNabb. Akili Smith went one spot behind him, at No. 3. Maybe don't boo a draft pick before he's stepped on an NFL field?
The Great Hair Gel Fight of 1994
Mel Kiper is the name most synonymous with the premier offseason event in the NFL, and in 1994, he wasn't impressed when the Colts traded up to take Trev Alberts with the fifth overall pick. Kiper ripped it, and later, Colts VP and Director of Football Operations Bill Tobin fired back. It's known as the "Who the hell is Mel Kiper" rant, and it got personal fast, with Tobin citing anonymous sources and mocking the draft analyst for his reported inability to get a job in the NFL. Whether or not it was true, it made for great TV.