It is time for another piece of Ghosts from Drafts Past. In our last article, we talked about former Jets quarterback Erik Ainge. Now it’s time to take a look at another player’s career. Let’s get to it.
In this article, we are talking about Justin Harrell. Harrell played as an interior defensive lineman for the Tennessee Volunteers for 14 games across 2 years. As far as statistics go, he only had 46 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his time at Tennessee. Not really impressive and probably not a guy you would draft in the first round. Believe it or not, someone did.
So picture this in your mind…the Green Bay Packers are looking at the 2007 NFL Draft with a lot of excitement because they don’t really have any major issues to take care of. QB Brett Favre is already guaranteed for the next year, so they don’t need a QB. The only major issues they had were at running back and defensive line. It was believed that the Packers were going to either go after Cal RB Marshawn Lynch or Nebraska DE Adam Carriker. A cornerback was also an option they were believed to be considering. Unfortunately for the Packers, both of their primary options were off the board before their pick at the 16th spot. There were still some awesome names on the board such as Jarvis Moss, Leon Hall, Aaron Ross, etc. But for some reason, the Packers decided to go with Justin Harrell.
So you’re probably wondering, what makes Harrell a bust? Well, he only mustered 14 total games for the Packers. Harrell came to the Packers limited due to a torn bicep tendon he suffered while he was still at Tennessee. To make things worse, when he was cleared to show up for training camp, he received criticism from his coaching staff for being out of shape and slightly overweight. He didn’t start his first game until October and he finished the season.
Moving forward to the next year in 2008, Harrell started training camp and the regular season on the PUP list. He was eventually activated in November and only played in six games throughout the year. In 2009 he had a lower back injury and was inactive for the entire season. In 2010, the misfortunes continued when Harrell went down with an ACL tear, also ending his season. After missing 50 games over the course of four seasons, he was released in the summer of 2011 by the Packers with two years still left on his contract.
This is just a mind-blowing situation. Granted, the 2007 NFL Draft was a strange one and it produced some wild results. But the circumstances surrounding this were just questionable. Harrell had only played two seasons for the Volunteers and only one of those was a full season. He didn’t have a bad track record off the field, he was a decent play on the field, but it was nothing really worthy of a first-round pick. The kicker was that he never had a season where he was fully healthy and that just wreaks havoc on a player. You never find your rhythm, you’re never really able to grow as a player because you aren’t able to get reps, and it is demoralizing to constantly have to deal with injury. Needless to say, it is a shame that Harrell could never really overcome his injuries and that ended up costing him his career.
Surely this pick haunts some older Packers fans and former Packers GM Ted Thompson. Thankfully for the Packers, Harrell did not go on to play for another team and retired after he was released by Green Bay in 2011. To this day, picking Harrell in the first round is one of the most questionable moves made by Green Bay’s franchise. This is saying something considering their previous drafting track record.
Follow Austin on Twitter @ArmchairAustin.