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Slim pickings: South Florida pro teams have had share of draft busts

Major South Florida sports busts include Dion Jordan of the Miami Dolphins, left, Harold Miner of the Heat, center, and Josh Booty of the Marlins.
Major South Florida sports busts include Dion Jordan of the Miami Dolphins, left, Harold Miner of the Heat, center, and Josh Booty of the Marlins.

When the Marlins parted ways with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the NFL suspended Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan on consecutive days last month, they joined the long list of busts that have littered the rosters of South Florida’s professional teams.

We’ve endured more than our fair share of flops: Three Marlins top 10 draft picks who never made it to the majors, a Heat player dubbed “Baby Jordan” who never came close to justifying that nickname, and numerous regrettable Dolphins draft choices. And that’s just the start.

So we got to thinking: Who would comprise a list of the biggest busts in South Florida sports history?

We separated the names into three lists: draft choices, free agent signings and trades.

The draft pick list, which follows below, factors in how high a player was selected and his overall body of work here. Several were paired together for natural, albeit unfortunate, reasons:

1. Dion Jordan

He still has a chance to salvage his career, following a third NFL substance-abuse violation that will cost him the entire 2015 season. But for now, he holds the No. 1 spot on our list considering how high he was picked (third overall in 2013), how much the Dolphins gave Oakland in a trade to land him (the 12th and 42nd picks) and how minimal the contribution has been (46 tackles, three sacks, one start in two seasons).

2. Yatil Green

The Dolphins drafted the receiver 15th overall in 1997 despite modest production in three seasons at the University of Miami (84 catches, 1,477 yards). But Green sustained season-ending ACL injuries during his first two training camps, then caught only 18 passes for 234 yards in his third season before the Dolphins released him.

3. Sammie Smith

The former FSU running back, selected ninth overall in 1989, averaged 3.6 yards per carry and fumbled 17 times in three seasons for the Dolphins. He played only three more NFL games after that point (for Denver).

4. Josh Booty

The Marlins selected the star high school shortstop fifth overall in 1994, passing on Todd Walker, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and others, and gave him a $1.6 million signing bonus, at the time the largest ever for a player selected in baseball’s amateur draft. But Booty had only 26 big-league at-bats over three seasons, then quit to pursue a football career.

5. Two Marlins flops drafted sixth overall

Outfielder Jaime Jones in 1995 (played 10 seasons in the minors; never made it to the big leagues; Todd Helton was selected two picks later) and catcher Kyle Skipworth in 2008 (.214 career hitter in the minors and 0 for 3 with the Marlins; now in the Reds organization).

6. Petr Taticek

Selected ninth overall by the Panthers in 2002, the strapping center played only three games for Florida, then was traded to Pittsburgh for Richard Jackman, whose Panthers career included just two goals and 22 games. In drafting Taticek, the Panthers passed on high-scoring Alexander Semin.

7. Jeff Allison

The Marlins drafted the high school Player for the Year 16th overall in 2003 and gave him a $1.85 million signing bonus. But the right-handed pitcher from Massachusetts had two heroin overdoses and two arrests during his pro career and never rose above Double A in six seasons. His final minor-league numbers: 31-38, 4.68 ERA.

8. Harold Miner

The guard, dubbed “Baby Jordan” at Southern California, was picked 12th overall by the Heat in 1992 (ahead of Bryant Stith, Latrell Sprewell and others), averaged 9.6 points and started just 47 games in three seasons before being shipped to Cleveland, with a second-round pick, for another second-rounder. “I always felt the worst thing to happen to Harold was the Baby Jordan tag,” said his former college coach, George Raveling.

9. Jackie Shipp

The Dolphins took the linebacker 14th overall out of Oklahoma in 1984, ahead of eventual All-Pro receiver Louis Lipps, among others. He played in 44 games for Miami, with no starts, one sack and one interception.

10. Ted Ginn Jr.

It was bad enough that the Dolphins took Ginn (and his family) ninth overall in 2007. Even worse: Miami passed on Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch and Darrelle Revis. Ginn caught 128 passes for 1,664 yards in three seasons before being shipped to the 49ers for a fifth-round pick.

11. Jamar Fletcher

Selected 26th overall by Miami in 2001, Fletcher was picked ahead of Reggie Wayne, Drew Brees and Chad Johnson. The former Wisconsin cornerback started only six games in three seasons (two interceptions) before being traded to San Diego for receiver David Boston, whose Dolphins career included just five games and four receptions.

12. John Bosa and Eric Kumerow

They’re lumped together because they were both defensive ends drafted 16th overall by the Dolphins in consecutive years (1987-88). Both had short, disappointing careers. Bosa had seven sacks in 31 career games for Miami; Kumerow had five in 42.

13. Pat White and John Beck

They’re paired together because they’re the first two second-round picks on this list and the two biggest quarterback draft busts in Dolphins history. White, inexplicably selected 44th in 2009, failed to complete any of five career passes, while rushing for 81 yards on 21 carries, in his only season for Miami before being waived. Beck, taken 40th in 2007, played in five games for Miami and just nine in his NFL career.

14. John Avery

Jimmy Johnson regrettably selected the running back 29th overall in 1998, but he averaged only 3.5 yards on 143 carries in two seasons for Miami before being dealt to Denver for receiver Marcus Nash, who never appeared in a regular-season game for the Dolphins.

15. Jason Allen

Nick Saban drafted the Tennessee cornerback 16th overall in 2006 – ahead of Antonio Cromartie, Chad Greenway and others ‒ but his play was wildly inconsistent. He started 19 games in five seasons.

16. Eddie Blake

Don Shula snagged the defensive tackle from Auburn, dubbed “Eddie Earthquake Blake,” 43rd overall in 1992, but he reported to camp topping 350 pounds and never appeared in a game in his two seasons in Miami.

17. Eddie Moore

Dave Wannstedt regrettably took the linebacker 49th in 2003 instead of Anquan Boldin or Osi Umenyiora, insisting Moore was the best available player on the board. He appeared in 18 NFL games.

18.Charles Smith and Tim James

Two mid-20s Heat draft picks who achieved little. Smith, picked 26th in 1997, scored 10 points in his only Heat season. James, the former UM star selected 25th in 1999, scored 11 points in his lone Heat season. Both were traded.

19. Michael Beasley

Where to place him on this list was a conundrum, because he wasn’t a disaster. He averaged 14.4 points in his first two pro seasons for the Heat, before being jettisoned to Minnesota in 2010 and subsequently returning for two additional stints with Miami. But Beasley, selected second overall in 2008 ‒ ahead of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love ‒ hasn’t come close to fulfilling expectations. So he’s on the bust list even though he wasn’t a total bust.

20. Denis Shvidki

Selected by the Panthers 12th overall in 1999, he played just 76 games for Florida (11 goals), shuffling between the AHL and NHL. The Panthers passed up All-Stars Nick Boynton and Martin Havlat to take him.

21. Wayne Simien

Chosen 29th by the Heat in 2005, the former Kansas forward appeared in just 51 games in two seasons and averaged 3.3 points. Two-time All-Star David Lee was drafted by the Knicks immediately after Miami took Simien.

22. Jonathan Martin

The 42nd pick of the 2012 draft, Martin flopped as a right tackle for the Dolphins and ultimately brought the franchise great embarrassment by fleeing the team and going public with details of his locker-room harassment.

23. The 1995 Dolphins draft

An unmitigated disaster. It was topped by offensive tackle Billy Milner (picked 25th overall; started nine games for Miami as rookie, then traded to St. Louis for tight end Troy Drayton) and guard Andrew Greene (53rd pick; only 10 career games, including six for the Dolphins). No player from that draft even played double-digit games for Miami; like Milner, fifth-rounder Norman Hand also played five.

24. Marlins’ first-round pitchers Aaron Aiken and Chad James

Neither Aiken (selected 12th in 1997) nor James (18th in 2009) rose above Single A. Aiken was selected ahead of Lance Berkman and Jason Werth, James ahead of Shelby Miller, who nearly no-hit the Marlins recently.

25. Two mid-1970s Dolphins first-rounders with legal problems

Defensive end Don Reese, picked 26th in 1974, played three seasons before he was sentenced to one year in prison for selling cocaine; Miami promptly released him. Offensive tackle Darryl Carlton, selected 23rd in 1975, played two seasons before his career derailed after multiple run-ins with the law, including a marijuana arrest.

Coming next: South Florida’s top 25 free agent busts.

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