Warren Sapp was one of the most dominant college football players of the early 1990s while playing for the Miami Hurricanes, and figured to be a very high draft pick in 1995. But prior to the draft, reports surfaced about Sapp having failed multiple drug tests (cocaine and marijuana) and he plummeted.
Future busts like Michael Westbrook (4th), Mike Mamula (7th), Kyle Brady (9th to the Jets), JJ Stokes (10th) and Derrick Alexander (11th) came off the board before Sapp was taken 12th by Tampa Bay.
Sapp, on a massive publicity tour this week to pump up a book, told ESPN Radio that at the NFL Combine two months before the draft, he met with then-Cleveland coach Bill Belichick and here’s what was said (1:10 mark):
“He said ‘I wanna draft you so bad that I have an erection right now. But [GM] Mike Lombardi will not let me draft you. I just want you to know it is not on me. I want you in Cleveland.'”
Cleveland initially had the 26th pick in the draft, but traded up to the 10th spot, where it could have drafted Sapp. But Lombardi was scared of Sapp (much more of that can be heard on Sapp’s interview with Howard Stern), so he traded down to the 30th spot and took Craig Powell (bust).
Belichick went on to great things (and Spygate) in New England, and now Lombardi is a talking head (usually taking shots at the Jets) on the NFL Network. But as noted by the Plain-Dealer, they didn’t exactly have a strong draft in Cleveland:
It was 1995, the Browns’ last year in Cleveland before moving to Baltimore. The Browns had the 10th pick and the 49ers the 30th. Bill Belichick and Mike Lombardi were running the draft for the Browns. The 49ers traded their first-, third- and fourth-round picks in 1995 and first-rounder in 1996 to take Stokes, who averaged just 38 catches a year over nine seasons.
Belichick and Lombardi also whiffed, drafting duds with the first- and third-round picks: linebacker Craig Powell (three career starts) and defensive end Mike Frederick (12 starts).
Then the Browns moved to Baltimore, Ozzie Newsome drafted Ray Lewis, and the rest is history.