Atlanta Falcons: Biggest Draft Day Regret In Franchise History
It’s hard to argue that Aundrey Bruce may have been the worst draft pick in Atlanta Falcons history, given the names and success of the players drafted after him in the top 10 of the 1988 NFL Draft.
Neil Smith, Bennie Blade and Paul Gruber all had successful careers in football and Bruce stunk the joint up in Atlanta in his time as a Falcons’ player.
Add Tim Brown and Sterling Sharpe – both Hall of Famers to that list and you leave me scratching my head over what the Falcons were thinking.
Bruce did carve out an 11-year career in the NFL, but the first four seasons were nothing to write home about.
Bruce was named All-Southeastern Conference in 1986 and 1987, All-America in 1987, and Citrus Bowl MVP in 1987. He first garnered national attention in a nationally-televised game in 1987 against Georgia Tech by intercepting three passes and returning one for a touchdown and making 10 unassisted tackles. Entering the NFL Draft, he was saddled with expectations of becoming the next Lawrence Taylor, though once drafted was described as "unquestionably the least heralded No. 1 draft choice this decade."
He didn’t even come close. And to make matters worse, the first round was littered with defensive ends who did not pan out like Eric Kumerow of the Dolphins, Scott Davis of the Raiders and Aaron Jones of the Steelers.
Although he was the first overall pick, Bruce started only 42 games in his 11-year career. Bruce enjoyed his most prominent role on the Falcons 1991 playoff team when he saw spot duty on offense as a tight end as well as defense. He signed with the Los Angeles Raiders as a free agent in 1992 and finished his career with the organization. Bruce played in 151 games over his 11-season career, posting 32 sacks and 4 interceptions.
According to thefalcoholic.com, in 1988, Bruce posted six sacks and started every game, but problems began to manifest immediately. His remaining three years in Atlanta were a sharp downward trend, and the Falcons weren't shy about criticizing him for mental lapses, failure to pick up the playbook and routinely being out of position. By 1990, he was alternating between linebacker and tight end, and not doing well at either. The team lost faith with him, and after four seasons, he was gone.
He was quite serviceable in Oakland but never lived up to the high expectations and was regarded as a bust.