We've spoken once already about a pick being a bad pick because of the sequence of events that it triggers. Today we revisit another such pick, as we relive the drafting of D.J. Dozier. . .a choice so awful, so incorrect, so catastrophic that it triggered an event so terrible that most Viking fans dare not even speak its name any longer.
The 1986 Minnesota Vikings didn't have much of a rushing game to speak of. The leading rusher on the team was Darrin Nelson, who gained 793 yards on 191 carries. The team as a whole was a bit disappointing as well. . .it was the first year of the Jerry Burns era, and the Vikings finished 4th in the NFL in points scored and 5th in the NFL in points allowed, and they were +13 in turnover ratio. Now, that doesn't sound disappointing. . .until you hear that that team finished 9-7 and finished well behind the Chicago Bears in the NFC North, not to mention out of the post-season picture.
The Vikings decided that they needed to get more from the ground game in the next season, and thought that D.J. Dozier might be the answer to that question. One of the leaders of Penn State's 1986 National Championship team, Dozier was selected by the Vikings with the 14th pick of the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft.
Now, if there's a particular college and a particular position that is synonymous with the term "first round bust" in the National Football League, it's running backs out of Penn State University. While Joe Pa might be one heck of a college coach, but not many of his running backs have amounted to much at the NFL level. Well, Dozier kicked off that run. . .he was followed by Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, and Curtis Enis. Larry Johnson sort of broke the cycle, but he flamed out awfully quickly as well. (Still, he was probably better than Dozier, Thomas, Carter, and Enis put together.)
Dozier's first year was the strike year of 1987. That season, he played in nine of the 12 "real" games (i.e. non-replacement games) that the Vikings played, starting three, and only carrying the ball 69 times. He did manage five touchdowns that season, which led the team. . .and accounted for more than 70% of all the touchdowns that he scored as a Viking. In 1988, he played in eight games, only starting once, and only carrying the ball 42 times. That year, he scored the other two touchdowns of his Viking career, and went into the 1989 season with the job as the number one running back. Through the first five games of the year, Dozier carried the ball just 29 times and gained only 105 yards. The Vikings decided that this simply wasn't sufficient, so they decided to make a trade.
What trade? Oh, you know what trade.
Yeah. .THAT trade. The trade that was so awful that we dare not speak its name.
Yes, had D.J. Dozier simply been able to find it within himself to not be awful, the Minnesota Vikings never would have made that trade. Which means the Vikings wouldn't have been without a raft full of draft picks for the three or four years that followed. . .and who knows what direction the franchise could have taken after that?
Dozier was let go by the Vikings after the 1990 season, having carried the ball just 163 times in four seasons, gaining 643 yards and scoring 7 touchdowns. He played for the Detroit Lions for a year, and then decided to try his hand at playing baseball as part of the New York Mets system. Yeah. . .turned out he wasn't terribly good at that, either. He made it to the Major Leagues with the Mets in 1992, and hit .191 while striking out 19 times in 47 at-bats.
Because of what D.J. Dozier wrought upon this franchise, he has to be on the list of worst picks, in my opinion.
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