In the 1999 NFL Draft, three quarterbacks went with the first three picks for the second time in the common draft era (since 1967). The three players were Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith. Two of them were two of the biggest busts in the draft, while the other had his number retired by the team that drafted him.
Couch was drafted by the expansion Cleveland Browns first overall and had big expectations. However, things did not go as planned as injuries, a battle with Kelly Holcomb, and the talent around him cause Couch to underperform as a Brown. He was cut after the 2003 season, signed by the Packers in 2004. However, he did not make the final roster.
Couch only started all 16 games in a season once in 2001 and his only winning record came in 2002, according to Sports Reference. 2002 was also Couch’s best season when he passed for 2842 yards, completed 61.6% of his passes, and had 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, according to Sports Reference. During his time with the Browns, only one player ever made the pro-bowl, and that was Jamir Miller in 2001.
McNabb went overall to the Philadelphia Eagles, and his introduction to the fans wasn’t the best. McNabb took over as the full-time starter in 2000 and led the Eagles to five Conference Championships and a Super Bowl appearance. After being traded to Washington in 2010, he retired after spending the 2011 season with the Minnesota Vikings.
McNabb went to six pro-bowls and had his best season in 2004 when he passed for 3875 yards, completed 64% of his passes with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions, according to Sports Reference. With the Eagles, he only had two seasons where he didn’t win at least half of the games he started (1999 and 2005), according to Sports Reference. After his playing days, McNabb had his number five retired by the Eagles in 2013.
Smith was the third overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, and just like Couch was a disappointment. Smith only had one season where he started more than ten games in a season (2000). After being cut by the Bengals in 2002, he spent time with the Packers and Bucs not making the final roster.
For his career, Smith completed 46.6% of his passes for 2212 yards, five touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, according to Sports Reference. In 2000 he passed for 1253 yards, completed 44% of his passes with 3 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, according to Sports Reference. Smith will be remembered with Couch as two of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.
All three quarterbacks in 1999 had high expectations, however, one lived one to it. While McNabb was everything the Eagles needed and more while Smith and Couch struggled to have any success.