Gated apartment communities ... the Pontiac Sunbird ... Guns N' Roses breaking up, causing millions of glam fans and punk rockers to unite in grief.
Yep, that was 1994.
Funny how all those facets of mid-'90s life represent a certain sense of disappointment (gated apartment complexes always had off-white paint and sucked) -- just like the 1994 NFL Draft. Whether you want to chalk it up to unfulfilled promise or a lack of productivity, the great college marketplace 20 years ago proved to be far from great.
Consider that the first overall pick, Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson, was a big bust. In fact, there were busts littered throughout the first round: Heath Shuler, Trev Alberts, Antonio Langham, John Thierry and Bernard Williams (he of Eagles non-fame) were among those taken within the top 15 picks alone. Ugh.
That's not all. Arguably the best player in the draft -- or, at least, the guy who played the best for the team that actually drafted him -- went to Sonoma State. That was Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen.
The only other Hall of Famer in the class was Marshall Faulk, a phenomenal second overall choice by the Indianapolis Colts. Faulk would go on to be a certifiably elite player ... in St. Louis. Unfortunately for the Colts, Faulk had some injury woes while in Indy, and though he was solid there, he never delivered for coaches Ted Marchibroda and Lindy Infante the way he would later for Rams coaches Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz. Faulk's play in 1999 as a member of the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams was enough to make Vermeil -- or any grown man -- cry.
Frankly, there were many picks in this draft that could bring tears to a fan's eyes -- though not exactly in a good way. Outside of Allen, the Cowboys' draft was beyond awful. (Now we know what Chan Gailey had to deal with five years later.) Meanwhile, Atlanta managed to draft prospects in the third, fourth and fifth rounds who never even played a snap in the NFL. Truthfully, almost every team did poorly -- just eight first-round picks went on to be impact players.
We could go on and on about the failed prospects who were caught in the draft of 1994. But we shouldn't forget those that came through for the clubs that invested in them. My colleague Willie McGinest (picked fourth overall by the Patriots) was an excellent player in New England; he still has the most postseason sacks in NFL history. Defensive tackle Bryant Young (picked seventh overall by the San Francisco 49ers) and wideout Isaac Bruce (picked 33rd overall by the Rams) dominated the NFC West for years. Another defensive tackle, the 6-foot-5, 350-pound Sam Adams (drafted eighth overall by the Seattle Seahawks), was literally a huge reason the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000. And it's worth noting a couple of running back gems who were unearthed by the Eagles and Packers, respectively: Charlie Garner (42nd overall) and Dorsey Levens (149th overall).
As with all things -- and as with every draft, whether it took place in 1974, 1984 or this particular year -- there are bright spots and not-so-bright spots. Still, if the allure of the Caught in the Draft series lies in the abundance of storylines, then let us not shortchange 1994.
Consider these tales from ...
... the second round: Two defensive backs drafted 11 picks apart, Bucky Brooks (48th overall by the Bills) and Jason Sehorn (59th overall by the Giants), ended up making their way after their playing days as national NFL analysts. I worked with Sehorn on FSN's "Pro Football Preview" in 2006, and I always marveled at how hard he came with his opinions, especially when he found out I'd seen "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary about global warming. Brooks, with whom I'll be covering the 2014 NFL Draft for NFL.com, sees nearly everything from a scout's perspective -- which is no surprise, as he went to Super Bowl XXXVIII as a scout for the Panthers.
... the third round: What a year '94 was for 49ers third-round pick Doug Brien (85th overall), who, after kicking collegiately at Cal, moved all of 13 miles down the road (and over the bridge) to San Francisco before promptly winning Super Bowl XXIX as a rookie. He was a busy guy in that Super Bowl, too, as the Niners scored seven touchdowns. All those who pooh-pooh the kicking game should note that the best team in the league took a kicker -- yes, a kicker -- in the third round.
... the fourth round: This round just might be the worst in the 78-year history of the draft. Five guys never played a down in the NFL. Making matters worse, arguably the best player of the 28 selected was the Bears' Raymont Harris (114th overall). Yes, he did manage to top 1,000 yards in 1997, but he also started a mere 38 games his entire career. At least he made up for it by averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
... the fifth round: The third defensive-back-turned-TV-analyst taken in this draft, Rodney Harrison, went 145th overall to a Chargers team that would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl nine months later. Amazingly -- and tragically -- eight players from that squad have passed away.
... the sixth round: Ready for some trivia? The first pick of the sixth round, Kimo von Oelhoffen (162nd overall), went to the Bengals. What is the former defensive end most famous for? (Hint: Think playoffs ... hit me up with answers @HarrisonNFL.)
... the seventh round: Gus Frerotte (197th overall), Jamal Anderson (201st) and Tom Nalen (218th) all were afterthoughts when the draft concluded ... and all went on to become pretty damn good players. Frerotte eventually beat out Shuler in Washington and played 15 years. Anderson rushed for more than 1,800 yards for the Falcons in 1998. Nalen went to five Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls as a center in Denver.
The 1994 NFL Draft's legacy might not be silver and gold, but it is unique. If nothing else, consider this: Wilkinson, a defensive tackle, and Faulk, a running back, went 1-2. Knowing the NFL of today as we do, when do we think that will happen again?
Maybe in another 20 years.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.