There is a lot of pressure that goes into making selections in the NFL Draft. While the casual fan can sit back and play couch-GM, franchise-altering decisions are made, and if you miss, your job could be on the line. Each year we see over 200 players selected, but only a few of those “can’t miss” guys turn into stars. Most are out of the league in a couple of years, or less, if they are lucky enough to even make the final roster. Let’s look at our top five NFL draft busts.
Brian Bosworth – Seattle Seahawks – 1987 – #1 Overall Pick in Supplemental Draft
Brian Bosworth was a larger-than-life persona in college, and he had no doubt that he was going to dominate in the NFL. His image was plastered all over commercials, billboards, and endorsements. Bosworth talked a lot of trash and was theatrical, but ultimately, he only played three seasons in the NFL and was forced to retire because of injury. His best-known play was being run over by Bo Jackson for a touchdown in his rookie season. The Hawks spent the number one overall pick on him in the supplemental draft. There weren’t that many options as only three guys were selected, but number three was wide receiver Cris Carter, maybe you have heard of him.
Charles Rogers – Detroit Lions – 2003 – #2 Overall Pick
The Lions had a string of really bad picks in the early 2000’s. The year before they drafted Rogers, they spent the third overall pick on QB Joey Harrington. Rogers was a Michigan kid and the fanbase was fired up that they would have a local legit wide receiver star catching passes. Instead, Rogers fizzled out and never played a full season. He played 15 career games and was out of the league quicker than he came into it. Injuries on the football field turned into drug issues off the field and Rogers never recovered from it.
Ryan Leaf – San Diego Chargers – 1998 – #2 Overall Pick
What people often forget is that there was a massive debate coming into the 1998 draft. The question was which QB would be better: Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning. Clearly, the Colts made the right decision, drafting Peyton first overall. But the Chargers assumed they were getting a great consolation prize in Leaf who was a stud in college. Instead, Leaf threw just 14 NFL touchdowns compared to 36 interceptions in his very short career. He had one of the worst rookie seasons of all-time, played just two seasons with San Diego and then had major off-field issues after his final season in Dallas in 2001.
Akili Smith – Cincinnati Bengals – 1999 – #3 Overall Pick
When the number three overall pick in 1999 is done after only four seasons, and only threw five career touchdown passes, he must find a spot on this list. Smith was Cincy’s guy, so much so that they turned down some insane trade offers that would’ve netted them a ton of picks over the next two drafts. They took Smith right before Hall of Famers Edgerrin James (Colts) and Champ Bailey (Redskins) were selected. He played in just 22 games over those four years seasons and was benched quickly in his second year and was never really given much of a shot after that. Most people won’t even recognize his name anymore as a guy was once dubbed as a “future star” QB.
JaMarcus Russell – Oakland Raiders – 2007 – #1 Overall Pick
Russell was a really big deal entering the 2007 draft. In fact, he held out for a bigger contract even though he was drafted number one overall. What a failure it all ended up being. He was considered the next great quarterback, but many pointed to immaturity as his epic downfall. He was never able to control his weight and his work ethic was questioned time and time again. Rumor has it that coaches would give him blank DVDs telling him there was game plan video on it and he would come back the next day and say he watched it all. Russell played in 31 games in the league; the Raiders released him after the 2009 season. He later wrote letters to all 32 NFL teams saying he would play a year for free if just given a chance, but no one wrote him back. Future stars Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Lawrence Timmons, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, and Darrelle Revis were all taken after him in that draft.
So, who are the next group of players in the NFL draft that can qualify as NFL draft busts? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: Only a small percentage of them will be stars.