Every year, either before or after the NFL Draft, various lists are compiled regarding the biggest failures, or busts, in the history of the draft. While listings of this nature are simply based on opinion, especially if a “failure order” is used to make the case, what can’t be denied is that quite often scouting reports are not accurate, and for a plethora of other reasons, the player deemed the next big thing…can quickly become the next big flop.
Listed in order of selection, in terms of calendar year, here are five of the most notable draft busts in NFL history.
Art Schlichter – Quarterback – 1982
Selected by the Baltimore Colts with the fourth overall pick in the draft, Art Schlichter was quite the gambling man. Literally. Starting only six games during his NFL career, and losing them all, Schlichter was plagued by his gambling addiction, and later suspended from the NFL. Spending much of his professional career in legal turmoil, Schlichter’s NFL career came to an end in 1986. Schlichter is currently serving time in prison for his involvement in a high-stakes football ticket scam. In respect to the ’82 talent pool, the Colts passed on the likes of Jim McMahon and Marcus Allen in order to draft Schlichter.
Tony Mandarich – Offensive Tackle – 1989
With the second selection of the 1989 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers selected Tony Mandarich. Considered by draft experts to be the most prolific offensive lineman in history, Mandarich simply never materialized. Released by the Packers in 1992, Mandarich would retire in 1998. Regarded as one of the biggest busts in draft history, the Packers passed on the likes of Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, and Deion Sanders in favor of Mandarich.
Rick Mirer – Quarterback – 1993
Taken with the second overall selection in the 1993 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, Rick Mirer had a respectable rookie season, but then quickly fell off the map. After bouncing around to several NFL organizations over the next decade, Mirer retired in 2004. The highly touted quarterback from Notre Dame is now remembered as the NFL journeyman who never fulfilled expectations.
Ryan Leaf – Quarterback – 1998
Arguably the biggest bust of all-time, Ryan Leaf was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the second overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft, one selection after Peyton Manning. After winning his two initial starts in San Diego, Leaf’s dreams of a successful NFL career essentially came to an end. Marred by on-the-field inconsistency, nagging injuries, as well as off-the-field issues, Leaf retired in 2002. Notable players such as Charles Woodson, Randy Moss, and Hines Ward were selected after Leaf. Once considered to be the best quarterback in the nation, Leaf is now serving time in a Montana state prison.
JaMarcus Russell – Quarterback – 2007
With the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected JaMarcus Russell. Unfortunately for both the Raiders and Russell alike, draft day was about as good as it ever got. Signing a six-year deal worth $68 million, $35+ million of which was guaranteed money, the once decorated prospect proved to be a below average quarterback, and certainly not worth the “bus load” of money the Raiders coughed up for his services. Due to his on-the-field inconsistencies, coupled with what was deemed by Oakland as a perpetual weight issue, Russell was released by the Raiders following the 2009 season. Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and Darrelle Revis are just a few of the notable NFL talents selected after Russell.
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