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SportingNews.com: Top Ten Draft Busts Of The Last 20 Years


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As NFL fans feel more and more hopeful that their teams' 2009 draft will generate a class of young players that might help form the foundation for multiple championship seasons, it's important to remember that, when it comes to those coveted first-round picks, it's a crapshoot as to whether they'll ever develop into solid contributors.

In some cases, the failure to fulfill potential occurs with the kind of a thud that sets the franchise back for years, and embarrasses it forever.

So let's take a look back at the 10 biggest first-round busts of the past 20 years of NFL drafts.

10. Adam "Pacman" Jones, Titans (No. 6 overall, 2005).

Adam "Pacman" Jones would have landed a lot higher on this list if he didn't demonstrate a relatively high degree of talent during his limited time in Tennessee.

But, all things considered, the sixth overall pick from four years ago was a train wreck in Nashville, due in large part to a chronic inability to stay out of the wrong places at the wrong times.

Ten incidents with law enforcement resulted in a one-year suspension after two NFL seasons. Traded to the Cowboys in 2008, Jones earned another six-game sit after getting into a brouhaha with his babysitter.

Several months into NFL unemployment, no team has given him so much as a whiff. Even if he gets another job at the pro level, no one seems to think he'll be a long-term contributor to any organization.

9. Heath Shuler, Redskins (No. 3 overall, 1994).

After winning three Super Bowls with three different signal-callers under Joe Gibbs, the Redskins decided in the second year after Gibbs' first retirement to attempt to land a franchise quarterback.

They almost got one that year, but in round seven. When Gus Frerotte joined the team.

At the top of round one, the Redskins selected Heath Shuler, a supposedly can't-miss prospect from Tennessee.

Seven games into his rookie season, Shuler took a seat and Frerotte took the reins.

After Shuler's third year in D.C., he was sent packing to the Saints. Two years later, his career was over.

8. Peter Warrick, Bengals (No. 4 overall, 2000).

Warrick was viewed as a can't-miss prospect coming out of Florida State. But like so many dominant wideouts at the college level, Warrick couldn't beat bump-and-run coverage when NFL-caliber cornerbacks were doing the bumping and running.

After five yawn-inducing years in Cincinnati, Warrick landed in Seattle. After one lackluster season with the Seahawks, Warrick hit the end of the road.

And after short stints in the Arena Football League and the CFL, Warrick is now playing in an obscure indoor football league.

But, unlike everyone else on this list, at least he's still playing.

7. David Klingler, Bengals (No. 6 overall, 1992).

The good news for the Cincinnati Bengals is they made the right call in drafting quarterback Carson Palmer six years ago.

The bad news is they kissed a lot of frogs before they got there.

One such frog leaped into the NFL from the University of Houston in 1992, when dim-bulb head coach David Shula had a bright idea that it was time to phase out Boomer Esiason, who was only 31 at the time.

So David Klingler got the job late in his rookie year, and Esiason was sent packing in the offseason.

Two seasons later, Klingler was the former starter, too.

6. Blair Thomas, Jets (No. 2 overall, 1990).

Few running backs received more pre-draft hype than Penn State's Blair Thomas.

And the Jets didn't hesitate when their turn came following a 4-12 season with the second selection in the '90 draft.

Thomas hesitated plenty when the time came to hit the hole and move the chains. He never rushed for more than 728 yards in any one season, and his four-year stint in New York ended when he gained merely 221 yards in 1993.

5. Akili Smith, Bengals (No. 3 overall, 1999).

The first-round quarterback class of 1999 was supposed to conjure memories of 1983's collection of fireballers like Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and John Elway.

Instead, three of the quintet of Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown -- all taken in the first 12 picks -- disappointed.

Smith was a full-time starter for only one full season.

After 2002, Smith was done.

4. Mike Williams, Bills (No. 4 overall, 2002).

It would be easy to call quarterback David Carr and/or quarterback Joey Harrington the bust of the class of 2002. And though both are still in the league, each is more likely to be remembered for not fulfilling his promise with the Texans and Lions, respectively.

But first-round quarterbacks are a 50-50 proposition; for every one that succeeds, one is reasonably expected to fail.

At tackle, however, the chances of getting a 10-year mainstay in the top 10 are much greater. When one of them flames out, it's far more noteworthy.

The Bills picked tackle Mike Williams in the spot after Harrington. Like many of these high-profile busts, Williams had four years to stink it up in Buffalo before getting a short-term second chance with a new team.

A year later, he was a former NFL player.

3. Charles Rogers, Lions (No. 2 overall, 2003).

With the second pick in the 2003 draft, the Lions had to make a decision between two receivers -- Michigan State's Charles Rogers and Miami's Andre Johnson.

Even with reports that Rogers had failed the drug test at the Scouting Combine due to an excessively diluted sample, the Lions went with Rogers.

And after the fifth game of his rookie year, he busted a collarbone.

And in the first game of his second year, he busted the same collarbone.

And after a third season that included a four-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy, the Lions cut the cord on Rogers, and he was never heard from again.

Except when getting arrested.

2. Ryan Leaf, Chargers (No. 2 overall, 1998).

Eleven years ago, the Colts actually were debating whether to pick Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf.

They ended up making the right decision.

And the short career of Ryan Leaf demonstrates how right it was.

Manning is among the best ever, and Leaf is among the worst.

1. Tony Mandarich, Packers. (No. 2 overall, 1989).

Sandwiched in the 1989 draft between Troy Aikman at No. 1 and Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders at No. 3, 4, and 5, respectively, was Tony Mandarich.

Mandarich was supposed to be one of the greatest offensive line prospects of all time, the kind of Hall of Famer each of the four men picked around him became.

Mandarich failed miserably.

Maybe it was because he quit doing steroids once he got to the NFL. Or maybe he lost his fire after he got paid. Either way, the term "colossal draft bust" and "Mandarich" are synonymous in pro football parlance.

He's the biggest bust of the past 20 years, and possibly the biggest bust of all time.

And if the Colts had opted for Ryan Leaf instead of Peyton Manning, Leaf and Mandarich would have spent one year on the same team -- the 1998 Colts.

For more in-depth NFL coverage, including weekly mock drafts, free agency

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The draft gods are funny. Both the Bengals and Chargers failed miserably drafting a franchise QB in the first round and then less than 8 years later they get another chance and hit it big.

Then there are other teams who were not given that second chance.

Oh, and I agree with the Mandarich over Leaf in draft bust ranking. Mandarich was suppose to be a sure fire HOF, forget about franchise T. He was ready for Canton. He was the "Incredible Bulk" on the SI Cover. He had it all. Of course, that was because he did roids. BUT, if BALCO existed back then he might have ended up in the HOF.

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6. Blair Thomas, Jets (No. 2 overall, 1990).

I was so excited to see him at camp

when I first saw him, I double checked his number in the program

he was soooo small, I mean he looked like a HS kid out there

I remember thinking, "well he better be really fast" :rolleyes:

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the colts should get an award for the rare double bust. they had the first two picks in the draft, and whifffed twice


1 Indianapolis Colts Steve Emtman Defensive Tackle Washington

Emtman's NFL career was marred by injuries. Playing a majority of his games on Astroturf, he finished each of his three seasons with the Colts on the injured reserve list. Nine games into his rookie year, he blew out his left knee. The following season, he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee, an injury that no previous NFL player had ever returned from. In October 1994, he beat the odds and made his comeback at home against the team he had grown up following, the Seattle Seahawks. On his first play, he tackled Chris Warren for a 5-yard loss. However, in the second quarter, he ruptured a disc in his neck in a collision with a teammate. Emtman continued to play, even though after the game, he could not close his fists due to nerve damage from the injury. He managed to play three more weeks until continuing pain forced him to undergo season-ending surgery.[2] He later played for the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins. His playing career ended following the 1997 season at the age of 27.

2 Indianapolis Colts Quentin Coryatt Linebacker Texas A&M

Coryatt elected to forgo his senior season and declare for the 1992 NFL Draft. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1st round with the second overall pick.[1] In 2008, days before the 2008 NFL Draft, SI.com listed him as modern-era draft bust.[2]

Coryatt played in 78 games over a six-year stretch for the Colts, and although he was a solid contributor, he never lived up to the stardom that was expected of him by virtue of his high draft status. After spending the 1998 season on injured reserve, Coryatt joined the Cowboys for the 1999 season, appearing in four games for Dallas. Coryatt retired after the 1999 season.

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Hey! Only one of our first round busts made the list. And there are a few more I could name like Dewayne Robertson, Anthony Becht and Johnny Mitchell. The all time Jet bad draft pick was Carl McAdams in the 60's. He was heralded as a great linebacker and we got him in round 2. He went to the Jets offices, then in Manhattan, and getting out of the cab, stepped in a sewer drain and screwed up his ankle. Anybody remember him? The operations never repaired it. There should be a Carl McAdams Award given to the unluckiest, or worst, draft pick every year.

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I wonder what Akili Smith and all these other guys who only played four or five seasons did with all their millions AND their NFL pension they get each year (since you only need to play three or four years to qualify to get it for the remainder of your life).

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