Some players on current rosters will become free agents while others will retire, giving general managers and coaches an idea of what the positions of need will be for their team in the future. Scouts have closely followed the careers of collegiate players in hopes of finding the next Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, and Tom Brady.
Although drafting quality athletes with the right physical and mental tools to “make it” in the pros is always a big challenge, sports analysts do their best to project the most valuable college players who could likely become big stars. Sometimes, they’re right; other times, they completely miss the mark. Teams that covet their first-round pick can often come away with a complete dud. Here are six of the biggest draft busts in recent NFL history.
6. Aaron Curry
In the 2009 draft, the Seattle Seahawks thought they had their dominant linebacker of the future in Aaron Curry. They took him fourth overall out of Wake Forest and paid him $34 million guaranteed, which is the most for a non-quarterback in NFL history. But only two years later, he was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft.
After being waived by the Raiders, Curry signed a one-year deal with the New York Giants in 2013. He was cut in training camp and decided to retire from professional football altogether in August of that year.
5. Tim Couch
With great success at the college level for the University of Kentucky, quarterback Tim Couch was a No. 1 overall selection for the Cleveland Browns in the 1999 NFL draft. However, he only had a five-year career that was full of injuries — and when he actually played, he was terribly inaccurate.
Couch finished with 64 touchdowns and an awful 67 interceptions. He wound up being released after the 2003 season. There were a few attempts to make a comeback, but they were all unsuccessful. In 2007, Couch solidified his failed attempt at an NFL career, testing positive for human growth hormone and steroids.
4. Tony Mandarich
Billed as “The Incredible Bulk” because of his amazing college career at Michigan State, offensive lineman Tony Mandarich was projected to be a monster in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers took him as the No. 2 pick in the 1989 draft, but he never lived up to those expectations.
Though Mandarich held out for a big rookie contract to become the first O-lineman to make a seven-figure salary per season, he was a liability on the field and got burned by defenses on a weekly basis. His career with the Packers only lasted two seasons before he was cut. To make matters worse, he became addicted to painkillers and had to enter rehab. Mandarich actually returned to the NFL for a decent three-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts but never became the dominant force he was supposed to be.
3. Charles Rogers
During the tenure of former player Matt Millen as president and CEO of the Detroit Lions in the 2000s, there were many bad drafts. But the one that sticks out in most peoples’ minds is in 2003, when the team picked Michigan State wide receiver Charles Rogers second overall.
Expectations were high after he won the Biletnikoff Award for being the country’s best WR, and sports writers were even comparing him to future Hall of Famers like Randy Moss. But in his first two seasons, Rogers broke his collarbone twice and only played six games. In 2005, he was suspended following a third violation of the NFL’s drug policy. This led to his eventual outright release.
2. Jamarcus Russell
Al Davis, the late owner of the Oakland Raiders, was known for drafting some of the worst busts in recent history. Quarterback Jamarcus Russell could be the biggest. After an unbelievable Sugar Bowl performance with the LSU Tigers as well as his ability to throw a football 70 yards from his knees, Davis was convinced he found his franchise QB in Russell. But boy, was he wrong.
Subsequent to becoming the first overall selection of the 2007 draft, it was apparent that Russell couldn’t be coached and was a lazy player. His career only lasted only three seasons with 18 TDs, 23 INTs, and 22 fumbles. After he left the game, Russell was arrested for possession of codeine and ballooned up to 308 pounds. He tried to make a comeback before the 2014 season, but was never signed by any team.
1. Ryan Leaf
As one of the most coveted players coming out of college in 1998. Ryan Leaf was projected by many to be a future Hall of Famer. The San Diego Chargers agreed with the assessment, taking the Washington State quarterback second overall in the draft. But he just didn’t pan out from the start. Leaf’s passion for the game was always in question, and it showed on the field.
In just a four-year span, he played for four different teams and finished with a horrible 14/36 TD-to-INT ratio and a QB rating of 50. Following his quick retirement, Leaf became a quarterback coach at West Texas A&M University in 2006, but his life spiraled out of control with illegal drug issues and other brushes with the law. Most recently, Leaf was serving a seven-year sentence in state prison stemming from burglary and drug possession charges in Montana. He was released in 2014.
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