Biggest NFL Draft Busts

Fail, Sports

We’re already a few weeks into the 2010 NFL season and already there is talk of which player or players from this rookie year are going to be busts.  Will Sam Bradford live up to the hype?  Will Tim Tebow be the great player he was in college?  Will Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen make teams not regret drafting them higher?  While it’s sure to be a while before these questions are answered, here are some of the biggest NFL draft busts.

Brian Bosworth

Brian Bosworth

Drafted in the first round of the 1987 supplemental draft, “The Boz” is the only player on this list not drafted in the first round.  A linebacker out of the University of Oklahoma, Bosworth came into the NFL with a persona that made people want to watch him – loud, aggressive, and opinionated.  Unfortunately for Bosworth, it would have been nearly impossible for his play to live up to the hype he created around himself, and in fact it didn’t, especially when he famously promised to contain Bo Jackson and was subsequently run over by him during a goal line stand.  For his career, Brian Bosworth accumulated 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.  Not exactly the stuff of legends.

Rae Carruth

Rae Carruth

Drafted with the 27th pick of the first round of the 1997 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers, Rae Carruth is most known for now serving a minimum 18 year prison sentence for being involved in the murder of his girlfriend, 8 months pregnant with his child at the time.  With 62 receptions for 804 yards and 4 touchdowns to his career, Carruth is more a bust for his off the field issues and prison sentence for any on the field reasons.

Adam “Pac-Man” Jones

Adam Jones

The Titans drafted Jones with the 6th pick in the first round of the 2005 draft.  A cornerback and return specialist from the University of West Virginia, Jones is still in the league, though not with the Titans.  Much like Carruth, Jones is a NFL draft bust more for his off the field issues than for any lack of performance on the field.  While Jones has accumulated 146 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 interceptions heading into the current season, he’s also been suspended several times for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

Alex Smith

Alex Smith

As a 49ers fan, this one is hard to admit.  A product of the University of Utah, Alex Smith was drafted first overall by the Niners in the 2005 draft.  While still the starting quarterback for San Francisco, his 38 touchdowns, 47 interceptions, 7,529 yards passing and 69.0 passer rating after five years is not what the 49ers were looking for.

Joey Harrington

Joey Harrington

Sticking with quarterbacks, Joey Harrington was drafted 3rd in the first round of the 2002 draft by the Detroit Lions.  The former University of Oregon standout never lived up to expectations.  Interceptions, incomplete passes, and mounting losses lead to Harrington becoming a former Lion.  With career stats of 79 touchdowns, 85 interceptions, 14,693 yards and a passer rating of 69.4, it’s little wonder why Joey Harrington has been out of the league for several years now.

Charles Rogers

Charles Rogers

A year after taking Joey Harrington, the Lions were back at the top of the draft, selecting Charles Rogers with the 2nd pick in the first round of the 2003 draft.  Coming out of Michigan State, Rogers was billed as being the second coming of Keyshawn Johnson, but never lived up to the expectations, a combination of injuries and off the field issues cutting his career short.  Career totals of 36 receptions for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns just confirm Rogers’ NFL draft bust status.

Art Schlichter

Art Schlichter

I’ll admit, the part of me that dislikes Ohio State isn’t sad to put this name up here.  Selected with the 4th pick in the first round of the 1982 NFL draft, Art Schlichter came to the Baltimore Colts from THE Ohio State with high expectations.  Unfortunately he also had a gambling problem.  Years of mounting gambling debts lead to suspensions and eventually being cut from the Colts.  His career stats of 3 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 1,006 yards, and a passer rating of 42.6 are nothing to be proud of.

Akili Smith

Akili Smith



The 3rd pick in the first round of the 1999 draft saw the Cincinnati Bengals take quarterback Akili Smith from the University of Oregon.  Epic fail.  Smith missed huge amounts of training camp thanks to a contract dispute, and the effect was seen on the field.  In four years with the Bengals he would only amass 2,212 yards with 5 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and a passer rating of 52.8.  After short stints on the practice squads of Green Bay and Tampa Bay he played in NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League.

Tim Couch

Tim Couch

The quarter back taken just before Donovan McNabb.  The first overall pick in the 1999 draft, Tim Couch was selected by the Cleveland Browns out of the University of Kentucky.  He probably should have stayed in college.  Becoming the quarterback for what was a hastily assembled Browns team in the wake of the former Browns team moving to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens, Couch would end his career with 64 touchdowns, 67 interceptions, 11,131 yards, and a passer rating of 75.1.  However, he did marry former Playmate of the Year Heather Kozar, so I think we can all agree he won in the end.

Heath Shuler

Heath Shuler

Taken with the 3rd pick of the first round by the Washington Redskins in the 1994 draft, the former University of Tennessee quarterback eventually fell into a quarterback controversy with Gus Frerotte.  Yes, the Gus Frerotte that gave himself a concussion after celebrating a touchdown and headbutting a wall.  After being traded to the Saints and then signing with the Raiders, Shuler eventually went on to become a member of the US House of Representatives for the state of North Carolina.  His career stats of 15 touchdowns, 33 interceptions, 3,691 yards and a 54.3 passer rating clearly didn’t influence voters.

Rick Mirer

Rick Mirer

The second pick in the first round of the 1993 NFL draft, Rick Mirer was selected by the Seattle Seahawks out of Notre Dame to be their quarterback.  While a successful rookie year lead many to believe he would not be an NFL bust, he was eventually traded to the Bears before beginning a journey through teams such as the Packers, Jets, 49ers, Raiders and Lions, finally ending with 50 touchdowns, 76 interceptions, 11,969 yards passing and a passer rating of 63.5.

Ki-Jana Carter

Ki-Jana Carter

The first overall pick of the 1995 draft, the former Penn State running back was taken ahead of players such as Steve McNair and Warren Sapp by the Cincinnati Bengals.  Carter’s bust status is mostly tied to his career being plagued by injuries.  Tearing a ligament in his knee in only his 3rd carry of his first preseason game, he never fully recovered, finishing with only 1,144 yards and 20 touchdowns when he finally left the league in 2004.

Courtney Brown

Courtney Brown

The Cleveland Browns took Courtney Brown first overall in the 2000 NFL draft, making him only the 11th defensive lineman taken first in the 70 year history of the draft.  While having a productive rookie season, Brown’s second year was cut short due to injury, a theme that would follow throughout his career.  Eventually moving on to the Denver Broncos, his would tear his ACL in 2006 and never play again.  Finishing with 156 tackles, 19 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles, Brown was a bust due to injuries more than lack of playing ability.

JaMarcus Russell

JaMarcus Russell

Selected first overall in the 2007 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders, Russell is considered by many to be one of the biggest NFL draft busts in recent memory, especially when you consider that later picks included Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, and Darelle Revis.  Looking more like a defensive lineman than a quarterback, Russell held out through the first week of the regular season, finally signing on September 12th.  Picked because of a huge arm that Al Davis coveted, Russell just never delivered, often showing up overweight and not seeming to improve on his accuracy and ability to read a defense.  After three seasons he was finally cut by the Raiders, finishing with just 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 4,083 yards and a passer rating of 65.2.    Russell is considered one of the biggest NFL draft busts in history.

Ryan Leaf

Ryan Leaf

He’s the poster child for NFL draft busts.  Selected with the 2nd pick of the 1998 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers, the debate over who should go first, Leaf or Peyton Manning worked out great for the Colts.  Coming from Washington State, Leaf was highly touted after throwing for Pac-10 records in touchdowns and coming up 3rd in the Heisman Trophy voting.

In San Diego, he never lived up to those expectations.  Plagued by poor decision making resulting in interceptions, Leaf was also not a favorite in the locker room, often blaming his poor play on those around him and famously having to be restrained by teammate Junior Seau after being asked a question by reporter Jay Posner.  Missing the 1999 season with a shoulder injury, Leaf would eventually leave the league with 14 touchdowns, 36 interceptions, 3,666 yards, and a passer rating of only 50.0, while being known as the face of big NFL draft busts.

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