Ranking the 5 Biggest NFL Draft Busts of All Time

Zac Sweeney@@sweeney_zacContributor IIIApril 26, 2012

Ranking the 5 Biggest NFL Draft Busts of All Time

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    As the 2012 NFL Draft looms on the horizon, the possibility to one of this year's top prospects turning bust is a possibility that weighs heavily on the minds of each NFL franchise. 

    It's unknown to anybody if Andrew Luck will be the next Ryan Leaf, or if Quinton Coples will be the next Brian Bosworth. 

    A bust can be the undoing of a franchise's foreseeable future, setting the team back years as their once-guaranteed All-Star becomes the laughing stock of the league.

5. Dave Klingler: Houston University QB, No. 6 Overall to Cincinnati Bengals

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    Starting off this list at No. 5 is former Houston University quarterback Dave Klingler. 

    Klingler entered the 1992 season as the sixth overall pick, taken by the Cincinnati Bengals, and was coming off a 5,000-plus-yard season at HU. 

    NFL scouts should have taken a lesson from Detroit Lions bust, Andre Ware, who came before Klingler at Houston. The numbers didn't translate to the NFL for Ware—same thing goes for Klingler.

    Klingler's NFL career didn't match his college numbers, not by a long shot.

    In four years in the NFL, Klingler threw only 16 touchdowns coupled with 21 interceptions. It also must be noted that he was sacked 83 times and only managed to accumulate about 4,000 yards over his entire career—1,000 less then he did in a single season in college. 

4. Akili Smith: Oregon QB, No. 3 Overall to Cincinnati Bengals

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    The year was 1999 and the Bengals were looking to bounce back from the bust that was Dave Klingler.

    Their fix? Akili Smith.

    The Bengals were so certain that Smith was going to be their godsend that the franchise turned down an offer of nine draft picks from Mike Ditka and his New Orleans Saints. In retrospect, the team should have taken the outrageous offer and let the Saints take the brunt of this bust, but that's not what happened. 

    During his four-year tender with the Bengals, Smith tossed only five passing touchdowns with 2,212 yards and had a career completion percentage of 46.6 percent. Smith also managed to only win three of the 17 games he started with the club. 

    Smith did have one year where he completed more then 50 percent of his passes though. In 2001, he completed 62.5 percent of his passes, throwing eight passes and completing five of them. 

3. Rae Carruth: Colorado WR, No. 27 Overall to Carolina Panthers

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    Carruth doesn't make this list due to a lack of production. He made this list due to having to serve a prison sentence that, as of this writing, is still being enforced in a North Carolina prison. 

    In his 20 games with the Carolina Panthers, he had 62 receptions for 804 yards and four touchdowns. A promising start to a career that was supposed to be legendary. 

    The Panthers would be let down however, for shortly after Carruth's career started, he was arrested following a shooting that involved a young woman and an unborn child.

    The woman turned out to be his girlfriend and the baby was his. Carruth was said to have parked his vehicle in front of the vehicle driven by the pregnant girlfriend. Unable to escape, another vehicle pulled up next to the trapped vehicle and opened fire, killing the girlfriend in the process. 

    Thankfully the baby was saved by way of an emergency cesarean section that was performed as the mother slipped into a coma. The mother died a month later. 

    Carruth is now serving an 18 year, 11 month prison sentence for conspiring to kill his girlfriend and unborn child. He is scheduled to be released sometime in 2018.  

2. JaMarcus Russell: LSU QB, No. 1 Overall to Oakland Raiders

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    J-Russ would have been first on this list, but recent news has bumped him down to the No. 2 spot. 

    JaMarcus Russell was supposed to be the savior to a reeling Oakland Raiders franchise that was still being ruled by the iron fist of the late Al Davis. This, like the other "prospects" on this list, was far from the case.

    Part of Russell's bust-status was brought about due to the insane amount of money the Raiders gave him for playing well in college. Russell received a $61 million contract, with $32 million guaranteed. A sum of money this large would be hard for even a veteran QB to live up to, let a lone a rookie gunslinger. 

    During Russell's three years in the league, he amassed only 4,083 yards for only 18 touchdowns. Compare this to his 23 interceptions and 22 fumbles, and you have a very lackluster NFL career. 

    Russell's biggest legacy wasn't his lack of work ethic or work on the field, it was his apparent extra work on various Oakland-area buffets and drive-throughs prior to the 2010 season. This extra work was made apparent when he weighed in at nearly 300 pounds before that year. 

1. Ryan Leaf: Washington St. University, QB No. 2 Overall to San Diego Chargers

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    Up until recently, I had thought that J-Russ had replaced the legendary Ryan Leaf as the biggest draft bust of all time. That was changed however by Leaf's most recent antics.

    Before we get to that though, let's focus on Ryan Leaf as a Charger. 

    For starters, Leaf's bust-status is made worse by the fact that the No. 1 overall pick of that year's draft was none other than Peyton Manning. Manning's illustrious 14-year career with the Indianapolis Colts makes Leaf look like a Pop Warner backup with some off the field issues. 

    As a player, Leaf was supposed to be the next-big-thing in the NFL, win a ton of games, and make the San Diego Chargers the premiere club in the NFL. This couldn't have been farther from the truth.

    Leaf's career saw him throw 36 interceptions and only 14 touchdowns. In 2000, Leaf somehow managed to lose 15 games.

    Leaf was known as a selfish jerk who quickly lost the support of his coaching staff and teammates. I was going to say locker room, but there's a good chance he was never in high standing among the team.

    Leaf did so horrible that the Chargers decided to waive the remaining years of his contract in 2001.

    Following his brief NFL "career", Leaf took to drugs and alcohol, a habit that got him into trouble with the law. Leaf dodged a prison sentence by checking into rehab and serving 10 years of probation.

    Leaf's rise to the top of this chart began in 2010 when he was arrested for breaking into and burglarizing the home of a player he knew from his position as quarterback coach for West Texas A&M, a Division II school. It was later discovered that Leaf had gotten a hold of close to 1,000 prescription pills from a local pharmacy.

    Fast forward to March 30th and Leaf is confronted by authorities and his parole officer regarding suspicious packages and bottles of Oxycodone that were found in his golf bag. Leaf was arrested but made the $76,000 bail.

    Two days later, Leaf was found in a home that was not his, but fled the scene. Prescription pills and power tools were found missing and Leaf was identified by the owners of the house. Leaf was arrested at his home shortly after, where additional medications were found in his possession.

    Leaf now faces up to 50 years in prison for his string of drug-related incidents.

    This mile long list of mishaps and lengthy potential prison sentence—don't forget he was taken behind Peyton Manning—allows Ryan Leaf to keep the crown for biggest NFL bust in draft day history.