Where Are They Now? Top Draft Picks Who Didn't Pan Out

Matt Haupert@@matthaupFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

Where Are They Now? Top Draft Picks Who Didn't Pan Out

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    Draft day is supposed to be a day when dreams come true—especially for the guys who are picked right up at the top.

    After years of hard work, a professional sports team is going to decide to invest the future of the franchises in you—and you will now get to live out your dream of being a legend and a hero.

    Unfortunately, dreams are made to be broken, and far too often, the young men who that seemed like can't-miss prospects end up missing completely.

    Ryan Leaf. Kwame Brown. Alexandre Daigle. And many, many more.

    So what exactly happens to a guy who ends up being a major bust after spending his entire life preparing for nothing but professional sports?

    That question doesn't have one simple answer.

    Some keep clinging to their dreams, continuing to play sports with the hopes of one day getting back to the top.

    Some settle down with families, open businesses and live successful, happy lives that are no different than the rest of us.

    And some just fall off the deep end.

    Take a look through some of the most memorable NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB draft busts in recent years and see how they've been staying busy since their athletic careers took tragic turns for the worse.

Sam Bowie

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    Picked: No. 2 overall by Portland Trail Blazers in 1984 NBA draft

    Sam Bowie certainly wasn't the worst NBA player of all time.

    His career was riddled with injuries from the start, but he was a moderately productive player when healthy. His legacy, of course, is being selected one pick ahead of Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player in the history of the game.

    Bowie is still a celebrity in Lexington, Kentucky, where he lives and makes plenty of money. None of this cash is in any way tied to basketball.

    Rather, he has made hundreds of thousands of dollars as a racehorse winner, striking gold with one named "Before He Cheats" after the Carrie Underwood song.

Tony Mandarich

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    Picked: No. 2 overall by Green Bay Packers in 1989 NFL draft

    Tony Mandarich was considered the greatest offensive line prospect of all time—and, considering his unique size, strength and speed—one of the most incredible athletes of all time when the Green Bay Packers selected him ahead of Barry Sanders in the 1989 NFL draft.

    Turns out his size and ability had more to do with performance-enhancing drugs than anything else, and he quickly flamed out and became one of the NFL's biggest busts.

    Life after the NFL has been kind to Mandarich, who discovered a new passion: photography.

    He now owns Mandarich Studios with his wife, specializing in fitness and glamour. He discovered photography in the 1990s and is self-taught, relying on instinct rather than technique, according to Jim Weber of Yahoo Sports:

    I just look at it and if it feels right, I go with it. I say, 'I think this will look good with this.' I don't even know the name of the color...My first impression is usually 99 percent right.

    Hopefully, his instincts will serve him better in photography than they did in football.

Charles Rogers

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    Picked: No. 2 overall by Detroit Lions in 2003 NFL draft

    Charles Rogers was supposed to be the NFL's next great wide receiver when the Detroit Lions took him with the second pick in the 2003 draft.

    He was an athletic freak in high school and at Michigan State and then scored two touchdowns in his NFL debut with Detroit.

    Nobody realized that would be his peak.

    Rogers' career took a nose dive thanks to injury problems and repeated offenses of the NFL's drug policy. Since then, things have only gotten worse, as he was accused of threatening to kill his own mother and has been in and out of prison and treatment facilities.

Joey Harrington

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    Picked: No. 3 overall by Detroit Lions in 2002 NFL draft

    Since leaving the NFL, former Detroit Lions quarterback Joey Harrington has enjoyed a healthy transition from NFL bust to flourishing family man. Harrington works as a college football analyst for Fox Sports 1 and is able to spend more time with his wife and young son.

    The Harringtons live in Portland, Oregon, where they are very involved in the community and focused on nonprofit work with their Harrington Family Foundation.

Jeff Clement

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    Picked: No. 3 overall by Seattle Mariners in 2005 MLB draft

    Jeff Clement, the next Babe Ruth.

    Career statistics: .218 BA, 14 HR

    After being selected ahead of both Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun, the Johnny Bench Award winner—he was named the nation's top catcher in college—barely tasted the major leagues and never experienced success.

    Clement actually kept plodding along in professional baseball until this year, spending last season with the Triple-A Rochester Redwings. Less than 10 years after he thought he was baseball's next big thing, he is now retiring.

    Clement now lives with his wife and four children in Ankeny, Iowa. Still only 30 years old, he plans to finish the communications degree that he started at USC and focus on raising his family.

Michael Olowokandi

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    Picked: No. 1 overall by Los Angeles Clippers in 1998 NBA draft

    Vince Carter, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki were all available in the 1998 NBA draft, but the Clippers went with Michael Olowokandi, who had only been playing basketball since he was 18.

    Suffice to say, they have regretted it ever since. He managed to hang around the NBA for nine seasons, scoring only 8.3 points per game in his career.

    Olowokandi has kept out of the spotlight since leaving the NBA, but his wife—now his ex-wife—has become a millionaire. Suzie Ketcham is a reality TV star who became famous on Basketball Wives.

    She decided to leave Olowokandi to enjoy her own life as a celebrity.

Alexander Daigle

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    Picked: No. 1 overall by Ottawa Senators in 1993 NHL draft

    Alexandre Daigle famously told reporters, according to Yahoo Sports' Sunaya Supurji, "I'm glad I got drafted first, because no one remembers number two." Chris Pronger was drafted and ended up winning an NHL MVP award and a Stanley Cup. Daigle did not.

    After wildly unsuccessful and disheartening stints with a number of NHL teams, Daigle retired at the young age of 25. According to TheHockeyWriters.com, he then took on a rather eventful lifestyle:

    During this time he decided he wanted to be a Hollywood celebrity.  He briefly dated Pamela Anderson. (Who hasn’t?) And he played in a “beer league” in Los Angeles (Cuba Gooding Jr. was a teammate) for the team The Bad Boys, owned by movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer. He also created an event promotion company, Impostor Entertainment. Pretty ironic name if you ask me.

    Daigle made a comeback and played two seasons with the Minnesota Wild and then left the NHL for the last time and joined the HC Davos of the Swiss-A League.

    He hasn't played since 2010 but hasn't officially retired from the sport yet, either.

Hasheem Thabeet

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    Picked: No. 2 overall by Memphis Grizzlies in 2009 NBA draft

    Everybody knows about Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. A lot less people realize that there's a guy riding the Oklahoma City Thunder bench who was supposed to be even better than those guys.

    Hasheem Thabeet was selected second overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2009 NBA draft but scored only 3.1 points per game as a rookie despite standing at 7'3".

    That was the highest scoring average he has put up in a season.

    One of the worst top picks ever in the NBA, Thabeet now plays for the Thunder, where he averaged 8.3 minutes and 1.2 points per game last season.

JaMarcus Russell

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    Picked: No. 1 overall by Oakland Raiders in 2007 NFL draft

    After flopping majestically in his first stint with the Oakland Raiders, JaMarcus Russell was very quickly out of the NFL with an awful reputation and the stinging label of being a bust.

    Though he hasn't played since 2009, Russell is still trying valiantly to make an NFL comeback. He shed 51 pounds and worked out with the Chicago Bears last spring but wasn't signed.

    He has been working on his mechanics, but knee injuries have slowed him down, and no teams currently appear interested. In fact, according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, "It appears Russell’s chances of returning to the NFL aren’t much better than they were when the Raiders released him after the 2009 season."

    Nevertheless, Russell is trying, and there are enough quarterback-needy teams that he might get another shot.

Tim Couch

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    Picked: No. 1 overall by Cleveland Browns in 1999 NFL draft

    Tim Couch may be the unluckiest player ever to be picked No. 1 in the NFL draft. His four-year career ended up being a major disappointment, but playing for the expansion Cleveland Browns all but guaranteed that he wasn't going to have much success.

    Fortunately, Couch has found happiness in his post-football life. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife and works for Fox Sports South as a television analyst.

Ryan Leaf

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    Picked: No. 2 overall by San Diego Chargers in 1998 NFL draft

    Like Charles Rogers, Ryan Leaf's life only went further downhill after his disastrous NFL career and has been marked by crime and addiction.

    Most recently, Leaf was in a drug treatment center, where he threatened a staff member and was then sent to the Montana State Prison.

    The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com) explains what led him there:

    The former San Diego Chargers and Washington State Cougars quarterback was charged last spring with breaking into two houses and stealing prescription painkillers near his hometown of Great Falls. He pleaded guilty in May to burglary and criminal possession of dangerous drugs, and his five-year sentence called for spending nine months in a locked drug treatment facility as an alternative to prison.

    In a stark contrast, the man drafted one spot ahead of Leaf in the 1998 draft, Peyton Manning, is preparing to try to lead the Broncos to a second consecutive Super Bowl and defend his MVP award.

Jake Plummer

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    Picked: No. 42 overall by Arizona Cardinals in 1997 NFL draft

    Though he had a moderately successful NFL career with the Cardinals and Broncos, Jake Plummer never quite lived up to his massive potential and decided to leave the NFL at age 32 while still in the prime of his career.

    Perhaps the problem was that Plummer had been playing the wrong sport all long.

    After leaving football, he moved to Idaho with his wife and focused his life on handball.

    Hunter Atkins of The New York Times tells the story:

    Plummer’s father picked up the game while working at a lumber warehouse and taught it to his sons. In the past 10 years, Plummer’s older brothers, Brett and Eric, have combined to win six Idaho singles titles. Jake was part of a team that won the 2010 Idaho doubles championship. Plummer loved the game so much that in October 2008, he started his own leg of the American professional tour called the Helluva Handball Bash in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

    Though he hopes to play handball for the rest of his life, Plummer hasn't let go of football completely.

    Now a Heads Up Football ambassador, he has worked with young football players in Alaska, focusing on inspiring a love of the game that he once had so many years ago.

Ron Dayne

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    Picked: No. 11 overall by New York Giants in 2000 NFL draft

    Ron Dayne was on top of the world when he was the running back for the Wisconsin Badgers, so it makes sense that he chose Madison, Wisconsin, to call his home.

    Dayne, a divorced father of four, works for Miller Brewing Company and is still involved at the University of Wisconsin, where he makes promotional appearances. Dayne apparently was also training for the 2012 Olympics as a discus thrower, though his attempts were not fruitful.

Ki-Jana Carter

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    Picked: No. 1 overall by Cincinnati Bengals in 1995 NFL draft

    Penn State superstar running back Ki-Jana Carter never got a chance to show off his potential in the NFL. He tore his ACL on his third preseason carry and was never the same again, playing seven unspectacular seasons.

    Carter would not, however, let this derail his entire life. Upon leaving football, he founded a company called ByoGlobe, of which he is now the CEO. According to Matt Harvey of USA Today, the company is a "'one-stop shop' offering green solutions such as energy savings and eco-friendly products for customers including healthcare companies, cruise liners and athletics facilities. It provides products such as medical disposables, cleaning chemicals and energy-efficient lighting."

    He has not written off football completely, saying he is open and interested in eventually finding a position as a broadcaster.

Billy Beane

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    Picked: No. 23 overall by New York Mets in 1980 MLB draft

    Turns out becoming a draft bust was the best thing that ever happened to Billy Beane.

    Beane was taken in the first round by the Mets in 1980 and made his major league debut in 1984. Over the next six seasons, he played a total of 148 games, never more than 80 in a season and only once more than 37. He finished his career with three home runs and a .219 batting average.

    By 1997, however, Beane was the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, a position that brought him far more fame and success than he probably could have ever reached as a player. A champion of sabermetrics and statistical analysis, Beane was the focus of Michael Lewis' book Moneyball, which was made into a movie in 2011, starring Brad Pitt as Beane.

    In 2013 Beane was named one of the top GMs/executives of the decade by Sports Illustrated.

    Despite consistently having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, Beane has guided the A's to the playoffs seven times, and as of this writing, they have the best record in Major League Baseball.

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