Boom or Bust: NFL Draft's Last 30 Years of No. 1 Picks
The first AFL-NFL draft was Mar. 14, 1967. Bubba Smith was the very first player drafted in any NFL or AFL draft on record.
Since then some have turned draft day into a holiday...as it is all some team's fans (Detroit, Cleveland, Oakland) have to look forward to.
For any NFL fan, the day is one of great importance. It can define the future of your team, for better or worse.
So on that note, we start our list of the number one picks from the last 30 years, starting with 1979, and grade them all either "boom" or "bust."
1979—Tom Cousineau, LB, Buffalo Bills
Tom Cousineau was originally drafted by the Bills in '79, as the hotshot from Ohio State, where he put together quite the resume.
The Bills acquired the first pick in the draft from the 49ers in a trade for O.J. Simpson. Oops. He may have been passed his prime, but this was a terrible trade.
After saying the Bills were "rude" to him, Causineau bolted to Canada and played with the Montreal Alouettes, who offered him double what the Bills did. Causineau won the MVP in 1979, and was a big hit in Canada.
Unfortunately, he returned to the NFL. Buffalo got him back in 1982, and promptly traded him to Cleveland for a future draft pick (Jim Kelly). He remained in Cleveland for four years, leading the team in tackles for three years.
Causineau was picked up by the 49ers in 1986, and retired after two years of playing reserve in San Francisco.
Accomplishments: Six seasons in NFL, zero awards
Conclusion: A big fat BUST.
1980—Billy Sims, RB, Detroit Lions
Billy Sims was drafted out of Oklahoma in the 1980 draft, where he was definitely an eye catcher.
After injuries plagued him throughout his freshman and sophomore seasons, he was able to show off his stuff in his last two years of play. He ended his career as a Sooner with 3,813 yards...most of which coming in only two years.
Sims made an immediate impact on the Lions. He was a Pro Bowler in 1980, 81, and 82. He even took Detroit to the playoffs twice, though losing in the first round both times.
Unfortunately, he ended his career in 1984 with a serious knee injury against Minnesota.
Sims finished with 5,106 yards and 42 touchdowns, and remains a beloved sports figure in Detroit. Barry Sanders honored Sims by choosing the No. 20 five years later.
Accomplishments: Four seasons in NFL, 1978 Heisman Trophy, 1980 NFL Rookie of the Year, three time Pro Bowler
Conclusion: BOOM. Although his career was cut short, he was a magnificent player while at Detroit.
1981—George Rogers, RB, New Orleans Saints
Some say the Saints made a mistake picking Rogers over Lawrence Taylor in the '81 draft. The Saints, however, would disagree.
At South Carolina he was, is, and probably always will be a legend. Rogers started his career as a Gamecock halfway through his freshman year, and never looked back. Many of his records still stand to this day, and he was the first player to have his jersey retired while still an active player.
Highly praised coming into his rookie year, Rogers did not disappoint.
He led the NFL in rushing and was named Rookie of the Year, as well as earning a Pro Bowl birth.
He brought New Orleans "out of the cellar" during his four years there before heading to Washington. As a Redskin, he was once again a Pro Bowler, but also earned a Super Bowl win.
Washington dominated Denver 42-10 in Super Bowl XXII, although this would be Rogers last NFL game.
Rogers finished his career with 7,176 yards and 54 touchdowns.
Accomplishments: Heisman Trophy winner in 1980, Pro Bowler in 1981 and 87, Rookie of the Year Award in 1981, inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Conclusion: A BOOM without a doubt.
1982—Kenneth Sims, DE, New England Patriots
Sims was an esteemed Longhorn coming out of Texas, and was thought to be a sure help to the struggling Patriots.
He become the first person to win the Lombardi Trophy from Texas his senior year, and also won the lineman of the year award.
However in the NFL, Sims failed miserably. He earned himself a nickname after dissing practices by saying "I'll be there on game day." and from then on was known as Game Day.
Sims did anything but "be there." He was out of shape and injury prone his whole career. After eight long years with the Patriots, they released Sims after he was found with cocaine and charged with drug possession.
Accomplishments: Eight season in NFL, zero awards
Conclusion: A druggie, a jerk, and a BUST.
1983—John Elway, QB, Denver Broncos
If you don't know the name, you aren't a football fan. In 1983, Denver drafted quite possibly the greatest quarterback of all time.
Despite not going to a single bowl game, or winning any awards, Elway was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He threw for over 9,000 yards and 77 touchdowns with Stanford.
Elway was actually drafted by the Baltimore Colts, but he refused to play there and threatened to follow a baseball career. Thus, he was traded to Denver.
After three quiet years, his career took off.
After beating the Browns in the '86 conference championship with "The Drive," he led the team to the Super Bowl. And there is where his luck turned bad.
The Broncos lost to the Giants 39-20, despite a good game from Elway.
In 1987 he won the NFL MVP award, beat the Browns in the conference championship, and again lost the Super Bowl. This time to the Redskins, who won 42-10.
And in 1989...we see the same story. They beat the Browns, and lose the Super Bowl, this time even worse than before—a 55-10 blowout at the hands of San Francisco.
Elway wasn't done yet though, as he took the Broncos back yet again...this time eight years later in 1999, beating the Packers 31-24. In '99, they also won the Super Bowl with a 34-19 victory over the Falcons.
Elway ended his career on a high note, at the age of 38. Few players have ever played older, or longer. He ranks among the best quarterbacks of all time, and will remain an NFL legend.
He finished with a 148-82-1 record, 51,000+ yards, 300 touchdowns, and ended 2-3 in the Super Bowl.
Accomplishments: 15 years in NFL, Nine time Pro Bowler, 1987 NFL MVP, '90's All Decade team, Super Bowl XXXIII MVP
Conclusion: Is there even any question? A definite BOOM, perhaps the biggest one ever.
1984—Irving Fryar, WR, New England Patriots
Fryar was originally drafted by the Patriots, and it could be said he was a key in turning the franchise around.
At Nebraska, though, he was a legend. Playing alongside Heisman finalists Mike Rozier and Turner Gill made it hard for him to steal the spotlight, but New England recognized his talent.
He was the first wide receiver drafted at number one, and lived up to his potential. In 1985, Fryar helped New England to Super Bowl XX. Unfortunately, things didn't go the Pats way.
They actually had negative yardage in the first half against Chicago, and 123 yards all game (second lowest in Super Bowl history). However, Fryar stood out, scoring New England's only touchdown in the 46-10 blowout.
Other than that Fryar never really stood out much, leaving New England in 1992, then playing for Miami until 1995, Philly until 1998, and ended his career in Washington in 2000.
Fryar lasted 17 seasons in the NFL, gaining 12,785 receiving and 84 touchdowns off of 851 catches.
Accomplishments: 17 seasons in NFL, Five time Pro Bowler
Conclusion: Lasting that long and going to multiple Pro Bowls qualifies his career as a BOOM, though it's close.
1985—Bruce Smith, DE, Buffalo Bills
Bruce Smith, prior to being drafted by the Bills in '85, attended Virginia Tech. There, he was known as "Sack Man," and is the most honored Hokie of all time.
He carried that legacy into the NFL, as he became Buffalo's "sack specialist."
In 1986 he had 15 sacks, and came just two shy of the record with 19 in 1990. Smith remains the all time sack leader for Buffalo down to this day.
And in that 1990 season, the Bills reached the Super Bowl, where Smith became only the fifth person to record a safety in a Super Bowl...the Giants ended up winning the game, but Buffalo would be back.
In fact, they came back every year through 1994...and went 0-4. Bruce Smith continued to be the defensive workhorse during those "dark times," and stayed with Buffalo until 1999.
He broke the all time sack record in 2003 with the Washington Redskins, finishing his career with 200 sacks.
As seen in the picture, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. And rightly so...Smith is a legend, a prototype for defensive lineman, and is one of the most decorated lineman in NFL history.
Smith ended his career with 1,225 tackles, 200 sacks, 15 fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and one touchdown.
Accomplishments: 19 seasons in NFL, 11 time Pro Bowler, NFL '80s and '90s all-decade team, two time Defensive Player of the Year, 1987 Pro Bowl MVP.
Conclusion: Only the best of the BOOMS get to Canton.
1986—Bo Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Raiders
Bo Jackson is undoubtedly one of the best multi-sport athletes of all time. He was drafted by the Yankees in 1982 to play baseball, but chose to attend Auburn instead.
There he was a standout baseball and football player, and is considered one of the ten best college football players of all time. He even qualified for the US Olympic track team, chose not to go, but rather to commit to baseball and football.
Jackson was drafted by Tampa Bay originally, but chose to pursue a baseball career in the MLB, where he played for various teams over the years.
In 1987, he was selected in the seventh round by the LA Raiders, becoming a multi professional sport athlete.
During four seasons with the Raiders, he ran for 2,782 yards and 16 touchdowns.
After sustaining a career ending hip injury, his football career ended. After his successful surgery however, he continued his baseball career for several years.
Accomplishments: Four seasons in the NFL, one time Pro Bowler (1990), 1985 Heisman trophy, tremendous multi-sport athlete
Conclusion: I'm on the fence...but considering everything he's done, Jackson qualifies as a BOOM.
1987—Vinny Testaverde, QB, Tampa Bay Buccs
Testaverde is the first name on this list I can actually remember playing.
He attended college at "The U" In Miami, where he won the Heisman in his senior year, and set the record for most career passing touchdowns.
After being drafted by Tampa Bay, things went south. He played terribly, getting blasted by the media, and only put up 13 touchdowns...and 35 interceptions. In his last year with the Buccs in 1992, Testaverde only managed 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
From there he was released, picked up by Cleveland, where he remained for three years as a mediocre quarterback. When he was picked up by Baltimore in 1996, things looked up. He made his first Pro Bowl.
But that didn't last long as he found himself in New York as a Jet in 1998. There he flourished, leading them all the way to the AFC Championship game.
2000, though, is where he was made famous. With the best Monday Night Football game ever, Testaverde came back from a 30-7 deficit against Miami to win 40-37 off of his five fourth quarter touchdown passes.
The Jets proceeded to make the playoffs in 2001, but lost in the first round. Chad Pennington took over in 2002, and Testaverde played benchwarmer until his release in 2003.
Testaverde refused to give up, playing one year with the Cowboys before being sent back up to New York in 2005. There he played in ABC's last Monday Night Football game, and set the record for most consecutive seasons with a touchdown pass (19).
It was also the first game in NFL history where two quarterbacks over the age of 40 completed a pass (Testaverde, 42, Doug Flutie, 43)
Testaverde extended his record to 20 seasons with the Patriots in 2006, but was released after one year, and picked up by Carolina partway through the next season. And yes, that record became 21 seasons of throwing touchdown passes before retiring at the end of 2007.
Testaverde had a very long career, retiring at the age of 44. Upon doing so he had 46,223 yards and 275 touchdowns which makes him one of the 10 best quarterbacks in history.
Accomplishments: 21 seasons in NFL, two time Pro Bowler (1996, 1998), Heisman Trophy in 1986
Conclusion: Depends on who you talk to. Tampa Bay would say BUST, while New York would say BOOM. But I agree with Tampa Bay.
1988—Aundray Bruce, LB, Atlanta Falcons
Coming out of Auburn he was said to be the next Lawrence Taylor. Aundray Bruce was an all American, Citrus Bowl MVP, and an amazing linebacker.
However, coming into the NFL, he failed to live up to expectation.
Bruce started only 42 games in his 11 year career. In 1991, he served as a tight end as well as a linebacker for Atlanta, though he was released after that season.
Bruce was picked up by the LA Raiders in 1992, where he played out his career until 1998.
He wasn't a bad player by any means. But for being the No. 1 pick in the draft, never earning any awards, and only posting 32 sacks and four interceptions, the choice is clear.
Accomplishments: 11 seasons in NFL, zero awards
Conclusion: A mediocre player that never lived up to expectation...a BUST.
1989—Troy Aikman, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Just like John Elway, you aren't a real football fan if you don't know the name.
Aikman was drafted by the Cowboys after playing at Oklahoma and UCLA in college, winning multiple awards, and falling just shy of a Heisman trophy.
If you didn't know who Aikman was (not only are you not a true football fan), and looked at his rookie stats, he seemed like a true bust.
Aikman was an 0-11 starter, passing for nine touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
With the selection of Emmit Smith in the next draft however, he nearly led the Cowboys to the playoffs. That was a feat in which he did accomplish in 1991, though was injured and watched his team lose from the sidelines.
1991 was also Aikman's first of six consecutive Pro Bowl selections.
In 1992 Aikman took the Cowboys back to the playoffs, broke a few records (longest passing streak without an interception, 89, among others), and made it to the Super Bowl.
Aikman won the Super Bowl MVP after a blowout of Buffalo 52-17. Thus, the Cowboys dynasty was born.
Dallas beat Buffalo again in 1993, this time 30-13 for Super Bowl XXVIII.
Injuries plagued Aikman from this point on, though Dallas reappeared in Super Bowl XXX in 1995, and won over Pittsburgh 27-17.
In 1996 the offense struggled, and Dallas lost in the divisional round of the playoffs. Their wild card victory would remain their last playoff win until 2010.
1997 was the first year Dallas missed the playoffs since 1992, and '98 and '99 saw two more wild card losses.
Aikman retired after 2000, when he suffered multiple concussions in the same season, ending his career.
He's a legend in Dallas, and without a doubt one of the best players to ever play the game. Aikman finishes with 32,942 yards and 165 touchdowns making him Dallas' all time leading passer.
Aikman was inducted both into the NFL Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
It's also interesting to note that he has the second least amount of receiving yards in history with -19, following Jamie Caleb who has -26.
Accomplishments: 11 seasons in NFL, six time Pro Bowler, three time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XXVII MVP
Conclusion: The picture says it all...he remains one of the biggest BOOMS in history.
1990—Jeff George, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Jeff George is very popular in Indianapolis...just for all the wrong reasons.
Why he was taken first, I don't know...there wasn't anything that special with him. But Indy saw something as they traded and fought for the No. 1 pick, and followed that by making him the highest paid rookie in history.
After a very, very ugly four year career with the Colts, becoming a holdout, dissing the fans, and demanding a trade, he ended up in Atlanta. After a very heated argument on national TV and being suspended, he was dealt to the Oakland Raiders in 1996.
There he fit in for a season, leading the NFL in passing. But as soon as the Raiders switched to the west coast offense, it was game over.
In 1998 he played benchwarmer for Randell Cunningham in Minnesota until he was benched, and George was put in. He led the Vikings to a playoff win, but was not resigned the following season.
George switched over to Washington in 2000, where he clashed with Marty Shottenheimer and their west coast offense. It didn't take long for George to get released, and Schottenheimer to get fired.
It seemed as though he retired after the 2000-01 season, but he lobbied for comebacks with the Seahawks, Bears, Lions, and Raiders until 2007.
In 2008 he stated on radio that he felt he was better than some starters in the NFL. Unfortunately for him, no one else agrees.
George is quite possibly one of the biggest busts of all time, and finished his sad 16 year career with 27,602 yards and 154 touchdowns.
Accomplishments: 16 seasons in the NFL, zero awards
Conclusion: A BUST, and a stubborn one at that.
1991—Russell Maryland, DT, Dallas Cowboys
Russell was drafted by Dallas through a trade with New England, and served them well.
Coming out of "The U", he won the Outland Trophy proving himself the best lineman in football.
From there he played with Dallas through their '90s dynasty alongside Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith and others. However he did have a quiet career.
Maryland started at defensive tackle for the Cowboys until 1995, racking up 375 tackles and nine forced fumbles. In 1993, he was selected to the Pro Bowl team.
From there though, he played backup with the Raiders and Packers until 2000 when he retired.
It was a quiet career for Maryland, but he was one of the workhorses for Dallas during their dynasty.
Accomplishments: Nine seasons in NFL, Pro Bowler in 1993
Conclusion: Another on-the-fence pick. For his pro bowl selection and Super Bowl rings though, he qualifies as a BOOM.
1992—Steve Emtman, DT, Indianapolis Colts
Indy had the No. 1 pick again in 1992, this time selecting Washington Husky standout Steve Emtman.
Emtman was coming off an incredible college career, winning numerous awards and being inducted in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.
He even started off his NFL career bright, as he returned a 90 yard interception. As a defensive lineman that was quite the feat.
Emtman would been a boom and possibly gone to Canton if not for injuries.
Later that rookie year, he blew out his left knee. The following season he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee, something no football player has ever come back from.
Despite the odds, he came back in '94 as a Seahawk. In his first game Emtman ruptured a disk in his neck...and continued to play. He had severe nerve damage after the game, but played three more weeks before agreeing to surgery.
Emtman played for the Dolphins and Redskins as a backup for a few more years until retiring in 1997.
He never lived up to potential, and the injury bug bit him like no other. He did, however, prove himself one of the toughest players ever. Emtman ended his career with eight sacks, one interception, and one touchdown.
Accomplishments: Five seasons in NFL, zero awards
Conclusion: Although becoming one of the best defensive lineman in college football history, his story as an NFL player was a definite BUST.
1993—Drew Bledsoe, QB, New England Patriots
The Pats are back with the No. 1 pick in 1993, and this time took quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Bledsoe came from Washington State, where he is quite possibly the best Cougar to ever attend WAZZU. He set numerous records, and declared he wasn't staying for his senior season in 1993.
Upon coming to New England, he improved the team to five wins, and set two records as a rookie. In only his second year of play, he had completely turned the team around.
Bledsoe took the Pats to Super Bowl XXI where they lost to Green Bay 35-21. The Pats went to the playoffs again in 1997, though they lost in the second round.
Bledsoe started a downward spiral, and failed to make the playoffs from 1998-2000 seasons. In 2001, he sustained a near death hit against the Jets, giving Tom Brady the reigns...and we all know the rest.
Bledsoe headed to Buffalo in 2002, and had possibly the best season of his career, throwing for 4,359 yards and 24 touchdowns. Somehow though, the team fell apart all three years Bledsoe was there, and they let him go after the 2004 season.
In 2005 he took over for Vinny Testaverde as a Dallas Cowboy, and improved the team to 9-7. 2006, however, proved to be his final year in the NFL as Tony Romo took over for the underachieving Bledsoe.
Bledsoe finished a strong career with 44,611 yards and 251 touchdowns off of 13 seasons.
Accomplishments: 13 seasons in NFL, five time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl XXXVI Champion, many NFL records
Conclusion: Bledsoe wasn't the best quarterback ever, but he helped form the Patriots dynasty, has a Super Bowl win, and could possibly go to Canton. A definite BOOM.
1994—Dan Wilkinson, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson is one that's hard to label either boom or bust.
He came out of Ohio State where he was an all American and all Big Ten player. Wilkinson didn't seem like a No. 1 pick, but the Bengals made him their first pick in team history.
Wilkinson didn't exactly disappoint as a Bengal, but certainly didn't standout either. Minor injuries plagued him for most of his career, but he was the workhorse for Cincy and the anchor of the defensive line.
In 1997 though, things went terribly wrong. Wilkinson clashed with owner Mike Brown, and called the city of Cincinnati "prejudiced and uptight and stiff." That ended his career as a Bengal, as he was promptly traded to the Redskins.
As a Redskin he led the team in sacks, and played in more snaps than any other defensive lineman in the NFL.
He continued an above-average (but not great) career there until 2002, when he was placed on the injured reserve, marking his first season without a sack.
It could be argued he saw his best days as a Detroit Lion. Playing with them from 2003-2005, Wilkinson never missed a game as a Lion, and helped produce one of the best run defenses in the nation.
Detroit unsuccessfully traded him in the 2005 offseason, and he was released, to be picked up by Miami.
Wilkinson played a reserve role as a Dolphin, and was released the following offseason. He currently sits as a free agent at the age of 36.
He was an above average defensive tackle, but we expect the best from the No. 1 picks in the draft. He certainly wasn't near the best. 389 tackles and five interceptions doesn't live up to expectations.
Accomplishments: 13 seasons in NFL (not retired), zero awards
Conclusion: An underachiever, who may have been something with the right team. But we'll never know, and he qualifies as a BUST.
1995—Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Ki-Jana Carter was a standout hotshot from Penn State, and was even the 1994 Rose Bowl MVP. Joe Paterno encouraged him to leave early, and that he did.
Cincy once again had the No. 1 pick, and chose Carter.
Unfortunately, he never got to have much of a career as he tore his ACL during his second preseason game.
Carter never fully recovered, though he tried comebacks with the Redskins and Saints in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Things never really worked, though he did see playing time in New Orleans.
Carter was also labeled the biggest bust in draft history in 2007. It's unfortunate, because many people believed he could have been one of the best ever.
Accomplishments: Seven seasons in NFL, no awards
Conclusion: Although one of the best Penn State players ever, that torn ACL ended any hopes of making it in the NFL.
1996—Keyshawn Johnson, WR, New York Jets
While a Trojan, Johnson he was named a two time all American, and was the Cotton Bowl MVP, Rose Bowl MVP, and is in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.
Upon being drafted by New York he played three stellar seasons under Bill Parcells who went from 1-15 in his rookie year to 9-7, and then to 12-4 with a division title in 1999. The Jets lost the AFC Championship though that year.
Johnson also co-wrote a book "Just Give Me The Damn Ball" covering his rookie experiences.
In the 1999 offseason the Jets traded Johnson to Tampa Bay for two draft picks. Tampa Bay resigned Johnson, making him the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.
He lasted three years as a Buccaneer, won a Super Bowl, but clashed with Jon Gruden resulting in a trade to the Cowboys. Johnson led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2004, when he was reunited with Bill Parcells.
Dallas released Johnson in 2006 though, and was picked up by Carolina for a one year stint, which was followed by his retirement.
Johnson never stood out as the best receiver in the NFL, but served every team he played for well, and is respected by many. He finished with 10,517 yards and 64 touchdowns.
Accomplishments: 10 seasons in NFL, three time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl XXXVII champion
Conclusion: Without Jon Gruden head coaching the Buccs, Johnson may still be there today. In any case, he was a BOOM.
1997—Orlando Pace, LT, St. Louis Rams
Orlando Pace is quite possibly the best offensive lineman in college football history.
At Ohio State he become the only one to win two Lombardi Trophies, and when Peyton Manning declared he would stay at Tennessee for another year, Pace became the first offensive lineman drafted at No. 1 since 1968.
Pace quickly became the anchor of the offensive line, and was elected to his first Pro Bowl in 1999. His blocking skills helped lead the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 2000, and an appearance in 2001.
He continued to be the workhorse of the offensive line until 2006, when injury struck and he tore his triceps ending his season. He was also hurt in the 2007 season opener, and wouldn't be back at all.
Pace was released after the 2007 season, and picked up by Chicago in 2009 where he now plays.
Orlando is past his prime, but I think he's one of, if not the best offensive lineman ever. He's a sure bet for Canton.
Accomplishments: 12 seasons in NFL (not retired), seven time Pro Bowler, 2000's NFL all decade team.
Conclusion: Orlando Pace invented the pancake block, blocked like mad for St Louis, and will no doubt be in the Hall of Fame. He's a BOOM.
1998—Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Manning continues to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today, 12 years after being drafted at No. 1.
He came out of Tennessee their best quarterback in school history, and completely turned the Colts around.
His rookie year was a failure at first glance, as Indy went 3-13. But that was largely due to the failure of a defense as Manning set five rookie records.
In 1999, the Colts finished 13-3, marking the biggest turnaround in NFL history. Manning threw for over 4,000 yards, and nearly won the Super Bowl that year.
2000, 2001, and 2002 were dud years, as the Colts proved very inconsistent throughout, and never made it past the wild card.
However 2003 was really when Manning broke out. He won the MVP award, and lost what would be the first of many New England/ Indianapolis AFC title games.
2004 was a repeat story. He won the MVP, the Pro Bowl MVP, but fell short to New England when it counted.
In 2005 the Colts lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, but Manning once again went to the Super Bowl. Shaun Alexander just slightly beat out Manning for the MVP.
2006 was the year of Manning. It began with an Eli vs. Peyton battle, which the Colts won over the Giants. Later, in the conference championship, Indy overcame a 21-3 New England lead to make a monster comeback.
From there they beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, and Manning was named MVP. Manning also set several records during the regular season.
In 2008, he won his third MVP award, though they fell short against San Diego again in the playoffs.
2009 saw Peyton set a new record with an outstanding four MVP awards. The Colts made it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2006, but lost to the "Christ Breesus" led New Orleans Saints 31-17.
It's debatable that Manning is the best quarterback of all time. He certainly ranks up with Brett Favre, John Elway, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitus...but that's an argument for a different day.
Manning currently holds the Colts records for career wins, passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing attempts, passing completions, and is the fastest quarterback to ever reach 10 and 30,000 yards passing. There's so many records he holds it's not even funny.
There's no question he's headed to Canton, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him win another Super Bowl before retiring.
Accomplishments: 12 seasons in NFL (not retired), 10 time Pro Bowler, Four time NFL MVP, multiple NFL records, Super Bowl XLI MVP, NFL 2000's all decade team
Conclusion: No doubt a BOOM, the man completely turned around the Colts as a team.
1999—Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland Browns
Tim Couch is one of the best Kentucky players of all time. He set multiple NCAA as well as Kentucky school records while in college.
It's was a completely different story coming into the NFL though.
He was booed off the field numerous times, was left watching seasons from the sidelines, and was all but a washout.
His only brightspot came in 2002 when the Browns won nine games by 10 points or less with multiple overtime wins, risky calls, two point conversions, and the like. However Couch missed out on the playoffs with an injury.
The rest of his career is a pathetic mess, as he was booed off the Green Bay practice squad, tried and failed in Canada, and eventually quit after it was revealed he was using HGH in 2007.
His career is quite pathetic, and he's one of the three biggest busts on our list.
Accomplishments: Five seasons in NFL, no awards
Conclusion: A terrible, terrible BUST. Yet somehow, he married a Playboy Playmate...life just isn't fair.
2000—Courtney Brown, DE, Cleveland Browns
The Browns were back at the turn of the decade, and this time tried their luck with defense.
Courtney Brown was a supreme Penn State defensive end, perhaps the best to ever play for Penn State.
But, as Cleveland's luck goes, things didn't work out.
He had a great rookie year, wrapping up 70 tackles and five sacks, but his second was cut short due to injury. He struggled to stay healthy from there on, and was cut after 2004.
Denver decided to sign him in 2005, and things looked good. He stepped into the starting role in 2006 and should've been the defensive anchor everybody expected him to be.
But he tore his ACL, Mike Shanahan told him to retire, and he did just that.
Surgeries, broken dreams, and "what if" surround Courtney Brown's career. Injuries just proved too much for him to overcome.
Accomplishments: Eight years in NFL, zero awards
Conclusion: An injury prone underachieving BUST.
2001—Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons
This guy used to be my favorite player in the NFL.
I loved Atlanta, the black and red, and I loved Michael Vick. He was incredibly fast, strong, and accurate coming out of Virginia Tech.
He and Warrick Dunn (running back, teammate) became the first NFL QB/ RB duo to run for 1,000 yards each.
However, his stardom and heroic status was haltered in 2007. He lost endorsement deals because of his multiple middle-finger "incidents" with fans, and then of course there's the dog fighting.
That was not only the butt of all jokes for years, but put Vick in jail and caused all to drop their respect for Vick.
Through cooperation with authorities, and mentoring from Tony Dungy, he made a comeback with the Eagles in 2009. It's unclear where his future is, but it's doubted that he'll ever be a "boom" in the NFL.
His career is marked by crimes, felonies, and all the wrong he's done. He has, though, set numerous records for the Falcons and may be a "boom" in the long run.
Accomplishments: Eight seasons in NFL (not retired), three time Pro Bowler
Conclusion: It's unclear whether Vick is a boom or bust. He may be viewed as a terrible person, but as a player he did make three pro bowls. Only time well tell if Philly is his redemption.
2002—David Carr, QB, Houston Texans
That picture basically summarizes his David Carr's career. A downhill slide.
Carr was the first pick for the new Houston Texans in 2002, after coming off of an amazing career at Fresno State.
He started all but four games in his five years as a Texan. However, he struggled to produce wins, never had a winning season, and was released in 2007.
Carolina signed Carr on a one year deal where he was put in as starter...and injured.
2008 and 2009 saw Carr backing up Eli Manning in New York, where he now remains.
He is a tremendous underachiever, and never lived up to any expectations.
Accomplishments: Seven seasons in NFL (not retired), zero awards
Conclusion: He may not be done, but he'd be doing himself a favor by retiring. Carr is a sure BUST.
2003—Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Palmer comes from the Pete Carroll dynasty at USC, and was picked first by Cincinnati in 2003.
He won the Heisman as a senior and was supposed to help turnaround the Bengals franchise.
Pamer's always shown to be a good quarterback...but is he really great? He led Cincy to their first winning season since 1990 in 2005.
But during a playoff game against the Steelers, both Palmer and receiver Chris Henry sustained knee injuries on the longest pass in Bengal history.
Palmer tore his ACL, MCL, and had major knee damage. That resulted in the rule that defensive players can no longer tackle passers from below the waist.
2006 and 2007 saw the Bengals go 8-8, then 7-9. Palmer was named the Pro Bowl MVP in 2007 though, and he set two new franchise records that year. In 2008 he sustained a rather serious elbow injury that didn't he didn't recover from until March of 2009.
It's uncertain if Palmer is a boom or bust. On one hand he's set many records and been to the Pro Bowl twice. On the other hand, he stated his goal was a Super Bowl and he's never made it that.far. Not to mention his career has been full of injury so far.
Accomplishments: Seven seasons in NFL (not retired), two time Pro Bowler, Pro Bowl MVP in 2006
Conclusion: For not being a "great" quarterback, but rather simply a "good" quarterback, I'm labeling him a BUST. But if he ever makes the Super Bowl that could change.
2004—Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
It's a safe bet Eli will never climb out of Peyton's shadow, though he is building up quite the resume.
He followed in his father's footsteps going to Ole Miss, where Eli set numerous records, won awards, and was a finalist for the Heisman behind Jason White and Larry Fitzgerald.
From there he was drafted by San Diego...though he played the role of "crybaby" and refused to play for Chargers. Why? No one knows.
But he was traded to New York as soon as being drafted. He made his debut in 2005, and took the team to the playoffs where they were defeated. Manning displayed great ability, and it seemed he could mirror his brothers success.
2006 was a struggle, and New York barely squeezed into the playoffs where they were beaten by Philly. A lot of haters came out, and it seemed Peyton's younger brother might end up a bust.
However in 2007, he shut everyone up. Not right off the bat, but through an amazing playoff run. After barely making it again, they beat the overrated Buccs, took down top rated Dallas, and upset Green Bay to wind up in the Super Bowl.
The Giants had made it to Super Bowl XLII, where they would face the heavily favored New England Patriots. The Pats were building a dynasty, and Tom Brady knew how to win the big one.
Eli Manning, however, did too.
In perhaps the most amazing catch in NFL history, Eli threw up a pass to David Tyree after avoiding several sacks, which Tyree proceeded to catch on the back of his helmet. Truly a remarkable play.
The Giants continued to put up impressive plays, and took down the undefeated Patriots 17-14. Personally, I think it was the greatest upset in NFL history.
2008 saw the Giants favored through the playoffs, but they were again eliminated by the heavily favored Eagles, and proved a disappoint for the team and fans alike.
2009 was another year of struggle as the Giants went 8-8, getting blown out several times...it was so bad, Manning actually apologized to the fans for their performance.
There's no doubt he will be a boom. Will he get another title? Possibly. But it's quite possible the Giants would be nothing without Manning and what he's contributed to the franchise.
Accomplishments: Six seasons in NFL (not retired), Pro Bowler in 2008, Super Bowl XLII champion, Super Bowl XLII MVP
Conclusion: Manning is nowhere near the end of his career. He's started off strong though, passing for nearly 20,000 yards and already winning a Super Bowl. There's no question now he's a BOOM.
2005—Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Alex Smith came out of Utah, from the unappreciated Mountain West conference.
I personally loved watching the Utes play; Urban Meyer is a genius with his spread offense and trick plays.
Smith was noticed by the 49ers, and became the first pick in the draft. And things can't really be worse.
In 2005 he battled injury, and had a 1-11 touchdown-interception ratio. 2006 was better...but not by much. He went even with 16 touchdowns and interceptions.
Smith again battled injury, and missed most of the 2007 season. It was becoming clear he wouldn't live up to expectation.
He lost the starting job in San Fran to Shaun Hill, but regained it back partway through the year. They didn't make the playoffs, and Smith again left fans feeling disappointed.
Accomplishments: Five seasons in NFL (not retired), zero awards
Conclusion: His career is young, but it's safe to label Alex Smith a BUST. He isn't going anywhere.
2006—Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans
With perhaps the most controversial draft pick in history, Houston chose Mario Williams over Reggie Bush and Vince Young.
Many many times the two have been compared, experts trying to decide which Houston should have picked. The answer is Williams.
Some say he's underachieving...I say, look at the picture. He's in the Pro Bowl.
It's seems like a small achievement nowadays, but no bust will ever make the Pro Bowl.
In 2006, Williams racked up 47 tackles and five sacks...not bad for a rookie. He again improved in 2007 when he was compared to Dwight Freeney. He had a career high 59 tackles and 14 sacks. Williams was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate after the season ended.
2008 and 2009 saw identical stats from Williams—53 tackles and 12 sacks.
While Houston as a whole is a bottom dweller, Williams is the anchor of the defense and is pushing the Texans toward a playoff birth. In both 2008 and 2009 Williams became a Pro Bowler.
Accomplishments: Four seasons in NFL (not retired), three time Pro Bowler
Conclusion: He may not be an early riser, but his career is on the rise. Making the Pro Bowl multiple times, proving the anchor of the Texans defense...he's a BOOM.
2007—JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders
Coming off of a national championship with LSU, JaMarcus Russell was supposed to be the savior of Raider nation.
Ha...they made a joke right? At least, that's what his career shows.
Russell was a hold out for a long time until the second week of the season. His rookie year wasn't too bad, as he went 36-66, 373 yards, and threw two touchdowns and four interceptions.
The 2008 season was a roller coaster, as Russell hit high points and low points. Some games he could throw 200 yards and two touchdowns. Other games he threw 55 yards and no touchdowns.
It was a hectic ride, and didn't prove fruitful in the end. 2009 saw Russell get benched, moved down to third string, and finished the worst quarterback in the NFL.
There's no doubt his career is down the toilet.
Accomplishments: Three seasons in NFL (not retired), zero awards
Conclusion: A BUST. In five to 10 years from now, I think he'll be looked at as one of the biggest busts in draft history.
2008—Jake Long, OT, Miami Dolphins
Miami took a huge risk on Long, picking him over Matt Ryan and Darren McFadden.
Safe to say, it's paid off. Throughout college at Michigan he was the best lineman in college football, winning multiple awards and setting records throughout his career there.
Once in Miami, his impact was immediate.
He was one of only three starting rookies in Miami, and he was supposed to lead the complete overhaul of the offensive line.
Long only gave up 2.5 sacks his rookie year, and was selected to the 2008 Pro Bowl.
In 2009 he only allowed four sacks all year, and was named second best offensive lineman in the NFL. Long was again selected to go to the Pro Bowl but was unable to play because of injury.
Long is heading up the offensive line for Miami now, and continues to be a true workhorse. Biding he doesn't get injured, I see him as another Orlando Pace.
Accomplishments: Two seasons in NFL (not retired), two time Pro Bowler
Conclusion: It's too early to tell. He seems to be heading towards boom though...and I doubt he'll ever be labeled as a bust.
2009—Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Mel Kiper Jr. nailed it when he predicted Stafford will be the No. 1 pick in the draft in 2006.
Following a tremendous career as a Georgia Bulldog, he traveled north to play for the 0-16 Lions.
He was part of the complete team overhaul heading into the 2009-10 season, and started as a rookie.
Stafford had a shaky start, getting killed by New Orleans. He eventually led the Lions to their first win since 2007 with a 19-14 victory over Washington.
Stafford displayed incredible strength and ability against Cleveland. He threw five touchdown passes, becoming the youngest quarterback to ever do so. After suffering a serious shoulder injury, he shouted at coach Schwartz, and demanded to be let back in.
So, he came back on for the final play. Stafford zipped a touchdown pass to fellow rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew, and set another record with the most yards in a single game by a rookie (422).
Eventually, Stafford was placed on injured reserve. But he displayed strength, courage, and determination as a quarterback.
He ended the year with over 2,000 yards, and 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
Accomplishments: One season in NFL, two NFL records
Conclusion: Stafford is young and developing. I have faith he can lead the Lions back to the playoffs. It's unclear if he's boom or bust yet, but I think he'll end up a boom.