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The 50 Biggest NFL Draft Busts of All Time

Michael PintoSenior Writer INovember 30, 2010

The 50 Biggest NFL Draft Busts of All Time

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    The NFL draft has been described by many as a crapshoot where educated guesses and a lot of luck can be the difference between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. 

    Over the years, some of the best college players of all time have hit the pros only to fizzle out and join the ranks of infamy. 

    We look back over drafts past to bring you the most disappointing picks of all time. These are the Heisman winners, the stars, the high draft picks, the attempts at franchise players and the many who's hype turned out to be nothing but. 

    Here are the 50 biggest NFL draft busts of all time. 

50. Ty Detmer, QB, BYU

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    Drafted: Green Bay, 1992, Round 9, Pick 6

    Not a bust in the traditional sense considering the NFL scouts saw this one coming and Detmer slipped all the way to the ninth round of the 1992 draft, but after winning the Heisman Trophy and finishing his college career with 59 NCAA records, you'd expect more than 6,351 passing yards in a career spanning from 1993 to 2005. 

49. Mike Williams, WR, USC

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    Drafted: Detroit, 2005, Round 1, Pick 10

    Mike Williams was the victim of unfortunate circumstances thanks to Maurice Clarett and the Supreme Court, but regardless, his year away from football wasn't enough to stop the Lions from selecting the USC standout with the 10th pick in 2005. Williams was out of the league by 2008 but is seeing a revival in Seattle this season. 

48. Danny Wuerffel, QB, Florida

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    Drafted: New Orleans, 1997, Round 4, Pick 3

    Wuerffel is one of the most heralded players to ever come out of the University of Florida. In 1996, he won the Heisman and led the Gators to their first national championship. The highpoint of his professional career, being named MVP of the World Bowl in 2000 while playing for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe.

47. Gino Torretta, QB, Miami

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    Drafted: Minnesota, 1993, Round 7, Pick 24

    Like Ty Detmer, Torretta was a Heisman winner who NFL scouts put up the red flags for, and as a result, the decorated quarterback and national champion at Miami slipped all the way to the seventh round. In his five-year NFL career that took him to five teams, Torretta barely sniffed the field before calling it quits. 

46. Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska

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    Drafted: Saint Louis, 2002, Round 3, Pick 30

    Crouch stands as yet another example of exactly how college talent doesn't translate to the pros. After winning the Heisman at Nebraska, Crouch was switched to receiver by the Rams, never played a game, then later had a brief stint in NFL Europe as a safety before making his way to the Canadian Football League. 

45. Gary Beban, QB, UCLA

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    Drafted: Los Angeles, 1968, Round 2, Pick 3

    Beban never had the chance to prove he could be a success in the NFL. He spent his four-year career as a backup to Hall-of-Famer Sonny Jurgensen and barely sniffed the field before calling it quits. That was after winning the 1967 Heisman trophy over O.J. Simpson. 

44. John Huarte, QB, Notre Dame

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    Drafted: New York Jets, 1965, Round 2, Pick 12

    Huarte won the Heisman in 1964 leading Notre Dame to a 9-1 record, but the quarterback is widely considered to be one of the worse winners of the award. When the Jets drafted him into the AFL in 1965, they also selected Alabama's Joe Namath and we all know how that worked out. Huarte bounced around for seven professional seasons. 

43. Pat Sullivan, QB, Auburn

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    Drafted: Atlanta, 1972, Round 2, Pick 14

    Before Cam Newton came along, Pat Sullivan was the gold standard of quarterbacks at Auburn. In 1970 and 1971 he was one of the top players in the nation, winning the Heisman as a senior. In the NFL, Sullivan managed only five career touchdowns and 16 interceptions. 

42. Peter Warrick, WR, Florida State

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    Drafted: Bengals, 2000, Round 1, Pick 4

    Warrick was the most dynamic receiver in the nation in his time with FSU and was a huge part of the team's title run in 1999. Had he not hit a road bump with the Dillard's scandal, Warrick might have won the Heisman. His six-year NFL career was mostly uninspiring. He's now playing in the Indoor Football League.

41. Tim Biakabutuka, RB, Michigan

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    Drafted: Carolina, 1996, Round 1, Pick 8

    Biakabutuka is one of the best Michigan running backs of all time, rushing for 1,818 yards in 1995, the most by any Wolverine in history. Perhaps best known for his 300-yard game against Ohio State in one of the great upsets of the 1990s, Biakabutuka averaged under 500 yards a season in his six-year NFL career. 

40. Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame

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    Drafted: Cleveland, 2007, Round 1, Pick 22

    Brady Quinn left Notre Dame with 36 school records as one of the winningest quarterbacks in school history. Expected to develop into a star for the Cleveland Browns, Quinn struggled to find the field in a constant quarterback battle with Derek Anderson and now is wedged behind Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in Denver. 

39. Terry Baker, QB, Oregon State

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    Drafted: Los Angeles, 1963, Round 1, Pick 1

    Baker is a bit of an unfortunate case as many feel that he was simply ahead of his time as a dual-threat quarterback and constrained by the Rams offense that really didn't allow him to play to his strengths. Still, the Heisman winner is remembered for starting a long line of busts who won the award.  

38. Steve Spurrier, QB, Florida

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    Drafted: San Francisco, 1967, Round 1, Pick 3

    For a man who has had such success as a player and coach at the college level, in the NFL Steve Spurrier is best known as quarterbacking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 during their first season, considered by many to be the worst team of all time. There's also an ugly run as the coach of the Redskins, but that's besides the point. 

37. Jack Thompson, QB, Washington State

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    Drafted: Cincinnati, 1979, Round 1, Pick 3

    Thompson gained a ton of notoriety at Washington State and finished his college career as the most prolific passer in NCAA history. That got him drafted third overall by the Bengals in 1979, but he spent the majority of his career as a backup and had one subpar year starting for Tampa Bay.

36. Reggie Williams, WR, Washington

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    Drafted: Jacksonville, 2004, Round 1, Pick 9

    Arguably the best receiver in Washington Huskies school history, Reggie Williams left college as No. 2 on the all-time receiving list for the Pac-10. Take away one good season in Jacksonville and his NFL career consisted of nearly as many arrests as it did touchdowns.

35. Todd Blackledge, QB, Penn State

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    Drafted: Kansas City, 1983, Round 1, Pick 7

    Blackledge was a three-year starter at Penn State with a 31-5 record and a national championship in 1982. He's considered the worst daft pick in Kansas City Chiefs history, though. He never started more than eight games a season in his seven-year career and put up wholly uninspiring numbers throughout. 

34. Kenneth Sims, DE, Texas

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    Drafted: New England, 1982, Round 1, Pick 1

    The two-time All-American at Texas, in 1981 he became the first Longhorn to ever win the Lombardi Trophy and was then selected with the first overall pick of the 1982 NFL draft. He never came close to living up to the hype that followed him to the pros though, recording 17 sacks in his eight-year career. 

33. David Carr, QB, Fresno State

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    Drafted: Houston, 2002, Round 1, Pick 1

    David Carr was the first pick in Houston Texans history after leading Fresno State to an 11-3 record in 2001 while accounting for over 50 touchdowns. While at times he looked like he might develop into a star, Carr is best known for taking hits. He set the record for taking most sacks in a season with 76 his rookie year. 

32. Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon

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    Drafted: Detroit, 2002, Round 1, Pick 3

    One of Oregon's top players in school history, "Captain Comeback" led the Ducks to one of their best seasons and was selected third overall by Detroit in 2002. By 2006, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a sixth-round pick. He lasted one year there before warming the bench in Atlanta and now New Orleans. 

31. Rashaan Salaam, RB, Colorado

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    Drafted: Chicago, 1995, Round 1, Pick 21

    Salaam had one of the best seasons in NCAA history in 1994 during his Heisman-winning campaign while rushing for 2,055 yards and leading Colorado to an 11-1 record. After a solid rookie season, Salaam succumbed to what he would later call a marijuana addiction. It all went downhill from there and Salaam never saw much more success.

30. Keith McCants, LB, Alabama

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    Drafted: Tampa Bay, 1990, Round 1, Pick 4

    After a prolific career at Alabama, McCants is remembered as being one of the worst draft busts in history, but the real issue behind his early struggles was a serious knee injury sustained before he was drafted. Unable to make it as a linebacker, McCants lasted four years in the league and never made an impact. 

29. Alex Smith, QB, Utah

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    Drafted: San Francisco, 2005, Round 1, Pick 1

    Smith was 21-1 as a starter at Utah under Urban Meyer and then wowed scouts in the NFL combine. He was selected with the first overall pick in 2005, but by 2009 had to take a serious pay-cut just to avoid being waved before the season. After brief production since then, he's been replaced by Troy Smith as the starter for the 49ers.  

28. Rich Campbell, QB, California

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    Drafted: Green Bay, 1982, Round 1, Pick 6

    The All-American quarterback at Cal was part of a long line of successful college passers for the Golden Bears, but that didn't come close to translating to success in the NFL. Campbell never started a single game in his four-year career with Green Bay, attempting just 68 passes in the pros. 

27. Trev Alberts, LB, Nebraska

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    Drafted: Indianapolis, 1994, Round 1, Pick 4

    Arguably the best linebacker in Nebraska history, Trev Alberts won the Dick Butkus Award in 1993 before being selected by Indianapolis with the fourth overall pick in the 1994 draft. Constant injuries and an inability to grasp NFL schemes led to four sacks in a three-year career. 

26. Archie Griffin, RB, Ohio State

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    Drafted: Cincinnati, 1976, Round 1, Pick 24

    While others were selected higher than Griffin and played worse in the pros, he is one of the greatest college players of all time and the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy. He's also perhaps the best player to ever flop in the NFL, with 2,808 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his seven-year career.  

25. Robert Gallery, OT, Iowa

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    Drafted: Oakland, 2004, Round 1, Pick 2

    When Robert Gallery came out of Iowa in 2003 he was considered the best offensive lineman in years, earning a perfect draft prospect rating before being selected with the second overall pick in the draft. To be fair, while he completely flopped as a left tackle and right tackle, he's been decent as a left guard. 

24. Aundray Bruce, LB, Auburn

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    Drafted: Atlanta, 1988, Round 1, Pick 1

    When Bruce left Auburn, he was heralded as the next Lawrence Taylor and was selected with the first overall pick in the 1988 draft. Though he played decently his first two seasons, Atlanta cut him in 1991 and then Bruce spent seven years in Oakland averaging one start a year. 

23. David Klingler, QB, Houston

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    Drafted: Cincinnati, 1992, Round 1, Pick 6

    Klinger was one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history in his time with Houston, but like Andre Ware before him, it wasn't meant to be in the NFL. Klinger posted a 4-20 record in two years as Cincinnati's starting quarterback before heading to Oakland as a backup for a couple more seasons.  

22. Dewayne Robertson, DT, Kentucky

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    Drafted: New York Jets, 2003, Round 1, Pick 4


    A pick that will forever live in infamy for the Jets. Gang Green trades two first-rounders for Robertson, who, despite playing in every game as a rookie, amasses just 1.5 sacks and 43 tackles. He never develops into the run-stopping force the Jets had hoped for, and in April 2008, is dealt to the Broncos—who release him after the season.

21. Rick Mirer, QB, Notre Dame

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    Drafted: Seattle, 1993, Round 1, Pick 2

    Rick Mirer was hyped up to be the next Joe Montana when he came out of Notre Dame in 1993, but he turned out to be yet another journeyman quarterback who bounced around the league from Seattle to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Oakland and Detroit; rarely seeing the field in any of his stops. 

20. Matt Leinart, QB, USC

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    Drafted: Arizona, 2006, Round 1, Pick 10

    Leinart will always be a legend at USC after leading the Trojans to a national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy as a junior. But as an NFL player, Leinart becomes one of the newest members of the quarterback bust list. After starting 11 subpar games as a rookie, Leinart served three-years primarily as a backup before Arizona cut him before the 2010 season. 

19. Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State

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    Drafted: Chicago, 1998, Round 1, Pick 5

    Enis is part of trio of Penn State running backs who just couldn't cut in the pros. He was the fifth overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Chicago Bears after staring for the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. He would play just three years in the NFL and amass under 1,500 yards throughout his career; injuries played a major role in his retirement.

18. Andre Ware, QB, Houston

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    Drafted: Detroit, 1990, Round 1, Pick 7

    Andre Ware became a national sensation at Houston in his record-setting junior season in 1989 that earned him the Heisman trophy. He skipped his senior year to head to the pros but spent his four-year career as a backup throwing five total touchdowns. 

17. Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin

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    Drafted: New York Giants, 1999, Round 1, Pick 11

    The NCAA's all-time rushing leader, Ron Dayne ended his career at Wisconsin with 6,397 rushing yards and the 1999 Heisman Trophy. In New York, he teamed up with Tiki Barber to be nicknamed "Thunder and Lightning". In hindsight, not a good idea. Dayne finished his seven-year career with 3,722 yards averaging 3.8 ypc. 

16. Courtney Brown, DE, Penn State

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    Drafted: Cleveland, 2000, Round 1, Pick 1

    With their second consecutive No. 1 overall pick, the Browns followed up Tim Couch in '99 with Courtney Brown in 2000. After an All-American career at Penn State, Brown's best year in the NFL comes as a rookie, but injuries and general struggles relegated him to a fringe player for years before he retired in 2007 after a failed physical. 

15. Lawrence Phillips, RB, Nebraska

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    Drafted: Saint Louis, 1996, Round 1, Pick 6

    Lawrence Phillips came out of Nebraska surrounded by character issues, but the Rams selected the troubled, yet talented running back with the sixth overall pick. He lasted less than two years before he was released for insubordination. Then, the Dolphins and 49ers gave him a shot, but it didn't last long. He's currently serving a 10-year prison term for assault with a deadly weapon.

14. Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Penn State

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    Drafted: Cincinnati, 1995, Round 1, Pick 1

    Ki-Jana Carter was so good at Penn State that even Joe Paterno encouraged him to forgo his senior season and declare early for the NFL draft. He would tear his ACL in the third play of his first preseason game and never really bounce back. In 10 years in the NFL, Carter would put up less yards than he did in just one year at Penn State. 

13. Bruce Pickens, CB, Nebraska

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    Drafted: Atlanta, 1991, Rouond 1, Pick 3

    Bruce Pickens came out of Nebraska as the top cornerback in the nation and a player most NFL draft scouts were convinced would turn into an instant star. He would record just two career interceptions and bounce out of the league for good by the end of the 1995 season. 

12. Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky

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    Drafted: Cleveland, 1999, Round 1, Pick 1

    The worst draft pick in Cleveland Browns history, Tim Couch might have been a star at Kentucky in his sophomore and junior seasons, but he set the revived Browns back years once he hit the pros. Simply put, Couch didn't have what it took to be an NFL quarterback and lasted just six years in the league. 

11. Blair Thomas, RB, Penn State

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    Drafted: New York Jets, 1990, Round 1, Pick 2

    One of the best players in Penn State history, Blair Thomas is the third of the Nittany Lions notorious running backs who flopped in the NFL. After being selected with the second overall pick in 1990, Thomas would rush for only 2,000 yards and five touchdowns in his career and bounce out of the league by 1995. 

10. Reggie Bush, RB, USC

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    Drafted: New Orleans, 2006, Round 1, Pick 2

    After Bush finished his stellar career at USC, he was expected to be the first pick in the 2006 NFL draft. Houston passed on Bush with the first pick in a controversial decision that's worked out perfectly. The Texans got All-Pro defensive end Mario Williams and Bush earned eight times as many millions this season than touchdowns. 

9. Akili Smith, QB, Oregon

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    Drafted: Cincinnati, 1999, Round 1, Pick 3

    Smith was a stud his senior season at Oregon, leading to Cincinnati selecting him with the third overall pick in the 1999 draft in what turned out to be yet another bust at the top of the first round. Smith would start just 17 uninspiring games in four years with the Bengals and be out of the league by 2006. 

8. Steve Emtman, DE, Washington

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    Drafted: Indianapolis, 1992, Round 1, Pick 1

    Emtman was a devastating force at Washington, leading the Huskies to a national championship in 1991 as the headliner to one of the best defenses in history. He was drafted with the first overall pick in 1992, but constant injuries see him out of the NFL by the time he's 27 after a very quiet career.

7. Art Schlichter, QB, Ohio State

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    Drafted: Baltimore, 1982, Round 1, Pick 4

    Art Schlichter was a notorious gambler at Ohio State, but that didn't stop the Colts from selecting him with the fourth overall pick of the 1982 draft. He not only struggles as a player, but his gambling becomes significantly worse in the pros. By 1987, he's banned from the league after involvement in a multi-million dollar sports betting operation.

6. Charles Rogers, WR, Michigan State

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    Drafted: Detroit, 2003, Round 1, Pick 2

    The first of three straight receivers the Lions selected in the first round of the draft, none busted quite as badly as Charles Rodgers. The once promising receiver out of Michigan State played in just 14 career games before injuries, drug problems and arrests got him booted from the league.

5. Heath Shuler, QB, Tennessee

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    Drafted: Washington, 1994, Round 1, Pick 3

    Heath Shuler had a stellar career at Tennessee, finishing his time with the Volunteers as one of the best players in school history. He's considered one of the worst flops in history, being benched in his third season for Gus Frerotte. By 1997, he was out of the NFL. 

4. Brian Bosworth, LB, Oklahoma

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    Drafted: Seattle, 1987, Supplemental Draft

    The only two-time winner of the Butkus Award, "The Boz" ranked 30th in College Football News' 100 Greatest College Players of All Time. Kicked off Oklahoma for steroid use and other issues, Bosworth was given a 10-year, $11 million contract by the Seahawks. He was out of the league by 1989. 

3. Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State

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    Drafted: Green Bay, 1989, Round 1, Pick 2

    Michigan State's All-American offensive tackle was called the best offensive line prospect ever by Sports Illustrated and earned the nickname the "Incredible Bulk." Stars don't fall much harder than Mandarich though. Later admitting to steroid use in college and struggles with painkillers, he's out of the league by 1991. Oh, and Barry Sanders was selected just one pick after him in 1989. 

2. JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU

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    Drafted: Oakland, 2007, Round 1, Pick 1

    Russell took the nation by storm with a dominating performance in the 2007 Sugar Bowl. He was then selected by Oakland with the the first overall pick in the NFL draft and collected $36 million for just three forgettable seasons before he was released. He's already being called the worst draft bust since Ryan Leaf. 

1. Ryan Leaf, QB Washington State

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    Drafted: San Diego, 1998, Round 1, Pick 2

    Ryan Leaf has gone down in infamy as the worst draft pick in NFL history. Coming into the draft, many felt he was a better pro prospect than Peyton Manning after a stellar career at Washington State. For his career, Leaf threw just 13 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. He was out of the league by 2002. 

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