Top 5 NFL Draft Disappointments: Why It's Better to Play with Your Heart

Kristin HamlinSenior Analyst ISeptember 23, 2008

As most of us are aware, the NFL draft isn’t always accurate. There are some draft picks, such as Peyton Manning, who are expected to be good and that don‘t let you down. There are those surprising draft picks, such as Terrell Davis, who completely exceed what many thought possible. Then, there are the duds of the NFL draft.

You know the one’s I am referring to. The players that we thought for sure were going places. With Heisman Trophies and other accomplishments under their belt, they had most everyone’s vote into becoming one of those great athletes.

 I know that this topic has been written about numerous amounts of times, but I thought I would try and add my own twist on things, making all of us remember why we really love this sport and the players that give us their all.

Here are my top five picks:


5. Brian Bosworth, LB Oklahoma

Where do I start with this one? Although he won a few Butkus Awards, he was kicked off the Oklahoma squad for steroid use. Prior to being drafted, Bosworth sent letters to numerous NFL teams letting them know that if they drafted him, he wouldn’t report to training camp and he wouldn’t play for them.

I’m guessing this should have been seen as somewhat of a bad sign, but Seattle Seahawks went on to sign him in the first round of the Supplemental Draft. And boy did he sure excel. You may want to be sitting down when I tell you his impressive stats. He recorded just four sacks in three seasons. IMPRESSIVE BRIAN.

Well done. Looks like the steroids really helped you out there.

One of Brian’s sophisticated quotes: “I can't wait to get my hands on John Elway's boyish face and to be honest I’d rather get a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty than lighten up on Elway if he ran out of bounds.”

Elway was later said to be smiling when he heard this quote. I‘m guessing the smile was a polite way of not cracking up.

Bosworth was selected in the first round of the Supplemental Draft. Cris Carter was chosen in the fourth round. Needless to say Cris Carter is a future hall of famer. Bosworth is now a real estate agent.


4. Andre Ware, QB University of Houston

Heisman winner in 1989, becoming the first black Quarterback to ever receive that award. Just to touch a little bit on what he accomplished during college; he threw for 4,699 yards, threw 44 touchdowns and set 26 NCAA records. More impressive, he accomplished that in only three seasons and during those three seasons he rarely played the entire game.

I know it has been awhile but those of you who watched Ware play in college can't deny the potential he had. I tried to find footage to show readers who were unfamiliar with Ware, but couldn’t find anything worthwhile.

He was drafted No. 7 in the first round of the 1990 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, as promising as Andre’s career looked, it took a complete nose-dive. I’m talking a nose-dive of epic proportions.

He is a perfect example of a talented and promising athlete in college who lets their ego get in the way. We all know what that can do in terms of messing with one’s heads. Competing for the top spot against QB Rodney Peete and Erik Kramer was not as easy as Ware thought.

His bad attitude and refusal to open up to his teammates was only part of the story. He simply failed miserably under the pressure of the NFL. In Ware's case, the NFL stood for Not For Long.

After four seasons, he played in only 14 games, starting 6. He passed for only 1112 yards. Yes total. Needless to say, he was made a free agent in 1994 and was cut by a couple more NFL teams. His career, as he knew it, was over.

I put him in the fourth spot because he was brilliant on the football field during his college years. Absolutely brilliant.

What is Andre doing now you ask? Working as a sports analyst and let me tell you, he is pretty knowledgeable. I’ve included a couple of his superb quotes from his job.

"A Field Goal will basically seal the deal here."- Andre Ware says

"IT'S 27-22!!!!!! That would not seal the deal Andre! Good the hell did you ever graduate from Houston?" the other commentator says

(I’m guessing Andre wasn’t a big fan of something called the two point conversion)

"You know, if I were Maryland on first down...I would just take a shot. Because its either gonna be a passing interference, completion, or incompletion. No harm done" - Andre Ware

Wait a minute. No harm done? Did interceptions disappear?


3. Tony Mandarich, OT Michigan State 

Although I was only eight years old, I remember the Rose Bowl that year. 1988. My Dad, being a huge Michigan State fan, that was all he could talk about for weeks. Tony was the talk of the game.

My Dad was practically salivating over him, promising me that this guy was going to be something big to the NFL. He told me that he was going places and I would hear his name for years to come. Well he was definitely right on one thing. I heard his name for years to come, as one of the NFL's biggest flops of all time.

I mean this is the same guy that was named as a first-team All American AND a two-time Big Ten Lineman of the Year. “The Incredible Bulk”. Tony was given the honor of being the best offensive line prospect ever. He was of drafted #2 by the Green Bay Packers ahead of, hold your breath, Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders.

Nothing could contain Tony's ego and he let all the nonsense get to his head. He became an arrogant nuisance, holding out and not signing a contract with the Packers until right before the beginning of the regular season.

Why the hold-out you ask? Well because Tony thought he deserved to be paid as much as Troy Aikman, who was the #1 draft pick, quoting “I really don’t want to take too much less than Aikman, but I am the second pick. He is making 5 million more than me and I don’t think that’s right”.

Wow Tony. Way to prove that you’re playing for the love of the game.

Tony got what he wanted and signed a 4 year contract for $4.4 million, making him the highest paid line-man in the NFL without ever playing a down of football.

Call it Karma, call it whatever you'd like, but Tony later proved that when you play for greed and not from the heart, it shows.

After giving the Packers three seasons of nothing but problems, suspected steroid use and lackluster performances, the Packers cut Tony with a year still left on his contract. How’s that for what comes around goes around? Perhaps Tony, you should stick with the photography studio you are now running.  

I have attached a radio interview with Tony Mandarich from 2007. It’s very entertaining and good for a laugh.


2. Lawrence Phillips, RB Nebraska

It was a hard decision on who would earn the No. 2 and No. 3 position. But after much consideration, the award goes to Mr. Phillips. Talk about a disappointment to not only football, but to the human race as well.

Anyone remember the Orange Bowl in 1994? Nebraska Huskers winning it along with an undefeated season. I am sure anyone that followed their season would agree that Lawrence Phillips was, hands down, the main reason for their success.

He was fast, he was fierce and most importantly, he was disgustingly talented. He had everything going for him. Or did he?

The next season, after their second game, he dragged his ex-girlfriend down a stairwell by her hair. Luckily, she only suffered minor injuries. He was slapped on the wrist by his coach, suspended for only one month. Tough love on that one Coach.

Phillips finished the season well however, but there was still a risk when it came to the draft, due to his past. He was drafted sixth overall by the St. Louis Rams (other teams with higher picks said they passed on Phillips because of his off-the field troubles). Little did they know that was probably the best decision they made. St. Louis, on the other hand, paid for it.

Phillips did play the 1996 and part of the 1997 season until his alternate ego showed up. After refusing to go to a team meeting and arguing with Dick Vermeil (head coach) about playing time, Phillips was later on cut, Vermeil later saying “Phillips is potentially the best running back I have ever coached”.

 He went on to play for the Dolphins and the 49ers. Those of you who are 49ers fans remember Lawrence all too well. It was a Monday night game in 1999. Lawrence Phillips missed a crucial block against Arizona Cardinal cornerback Aeneas Williams who proceeded to knock out Steve Young ending Young’s career. Some say it was deliberate, though it has never been proven.

After all this repeated failure, one might think Lawrence would try and stay out of the public eye. One would be wrong. On August 21, 2005 Lawrence was playing a game of pick-up football. Well it turns out Lawrence lost not only the game but his temper as well. He actually drove his car onto the field, striking a total of three others, and barely missing four more, all because he lost a game of football. 

Did I mention he lost to teenagers?

Lawrence currently resides at his primary residence. Jail.

I was going to attach his mug shot, but instead chose to attach his college highlights so that anyone that may have been unfamiliar with how promising he looked can now watch him. Enjoy.


1. Ryan Leaf, QB Washington State

Well it’s not like this is a shocker that he is my #1 pick. I really tried to spice this up a bit and put someone else in the #1 spot, but that wouldn’t be fair to Leaf. He has earned this honor.

Ryan Leaf. 2nd overall pick in 1998, right after the great Peyton Manning. Prior to the draft he led his once mediocre looking team into a championship looking team that almost upset the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl. Leaf was a contender for the Heisman but came in third, right after Charles Woodson and Peyton Manning. Not bad Ryan.

The San Diego Chargers selected Leaf to be their main guy. The one that would help lead them into the Super Bowl or three for that matter.

San Diego thought they had it made. San Diego was wrong.

After ten games of his first season, Leaf had thrown a total of 1,289 yards including two touchdown passes. He had a QB rating of 39. Leaf’s competition Manning, started in all 16 games, throwing a total of 3,739 yards including 26 touchdown passes with a QB rating of 71.2 Manning also broke 5 rookie records his first season. Indianapolis Colts Management=geniuses.

It didn’t help matters much that Leaf didn’t bond well with his teammates. Maybe that’s because he blamed them for his bad performance any chance he got.

 I wanted so bad to feel sorry for him, to defend him, hoping he would prove me wrong. But I would be defending a man that actually lied about a hand injury to get out of football practice to go play golf instead.

As Ron Burgandy would say, "You stay classy Ryan".

He was released by the Chargers, finally, after 3 seasons and 4 wins. He signed with a couple other NFL teams, but was of no help. He announced his retirement in 2002 at the young age of 26.

I guess that whole getting out of practice to play golf was Ryan’s way of letting us know what was more important, as he is now a golf coach for West Texas A&M. He was later quoted saying “When playing football became a job, it lost its luster for me”. Well yes Ryan, last I heard when you sign a contract worth 31.25 million dollars, I’d say there might be work involved.

I’m pretty sure this is a man that definitely lived up to his last name. Leaf; very flaky. Not strong. Breaks easily. Loses its color fast. Wilts away into basically nothing never to be seen again.

Attached is an amazing segment on Leaf. You’re welcome.

Those are my top 5 choices. Other runner ups included; Charles Rogers, Heath Shuler, Ki-Jana Carter, Rashaan Salaam, Akili Smith, Todd Marinovich and Eric Crouch. I only had enough room to do my top No. 5 and didn’t use injuries as a reason for a top 5 draft bust.

I am sure there will be more Ryan Leaf’s to come, but I hope that college hopefuls will realize that money comes and goes. Talent will soon wash away with age. But if you play with the love you have for the game, instead of greed, it seems that goes a lot further than you could ever imagine.


That’s why I love the game so much, and why my favorite athletes are always the ones that put the team before themselves. That’s what football is all about.


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