2011 NFL Draft: Biggest Draft Busts in the History of Each NFL Franchise
When I kept seeing these names, the same thought kept racing through my head.
"Oh my gosh! I remember him in college. He was incredible!"
Each of them flamed out in incredible fashion once they reached the NFL. Their names are familiar ones: Todd Marinovich, Tim Couch, Tony Mandarich, Ryan Leaf. When determining the biggest busts for each team, some were challenging. Take Marinovich, for example. Do you take him over JaMarcus Russell, the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft? Both were extremely talented, both had lots of hype, lots of potential.
Now for you ultra-serious ones, let's go ahead and establish that you could flip-flop many of these names for countless others. I don't think there's a definitive set of standards for awfulness.
These players, however, met my criteria. Here are the top draft busts for every NFL team:
Atlanta: Aundray Bruce, 1st Overall, 1988
You would think a linebacker/defensive end who was 6'5'', 265 pounds would be a stud, right?
Bruce definitely didn't live up to the hype. The former Auburn player made 35 starts in four years with the Falcons, finishing with 176 tackles, 16 sacks and three interceptions. He then went to the Raiders and never had more than 25 tackles in a season.
For those wondering who Atlanta passed up that year in the draft: Five picks later there was some receiver named Tim Brown they could have nabbed.
Arizona: Andre Wadsworth, Third Overall, 1998
Here's the first of the many studs I remember from their college days.
Wadsworth (6'4'', 278) was unstoppable at Florida State, but the former defensive end lasted just three seasons and had 72 tackles, eight sacks and one interception for Arizona.
Baltimore: Kyle Boller, 19th Overall, 2003
I remember all the hype about Boller. He was the kid with the golden arm from Cal, but I never drank the Kool Aid.
Boller played for five seasons with the Ravens, completing nearly 57 percent of his passes for 7,846 yards, with 45 touchdowns and 44 interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 71.9.
After leaving Baltimore, Boller spent 2009 with the Rams, then last year with the Raiders.
Buffalo: Tony Hunter, 12th Overall, 1983
Since I was six when Hunter was drafted, I have zero memory of him from his days at Notre Dame. I do know, however, that the tight end played two years for the Bills, had 69 catches for 733 yards and five touchdowns.
Carolina: Rae Carruth, 27th Overall, 1997
I remember how impressive Carruth was at Colorado, but the wide receiver had just 804 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons with the team.
Of course, he's now in prison after shooting his then-pregnant girlfriend. I've heard of a lot of atrocious things in my time as a sportswriter, but this was one of the worst.
Chicago: Curtis Enis, Fifth Overall, 1998
Apologies to David Terrell and Cade McNown for being left off, but I've got to go with Enis here.
I vividly remember Enis (6'0'', 242 pounds) from his days at Penn State, but the running back lasted only three seasons in the NFL, averaging under four yards per carry and rushing for 1,497 yards and four touchdowns in his career.
Cincinnati: David Klingler, Sixth Overall, 1992
I'm sure you Akili Smith fans are offended for my slight here.
But I'm going with Klingler on this one. Back at Houston, he threw for 54 touchdowns in one season, but at Cincinnati, he finished with only 16 in four seasons. He also had a quarterback rating of 65.1.
I knew Klingler was talented, but I wasn't completely sold on him coming out of Houston. I did think another quarterback, though, would do much better from that school—wait for it...
Cleveland: Tim Couch, 1st Overall, 1999
Now we get to someone I saw in person.
Back in college, I watched Couch up close when Kentucky played at LSU, and saw how smooth he was rolling out of the pocket and what a great delivery he had. He could throw the short and intermediate passes and hit receivers on deep balls with precision. The guy was the truth.
But in the NFL, not so much: In five seasons with the Browns, he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 11,131 yards with 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions.
Dallas: David LaFleur, 22nd Overall, 1997
This was another tough one. Do you go with LaFleur over Bobby Carpenter? I think so, but by a hair.
LaFleur was at LSU when I was, and I knew back then it could be feast or famine for him in the pros. See, LaFleur's problem was that he would often drop easy catches. He had the perfect size for a tight end (6'7'', 272 pounds) but that didn't mean anything with the Cowboys.
In four seasons, he had 85 receptions for 729 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Denver: Tommy Maddox, 25th Overall, 1992
I will say this first off: You will not meet a nicer and classier gentleman.
Maddox became a great story when he made a comeback in 2002 with the Steelers as a backup quarterback, leaving his life as an insurance salesman.
Coming out of UCLA, though, he was supposedly the heir apparent to John Elway—think about that for a second. Just sounds absurd looking back, doesn't it? In two years with the Broncos, he started four games, throwing for 758 yards and just six touchdowns.
Detroit: Andre Ware, 7th Overall, 1990
The former Heisman Trophy winner put up some nasty numbers in college, but he did absolutely nothing in the pros. In four seasons, he completed just 83 of 161 passes for 1,112 yards and five touchdowns.
Ware will always be in that elite group of quarterback busts I grew up with that includes Heath Shuler, David Klingler and Todd Marinovich.
Green Bay: Tony Mandarich, 2nd Overall, 1989
I don't think we need to re-hash what an incredible bust this offensive lineman was.
Here's something I didn't realize, though. The next three picks after him that year: Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.
Houston: David Carr, 1st Overall, 2002
Confession time: I too bought into the Carr hype that year when he came out of Fresno State.
I'd watched him in college and I thought he would make a great franchise quarterback. Big problem: His offensive line was non existent. Opposing defenses tore him apart, totaling 249 sacks in Carr's five years with the Texans.
Somehow he did manage to throw for over 2,000 yards each season. Pretty lousy, but incredible when you consider what he had around him.
Indianapolis: Steve Emtman, 1st Overall, 1992
I vaguely remember how hyped the former Washington defensive end was.
But he suffered a knee injury just over halfway into his rookie year and made only 10 starts over the next six years for three different teams.
Jacksonville: Matt Jones, 21st Overall, 2005
Here's the thing about Jacksonville: The Jaguars have had plenty of highly-touted players (Reggie Williams, Tony Boselli, R. Jay Soward, Kevin Hardy) who didn't live up to the hype.
But I remember thinking Jones would be a solid player. He had been a great quarterback at Arkansas, but I figured he could make the switch to wide receiver. That really didn't happen, and he also got into trouble with drugs.
Kansas City: Ryan Sims, 6th Overall, 2002
The defensive lineman out of North Carolina was supposed to anchor the Chiefs line for years to come. One website said Sims "could be the Chiefs worst draft pick of all-time."
In five seasons, he had 65 total tackles and five sacks. He was so unproductive that he was traded to Tampa Bay for a seventh round pick.
Miami: Sammie Smith, 9th Overall, 1989
The former Florida State running back lasted just three years with the Dolphins, never averaging above 3.7 yards per carry. He finished with 1,881 yards and 15 touchdowns during that span and had to endure chants of "Sammie Sucks" by fans.
Minnesota: Dimitrius Underwood, 29th Overall, 1999
The former Michigan State defensive end had all sorts of potential, but he walked out of training camp after the first day due to conflicts between football and his faith.
This is one of the saddest stories I've heard. Underwood battled mental illness and it was evident twice when he tried to commit suicide, the first time by slitting his throat.
He had left football, but he returned with the Dolphins and later with the Cowboys. His career never panned out, but in the big picture, he had much bigger problems to face.
New England: Hart Lee Dykes, 15th Overall, 1989
Yup, this is a player I remember pretty well growing up in Oklahoma. He was a great receiver at Oklahoma State, but lasted just two years in the NFL, finishing with 83 catches for 1,344 yards and seven touchdowns.
New Orleans: Ricky Williams, 5th Overall, 1999
Ricky was an absolute beast at Texas. I watched him plenty and remember my dad saying he probably was Texas' best running back since Earl Campbell.
The Saints mortgaged their future in that draft to nab Williams, but the support system surrounding him was awful and he didn't turn the franchise around.
In three years with the Saints, he had 16 touchdowns and averaged 3.8 yards per carry. He also had 1,092 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
New York Giants: Ron Dayne, 11th Overall, 2000
The former Wisconsin running back and Heisman Trophy winner had all the makings of being a bruising, punishing power back.
But in four years he had 2,067 yards and 16 touchdowns. Even more shocking: He averaged only 3.5 yards per carry.
New York Jets: Blair Thomas, 2nd Overall, 1990
In four seasons, Thomas had only seven touchdowns.
The former Penn State running back is considered one of the greatest busts in NFL history. What's even more shocking is that, in this same draft, the Cowboys landed another running back—a kid from Florida named Emmitt Smith.
Oakland/Los Angeles: Todd Marinovich, 24th Overall, 1991
He had been engineered for this very opportunity since he was a child by an obsessive, overly-driven father. At 6'4'', 215 pounds, Marinovich was the prototype for a quarterback.
But the former USC star lasted just two years with the Raiders. He threw for 1,345 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions, while also dealing with serious drug issues during and after his career.
Nine picks later, in the second round, Atlanta drafted Brett Favre.
Philadelphia: Michael Haddix, 8th Overall, 1983
The former Mississippi State running back lasted six years with the Eagles, rushing for 1,189 yards and three touchdowns. He also averaged three yards per carry.
Pittsburgh: Tim Worley, 7th Overall, 1989
The former Georgia running back lasted four years with the Steelers, rushing for 1,338 yards and five touchdowns. He also had 196 yards receiving.
Worley was the fourth bust in that first round, joining Sammie Smith, Tony Mandarich and Hart Lee Dykes.
Seattle: Brian Bosworth, 1st Overall, Supplemental Draft, 1987
Growing up in Oklahoma, I knew about the Boz and watched him terrorize offenses. He was one of the most vicious linebackers Oklahoma ever had.
Towards the end of his college career, he was busted for steroids and became extremely cocky by the time he reached the NFL. I found it repulsive and the Boz had only four sacks in three years with the Seahawks.
Ironically, his most memorable play wasn't a good one. You know which one I'm talking about. It's when a certain legendary player named Bo Jackson steamrolled him.
Saint Louis: Lawrence Phillips, 6th Overall, 1996
The Nebraska running back was part of the great Cornhuskers teams of the late 1990s and was a machine in college. He also happened to have behavior issues and was arrested for domestic violence. That didn't change in the pros. Phillips was released a year after St. Louis drafted him and is currently serving time in prison.
San Diego: Ryan Leaf, 2nd Overall, 1998
Imagine not only producing on the field, but coming across like a petulant child in the media and behaving in a way in which teammates didn't want anything to do with you.
That was Leaf in a nutshell.
San Francisco: JJ Stokes, 10th Overall, 1995
Remember how he was called "the next Jerry Rice?"
Pretty silly when you look back at it. The former UCLA receiver lasted eight years with the 49ers, never broke 1,000 yards in a season and averaged less than four catches a game.
Tampa Bay: Vinny Testaverde, 1st Overall, 1987
Vinny was incredible in college at Miami, and I'll give him credit for sticking around in the NFL. But it sure did start out rough in Tampa, where he was sacked 197 times in six years with the Bucs. He also completed 52 percent of his passes for 77 touchdowns and 112 interceptions.
Tennessee: Adam Jones, 6th Overall, 2005
Pacman was extremely talented and should have had an incredible career. Instead, he found it much easier to be a punk and "make it rain."
Jones was suspended for all of 2007 and part of 2008 due to issues with the law. He denied all the allegations against him (didn't you find him credible, too?) and briefly experimented as a pro wrestler.
Washington: Heath Shuler, 3rd Overall, 1994
The former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback was another hyped phenom coming out of college, but he lasted three years with the Redkins. In that span, he threw for 2,403 yards, 13 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
I'll tip my cap to Shuler, though, who is now a congressman in Washington D.C.