Vernon Gholston and the 20 Most Spectacular Busts in NFL History

Joe Favia@joe_faviaCorrespondent IIMarch 2, 2011

Vernon Gholston and the 20 Most Spectacular Busts in NFL History

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    Every team has a bunch of players in their history that never lived up to the expectations that were put on them.

    Some teams like the Bears and Bengals seem to have an affinity for drafting the guy who won't be able to make the transition to the NFL. The combine has played a factor in some cases in throwing teams off what it truly important to look for in a football player.

    Vernon Gholston was a prime example of a player that passed the eye test, but upon further review at looking at the Jets, it appears it might be time to see the opthamologist. Gholston has not completely made his way onto the list of all-time draft day blunders, but he is well on his way.

    So let's take a look at the players that will go down in infamy as the best of the worst busts.  

20. Cade McNown

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    The Johnny Unitas Winner and only UCLA quarterback to sweep rival USC, Cade McNown was given the job of being the quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

    McNown only lasted two seasons with the team that invested a 12th overall selection in him. Many blamed it on a weak arm, while others blamed his attitude. Cade would go on to short stays in Miami and San Fransisco before retiring.

19. Ki-Jana Carter

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    The Heisman Trophy runner-up Ki-Jana Carter was the only player that Joe Paterno ever told to leave school early in pursuit of a career in the NFL.

    In his case, it was simply "what could have been" as Carter tore a ligament in his knee before his first regular season started. He would never even rush for 500 yards after being the first overall selection, but would go on to a career that lasted nearly a decade.

18. Art Schlichter

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    One of the great Buckeye quarterbacks to ever play, Art Schlicter was one of many quarterbacks between Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning that underachieved as a Colt.

    Marred by his gambling addiction, Schlicter was never able to stay on the field and have success, especially after the NFL Strike and his suspension from the league because of his addiction. His demons still seem to haunt him to this day, almost 30 years after Woody's last QB went pro.

17. Trev Alberts

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    It's hard to draw the line between a player that is besieged with injury which consumes their career and a a player that flat-out stinks. Trev Alberts might be the first case in terms of his NFL career.

    Alberts was a fierce linebacker at Nebraska where he was an All-American and Dick Butkus Award winner. After being the fifth overall pick by the Colts, the injuries piled up. He would only play three seasons in the NFL before calling it quits. He would gain recognition as an ESPN analyst after he left the NFL.

16. David Terrell

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    The selection of David Terrell encompasses all the bust wide receivers (Koren Robinson, Darius Heyward-Bey) that teams have taken over the years. Terrell was as accomplished and physically gifted of receivers as a team could want, but his attitude and determination simply were not there.

    Coming out of Michigan, Terrell was considered a prime time player to have after catching passes from Drew Henson and Tom Brady.

    It was not meant to be, as he never panned out for the Bears and would never catch on with another team. The Bears first round pick the year before him was Brian Urlacher and the year after was Marc Columbo.

15. Joey Harrington

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    "Joey Heisman", as he was known in the pre-Heisman build-up while at Oregon, never seemed to play up to par like distant cousin Padraig Harrington in golf.

    After a legendary career with the Ducks, which included a Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Award, he was the third overall selection by the Lions. Harrington, for the most part, never was the player that Detroit needed. He would play for three other teams before retiring.

14. Curtis Enis

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    Another Penn State running back that did not have success when he came to the NFL was Curtis Enis of the Bears.

    After being drafted with the fifth pick in the draft by the Bears, Enis was one of the least productive top five picks in NFL history. In three NFL seasons, he only gained close to 1,500 yards total and got to the four times. That was 32 less touchdowns than in the same amount of time at Penn State.

13. Tim Couch

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    The renewed sense of life came back to the people of Cleveland when their Browns were rightfully restored to them after Art Modell moved the original incarnation to Baltimore.

    In their first draft back in the league, they chose the SEC Player of the Year in Tim Couch who many thought would be a player that would lead them back to the glory days of the decade's past.

    It was not meant to be as only one season under Couch (2002) ended in a playoff appearance, and he never was seen as a good No. 1 pick. He tried numerous comebacks to no real promising end after leaving the Browns.

12. Tony Mandarich

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    Once labeled the "greatest lineman prospect ever" by Sports Illustrated, Tony Mandarich dealt with unfair expectations out of Michigan State.

    Mandarich would eventually be bite by the hand that fed him in the publicity department as his days as a Packer left him with the moniker "The Incredible Bust" after being the second overall pick. He would end his career as a servicable player in Indianapolis.

11. Alex Smith

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    One of the few players that can change his destiny before it's too late. Alex Smith is still trying to right the ship and not be a first overall selection that did not translate well into an NFL quarterback.

    At Utah, Smith was a special player, as he threw 32 touchdowns in 2004 before going No. 1 to San Francisco. In six seasons, he has only played a full season once and has not been the leader or playmaker that he needs to be.

10. Akili Smith

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    The second Oregon Duck quarterback to grace this Hall of Shame list. Akili Smith was a third overall selection by the Bengals after he had a dazzling senior season.

    In the NFL, Smith never seemed to understand what he was doing or possibly never really cared to learn how to be a professional quarterback. In his brief NFL career, he would throw five total touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

9. Lawrence Phillips

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    Lawrence Phillips embodies all the players that failed in the NFL because they could not handle themselves off the field, which in turn destroyed any positive things that happened on it.

    With all the talent that one could possess, including Dick Vermeil stating Phillips was, "the greatest running back i've ever coached", Phillips never kept it together. He lasted less than two seasons in St. Louis after being the sixth overall pick.

    He bounced around after that and got into trouble on numerous occasions. He is incarcarated for more than 31 years.

8. Andre Ware

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    After becoming the first African-American quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy and bypassing his senior season in favor of the NFL, many people thought Andre Ware was going to be an elite player at the next level.

    Ware never was able to adapt to the pro game well coming out of Houston's "run and shoot" offense. He would go on to pass for five touchdowns in his NFL career before playing in the CFL for a few seasons. He has since been a commentator for games on ESPN.

7. Brian Bosworth

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    One of the players that will certainly not be forgotten because of his outlandish behavior at both Oklahoma and while with the Seattle Seahawks. Brian Bosworth never became what was thought "The Boz" could in fact be, which is a superstar.

    The two-time All-American for the Sooners was known to challenge all comers including the NCAA and the NFL upon coming to the league (he was denied after sueing the league to wear No. 44). His shoulder issues would be his undoing after a lackluster couple of years in Seattle.

6. Steve Emtman

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    One of the more controversial selections to the biggest busts of all-time, Steve Emtman was a guy that absolutely was affected by the injuries that later foiled his NFL career.

    Emtman won every major award a defensive lineman can win at Washington before being the first overall pick by the Colts. In the NFL, he was decimated by knee injuries among other conflicted issues. He showed glimpses of potential but was never able to fully show what he could do.

5. Heath Shuler

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    For Tennessee Vols fans, there were records that existed for quarterbacks before Peyton Manning started playing in Knoxville, and they were mostly held by Heath Shuler.

    Shuler like Manning was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy before being taken with the third overall pick by the Redskins. Heath never took the reins of the position with Washington before being traded to the Saints, where his success never came either. He threw 15 touchdowns in his career total.

    He would go onto bigger and better things, though, as he is currently a member of the House of Representatives for North Carolina.

4. Charles Rogers

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    One of the best college wide outs in recent memory, Charles Rogers seemed like a safe bet to make many Pro Bowls after being taken with the second overall pick by the Lions.

    Rogers came out of Michigan State an All-American who had lit up the Big Ten in his career. However, his stay in Detroit would be troubled and short-lived. He would catch a total of 36 passes in his career and four touchdowns. He would later admit on ESPN after giving up on the game that he smokes marajuana regularly saying while playing with the Lions, he was "really smokin".

3. Blair Thomas

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    Blair Thomas is the third and final running back from the Penn State Nittany Lions to make the biggest busts of all-time list. But Thomas accomplished more than some on the list. Why he is so high is because the expectations were that much greater for the second overall pick.

    In four seasons with the Jets, he only rushed for a little over 2,000 yards total and did not bring about the resurgence in Jets football that some expected. He would get his chance with four other teams before ending his career in 1995.

2. Ryan Leaf

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    The last moments of greatness that can be found of Ryan Leaf are on tape now from his loss to the Michigan Wolverines in the 1998 Rose Bowl. Everything after that was downhill for the second overall pick out of Washington State.

    He was a Pac-10 Player of the Year who finished third in the Heisman voting. Yet most will remember his NFL career, which included passing for a total of 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions, along with tirades against the media.

    Some call him the biggest bust in sports history. That is certainly up for debate, but there was a time when Ryan Leaf was a player that threw 33 touchdowns in a season as a Cougar.

1. JaMarcus Russell

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    No player at quarterback who was taken first overall in the draft as JaMarcus Russell was stayed with that team that drafted them as short as Russell did.

    No player at QB who was the first pick had as bad of a record as Russell did under center. And Russell's passer rating was the lowest of any quarterback in the league since 1998.

    Yes, the talented quarterback out of LSU has certainly fallen a long way. If he wanted to right the ship, he still could, but with every Krispy Kreme, the player that was seen in Baton Rouge disappears.