NFL Draft History: Top 25 QB Busts of All Time
Neither Ryan Leaf nor JaMarcus Russell are at the top of this list. I want to give full disclosure on that fact right now.
That is not to say they are not on this list at all, it is just saying this list is trying to remove some hype from the equation and look at the "draft bust" label more objectively.
Russell and Leaf get the "glory" because of where they were picked, how much money they were paid and how fast they flamed out. In Russell's case, it was not so much he flamed out as much as he never had the energy to even start a fire.
There is a name on this list that will surprise you.
So here are some of the main criteria for this list: The quarterback had to be drafted in the first round. They had to have failed the team that drafted them in some way, and they had to have set their team back a few years in the goal of winning a Super Bowl.
Those are the main criteria, but number of games played also factors in, so enjoy the list.
25. Michael Vick
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Michael Vick was the first overall pick in the 2001 draft and after six great years in Atlanta, he went to prison on dogfighting charges.
The Falcons did not win a Super Bowl while Vick was there.
While he barely makes this list, he technically is a bust for the Atlanta Falcons who had to start over completely with no Lombardi Trophy to show for their money or time.
Fortunately, the Falcons found this guy named Matt Ryan.
24. Todd Blackledge
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Todd Blackledge was drafted seventh overall in the 1983 draft.
He never played a full season and never played well. His failure was highlighted by the success of fellow draft picks John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.
After five completely unproductive years with the Chiefs, he finished his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
23. Joey Harrington
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Joey Harrington was drafted third overall in 2002 but never played consistently good football.
This was during the Matt Millen era, so Harrington should not take all the blame, but he did have his chances and ultimately was traded to the Dolphins after four years.
Harrington started 55 games during his career in Detroit, finishing 18-37.
22. Tim Couch
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The "new" Cleveland Browns selected Tim Couch to be their franchise quarterback and said he would hold the clipboard his rookie season while the team finished building.
That lasted about two minutes as Couch was thrown to the wolves while having to endure bad coaching, an incompetent front office and a patchwork offensive line that left Couch brutalized on a regular basis.
Despite flashes of brilliance, injuries took their toll on Couch, and an elbow injury eventually ended his career after the 2003 season.
He played two seasons with the BC Lions and attempted a comeback with Jacksonville in 2007 before hanging it up for good.
21. Vince Young
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Vince Young never had what it takes between the ears to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. But his career looked very promising when he was drafted third overall in 2006.
Young's college accomplishments are long and distinguished, but as is the case with many successful college quarterbacks, past success is no indication of future success.
While he played well during his rookie season, Young admitted in an interview he thought about quitting because of all the pressure. That interview was a warning of what was to come as his play began deteriorating, and he was benched at the beginning of the 2008 season in favor of Kerry Collins.
As a result, Young disappeared one night for a few hours before rumors of him being suicidal began to emerge. The Titans contacted the authorities to find him and check on his safety.
Young earned his job back halfway through the 2009 season, but after being injured in a Week 11 game in 2010, he got into a fight with coach Jeff Fisher, stormed off the field and out of the locker room after arguing with Fisher again.
While still on the Titans roster, the Titans have stated they are moving on without him in 2011.
20. J. P. Losman
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Not only did the Bills strike out with J.P. Losman, they traded up into the first round to get him.
Losman then promptly became the victim of a freak practice collission that broke his fibula and his rookie season was basically over. He made a few appearances at the end of the season to little effect.
Losman's second season started out with a victory but went south quickly before being benched in favor of Kelly Holcomb.
He would spend the next few years battling injuries and trading places on the bench with Trent Edwards.
At the conclusion of his contract, the two sides mutually ageed to part ways.
19. Alex Smith
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Alex Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, and the 49ers still are regretting not taking Aaron Rodgers to this day.
How successful Rodgers would have been in San Francisco is a matter of debate, but Smith's status with the 49ers is currently in limbo.
Smith often was injured, and his rookie season was awful. He improved in his sophomore year, but injuries and poor performances led to benchings and a re-structuring of his contract.
With Jim Harbaugh coaching the 49ers now, it is assumed the team will be moving on from Smith.
18. Rick Mirer
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The Seahawks wasted no time deeming Dan McGwire a bust, and after only two years they pulled the trigger on another first-round quarterback in Rick Mirer, drafting him with the second overall pick.
Mirer was better than McGwire, that is not a debatable point, as his rookie season was very good and showed a lot of promise for the future.
However, his production declined after that and he was traded to the Bears for a first-round pick. He played one season for the Bears before being cut. He bounced around the league for a few more years before retiring in 2004.
17. Mike Phipps
Mike Phipps was the third overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft. The Browns trading all-pro wide receiver Paul Warfield to move up in the draft to select him.
Phipps had two starts in his first two seasons and never showed he could transition to the NFL. However, he came off the bench in his third season to lead the Browns to the playoffs and showed some flashes of leadership.
Phipps could not repeat that success and eventually was replaced by Brian Sipe.
16. Jack Thompson
One of many Bengals quarterback busts on this list, Thompson, or "The Throwin' Samoan," was drafted third overall in 1979.
Thompson played four unspectacular years in Cincinnati before going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
15. Matt Leinart
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Big Hype? Check. Big Talent? Check. Attitude of entitlement? Check.
Matt Leinart was selected 10th overall in the 2006 draft and was expected to be the star quarterback of the next 10-15 years for the Cardinals after winning the Heisman Trophy for USC.
But Leinart, like many other failed quarterbacks on this list, held out for a bigger contract his rookie season, missed time and lost the starting job to Kurt Warner.
While Leinart eventually would become the starter, he never held the job for very long because Warner kept playing better.
After Warner retired last year, Leinart assumed he had the job, lollygagged his way through training camp and was cut before the season started. He was the third-string quarterback for the Texans in 2010.
14. Brady Quinn
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The Browns traded back up into the first round to pick Brady Quinn with the 22nd pick.
An ill-advised contract holdout compounded by gross mismanagement by the Browns resulted in Quinn never truly becoming the Browns starting quarterback for more than a few games at a time. Minor injuries also resulted in missed games and the inability to build any kind of chemistry with the team.
Quinn's focus on bodybuilding appeared to rob him of the arm strength NFL coaches want and he was traded to the Denver Broncos after the 2009 season.
The Broncos, who already had Kyle Orton as a starter, then drafted Tim Tebow and Quinn was relegated to third on the depth chart in 2010.
13. David Klingler
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David Klingler was just one in a long line of Bengals draft busts, and another example of a successful college quarterback being unable to transition to the pros. Klingler was drafted sixth overall in 1992.
Through three seasons, he tallied a 4-20 record, throwing 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. He eventually lost the starting job to Jeff Blake and played two seasons with Oakland.
He signed with the Packers to back up Brett Favre in 1998 but was cut before the season began. He never played in the NFL again.
12. Jerry Tagge
Jerry Tagge was drafted 11th overall in the 1972 draft and despite his success in college, he could not repeat it in Green Bay.
In three years with the Packers, Tagge played a total of 17 games, going 136-281 for 1583 yards, three touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
11. Todd Marinovich
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Todd Marinovich is in the infamous "biggest draft busts ever" lists that pop up every April. He was drafted 24th overall in the 1991 NFL Draft.
Marinovich had a very difficult childhood while being raised by a father who groomed him from birth to be the perfect athlete.
The pressures of living up to everyone's expectations resulted in heavy drug abuse, and after three failed drug tests, Marinovich was out of the NFL before the 1993 season began.
10. Akili Smith
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Akili Smith was the third overall draft pick for the Bengals in 1999 but missed most of his rookie season because of a lengthy holdout.
While athletic, he never seemed to grasp the complexities of the pro game, and after 17 total starts, the Bengals cut him.
He attempted to catch on with the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but only ended up playing two years in the Canadian Football League.
9. Heath Shuler
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Heath Shuler (shown during his final year with the New Orleans Saints), was the third overall pick in the draft for the Washington Redskins.
Shuler held out his rookie season, played poorly, and eventually lost his starting job to Gus Frerotte.
He was traded to New Orleans for the 1997 season where a foot injury eventually ended his career.
8. Andre Ware
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Andre Ware was the seventh overall pick for the Lions in the 1990 draft, but Head Coach Wayne Fontes quickly lost all confidence in him and used him only at the end of games when the Lions were getting blown out, or after the Lions had been eliminated from the playoffs.
Ware played in only 14 games, starting six between 1990 and 1993. He ended his career in the Candadian Football League.
7. Jim Druckenmiller
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The plan for Jim Druckenmiller when he was drafted 26th overall in 1997 was to eventually replace an aging Steve Young.
Druckenmiller played in only six games, completing 21-of-52 passes with one touchdown and four interceptions.
He was cut after two seasons and enjoyed playing time in the AFL and XFL.
6. Cade McNown
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Cade McNown is best known for being Cade McNown. He was drafted by the Bears 12th overall in 1999, played briefly before having a few good games at the end of the season, and then got worse during the 2000 season.
The Bears then traded him to Miami in 2001 who traded him to San Francisco in 2002, but a shoulder injury ended his season and his career.
5. Kelly Stouffer
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Kelly Stouffer was drafted sixth overall by the Cardinals in the 1987 NFL Draft and never played one game for them.
The two sides could not come to an agreement on a contract and Stouffer sat out his rookie season. The Cardinals traded his rights to the Seahawks and moved on.
He had an uremarkable career in Seattle before being cut after the 1992 season.
4. JaMarcus Russell
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JaMarcus Russell was drafted first overall in the 2007 draft, reportedly over the objections of head coach Lane Kiffin.
In three years with the Raiders, Russell was completely ineffective and was benched more than once. He battled weight issues and had a reputation for being lazy and disinterested.
Russell was known for overthrowing receivers and not being able to keep up with the speed of the pro game.
The Raiders cut Russell during the 2010 offseason and no team has signed him.
3. Ryan Leaf
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Ryan Leaf is the poster child of draft busts. His inability to adjust to any aspect of the pro game combined with his immaturity and attitude were a recipe for disaster and set the Chargers organization back years.
His failures have been well-documented elsewhere and we'll not pile on by recounting them here. He was drafted second overall in 1998 and proceeded to self destruct.
What keeps him from being in the top spot of this list is he played more games than a lot of the top guys here. When you look at it from that perspective, the Chargers got more value out of Leaf than other teams got out of their first-round picks.
Still, what the Chargers paid to get Leaf does factor into this equation and keeps him from dropping lower.
Just think, one day there could be a draft bust that might eclipse Leaf.
2. Dan McGwire
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Dan McGwire was drafted 16th overall in the 1991 draft, going to the Seattle Seahawks.
McGwire sat behind Dave Krieg his rookie season per the Seahawks' plan, but he was so bad in the 1992 preseason he got dropped to third string quarterback.
The Seahawks were so unimpressed with McGwire they drafted Rick Mirer in the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft.
Mirer got injured in 1994 and McGwire got three starts, going 1-2 and completing 51-of-105 passes for 578 yards and a touchdown.
He played one year in Miami and then was done.
1. Art Schlichter
Art Schlichter was drafted by the Colts fourth overall in 1982. However, Schlichter had one of the worst gambling problems known to man. He reportedly had accrued about $700,000 in gambling debts by the time the NFL Strike ended in 1982.
Schlichter ended up going to the FBI to avoid having to pay a mountain of gambling debts and being threatened by bookies. That resulted in a suspension from the league.
Schlichter's gambling problem did not go away and he was suspended for life by Commissioner Pete Rozelle in January 1987.
Schlichter started only six games for the Colts.