15 Biggest NFL Draft Busts Who Played in the Pac-12
It's difficult to predict who will succeed in the NFL, and Pac-12 players are no exception.
While players can accumulate as many accolades and commendations in school as they want, success in college is no guarantee for success at the next level. What follows is a list of some of the biggest draft busts out of the Pac-12—from big-name quarterbacks to defensive linemen we've collectively forgotten.
For football savvy readers, you might already suspect some of the names that will show up here. Perhaps you already have one in mind. Let me guess: a decorated quarterback out of Washington State who was selected in the first round, but then never quite lived up to the hype. Am I right?
Let's start with him.
Jack Thompson, QB, Washington State
Selected third overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1979 NFL draft, Jack Thompson only lasted six years in the league and never translated his collegiate skill into professional success.
At Washington State, Thompson set numerous Pac-10 records in his four-year career, including most attempts, touchdowns and completions. He finished with 7,818 passing yards, which was an NCAA record then. The Throwin' Samoan is only one of two players to ever have their number retired by Wazzu.
Despite his prolificness with the Cougars, Thompson never lived up to his top-pick billing in the NFL.
He only made nine appearances his rookie season, throwing five interceptions and one touchdown pass. Eventually falling out of favor in Cincinnati, Thompson found his way to Tampa Bay in 1983, where he had his best season in the pros.
In 14 games, the Throwin' Samoan threw for 2,906 yards and 18 touchdowns along with 21 picks.
His career ended in 1984 with career stats of 5,315 yards, 33 touchdowns and 45 interceptions.
Steve Emtman, DE, Washington
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One of the more promising defensive linemen to emerge from the Pac-12, injuries marred Steve Emtman's career in the NFL.
The former Washington DE won just about every award a player at his position could win in college. He was drafted with the first overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 1992. Unfortunately, Emtman ended his first three seasons with Indy on injured reserve, due in large part to the many games he had to play on AstroTurf.
Emtman blew out his knee nine games into his rookie season. He then tore the patellar tendon in his right knee in year two. After being the first NFL player to come back from this type of injury, he ruptured a disk in his neck in the season opener, causing intense pain and nerve damage.
Emtman lasted only three more weeks before electing for season-ending surgery.
The former Lombardi Award winner lasted only three more years in the league, finishing with 134 tackles and eight sacks as a member of the Washington Redskins.
Emtman now develops real estate in Spokane, Wash.
Reggie Rogers, DE, Washington
Taken with the seventh overall pick in the 1987 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions, Reggie Rogers could not stay out of trouble off the field long enough to make anything out of his professional career.
A solid, All-American prospect out of the University of Washington, Rogers only played in six games his rookie season as a result of deep emotional problems.
Tragedy struck in his second year when Rogers' car collided with another and killed three teenagers. He was eventually convicted of vehicular homicide and served 16 months in prison starting in 1990. The Lions cut ties with him in 1989 due to the injuries he sustained in the accident.
Rogers lasted only two more years in the NFL after leaving prison, spending a year with the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before calling it quits in 1992. He was recently sentenced to two years in prison after suffering his fifth DUI in his home state of Washington.
Mike Williams, WR, USC
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The former USC standout was part of a string of wide receivers drafted by Detroit that never quite materialized into what they could be.
In college, Mike Williams was one of the most potent receiving threats not just in the Pac-10, but in the entire country. In two years with the Trojans, Williams finished with 176 receptions for 2,579 and 30 touchdowns while being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2002. He was forced to sit out the entire 2004 season due to unsuccessfully declaring himself for the NFL Draft a year early.
Originally taken 10th overall by the Detroit Lions in 2005, Williams seemed to have regressed in a year away from the game. He only caught two touchdowns in two years for the Lions before being traded to Oakland in 2007. The Raiders released Williams after six games before the Tennessee Titans picked him up out of free agency.
Just a month removed from playing football, Williams reported to the Titans overweight and out of shape. He only saw action in two games before being released again at the end of the season.
After spending two years away from the NFL, his former head coach at USC Pete Carroll convinced him to return after Carroll was hired to coach the Seattle Seahawks. Williams repaid his coach's faith, catching 65 passes for 751 yards and two touchdowns in 2010. He still plays in Seattle after receiving a three-year contract extension.
Todd Marinovich, QB, USC
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Almost literally born to be a quarterback, Todd Marinovich's football career was hampered by drug use and emotional problems.
Marinovich was trained to be a quarterback by his father Marv seemingly from the moment he was born. A former strength and conditioning coach, Marv rigidly trained his son through adolescence using techniques he developed to create an outstanding athlete.
Unfortunately, the pressure put on him by his father attracted Todd to drugs, habitually smoking pot in high school after a childhood of strict dieting.
His breakout 1989 season at USC earned him national attention, but he could never duplicate that Rose Bowl success. After a lackluster sophomore year in 1990, Marinovich declared for the draft despite being arrested on cocaine possession.
Marinovich continued to abuse drugs in his brief two-year career in the NFL. Selected 24th overall by the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1991 NFL draft, Marinovich never found a consistent role with the Raiders, failing to hold the starting job before his drug abuse did him in. He was prone to taking amphetamines before games until the Raiders placed him in rehab. He was also infamous for abusing LSD after games because it did not show up on tests.
Before the 1993 season started, Marinovich failed his third NFL drug test, this time for marijuana, and subsequently left the league. He would bounce around the AFL and CFL for a few more years, but he never made it back to the NFL. In his brief two yeas with the Raiders, Marinovich threw for 1,345 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.
R. Jay Soward, WR, USC
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Another Trojan suffering from rampant drug use, R. Jay Soward was selected 29th overall in the 2000 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While physically gifted, Soward underperformed as a USC wide receiver, frequently smoking pot during his career. He only scored 32 touchdowns through four years in Los Angeles.
His NFL career lasted only one year due to multiple violations of the league's substance abuse policy. Cracking under the pressure of being a first-round draft choice, he never played a down for the Jags, electing to go to rehab instead.
Four years later, Soward entered the Canadian Football League for the Toronto Argonauts, where he helped the team win the Grey Cup Championship. A year later he was released again and stayed out of football for over five years.
Recently, Soward signed with the Wenatchee Valley Venom of the Indoor Football League after making a living in the interim as a T.V. repairman.
Matt Leinart, QB, USC
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One of the more recent draft busts out of the Pac-12, Matt Leinart struggled for years to become a starting quarterback in the NFL.
A former Heisman Trophy winner out of USC, Leinart played in two national title games (winning one in 2004) and threw for over 10,000 yards and 99 touchdowns. His No. 11 jersey has since been retired at SC.
Drafted by Arizona with the 10th pick in the 2006 draft, Leinart saw action in 12 games (11 as the starter), throwing for 2,547 yards and 11 touchdowns despite 12 picks. It would be his last season as the starter, with veteran Kurt Warner slowly winning the favor of Dennis Green. It proved to be a good move, with the Cardinals reaching the Super Bowl in 2008.
After three years fighting for the starting job, Leinart was released by the Cardinals in 2010. He now backs up Matt Schaub for the Houston Texans, appearing in no games last year.
Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon
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Joey Harrington was selected third overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2002 NFL draft after an outstanding career at the University of Oregon.
A standout QB for the Ducks, Harrington went 25-3 during his time in Eugene, throwing for 6,911 yards and 59 touchdowns. In his final game for Oregon, he threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns to beat Colorado 38-16 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
As a pro, Harrington struggled on a woeful Lions team, setting back his development by years. After four years in the Motor City, Harrington was traded to the Dolphins for a sixth-rounder in 2006 where he started 11 games. He left Miami for Atlanta in 2007 but was released by season's end. In his final year in the league, he never saw action in New Orleans as the third-string quarterback.
Over his eight NFL seasons, Harrington threw for 14,693 yards, 79 touchdowns and 85 interceptions. He currently works in sports broadcasting, most recently covering Ducks football for the Oregon Sports Network.
Akili Smith, QB, Oregon
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A JaMarcus Russell of a previous generation, Akili Smith was drafted third overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1999 NFL draft after really only one season of high-level performance.
Having originally attended Grossmont College in San Diego, Smith transferred to Oregon his junior year. He caught the eye of many scouts after his standout senior year, throwing for 3,763 yards and 30 touchdown passes while rushing for four TDs himself.
His four-year tenure with the Bengals was less than impressive, throwing for only 2,212 yards, five touchdowns and 13 picks. After being released in 2003, Smith tried out for the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers but never made the cut.
He now works at Cal under former coach Jeff Tedford as a graduate assistant with the offense.
Terry Baker, QB, Oregon State
A Heisman Trophy winner and Sports Illustrated's 1962 Sportsman of the Year, Terry Baker was the first overall pick by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1963 NFL draft. One of the first dual-threat quarterbacks, Baker was almost as dangerous with his feet as he was with his arms.
A multi-talented athlete, Baker also played basketball for Oregon State as well as baseball in high school. In his senior year on the field, he threw for 3,476 yards and 23 touchdowns while also running for 1,503 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Despite his many collegiate awards, he only lasted three years with the Rams, finishing with a paltry career total of 154 passing yards and no passing touchdowns. His subpar QB numbers owe much to the Rams often playing him at running back.
Baker played a year with the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL before retiring after the 1966 season. He currently is a retired lawyer in Portland, Oregon.
Cade McNown, QB, UCLA
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A personal hero of mine, it hurts me to admit that Cade McNown was an NFL bust. I grew up watching him pick apart Pac-10 defenses at UCLA, but upon leaving school, he slowly faded into obscurity.
A mobile left-hander, McNown led the Bruins to the brink of a national championship in 1998 before losing to Miami—a game that pains me to this day. After seeing its 20-game win streak broken, UCLA couldn't even muster the strength to win what was a conciliatory Rose Bowl game against Wisconsin.
A 1998 Johnny Unitas Award winner and Heisman finalist, McNown is perhaps best known for being the only UCLA quarterback to go 4-0 against USC.
McNown was taken 12th overall in the 1999 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, but he never made a name for himself. In only 25 appearances with the Bears, he threw for 3,111 yards, 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions before being traded to the Dolphins in 2001. He never played in another NFL game.
McNown is currently occupying the football fantasies of UCLA fans everywhere.
Tommy Maddox, QB, UCLA
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Picked 25th overall in the 1992 draft, Tommy Maddox never quite lived up to his hype, but he became a reliable journeyman quarterback nonetheless.
Hampered from the beginning by deciding to turn pro after only his second year in college, Maddox jumped from UCLA to the Denver Broncos in 1992. He ended up starting only four games and was let go after two years in Denver.
Maddox played for the Los Angeles Rams in 1994 and the New York Giants in 1995, but he did not perform well enough for an extension with either team.
After leaving the league for over five years and selling insurance for his father, Maddox returned to professional football in 2001 with the AFL's New Jersey Red Dogs. After a season in Jersey, he moved to the XFL's Los Angeles Xtreme, where he won the XFL MVP and league championship.
Out of work again after the XFL shut down, Maddox returned to the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2001. He replaced Kordell Stewart as the starter and, for two years, led a playoff-caliber Steelers squad.
Once Pittsburgh drafted Ben Roethlisberger, Maddox took a back seat, but he still got a ring with the rest of the Steelers in 2006. He was released during the following offseason due to salary cap concerns, and though he tried a brief stint in the XFL, Maddox finally retired for good.
He lives in Trophy Club, Texas with his family.
Rae Carruth, WR, Colorado
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Since this is a list of Pac-12 NFL busts, let's include players from Colorado despite its inclusion into the conference coming only recently.
Of all the players on this list, perhaps Rae Carruth has the darkest, most depressing story. A former star for Colorado at wide receiver, Carruth is currently serving an 18-year sentence in prison after being convicted of conspiring to kill the woman who was pregnant with his child in 2001.
Picked 27th overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 1997 NFL draft, Carruth had a decent rookie season with 44 catches for 545 yards and four touchdowns.
He was never able to replicate that kind of success through his final two years as a Panther. Once Carruth's off-field problems resulted in his incarceration, the Panthers cut ties with him.
Pending good behavior, Carruth is scheduled to be released from the Nash Correctional Institution in 2018.
Bo Matthews, RB, Colorado
Drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 1974 NFL draft, Bo Matthews spent nine years in the NFL without developing into the star back many assumed he would become.
The former Colorado running back spent six years in San Diego without ever seeing his name at the top of the depth chart. A skilled reserve running back, Matthews lacked the consistency to run every down.
He had his best season with the Bolts as a rookie, rushing for 328 yards and four touchdowns. In his final five years with the Chargers, Matthews would only gain 1,044 yards and seven touchdowns more.
In an effort to extend his career, he signed with the New York Giants in 1980 where he still failed to produce. The Giants let him go to Miami after five games, where he didn't gain another yard.
Ryan Leaf, QB, Washington State
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Oh, you mean this was the guy you were thinking of all along? My mistake.
In truth, there cannot be a list of Pac-12 draft busts without Ryan Leaf, who is perhaps its poster child.
Picked second overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 1998 NFL draft, there were some at the time who believed Leaf to be the best quarterback in a class that also included Tennessee's Peyton Manning. For a while, the Colts were even considering Leaf with the first pick before electing to go with the former Volunteer.
In his first season with the Chargers, Leaf was named the starter as a rookie and proceeded to horrify fans with incredibly bad performances.
Consider the third game of the regular season against Kansas City. Leaf completed only 1-of-15 passes for four yards, threw two picks and fumbled three times. Unsurprisingly, the Chargers lost that game and would go on to lose many more with Leaf at the helm.
He was finally benched after nine games in which he threw 13 interceptions and only two touchdowns.
Leaf missed his entire second year due to a shoulder injury discovered in the preseason, and he didn't play much in his third due to a combination of poor play and other injuries.
Perhaps what was most galling to fans (and the reason he is still remembered so vividly today as a bust) was the loud, angry way in which he carried himself. Leaf would get into fights with fans and players alike, which did not help his already sinking image.
In a attempt to extend his career, Leaf signed with Tampa Bay after being waived by the Bolts in 2001, but he never caught on there either. His stints with Dallas and Seattle were equally as fruitless, and he abruptly retired in 2002.
Leaf is currently writing and promoting books about his experiences in football.