NFL Draft Busts: All-Time Biggest Draft Day Mistakes

Cole LillieCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2009

It happens every season. It's the classic question coaches, fans, scouts, and even teammates ask on draft day: "Is he a bust?" As the season progresses, the steals and busts distinguish themselves like apples and oranges. The qualities of a bust include being injury prone, having an attitude with coaching staff, trouble with the law, addiction to drugs, overhyped talent, poor work ethic, and sometimes even bad luck. Like clockwork, the busts will be drafted, and scouts can only hope their prospect doesn't end up on a list like this in the future.

Ryan Leaf  (2nd pick in 1998)- Leaf was quite a stud in college, averaging 330 passing yards per game and throwing for a Pac 10-record 33 touchdowns in his junior year.  He also ended Washington State's 67-year Rose Bowl drought and led the Cougars to their first-ever Pac 10 Championship.  That’s is where the accolades end for the bust known as Ryan Leaf. To think that the Colts were thinking about taking Leaf over Manning makes it even more comical.  In the third game in his rookie season with the Chargers, Leaf had a phenomenal outing that included three fumbles and 1-of-15 passing totaling 4 yards. Leaf also wasn't a fan of the media.  After retirement, Leaf began coaching the West Texas A&M football team. On Nov. 5, 2008, Leaf was put on indefinite leave for allegedly asking one of his players for a painkiller.

Career Stats- 21 games started, 4-17 record as starter, 14 TDs, 36 INTs, sacked 65 times

Players taken after him - Randy Moss, Charles Woodson, Fred Taylor

Tony Mandarich (2nd pick in 1989)-Sports Illustrated called him the “greatest offensive lineman of all time.” Before entering the draft, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice. In college, he was a two-time Big Ten Lineman of the Year. He managed to start in just 63 games in his career. After his career, he admitted that he used steroids, was addicted to painkillers, drank heavily in Green Bay, and even called himself a bust.

Career Stats- 63 games started

Players taken after him- Barry Sanders (Hall of Famer), Derrick Thomas, Deion Sanders, Steve Atwater

Lawrence Phillips (6th pick in 1996)- Lawrence Phillips was a star at Nebraska, leading them to two straight national titles in 1995 and 1996.  Phillips had so much potential but could not keep himself out of trouble.  He was arrested once at Nebraska for dragging an ex-girlfriend by the hair, three times in his short tenure with the Rams, and again with the Dolphins for hitting a women who refused to dance with him at a nightclub. Even after his unsuccessful career, he still found himself getting into trouble after shooting at a group of kids after losing in a pick-up football game. Not only a bust, but a terrible human being.


Career Stats- 20 games started, 1453 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, 14 TDs, seven fumbles,

Players taken after him- Marvin Harrison, Ray Lewis, Terrell Owens

Brian Bosworth- (1st in 1987 Supplemental Draft)- The two-time Butkus Award winner was expected to do big things on the next level. “The BOZ” is still the only player ever to have won the Butkus Award twice. Bosworth was drafted in the 1987 Supplemental Draft by the Seahawks. He went on to sign a humongous rookie contract, $11 million over 10 years.  At the time, this was the biggest rookie contract in the history of the NFL. Check out this awesome shoe commerical with the Boz. He only played two season for the Seattle Seahawks.

Career Stats- 24 games started, 4 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries

Players taken after him-  Vinny Testaverde, Rod Woodson,  Rich Gannon

Tim Couch-(1st pick in 1999)- At the University of Kentucky, Tim Couch rewrote the record books during his two years as a starter. Couch's records included: completions per game (36.4), completion percentage in one game, with a minimum of 40 completions, at 83 percent (44 of 53), completions in a season (400), and career completion percentage (67.1 percent). All these numbers added up to nothing at the next level.  There was plenty of talent in the 1999 draft, as eight of the first 11 picks made the Pro Bowl. At least he has a playboy wife, right?

Career Stats- 59 games started, 22-37 record as a starter, 64 TDs, 67 INTs, sacked 166 times in five-year career.

Players taken after him- Donovan McNabb, Edgerrin James, Torry Holt, Champ Bailey, Jevon Kearse

Steve Emtman- (1st pick in 1992)- Started just 10 games in his short six-year career, in which he played for three different teams. During his six years, he racked up eight sacks. In the highlight of his career, he picked of a pass and took it 90 yards for a score to seal the victory against the Dolphins in his rookie season. Emtman is now a successful real estate developer. 

Career Stats- 10 games started, 8 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD

Players taken after him- Jimmy Smith, Darren Woodson, Desmond Howard

Courtney Brown- (1st pick in 2000)- Yes. The Browns selected BUSTS two years straight—with the first pick of the draft. Like Couch, Brown accomplished many feats in college. He was a first team All American and Defensive Player of the Year. He finished his collegiate career with a record 33 sacks and 70 tackles for a loss. His rookie season was alright, with 70 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The next season, he was injured and never stayed healthy after that.

Career Stats- 60 games started, 19 sacks, 156 tackles

Players taken after him- Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones, Brian Urlacher, Shaun Alexander, Plaxico Burress

Charles Rogers (2nd pick in 2003)- I guess you can blame Dre Bly for making Rogers a bust. Bly broke Rogers’ collarbone in a practice during his rookie season. When he finally returned to the lineup, he broke his collarbone again. I guess while “rehabbing,” Rogers enjoyed smoking weed, because during the 2005 season, he was suspended for failing drug tests. After being cut from the Lions, he tried out for several other teams who all declined. Reports claim that in 2007, he worked out for the Chiefs and ran a 4.8 in the 40.  At the combine he ran a 4.28.

Career Stats- 9 games started, 36 receptions, 4 TDs

Players taken after him- Andre Johnson, Terrell Suggs, Troy Polamalu, Larry Johnson, Anquan Boldin

Curtis Enis (5th pick in 1998)- Enis did not impress many in his three seasons in the NFL. Jacksonville wanted to trade Chicago two first-round picks to move up to get Enis. The Bears denied the offer and could have drafted either Fred Taylor or Randy Moss in the spots that Jacksonville were offering. Good move! How many young Bears fans got his figurine as a bust Christmas present?

Career Stats- 18 games started, 6 TDs, 5 fumbles, 1,497 rushing yards


Players taken after him- Randy Moss, Fred Taylor

Peter Warrick (4th pick in 2000)- Although Peter Warrick is not as big a bust as the others on this list, it should still be noted how unstoppable he was in college. At Florida State, Warrick racked up 207 catches, 32 TD catches, averaged 127.3 all-purpose yards as a senior, and was the 2000 Sugar Bowl MVP, with 160 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He probably would have won the Heisman Trophy had he not stolen clothes from Dillards. Warrick failed to live up to his potential in the NFL.


Career Stats- 60 games started, 275 receptions, 20 TDs,

Players taken after him- Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones, Brian Urlacher, Shaun Alexander, Plaxico Burress

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