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Top 10 NFL Draft Busts


As most of you are aware, the NFL Draft is far from an exact science. Every year, prospects who are highly thought of turn out to be lemons while others perform far above their draft status. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, and it's easy to look back now and wonder what the draft experts were thinking while evaluating some of the bigger flops. But at the time, most of these guys on our list of top ten NFL Draft busts had nearly unanimous support from scouts and draftniks alike.

1. Ryan Leaf, QB Washington State

Ryan Leaf
Doug Pensinger/ALLSPORT

Selected by the San Diego Chargers with the No. 2 overall pick in 1998, Leaf threw just 14 touchdown passes to 36 interceptions, along with countless well-publicized tantrums before being released in 2000. It seems almost unbelievable now that some teams felt Leaf was better pro material than Peyton Manning. And adding insult to injury, Chargers GM Bobby Beathard gave up the No. 3 pick, a second-round selection, a first-round choice in 1999, and two players to Arizona to move up just one spot to grab Leaf.

2. JaMarcus Russell, QB LSU

JaMarcus Russell
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders selected JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick of the 2007 NFL draft and signed him to a $61 million contract with $32 million guaranteed. With great size and athleticism to go with a huge arm, Russell appeared to be a can't-miss prospect. But in three seasons with the Raiders, Russell finished just 7-18 as a starter. Reports indicated Russell lacked the dedication and work ethic to make it as a quarterback, and it was just a few short seasons before the team gave up on him. He was released on May 6, 2010.

3. Tony Mandarich, OT Michigan State

Tony Mandarich
Scott Halleran / Getty Images

Drafted No. 2 overall by the Packers coming out of Michigan State, Mandarich was believed by many to be the safest pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. However, he never came close to living up to expectations, and after just three years, he was cut. Because of a drastic loss in weight upon entering the NFL, there was a lot of speculation that his success at the collegiate level was fueled by the use of steroids. Compounding the hurt is the fact that Barry Sanders was selected at No. 3 by the Lions.

4. Brian Bosworth, LB Oklahoma

Brian Bosworth
Getty Images

Winner of the first two Butkus Awards, Bosworth was kicked off the Oklahoma squad because of steroid use, which fueled his entry into the 1987 supplemental draft, where he was selected by the Seahawks in the first round. Bosworth was perhaps the most over-hyped player to exit the collegiate ranks, recording just four sacks through three seasons. Unfortunately for Seattle, the most memorable play of his career featured RB Bo Jackson plowing him over for a TD on Monday Night Football.

5. Akili Smith, QB Oregon

Akili Smith
Andy Lyons /Allsport

Smith, who was drafted third overall by the Bengals in 1999, started just 17 games over four years with Cincinnati. He played only two games during the 2001 season and was cut in 2002. In 2003, he was again cut, this time by the Packers. And in 2005, he failed in a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

6. Lawrence Phillips, RB Nebraska

Lawrence Phillips
Otto Greule /Allsport

Despite serious questions about his character, Phillips was drafted sixth overall in the 1996 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, but lasted just 25 games with the franchise before being released in 1997 for insubordination. Phillips got a second chance when the Dolphins picked him up later in the 1997 season, but was cut after just two games after pleading no contest to assaulting a woman. He attempted a comeback in 1999 with the 49ers, but was cut again in mid-season for skipping a practice.

7. Heath Shuler, QB Tennessee

Heath Shuler
Doug Pensinger/ALLSPORT

After a fabulous career at Tennessee, the Washington Redskins made Shuler the No. 3 overall pick in the 1994 draft. But a 13-day holdout while his rookie contract was completed, along with poor play, alienated Redskins fans. A shoulder injury sidelined Shuler long enough to allow Gus Frerotte, a seventh-round pick out of Tulsa, to beat him out for the starting job.

8. Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, Curtis Enis - RBs Penn State

Blair Thomas
Getty Images

Thomas kicked off a trio of Penn State running backs who flopped big time in the NFL. In all fairness, injuries played a part in the demise of the latter two, but doesn't have that excuse to fall back on. The New York Jets selected Blair with the second overall choice in the 1990 NFL draft. In eight NFL seasons, Blair accumulated just 2,236 yards. As a trio, the three backs totaled less than 5,000 yards rushing combined.

9. Bruce Pickens, CB Nebraska

Bruce Pickens
George Rose/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons made Pickens the third overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft, but in five seasons with the club, he recorded a very modest total of two interceptions.

10. Andre Ware, QB Houston

Andre Ware
Getty Images

After a record-setting junior season at Houston, Ware was selected No. 7 overall by the Detroit Lions in 1990. However, he never established himself as a starter in the league, completing just 83-of-161 passes for five touchdowns in four seasons.

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