Everyone likes a good draft bust, the hype, the hope, the shame, and the blame.
They get GM’s fired and ammo to opposing fans to hold over someone’s head forever. There have been dozens over the years, but these five stick out as legendary.
The criteria I used is: overall performance, who was picked after them, and overall strength of that draft.
I chose this time frame because it takes about 5 years to judge a draft. And hopefully, your team isn’t one of them.
5. Robert Gallery, OT, Oakland Raiders, #2 overall 2004
Technically, Gallery hasn’t had a bad career. He was a solid guard for a few years, and was a starter. Coming out of college, he was hyped as a quick footed tackle who a team could plug in and forget about the position for a decade. At Iowa, Robert was a 2 time all American, and his performance and measurables all screamed franchise tackle.
So why is he my 5th biggest bust? Look who was taken in the next 6 picks: Larry Fitzgerald, Phillip Rivers, Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow, Roy Williams, DeAngelo Hall. All pro bowl players, all positions the Raiders could have used at the time. They could have used a franchise QB (we’ll get to that later) to follow Rich Gannon, and Rivers and Roethlisberger were still on the board. Imagine a backfield of Asomugha and Hall or Taylor, they’d be the best defensive backfield for years to come. Larry Fitz learning under Jerry Rice and Tim Brown? He’d not only match the Canton bound play that he has done, but somehow be better. Even the soldier Kellen Winslow or the talented but misused Roy Williams would have been better then the also ran Gallery.
It was a strong draft, and unfortunately, the Raiders whiffed badly.
4. Ryan Leaf, QB, San Diego Chargers, #2 overall 1998
Mr. Bust has been the poster boy for draft busts, so why isn’t he #1?
First, the Chargers had no chance at Peyton Manning. He was going #1 no matter what. Second, the next 3 QB’s taken were Charlie Batch, Jonathan Quinn, and Brian Griese, hardly franchise guys. Also, the next five picks were Andre Wadsworth, Charles Woodson, Curtis Enis, Grant Winstrom, Kyle Turley, so the draft itself was up and down.
But when you throw in the whining, the numbers, and the fact that he thought that he knew more then his coaches, he well deserved the title of Mr. Bust. However, there has been worse.
3. Charles Rogers, WR, Detroit Lions, #2 overall 2003
Matt Millen is the worst GM in NFL history, and it took Isiah Thomas to not label Matt as the worst GM in all sports.
Charles was labeled as the next Randy Moss. Physically, he was all there. Except for his collar bone. He could break it while chewing gum. Also, the immediate next pick was Andre Johnson. Rogers’ best year, he had 22 catches, 243 yards, and 3 TD’s. Andre Johnson’s best GAME, he had 14 catches, 273 yards, and a TD.
Oh yeah, Charles admitted that he smoked pot everyday while he was in the NFL. Not what you want as a stud WR.
2. Gerard Warren, DT, Cleveland Browns, #3 overall
The Browns have been the unluckiest drafting team, and also the worst. Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, William Green, or anyone not named Joe Thomas have been busts or have done their best work for other teams. Year after year the owners have chosen the wrong head coaches, GM’s, all the way to the stadium security (see Jacksonville game where the refs stopped the game because the fans were too rowdy).
So what makes Gerard Warren, a journeyman DT stick out among the loads of bad decisions?
First, it was probably the best overall draft since Aikman, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, and Derrick Thomas were taken with 4 of the first 5 picks. Second, the D-linemen taken after him were Justin Smith, Richard Seymour, Andre Carter, Casey Hampton, Marcus Stroud, and Ryan Pickett, and they have all had very solid, mostly spectacular careers (Jamal Reynolds and Damione Lewis were also taken, but stick with me). Third, LaDainian Tomlinson was taken 2 pick after him, and he is a first ballot hall of famer. 17 Pro Bowlers were taken in that year’s first round, and the Browns had a shot at 15 of them.
I’d feel sorry for the Browns, but geographically, Detroit is closer.
1. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders, #1
The only thing that I can say in the defense of JaMarcus, is that Lane Kiffin was his coach.
I can defend a player if they just weren’t talented, but that wasn’t JaMarcus. He had the physical tools to be a great QB. 6’5″ with the strongest arm in the NFL the moment he was drafted, and the size and quickness of a top defensive end, he was everything a coach looked for in a QB.
It just seemed with JaMarcus that he quit the moment he signed his $61 million dollar contract, $31 million guaranteed. He had the lowest QB rating out of any regular starting QB every year that he played. The highlight of his career was a two game winning streak at the end of the 2008 season, against teams who already quit on the season.
His drafting and cap hit was so damaging to the Raiders, they have yet to assign his jersey number to anyone since.
Good thing he had enough purple drank to relax him after his regrettable 3 year career.
Last thing about the JaMarcus pick, the next pick was Calvin Johnson, maybe the best WR in the NFL. Whoops.
Seth Lazear is a contributor to Comedic Prose
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