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Biggest Draft Busts Since 1983

Posted by Bob Swerski on August 13, 2007

Since I was born in 1983 I have seen some of the biggest draft blunders in sports history. Here are the Top 5:

5. Minnesota Vikings (2003- NFL Draft): After having months to prepare for the draft and 15 minutes time during the draft, Minnesota failed to pick in the allotted time and watched Jacksonville and Carolina run to the podium to pick before Minnesota had a chance. This might be higher on the list if either of the teams who “stole the pick” had drafted someone who would make the pro-bowl, but the only team which picked a pro-bowler was the Vikings (Kevin Williams)

4. Sam Bowie (1984-NBA Draft): Drafted second by Portland after Olajuwon in 1984, it seemed like a logical choice at the time for the Trailblazers who drafted Hall of Famer Clyde “The Glyde” Drexler the year before. Even though Bowie’s career wasn’t completely atrocious, passing up the greatest player ever to play the game (Michael Jordan) is inexcusable.

3. Tony Mandarich (1989-NFL Draft): Drafted with the second pick in the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers was USC star Tony Mandarich. Supposedly the best offensive lineman ever to enter the draft, Mandarich held out until the last week before the NFL season to make more money before his 3 years of sub par performances and constant attitude issues. This pick is bad enough by itself, but the fact that the Packers passed up future stars such as Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Eric Metcalf, Steve Atwater, and Andre Rison make this pick reprehensible

2. Lawrence Phillips (1996- NFL Draft): Probably one of the greatest running backs ever to play the game, Phillips decided instead to constantly have legal troubles (a la Pacman Jones) which lead to him currently facing 20 years in jail for multiple domestic violence suits from several different females dating back to college when he dragged his ex-girlfriend down a flight of stairs by her hair for cheating on him. It is somewhat irrelevant that T.O., Ray Lewis, Mushin Muhhamed, Joe Horn, Teddy Bruschi, Marvin Harrison, and so many others were drafted after him.

1. Ryan Leaf (1998-NFL Draft) : We all know the story. The Colts take Peyton Manning, the Chargers take Ryan Leaf. The rest is history

Honorable Mention: 2001 NFL Draft the Falcons trade the Chargers to draft Michael Vick 1st and the Chargers take LaDanian Tomlinson 5th.


16 Responses to “Biggest Draft Busts Since 1983”

  1. Matt said

    What about any Cincinnati Bengals’ First Rounders from 1991 to 2000, save Willie Anderson in 1996?

    First Round Bengals Busts:

    1992 David Klingler
    1994 Dan Wilkinson (first overall)
    1995 Ki-Jana Carter (first overall)
    1997 Reinard Wilson
    1999 Akili Smith
    2000 Peter Warrick

    You could probably also these two First Round selections from the “Marvin Era”:

    2004 Chris Perry
    2005 David Pollack

    Both due to injuries, and Pollack’s is especially no fault of his own, but a bust is a bust.

  2. Condo said

    I think it’s a tad too quick to label Pollack and Perry busts at this point. Will they most likely end up that way? Sure, that’s probably going to be the case, but give them about 2 more years to see if they start producing. Perry has talent to be a 1st string back in this league with his running style if he ever can stay healthy for more than 3 weeks and Pollack was having a nice season til his devestating injury. Hopefully he’ll eventually be able to return from it, but we’ll have to wait and see.

  3. Matt said

    Well here is my logic on the two:

    Chris Perry – A First Round draftee who has only finished one of his three NFL season in its entirety and will start the first six weeks of this season the PUP list (Physically Unable to Perform). His ailments are the reasons why the Bengals selected Kenny Irons (I thought this was a wasted pick BEFORE the injury) and now Irons is out for the season. Meaning, basically, we have the 2004 First Round selection and the 2007 Second Round selection contributing nothing this season.

    Chris Perry’s career stats: 73 rushes 337 yards 0 TDs, 63 receptions 403 yards 2 TDs

    Not good enough for a First Round selection going in to his fourth year.

    David Pollack – A First Rounder who held out for a lot of Training Camp to get more money that he thought he deserved. He recorded 23 tackles, 4 assists, 1 pass deflection and 4.0 sacks in his Rookie season. Contrary to popular belief, he WAS NOT having a good season before the injury – it happened in Game 2 against the Browns and he only had 1 tackle to that point. It won’t be his fault, but a broken neck is very difficult to return from as an athlete – just ask Stone Cold Steve Austin. He will, in financial terms, be a bust.

    In comparison, in also his Rookie year, Odell Thurman, a Second Round selection the same year as Pollack, had 68 tackles, 36 assits, 1 pass deflection, 1.5 sacks, 5 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles. Now granted he will miss two consecutive seasons because of character issues but he was a far better deal in a draft-by-draft comparison of Pollack and Odell, at least regarding their Rookie campaigns.

  4. Here’s my list of draft busts since 1983:

    1. David Klinger

    2. Tim Couch

    3. Ki-Jana Carter

    4. Curtis Ennis

    5. Charlie Schelsinger

    6. Akili Smith

  5. Matt said

    Bob’s list was across other sports too.

    In that case, what about Darko Milicic in 2003 after LeBron James BUT BEFORE Carmello Anthony. Think of this current Pistons team (NBA Championship included) and what they’d be with ‘Melo instead of having drafted Donnie Darko…

    Nice to see Doc’s Top 6 is half Cincinnati. You’d think they’d finally decide not to have the NFL’s smallest scouting unit after all of this…

  6. boney said

    I’d argue about the whole Melo thing.. Prince hasn’t done that bad, and neither has the team.

    My draft busts?

    5. Brien Taylor – 1st Pick (Yankees). couldn’t stay out of trouble, bar fight basically ended his career.

    4. Todd Van Poppel – 1st Pick (A’s, I think.). Horrible.

    3. Milicic OVER DWade, Bosh and Melo – 2nd pick.

    2. Ryan Leaf

    1. Charles Rogers (WR, 2nd overall pick by the Lions).

  7. Condo said

    Agree with you about Darko, although I think he could start rounding into being a decent ball player, just not worthy of his draft slot AT ALL.

    Back to David Pollack. I agree with you in some of your points, he held out too long to get more money that he probably didn’t deserve. I think that had he not been hurt though, he would have been MUCH more productive as his season’s went along. Keep in mind Pollack was a very good DE in college at Georgia and was moved to outside linebacker by the Bengals because they felt he was too small to play on the D’Line (probably true). So he was essentially learning a brand new position and I think after a bit of time would’ve caught on (like Demarcus Ware did in Dallas and Shawne Merriman in SD). To say he would’ve been at the level of Ware and Merriman is absurd and probably wouldn’t be the case, but he could’ve been a quality LB in this league by now if not for the injury. I’ll be curious to see when/if he comes back how he does.

  8. Matt said

    Oh, no doubt he was a talent. I am not saying he would’ve been a bust had he stayed healthy because I never thought that before hand and I thought it was a DEVASTATING injury when it happened – I was in Dayton watching the game with my old man.

    That being said, the ‘Bust’ title was strictly because of the injury and none of which is his fault – it actually probably occurred because he was giving 110%. But financially, if you paid the money but are not getting the output, it is a bad investment. He will miss two consecutive seasons. I am a finance major, I have been taught to be a robot that strictly looks at returns – returns on investments.

    Which brings me to my next point. Between injuries, character issues, and the inability to resign self-bred talent, the Bengals have lost A LOT of recent draft picks since Carson Palmer’s name was read that faithful Spring morning. So for anybody wondering why Cincinnati can’t seem to turn the corner, think about the losses of the following players:

    Eric Steinbach (2003 – 2nd Round: character issues/signed with Cleveland
    Kelley Washington (2003 – 3rd Round: signed with New England
    Chris Perry (2004 – 1st Round): injuries
    Matthias Askew (2004 -4th Round): character issues
    David Pollack (2005 – 1st Round): injuries
    Odell Thurman (2005 – 2nd Round): character issues
    Chris Henry (2005 – 3rd Round): character issues
    Kenny Irons (2007 – 1st Round): injuries

  9. I got some baseball busts:

    1. Brien Taylor

    2. Chris Gwynn

    3. C.J. Nitowski

    4. Reid Ryan

    Enough said

  10. Matt said

    Hey Boney, I guess I am confused about arguing the ‘Melo thing.

    We made no mention of Prince (presumably Tayshaun) and I am a UK guy, so that is even less of a reason to say Prince is a bust.

    Yes, Detroit has done well, that was my point. But they didn’t get Prince in lieu of ‘Melo. They got DARKO and he isn’t even with them any more. Think about how good this team would be with ‘Melo and then Prince becomes the best sixth man in the history of the universe.

    I appreciate your interest, and we have chatted about some of the recent misunderstandings but man, you have to read things through before you jump to conclusions…

    You know what assuming does……(ass/u/me).

  11. Bob Swerski said

    I don’t think that baseball has big “busts” because they draft a guy and he works his way up, alot of times being traded to different teams throughout their time in the minor leagues. Also, They aren’t as debilitating to teams because they usually aren’t given millions and millions of dollars for signing. Look how bad Leaf hurt the Chargers organization. It took them years to recover, which wouldn’t really happen in baseball.

  12. boney said

    No, I understand what you said. Melo would’ve taken Prince’s spot on the floor. At this point, I’d take Prince over Melo. If anything, I’d prefer to have Bosh on my team rather than Melo.

  13. Condo said

    I think I agree with you Boney… Bosh would have been a much better fit in Detroit than Melo would have because of the position(s) they play. Although, I guess when you look back on it, Bosh was almost as big of a risk as Darko considering he only played one season at GA Tech and was on the ‘smallish’ size as far as his weight was concerned.

    Obviously looking back on it now it’d be a no brainer to take Bosh over Darko, but I think Larry Brown is a big part of why Darko never really worked out in Detroit. Was Kaman a part of the 03′ draft class? I realize he wouldn’t have been a good pick at #2, but he’d be better than Nazi(sorry UK fans) but trading down a couple of spots to land him would’ve made sense, especially since he was a ‘local kid’ (Central Michigan).

    Just my 2 cents on that topic though.

  14. Matt said

    Oh, yea, any of those scenarios work (Boney/Condo)…I was just throwing Darko under the bush for being a bust.

  15. heath jackson said

    nobody has mentioned the highly tauted by totally sucked.

    1.Tony Mandrich

    2. Brian Bosworth

  16. actually, Tony Mandarich was in the original article at number 3. And as for the Boz, I put serious consideration into putting him on the original list, but his numbers were actually not as bad as people think and it was probably more of an injury problem then just sucking it up (a la Ryan Leaf and Tony Mandarich). So I decided to leave him off the list, but you could just as easily put him on.

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