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Smart pro football fans will tell you that smart draft picks can help vault a team from the cellar to the Superbowl. Elway, Marino, Brady, and Manning (Peyton and Eli), are just a few of the gifted athletes who helped make their teams perennial winners. Picks like these had fans filling the seats, while singing the praises of their team’s brilliant front office. And then there’s the flip side – those highly projected players who turn out to crumble the hopes and dreams of entire cities desperate for a winner.
With so much on the line, there’s no bigger draft day fear than selecting a 1st round dud who can bring shame and ridicule to a franchise for years to come. It may be of little consolation to those GMs who wasted millions on a top pick who didn’t produce, but every year there’s sure to be a new batch of draft day flops. And while there are many worthy of the list, there’s only room for the top 5 draft day busts at this table.
#5: Lawrence Phillips
Team: St. Louis Rams
Sometimes raw talent alone isn’t enough. Just look at Lawrence Phillips who was loaded with it (as seen in the video below). Unfortunately, he also had a talent for getting into trouble, which may explain his 10-year stint in the slammer for assault with a deadly weapon. And to think the Rams passed up Marvin Harrison and Ray Lewis for this guy who would rush for only 14 touchdowns in a disappointing 4-year, pro career.
#4: Akili Smith
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
With 32 touchdown passes in a single year at Oregon, Smith had GMs throughout the league drooling to sign him. The Bengals nabbed him with the 3rd pick, and quickly found out he wasn’t all that he was cracked up to be. As a matter of fact, he was a total bust. In 17 starts over four seasons, Smith compiled a 3-14 record, throwing only five TD’s, and 18 picks. His attempts to make it in the CFL didn’t go much better.
#3: Tony Mandarich
Team: Green Bay Packers
Position: Offensive Tackle
Considered by many to be the best offensive lineman prospect ever, Tony Mandarich was quickly scooped up by the Packers with their #2 pick to shore up their front line. At 6 ft 6, 315, the man was a beast. Of course the steroids probably had something to do with that. What the steroids didn’t provide was the raw talent or determination. Mandarich’s star quickly came crashing to earth once it was realized he didn’t come close to living up to his great expectations. The sting was made even worse for the Packers who passed up both Barry and Deion Sanders to get him.
#2: Ryan Leaf
Team: San Diego Chargers
The Chargers weren’t the only team who had Leaf slotted as the top QB in the 98 draft. They were however, the only team to trade away multiple first round picks to get him. Terrible move. Leaf’s brief career was known more for the giant salary and temper tantrums -on and off the field. Had he been any good it might have been tolerable, but he was just pain awful with a career QB rating under 50 (of a possible 158.3). And just like the #5 guy on out list, Leaf has seen his share of jail cells from the inside, and faces as many felony charges as total wins.
#1: JaMarcus Russell
Team: Oakland Raiders
If you’re the #1 pick in the NFL draft, you damn well better be spectacular on the field. While JaMarcus Russell was the first pick, he was anything but spectacular. Putting up big-time stats at LSU, Russell was supposed to be a franchise-changing quarterback. Instead he turned out to be a total bust, and a major thorn in Al Davis’ side. Prone to turnovers and weight gain, Russell cashed in almost $40 million in three years, before he was finally sent packing.