Much like bathing, predicting NFL talent is a fickle and inexact science. This, one would imagine, is due to the fact that the names are so dang hard to get right! (As it turns out, Barkevious Mingo is not a species of tree, nor a Pokémon, nor an anthropomorphic dog that plays the jazz bass). But it’s also because with so many teams, needs, and intangibles, there are bound to be some missteps. For instance, Alex Smith, a #1 overall pick, is a serviceable quarterback. But he pales in comparison to Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best gunslinger in the game, who was chosen 23 spots after Smith. Plus, you’re telling me that nobody wanted to give Shane Falco a workout? That’s a damn travesty, that’s what that is. Eddie Martel was an overrated-
What? Oh yeah! So these are the 10 biggest busts in the NFL.
10. Heath Shuler –The 3rd overall pick in the 1994 draft, Shuler was seen as the heir apparent to a struggling Redskins franchise. Surprise! It didn’t work out. Which is weird. The Redskins usually know how to pick ‘em, this year notwithstanding. Anyway, these days Shuler is a Congressman in North Carolina, not to mention a “whip of the Blue Dog Coalition,” both of which sound pretty sexy.
9. Akili Smith – I’m not sad for the 3rd overall pick in the 1999 draft, who won only three games in three years. That happens sometimes. But I am downright heartbroken for the promising young headline writer who struck gold with “AKILI STEAL!” in 1999, who probably got fired just a few months later.
8. Art Schlichter – Despite some minor suspicions of character issues, the Baltimore Colts took a “gamble” on Schlichter with the 4th overall pick in the 1982 draft. Schlichter returned the favor by gambling away his entire salary, not to mention the millions more he stole over the years, which has landed him in prison for the next 10 years. Ha ha! Wait, this is heartbreaking. Why are we talking about this on a humor website? Cripes. Good thing I’m not that funny.
7. Tony Mandarich – This 304-pound behemoth could run the 40 in 4.65 seconds. In fact, he was so hyped up that Sports Illustrated called him “the best offensive line prospect ever” (steroids miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight have been involved). But after being drafted second by Green Bay in 1989, he did all these charming things like missing press conferences for a hangover and referring to Green Bay as “a village.” The Packers were starting to get fed up, which was right around when Mandarich said “I am not like other players, I am Tony Mandarich, and they have to understand that. If they don’t like it, that is just the way I am and they are going to learn to like it.” So then they fired him. BOOM. COMEUPPANCE’D.
6. Lawrence Phillips - Nevermind that the Rams were so high on this jerk that they traded away burly demigod Jerome Bettis in order to take him with the 6th pick in 1996 (as you all know, Bettis is widely regarded as the best player to ever play the game). You know what? Serves the Rams right. Phillips assaulted his girlfriend in college. They should have known better. In fact, Phillips’s off-field problems led to him being released by the Rams, Dolphins, 49ers, and the Montreal Alouettes, which, as far as we can tell, is some kind of ice dancing troupe.
5. Courtney Brown – Because that’s a pretty hot-sounding name, let’s get this out of the way right now: a Google image search for “Courtney Brown” shows a scantily-clad woman by page 2. Anyway, Brown was drafted 1st overall by the Cleveland Browns, where he spent a number of seasons struggling to stay healthy. He eventually ended up playing for the Broncos, where presumably he had to legally change his name to “Courtney Bronco” because that’s how laws work in America. These days he’s probably a burlesque dancer with the Cowboys or something.
4. Charles Rogers – Although Rogers, the 2nd overall draft pick in 2003, came out of college with comparisons to Randy Moss, he had a sadly ill-fated career. In his rookie season, he broke his collarbone during a speed drill against Dré Bly, making him the original person to get Beat By Dré (heh). Then, the following year, he broke his collarbone again and started smoking marijuana. Like, every day. Then, depending on how you define it, either the pinnacle or nadir of Rogers’ career happened when he got so drunk that he passed out at On the Border in Novi, Michigan. To be fair, that’s one of Michigan’s hottest clubs. And besides, let’s not go throwing stones at people who black out at chain restaurants, ok? That’s kind of my jam.
3. Tim Couch – Tim Couch was the 1st overall draft pick by the Cleveland Browns wh- Jesus. The Browns again? Man. Ok. So, Couch was chosen 1st overall, and fought as best he could through an injury plagued- you know what? No. Let’s go back to this. This isn’t his fault. It’s the Browns, man. Make no mistake, Couch is pretty widely regarded as an NFL bust. But here’s the thing: he’s still the Browns’ all time leader in pass completion percentage. A draft bust was one of their best players ever. That’s bad mojo right there. You can’t put that on one man’s oft-injured shoulders.
2. Ryan Leaf – Perhaps the most succinct summary of Ryan Leaf’s career is this: during a practice one day, Leaf’s teammate, Junior Seau, demolished him during a play, which led to his own teammates high-fiving him. Seau was also involved in holding back Leaf when he started screaming at a San Diego journalist. Recently, Leaf has gotten into a slew of legal troubles, probably for “being a d-bag” or theft and drugs, whatever. Seau, meanwhile, has been inducted in the Chargers Hall of Fame, presumably for tackling the beans out of Leaf.
1. Jamarcus Russell - It would be so, so easy to tear into this sizzurp-guzzling oaf for so many reasons. After all, like my drunk Aunt Kathy, NBC Sports described Russell as “annually and incredibly overweight,” at one point topping the 300-pound mark.
But come on, Russell is the American Dream. He worked just hard enough to earn $31.5 million (the guaranteed money from his #1 overall rookie contract) and then, as soon as the ink dried, he basically gave up on football at an age young enough to not have his brain ravaged by concussions.
All the while, he almost certainly enjoyed food, the occasional nip of cough syrup (who can blame him?), and rescuing Fats Domino, when time permitted. Plus, Jamarcus Russell is officially immortal. No fan will ever, ever forget his name, unlike good old what’s-his-name. You know, the guy with the hands. Anyway, think about it: a boatload of money and a historically notable name. Isn’t that all any of us are looking for?
So cheers to you, Jamarcus Russell, you lazy, overweight bum with self-control problems. You are who we all aspire to be.
We should all be ashamed of ourselves.
Brian Cullen really, really enjoys robots but doesn’t understand how they work. He also enjoys drinking beers, and has a pretty solid understanding of how that works. You can read about his musings about both on Twitter @BucketCullen.