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Top NFL Draft Picks that Never Materialized - The Unlucky Thirteen
We’ve been anticipating the NFL draft for some time and it is almost
here! Of course that means only about three months to training camp
and pre-season football! (Where does the off-season go?) This is
a good time to consider some of the college players who looked so
promising in the draft but never really reached their supposed potential
in the professional ranks.
The most common positions to look for those guys who disappointed the scouts, sages and prognosticators are at quarterback and running back. Those are two of the most visible positions as far as make or break players go. You’ll also find some defensive players and linemen made our list.
13) Kelly Stouffer (Colorado State, QB—1987 First Round, 6th Pick Overall, Arizona Cardinals)
Stouffer had a good college career but his high pick in the draft surprised many. He did not play in his rookie season due to a contract dispute and his rights were traded to the Seahawks in 1988. Stouffer played for Seattle from 1988- 1992. He performed well in a limited capacity and in 1992 he earned the starting job. He did not win one game and was injured and sidelined near the end of the season. In 1993 the Hawks picked Rick Mirer (see above another bust) and Stouffer’s career was over. His career stats are not impressive, 7 TD’s and 19 INT’s in the 22 games he saw action. He’s presently an analyst for the Vikings pre-season games and is on ESPN Plus covering college football.
12) Tony Mandarich (Michigan State, OT—1989 First Round, 2nd Pick Overall, Green Bay Packers)
Before Ryan Leaf, Mandarich was deemed the ultimate NFL draft bust. He’s still in the top 13. After a great senior year, where he was named a first-team All-American, Big Ten Lineman of the Year and Outland Award Finalist, he was touted as the best offensive line prospect ever. He held out after being drafted for the Packers and did not sign until just before the start of the regular season. He inked a four-year deal and played on special teams his first season. Mandarich was noted for having a bad attitude and being a suspected steroid user. After his third season, Green Bay cut him. He played from 1996- 1998 for the Colts and was a bit better but not spectacular. He was a NFL analyst for Canadian TV from 2004- 2005. The hype on him coming into the league gets us talking about Tony Mandarich on this top 13 bust list, but the fact that Green Bay chose Tiny Tony over the next 3 picks in the draft, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders cements his status as the 12th biggest draft bust. He lives in Arizona and Ontario and is the co-owner of a golf course.
11) Tom Cousineau (Ohio State, MLB—1979 First Round, 1st Pick Overall, Buffalo Bills)
Cousineau, who was highly recruited out of high school, played for the Buckeyes where he broke the school record for tackles in a season (211) and was a two-time All-American. He was the MVP of the Hula Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Although drafted by the Bills, Cousineau felt insulted by the Bills in negotiations and went to the CFL where he became a defensive standout for the Montreal Alouettes from 1979- 1981. He then played five seasons with the NFL’s Browns and another two as a reserve with the 49ers, and hardly worth the 2.5 million dollars the Browns spent on him. The contract was the most money ever for a Cleveland Brown player at the time. He finished his career with 6.5 sacks and 10 interceptions and will be most recognized for the player he was traded for, Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly. Hardly first-pick stats or profile. He now renovates houses and spends time with his kids.
10) Keith McCants (University of Alabama, LB—1990 First Round, 4th Pick Overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
McCants was a superb pass rusher for the Tide, where he was noted for his ability to go North and South with blazing speed and take down runners from behind. The Bucs thought that they had a winner but the defensive specialist could not adapt at all to the NFL. They tried him at DE and LB and neither worked. He lost speed and was constantly confused. Tampa Bay also drafted him not knowing that he had sustained a serious knee injury. In 47 games over three seasons he had 12 sacks earning $625,000 per sack, which when you consider the difference of the dollar back in the 90’s, McCants has to be considered on this bust list. The Bucs cut him during their 1993 camp. In 2005 McCants was indicated for stealing a vehicle from a dealership.
9) Rick Mirer (Notre Dame, QB—1993 First Round, 2nd Pick Overall, Seattle Seahawks)
A standout in high school, Mirer played for the Irish and notched an impressive 29- 7 -1 mark. In 1992, he lead Notre Dame past Florida in the Sugar Bowl and was Co-MVP with teammate Jerome Bettis. After setting numerous records for the Irish, he was signed to a five-year, $15 million contract by the Seahawks. Although he had a fine rookie season, finishing 5th in the AFC, his skills diminished over the next few years. In 1995 he threw 13 TDs and 20 INTs and the next year he hit for 5 TDs and offered 12 INTs. He ended up in numerous second and third-string roles for the Bears, Packers, Jets, 49ers, Raiders and Lions. He retired after the 2004 season. Mirer showed a lot of promise but never made the leap to the next level.
8) Tim Couch (University of Kentucky, QB—1999 First Round, 1st Pick Overall, Cleveland Browns)
In high school, Couch proved to be a phenomenal quarterback, setting national records for most completions, passing yardage and touchdowns and best passing percentage. He was deemed the finest QB prospect since John Elway. Highly recruited, he played for Kentucky where he set numerous records and made big-game plays. After his junior year, he entered the draft early. Couch struggled throughout his career, which was hampered by numerous injuries, including a broken leg, shoulder difficulties and a torn rotator cuff. Although his 64 touchdowns is more impressive than most stats of busts on this list, the mere hype behind Couch is enough for Timmy boy to make the list. In Couch’s defense he is married to Heather Kozar the 1999 Playboy Playmate of the Year and who knows how often his head was in the game. He has played for various teams and worked out with even more. He missed the entire 2006- 2007 season and is said to be living in Lexington, KY and rehabbing for another comeback.
7) Heath Shuler (University of Tennessee, QB—1994 First Round, 3rd Pick Overall, Washington Redskins)
Shuler quarterbacked the Vols where he set numerous passing records and came in second in Heisman voting in 1993. He was considered to be one of the SEC’s top QBs and his athleticism made him a real commodity. He stayed away from his first training camp until he’d inked a seven-year, $19.25 million contract. Like many players who hold out in their rookie season, he had difficulty adjusting to the NFL. After 1996, the Skins let him go and Shuler signed with the Saints. His Redskin career ended with him appearing in 19 games netting 1 million dollars per appearance for someone that completed less than 50 % of his passes and a 13/19 INT/TD ratio. In 1997, his foot was severely injured and he underwent two surgeries, but Shuler still managed to throw 14 interceptions and only 2 TD’s in the 1997 season. He then signed with the Raiders but re-injured his foot and retired. His career passer rating was 54.3. He now represents North Carolina’s 11th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
6) Curtis Enis (Penn State, RB—1998 First Round, 5th Pick Overall, Chicago Bears)
At Penn State, he possessed the power of a big man and had the moves often attributed to smaller backs. Enis was considered to be like Randy Moss was that same year, a top prospect. He played three-years and 34 games in the NFL with the Bears. He rushed for 4 TDs, caught 2 TDs and accumulated a total of 1,497 yards. His best season was 1999, during which he played 15 games, had 287 carries and gained 916 yards. He scored five of his six touchdowns that season. Enis was an exceptions in terms of rapping their clubs out of money. It was reported that Enis turned down a six year deal that would have earned him $18 million dollars as a rookie instead to sign a three year deal where he earned $5.5 million dollars. Enis’ thinking was that he would prove his worth for a bigger deal following the 3 years. By the end of year three he was out of the NFL. Still getting over 1 million dollars per rushing TD puts him on towards the top of this bust draft picks list. He’s best remembered for his Sports Illustrated interview where he talks about his conversion to Fundamentalist Christianity and his connection to the religious group Champions of Christ. He lives in Russia.
5) Akili Smith (Oregon, QB—1999 First Round, 3rd Pick Overall, Cincinnati Bengals)
Smith was relatively untested at the University of Oregon and his popularity in the draft was based on 11 games in is senior year when he threw 32 TDs. That sudden popularity may have been Akili’s Achilles Heel, as he was unable to perform such feats in the NFL. Drafted by the Bengals, who passed on Edgerrin James, Champ Bailey, Dante Culpepper and others, he was seen as having a big upside in terms of athleticism. Smith missed much of the pre-season in 1999 due to contract negotiations. Coming in late did not help him adapt to the league. In four seasons with Cincinnati, he started 17 games and then was cut in 2002. Talk about over priced, Smith’s 5 touchdown passes resulted in him netting $2,666,666 per TD scored. Smith has been a journeyman backup for numerous teams and signed to play for the Calgary Stampeders in 2007. In 22 NFL games, he threw for 2,212 yards, hit five touchdown passes and gave up 13 interceptions.
4) Ki-Jana Carter (Penn State, RB—1995 First Round, 1st Pick Overall, Cincinnati Bengals)
Penn State has become noted for turning out running backs that often don’t pan out. Ki-Jana Carter is the poster child for this movement. A standout player in college, in 1994 he had 27 carries for 227 yards and 5 touchdowns against Michigan State. That same year he played in the Rose Bowl, earning Co-MVP honors. He left college after his junior year and in his first preseason NFL game on his first carry tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He never fully regained his power or speed. In eight seasons, he played for the Bengals, Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints. During his tenure with Cincinnati he carried the ball 227 times getting $84,581 per carry based off of the overpriced 19.2 million dollar contract he signed out of college. His stats include 1,127 yards and 20 touchdowns. In recent years, he has been an on-again, off-again backup player.
3) Ryan Leaf (Washington State, QB— 1998 First Round, 2nd Pick Overall, San Diego Chargers)
Leaf looked like the real thing. He was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in his junior year, was a first-team All-American and PAC-10 offensive player of the year. He entered the draft early, foregoing his senior year. Leaf was talented and very athletic and at the time it was a tough choice between Leaf and Manning as to who the better QB was. The Colts elected to go with Manning, while San Diego traded up from the 3rd pick to secure the second pick in the draft and the opportunity to get Leaf. In that trade the Chargers gave away a first-round and a second-round pick along with two players. He was signed to a 4-year, $31.25 million dollar contract that included an $11.25 signing bonus. When he got to the team his cockiness did little to endear him to his fellow players or the fans. He had numerous run-ins with the media. In his time with the Chargers every interception Leaf through was worth $946,000 to his wallet while the Chargers paid Leaf $2.4 million for his paltry 13 TD passes. Later, he played for Tampa Bay, Dallas and was signed by Seattle before retiring in 2002. In a total of 25 professional games, he threw for 3,666 yards, 14 TDs and 36 INTs. He's considered to be one of the biggest busts in professional sports and arguably could be number 1 on this list.
2) Lawrence Phillips (Nebraska, RB—1996 First Round, 6th Pick Overall, St. Louis Rams)
Phillips had power and speed and proved to be a big playmaker with the Cornhuskers. However, he also got in trouble a lot with the law when in college. In the pros, he proved to be a major distraction and an under-performer. He missed team meetings, was arrested for assault and domestic abuse and was often cut from teams due to his argumentative nature. He played parts of four seasons in the NFL averaging an appalling 41 yards per game on the ground. Luckily for the Rams his character coming into the league made them insist on an incentive laden contract, thus it only cost them $5.65 million for his trivial services. Since his departure he has since been convicted of seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon. He has not yet been sentenced.
1) Art Schlichter (Ohio State, QB—1982 First Round, 4th Pick Overall, Baltimore Colts).
Schlichter was a standout player at Ohio State and almost lead the Buckeyes to the national title. It was anticipated that he would bring his game to the pros, but instead he brought a penchant for gambling. In 1983, the league suspended him when it was discovered that he had $150,000 in gambling debt. The Colts released him in 1985. He played arena football for a few years in the 1990’s and has a long rap sheet that includes over 20 felonies such as fraud and forgery. He’s been in prison over 30 times.
You can’t help but notice that certain teams have made big mistakes more than once. There are probably two reasons for that—the same teams tend to get the earliest picks and those same teams are usually the worst clubs in the league and prone to making poor decisions. The upcoming draft looks fairly thin and that means there will surely be a bust or two, along with a surprise or two. Hey, remember that guy Tom Brady? He was drafted in the 6th round—199th overall. Hmmmmm. Now there’s the ultimate non-bust.
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