Not every first-round pick is a sure thing. It’s a fact of every NFL Draft. However, when your team uses a high pick to select a player who doesn’t live up to expectations it can sting.
With the 2017 NFL Draft upcoming, we look back at five of the most notable draft busts of the past couple decades.
Jamarcus Russell, QB, first overall, 2007
Lane Kiffin, the Oakland Raiders coach at the time, has said he begged the late Al Davis to select Calvin Johnson over Russell but the Raiders owner insisted on targeting a potential franchise quarterback.
Russell had thrown 52 touchdowns with a passer efficiency rating of 147.9 in his three years at LSU. Based on his size and cannon of an arm, many thought he could be the next Daunte Culpepper. But Russell never developed into a steady NFL quarterback.
He was a holdout before he stepped on an NFL field, yet the Raiders rewarded him with a six-year, $68-million contract. Russell went 5-15 as the team’s starter in 2008 with below-average (but not horrible) numbers. That was the most success he’d have in the league. By 2010 he was out of football entirely.
The fact “Megatron” went second, Adrian Peterson went seventh, Marshawn Lynch went 12t, and Darrelle Revis went 14th (just to name a few) makes this pick look even worse in hindsight.
Trent Richardson, RB, third overall, 2012
Richardson was a beast at Alabama, so much so that he skipped his final year of college eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Lamar Miller also emerged from that draft class, but at the time Richardson was far and away the top-ranked back after amassing a whopping 1,679 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns in 13 games in 2011.
As a rookie with the Cleveland Browns, Richardson wasn’t half bad even though his yards per carry were less than stellar. In fact, he put up a respectable 950 rushing yards and added another 367 receiving yards to go with 12 total touchdowns.
Richardson was traded to the Colts midway through his second season, but his performance declined and he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry in Indy. The Colts waived him in 2015 and he signed with the Raiders, but by that point he seemed to have lost whatever spark he had in college and as a rookie with the Browns. He was released prior to the regular season.
Ryan Leaf, QB, second overall, 1998
Following two successful seasons as a starter at Washington State, where he was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and a Heisman finalist in 1997, Leaf was selected by the San Diego Chargers one spot after the Colts picked Peyton Manning.
Leaf’s time with the Chargers was a disaster — he threw just 13 touchdowns compared to 33 interceptions in his two seasons there. He was released by the Chargers following the 2000 season after compiling a two-season record of 4-14 as a starter. He was signed by the Bucs but got released before the 2001 regular season. He started three games for the Cowboys that year, going 0-3, and never played another NFL game.
Courtney Brown, DE, first overall, 2000
The Browns have a lengthy history with terrible draft choices — in the past decade alone they’ve blown it with Richardson, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel — but Brown being a first-overall pick hurts most.
Cleveland selected Tim Couch with the No. 1 pick in 1999 ahead of Donovan McNabb, Champ Bailey, Torry Holt and Ricky Williams — to name a few — but at least Couch had moderate success with the team and led them to the playoffs in 2002.
Brown was a physical freak coming out of college where he terrorized quarterbacks at Penn State and his NFL career got off to a promising start. A respectable rookie campaign was followed by 4.5 sacks in five games to begin his second season.
Unfortunately, an injury cut his season short. Brown needed knee surgery and was never the same player. He suited up for another 40 NFL games with the Browns and Broncos but registered just 10 sacks and 80 tackles during that time.
Hindsight is always 20-20 but picking Brown’s Penn State teammate LaVar Arrington, who went second overall, would have been a much better choice for Cleveland.
Charles Rogers, WR, second overall, 2003
Rogers had been outstanding at Michigan State. His 27 receiving touchdowns remains the school’s all-time record and the fact he only played there two years makes the feat all the more impressive.
His pro career was a different story. Rodgers started only nine games in his three-year NFL career with the Detroit Lions, finishing with 440 yards and four touchdowns. He broke his clavicle in practice five games into his rookie year. Then he broke it agin in the 2004 season opener, which cost him the entire season.
In addition to his injuries he also failed multiple NFL drug tests and was suspended for it in 2005. The Lions cut him in 2006 and that was that.