After winning the 2004 Heisman Trophy, USC quarterback Matt Leinart seemed poised to become the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Despite that prediction, he decided to delay his payday and return to college for his senior season. That decision arguably hurt his draft stock as he ended up going to the Arizona Cardinals with the 2006 #10 overall pick instead. In retrospect, he didn’t even deserve to go that high. The former Trojan threw for 4,000 yards with 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions during his NFL career. While his on-field performance wasn’t as bad as you might remember, his well-documented off-field activities probably influenced your impression of him. Hey Johnny Football, are you listening?
NFL teams naturally have higher expectations for their higher draft picks. In reverse, they understand that lower picks offer less value. Based on this reasoning, a player can be drafted too low to be considered a bust because the expectations of him aren’t high enough to warrant that distinction. For purposes of this site, I contend that a player taken outside of the first 10 overall picks cannot qualify as an all-time bust. Consequently, players like 2007 #22 pick Brady Quinn are exempt from consideration as Top 10 Busts.
When conducting my research, I noticed that many busts could be characterized by recurring themes. I have summarized these themes by presenting them as 7 Lessons from Highly Ineffective NFL Draft Picks.
1. There’s no such thing as a sure thing
2. When in doubt, draft offensive linemen and avoid receivers
3. Don’t reach with the pick
4. Character matters
5. Avoid players who have peaked already
6. Avoid QBs who were interception leaders in college
7. Get to camp on time
Hypothetically, these NFL draft lessons can be applied going forward to help teams avoid making similar mistakes. Regardless, you can apply them when evaluating the draft decisions made by your favorite team.