Honorable Mention Top 10 NFL Draft Busts

Jason Smith: Honorable Mention (NFL)

Influenced by impressive combine results, the St. Louis Rams took Baylor OT Jason Smith with the #2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Despite high expectations, Smith ended his four-year career as the least productive offensive lineman ever taken with a top 5 overall pick. While he seemingly deserves to be labeled a Top 10 Bust, his lack of production can be attributed to a history of serious head injuries. In particular, he suffered two season-ending concussions during his first three years in the league. Smith recovered from the first one, but never started again after the second. It’s uncertain how good he might have been without the injuries, but it’s unfair to label him as an all-time bust because of them.

Honorable Mention Top 10 NFL Draft Busts

Andre Ware: Honorable Mention (NFL)

Following a string of Heisman winners who succeeded in the NFL (i.e. Bo Jackson, Vinny Testaverde, Tim Brown, and Barry Sanders), Andre Ware was the first of a string of disappointments (i.e. Ty Detmer, Desmond Howard, Gino Torretta, Charlie Ward, and Rashaan Salaam). With 4,700 passing yards and 46 touchdowns for the University of Houston Cougars during the 1989 season, Ware was a deserving winner of the Heisman Trophy. In contrast, he categorically failed as an NFL player with only 1,100 passing yards and five touchdowns in his entire career. The following post shows that Ware’s falloff from college to the pros was certainly bust worthy. However, he only started six NFL games so he never really got a fair shot. As such, he earned an Honorable Mention as a Top 10 Bust instead of making the actual countdown.

Honorable Mention

Matt Leinart: Honorable Mention (NFL)

Matt Leinart was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 10th overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft. Many experts projected that he would have been the #1 pick had he chosen to enter the draft after winning the Heisman Trophy as a junior, but he decided to stay at USC for his final year. Leinart’s senior stats were impressive, but he was overshadowed by the spectacular running of teammate Reggie Bush and ultimately dropped in the draft relative to initial projections. With an 8-10 record as a starter, Leinart threw for over 4,000 yards with 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in his NFL career. While his on-field performance wasn’t as bad as you might remember, his well-documented off-field activities probably changed your impression of him. Hey Johnny Football, are you listening?

Honorable Mention

Kelly Stouffer: Honorable Mention (NFL)

Synopsis: No, Kelly Stouffer is not the 11x World Champion surfer. Rather, he is a former 6th overall pick remembered best for sitting out the entire 1987 NFL season after being unable to come to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals. At the time, the Cardinals were one year away from relocating to Phoenix because the “Gateway to the West” let their team head west instead of paying for a new football stadium. In anticipation of the relocation, Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill didn’t want to spend a lot on payroll. Known for being frugal, the owner presumably agreed to select Stouffer thinking that the player would accept a deal based on projected versus actual draft position. At an impasse for almost a year, the team ultimately traded its first round pick to the Seattle Seahawks before losing his signing rights. Given the quarterback’s starting record of 5-11 and career totals of 2,300 passing yards with seven touchdowns and 19 interceptions, the Cardinals made a good decision to get rid of him. It’s clear that Stouffer didn’t have a good NFL career, but should he be considered a bust? Read more to find out.

Honorable Mention

Vernon Gholston: Honorable Mention (NFL)

Going into the 2008 NFL Draft, analysts recognized Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston for his tremendous athletic ability. At the same time, they acknowledged his raw talent. Regardless, the New York Jets took him with the 6th overall pick. Mostly a one-dimensional player in college, Gholston became a zero-dimensional player in the NFL. In particular, the Mark Gastineau-wannabe never got the chance to celebrate even one QB sack. Out of the league after only three seasons, Gholston certainly deserves to be called a bust. However, I just can’t call him a Top 10 Bust given that his on-field accomplishments didn’t justify being such a high draft pick in the first place.

Honorable Mention

Johnathan Sullivan: Honorable Mention (NFL)

Going into the 2003 NFL Draft, most experts ranked Georgia DT Johnathan Sullivan as the 3rd or 4th best defensive lineman. Based on the importance of the position, they still considered him a mid-1st round pick. Regardless, the New Orleans Saints packaged TWO mid-1st round picks (#17 and #18) in order to move up and take him 6th overall. During his three-year career, Sullivan recorded 56 tackles and 1.5 sacks. With those numbers, he certainly qualifies as a bust. However, I couldn’t include him as a Top 10 Bust because he lacked the pedigree typical of such a high pick. As discussed in a previous post, I established the Troy Williamson Exemption for this exact reason. Then again, it’s hard to overlook Sullivan’s horrendous NFL production so I granted him an Honorable Mention.

Honorable Mention

Jamal Reynolds: Honorable Mention (NFL)

When one play accounts for 1/3 of your career total for sacks and 1/2 of your career total for forced fumbles, you didn’t have a good career. Specifically, I’m referencing Jamal Reynolds and his totals of three sacks and two forced fumbles in 18 career games. Basically, those numbers could be confused with J.J. Watt’s totals from one game. As the 10th overall pick in the 2001 Draft, Reynolds got off to a slow start because of assorted injuries. Even after recovering, he couldn’t get on the field because his replacement played too well. And we’re expected to wonder why football players play injured or concussed. I wonder if Alex Smith agrees?