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: T10B Honorable Mention (NFL)

With 4,700 yards and 46 touchdowns as the quarterback for the Houston Cougars, Andre Ware deservedly won the 1989 Heisman Trophy. In contrast, he categorically failed in the NFL with career totals of 1,100 yards and five touchdowns. Following a string of successful Heisman winners from 1985-1988 (e.g. Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders), Andre Ware served as the winner who reversed the trend for the next five years (e.g. Ty Detmer, Gino Torretta, Rashaan Salaam). The following post shows that Ware’s falloff from college to the pros qualifies him as a bust. However, he only started six NFL games so he never really got a fair shot. As such, he earned a T10B Honorable Mention instead of making the actual countdown.  

Honorable Mention

Matt Leinart: Honorable Mention (NFL)

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?  

Honorable Mention

Kelly Stouffer: Honorable Mention (NFL)

I’ll readily admit that I only had a vague recollection of Kelly Stouffer before researching players for this site. In case you need a refresher as well, the 1987 #6 overall pick sat out for an entire season after being unable to come to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals. At an impasse for almost a year, the team ultimately traded his signing rights to the Seattle Seahawks.  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 the right decision. Stouffer didn’t have a good NFL career, but should he be considered a bust? Perhaps, but not a Top 10 Bust.

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)

Excluding the strip sack in the featured imagine, former Packers DE Jamal Reynolds tallied 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble in his unproductive 18-game NFL career. Including the play, Reynolds’ career 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 somehow, we act surprised when football players ignore injuries or concussions. I wonder if Alex Smith knows the feeling?

Honorable Mention Selection Criteria

Rich Campbell Exemption (Not Given a Fair Chance)

Any way you cut it, Rich Campbell failed miserably as an NFL quarterback. To start, the 1981 #6 overall pick never started even one game during his four-year career. Furthermore, he only threw for 386 yards with 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while appearing in a total of seven games. Despite his historically bad numbers, the former Cal Weenie falls short of qualifying as a Top 10 Bust. Of note, he never got a fair chance to prove himself on the field. Without that proof, I just can’t put him on the level of  other all-time busts.

Honorable Mention

Jerry Tagge: Honorable Mention (NFL)

Between the retirement of Vince Lombardi in 1968 and arrival of Brett Favre in 1992, the Green Bay Packers experienced a 24-year period of futility. Of note, they had only five winning seasons and two playoff appearances. Their failure can be attributed to monumentally bad draft decisions. The selection of OT Tony Mandarich with the 2nd overall pick in 1989 has received the most notoriety. However, the team also failed by trading multiple high round draft picks for washed-up QB John Hadl in 1974 and selecting QB Rich Campbell with the 6th overall pick 1981. Perhaps starting the downward cycle, Green Bay took QB Jerry Tagge with the 11th overall pick in 1972. This post focuses on that decision and whether Tagge deserves to be considered an all-time bust.

Honorable Mention Selection Criteria Side Stories

Penn State Jinx

Before establishing this site, I heard about a Penn State Jinx. Specifically, the jinx refers to great Penn State running backs who failed in the NFL. In this post, I analyze the four running backs usually mentioned in support of the argument. While they don’t deserve to be called Top 10 Busts, their stories help clarify certain exemptions.