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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
As a #1 overall pick with a disappointing NFL career, Steve Emtman often gets mentioned as an all-time bust. I can’t refute the first part of that sentence, but the second part ignores the impact that injuries had on his career. In particular, Emtman suffered season-ending injuries in each of his first three years in the league. The 1991 Lombardi Award winner clearly didn’t live up to his potential, but I can’t justify calling him a bust. In this post, I establish the Steve Emtman Exemption as an Top 10 Bust exclusion for injured players. Furthermore, I discuss the use of it for oft-injured teammate Trev Alberts.
To the extent that a bust can be described as having a bad career, a Top 10 Bust can be described as having a really bad career. Whereas most players referenced as all-time NFL busts were really bad, Tony Mandarich is an exception. Compared to the roided-out Adonis before the 1989 Draft, the roid-free version of Mandarich was not as strong and not as fast. Regardless, he still was good enough to survive in the NFL for six seasons over a ten-year period (i.e. two three-year stints separated by a four-year absence). Having played in 86 games (including 63 starts), he hung around long enough to escape being considered a Top 10 Bust. However, he still received an Honorable Mention given all of the pre-draft hype and post-draft disappointment surrounding him. This post references his career as an introduction to the 3rd criterion used to refine the list of Top 10 NFL Draft Busts.
Prior to the 2005 Draft, the Vikings traded All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss to the Raiders for a 1st round pick. In need of a deep-ball threat, Minnesota used that pick to take South Carolina wide receiver Troy Williamson. The former Gamecock had noticeable flaws as a receiver, but he certainly could run fast. At the combine, he ran the 40 in a blistering time of 4.32 seconds. Unfortunately, he couldn’t catch the ball. In retrospect, the player’s failure could have been predicted so it’s hard to call him a bust. On behalf of all players taken too early because of combine results, I offer the Troy Williamson Exemption.
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.
As you might expect, higher draft picks have more productive careers than lower draft picks. Still, have you ever wondered by how much? Pro-football-reference.com has developed a proprietary statistic which can answer that exact question. Called Weighted Career Approximate Value (WCAV), it can be used to compare the overall production of different players. In this post, I use WCAV to evaluate the career of 1999 #5 overall pick Ricky Williams.