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The 5 Worst NFL Draft Busts In History

By Carlos Chacon

The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting moments before the start of the season. We get to witness the best prospects in the nation get welcomed to the pros. But of course, the draft does not only paint nice pictures for the team. There are also chances of a draft bust happening, which is a highly selected draftee that fails to meet expectations. With that, we take a look at some of the worst NFL draft busts in history.

Charles Rogers – 2003 No. 2 overall pick (Detroit Lions)

First on the list is wide receiver Charles Rogers who was drafted by the Detroit Lions. From the get-go, he already took off on the wrong foot, playing only 15 games in 3 seasons. During that time, he only caught 42.9 percent of his passes and finished his career with 34 receptions, 440 yards, and 4 touchdowns. The numbers alone are underwhelming especially for a No. 2 overall pick.

Also magnifying this horrendous decision by the Lions is the fact that Rogers was selected ahead of Andre Johnson. While Rogers departed the NFL in three years, Johnson produced better numbers by the end of his career with 70 touchdowns and 14,185 receiving yards.

JaMarcus Russell – 2007 No. 1 overall pick (Oakland Raiders)

The hype surrounding JaMarcus Russell was off the charts prior to draft day in 2007. He was seen as the player who can potentially reinvent the quarterback position after an astonishing college career. Despite that, things plummeted before he could even build momentum. Russell missed training camp in his rookie year following a contract dispute.

In his first season in the NFL, Russell tossed 4 interceptions with just a pair of passing touchdowns. He improved his numbers in his sophomore year, but it wasn’t enough to make waves in the NFL. In what would be his final season in 2009, Russell collected just 3 touchdowns and 11 interceptions before his six-year contract was cancelled.

Tony Mandarich – 1989 No. 2 overall pick (Green Bay Packers)

Tony Mandarich is arguably one of the most disappointing No. 2 pick for the Green Bay Packers. The offensive tackle received high praises coming into the league but ended up failing to meet expectations. Even though drafting an offensive lineman can be a haphazard move for any team, the Green Bay Packers did not expect what was coming in 1989. The player came out of Michigan State as an All-American. He was also considered as the best offensive line prospect ever, which means nothing can go wrong from the perspective of any team that will potentially draft him.

But by 1991, Mandarich was already out of the league. Meanwhile, the No. 3 overall pick behind him, Barry Sanders, is praised by fans of the sport to this day, further magnifying the draft bust that happened.

Ryan Leaf – 1998 No. 2 overall pick (Los Angeles Chargers)

Ryan Leaf completed his college career in Washington State with flying colors. He entered the NFL with high hopes and was considered the top pick before going second overall. However, his rookie season saw him throw just 10 interceptions on 245 pass attempts with 2 touchdowns. It was disappointing, to say the least.

It was all downhill from there as the rest of his career did not see much of an improvement. Leaf finished with 36 interceptions and 14 touchdowns. What makes this draft bust even worse is that the player selected ahead of him will be inducted in the Hall of Fame as one of the best names to play the quarterback position.

Trent Richardson – 2012 No. 3 overall pick (Cleveland Browns)

There’s no question that Trent Richardson believed to be the biggest draft bust in NFL history. The running back forced two teams to spend first-round picks in a short-lived three-year career. In 2021, the Cleveland Browns traded up to third overall to acquire Richardson. They missed out on several late-round picks to get ahead of other teams. What they received in return was just 950 rushing yards on 267 attempts with 11 rushing touchdowns. There was still a glimmer of hope for Richardson in 2013 after being voted 73rd on the NFL Top 100.

His short-lived journey with the Browns ended as the Indianapolis Colts showed interest in him after giving up a first-round selection to acquire Richardson. With the Colts, Richardson played 29 games and finished with 977 rushing yards on 316 attempts. His career ended with only 2,032 rushing yards on 614 attempts leaving him with an average of 3.3 yards per attempt. Considering that two NFL Draft first-round picks had to be given up for him in three years makes him the biggest draft bust to date.

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