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2021 NFL Draft: What are the biggest draft busts of all time?

California Golden Bears vs Washington State Cougars
California Golden Bears vs Washington State Cougars
ANALYST
Modified 08 Apr 2021
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NFL fans can get pretty confident when they know that their team has one of the top four or five picks at an NFL Draft event. Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers fans will certainly have some extra pep in their step this month, that's for certain.

Why wouldn't they?

Every NFL fan knows the draft process is simple: take the best player available -- usually, a franchise QB -- crack open a cold one, and so begin the franchise rebuild, centered around a rookie hotshot.

The fans go wild; the Super Bowl dream edges ever nearer reality, and that's all there is to it, right?

Wrong!

Unfortunately, things don't always go so smoothly in the NFL Draft. Over the years, some of the most famed teams in the league have made some truly terrible decisions when vouching for college football's top stars.

In the football world, we call these poorly thought-out moves, 'busts.'

There will more than likely be at least one draft bust selected at this year's event.

Speculating on which player it will be is like a game of Russian roulette, but rest assured that he'll be in there somewhere, an alluring poisonous apple waiting to upset the very stomach of your franchise.

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Need some evidence?

Take a look at 3 of the biggest draft busts of all time:

3. QB Akili Smith, Bengals (1999, Round one, pick three)

Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals opted to draft quarterback Akili Smith with their No.3 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

The Bengals had a famously lackluster college scouting department back then, so it was little surprise to anyone when Smith turned out to be a truly bad QB in the NFL.

In four seasons with the Bengals, Smith made just 17 starts and went 3-14; his measly 46.6% pass completion percentage easily explains how he came to throw twice as many career picks (13) as he did TDs (5), which is why Akili Smith has to be considered one of the biggest draft busts of all time.

2. QB Ryan Leaf, San Diego, (1998, Round 1, Pick 2)

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QB Ryan Leaf has to go down as one of the worst draft picks in NFL history. His case isn't helped by the fact that heading into the 1999 NFL Draft, the big debate was about who the better QB was: Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning!

Manning's incredible career success highlights Leaf's failings even more.

The Colts took management off the board first, leaving the Chargers with very little choice but to draft the Washington graduate with the No.2 overall pick.

Leaf ended his four-year career with 14 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions.

Many years later, former Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard would say this about Leaf:

"With Ryan, there were too many off-of-the-field issues that I guess I should have paid more attention to,."

Beathard was proven right. Leaf would later spend 32 months in jail for breaking into a home.

1. QB JaMarcus Russell, Raiders (2007, Round one, pick one)

NFL Players Rookie Premiere
NFL Players Rookie Premiere

The Raiders selected JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and, boy, did that decision backfire!

The Raiders were warned all about the young signal caller's motivational issues. Russell's LSU coaches weren't shy in alerting potential suitors to their young QB's lack of effort, academically; not to mention the fact that Russel wasn't much of a trainer either, a player who disliked fitness work.

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With the No.1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Raiders ignored the hate and went ahead and drafted Russell anyway, a decision that still haunts fans to this day. And things could not have gotten off to a worse start than when Russell refused to report to the Raiders' preseason training camp.

After returning to the team in September, Russell had to wait until the last game of the season to make his long-awaited debut in the famed black and gray. He came on in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos, playing two series, completing 4 of 7 pass attempts for 56 yards.

Over the next three seasons, Russell went 7-18. After showing up to the 2010 preseason training camp 20 lbs overweight, he was finally cut from the Raiders roster.

Russell was never again to appear in the NFL. In 2013, he did attempt a comeback, but his mentality/ personality put off all suitors.

Published 08 Apr 2021, 22:10 IST
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