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    The worst place to be in the NFL is one of the first teams to miss the playoffs because you have no shot at a championship and your draft pick isn’t all that high. The worst, worst place to be in the NFL is at the bottom and using those high draft picks on busts.

    These blunders can hold teams back for years. Some franchises know this better than others (you know who you are), but all are wary of the threat of the draft bust. The millions invested, the promised greatness, the stairway out of the basement, all for the malaise to maintain and the status quo remains; the projections meant nothing once the player met reality. When you check the Wikipedia page of that horrible, no-good draft from seven years ago, the what-could-have-been run through your head like cinema, directing a dream of a different dimension where your general manager back then had a brain and went with the All-Pro left tackle your team has needed for seasons. Good thing you have a better GM now. They would never do something like that to you. No way.

    Soon, the NFL’s 32 will hold its welcoming ceremony for its youngest athletes, and there will be much talk of “perfect fits” and “measurables.” Seemingly every quarterback “can make all the throws.” But April is not September, and it certainly isn’t February. Every draft has its busts.

    The unlucky from 2023 won’t be known for a few more years, but we have decades to draw back on to recount the picks that have stood the test of time as the most disappointing, most underwhelming, and overall biggest draft busts in NFL history.

    15 Biggest NFL Draft Busts Ever

    15: Josh Rosen | No. 10 overall in 2018 | Arizona Cardinals

    The Cardinals traded up to get UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. That decision turned out to be a bad one, which Arizona realized immediately, selecting Kyler Murray with its top-10 pick in the following draft. Rosen threw 14 interceptions and had a QBR of 24.1 in the 2018 campaign, so the Cardinals promptly shipped him off to Miami. Things didn’t work out there or in Atlanta in a comeback attempt in 2021, and Rosen is now one of the biggest draft busts the NFL has had.

    14: Rich Campbell | No. 6 overall in 1981 | Green Bay Packers

    Rich Campbell was an All-American at Cal when Green Bay took him with its first pick of the 1981 draft. The quarterback went on to never make an NFL start in his four seasons in the league, featuring in just seven contests between 1981 and 1984. In all, Campbell chucked nine interceptions and three touchdowns with 57 total passing yards.

    13: Art Schlichter | No. 4 overall in 1982 | Baltimore Colts

    Baltimore spun the roulette wheel and burned itself on Art Schlichter. The infamous gambler at Ohio State only fell deeper into that trap while in the NFL, and he was banned from the league in 1987 for his connection to a sports betting operation in the multi-millions. This was after serving a suspension for gambling throughout the entirety of the 1983 season. Schlichter played in just 13 games for the Colts, registering three passing touchdowns and 11 interceptions for his NFL career.

    12: Heath Shuler | No. 3 overall in 1994 | Washington Redskins

    Heath Shuler was the next big thing out of Tennessee, and Washington fell for the hype in 1994, selecting him with the No. 3 overall pick. He only lasted three seasons in the nation’s capital, going 4-9 in his 13 starts. He spent one season with the Saints and did even worse, amassing a 2-14 touchdown-interception ratio in nine starts across the 1997 season. That spelled the end of Shuler’s time in the NFL and placed him among the biggest busts in the history of the league’s draft.

    11: Courtney Brown | No. 1 overall in 2000 | Cleveland Browns

    The Browns had the top picks in 1999 and 2000, and to nobody’s surprise, they messed both of them up. The second failure was Courtney Brown, an All-American defensive end out of Penn State. Brown recorded 69 total tackles and 4.5 sacks as a rookie, and things looked positive early in his NFL career.

    But it was all downhill from there. Injuries severely hampered the defensive end, and Cleveland was done with the former-No. 1 pick by 2004. Brown played for the Broncos for one season, then exited the NFL. He had some positive moments in his career, which is why he sits outside of the top 10 for the biggest busts the NFL draft has seen, but future-Pro Bowlers LaVar Arrington, Chris Samuels, Jamal Lewis, Corey Simon, Thomas Jones, and Brian Urlacher were all selected in that year’s top 10 – Cleveland could have had any of them instead.

    10: Brian Bosworth | No. 1 overall in 1987 supplemental draft | Seattle Seahawks

    In 1980s college football, Brian Bosworth was one of the meanest out. The linebacker won two Butkus Awards and the 1985 national championship while at Oklahoma. Seattle gave up its first-round pick to snag Bosworth in the supplemental draft, expecting a transcendent player in return.

    At one point, Bosworth promised he would never play for the Seahawks. Two months later, he signed the biggest-ever contract given to an NFL rookie at that time – 10 years for $11 million.

    Fast forward to 1990, and Bosworth wasn’t even in the league anymore. The former Sooner was forced to retire early with a banged-up shoulder and started just 24 total games for Seattle.

    9: Trent Richardson | No. 3 overall in 2012 | Cleveland Browns

    Trent Richardson ran for better than 3,100 yards over three years at Alabama, and the Browns figured he’d be a fixture in their backfield for years to come. That turned out to be far from the truth – the running back was dealt to the Colts shortly into his second season in Cleveland, his draft team already throwing in the towel on its No. 3 overall pick from a year before.

    Indianapolis gave up a first-round pick for him, making Richardson a rare double-bust and elevating him into the top 10 of the biggest busts in NFL draft history. Things continued to go poorly with the Colts, and the running back was out of the NFL after the 2014 campaign.

    8: Charles Rogers | No. 2 overall in 2003 | Detroit Lions

    Charles Rogers surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in both of his seasons at Michigan State and won the 2002 Biletnikoff Award. It seemed perfect for the Michigan native to fall to the Lions at No. 2 in the draft, and Detroit couldn’t resist.

    The wide receiver played just 15 games across three seasons in the NFL, all with the Lions. Two broken clavicles didn’t help, and substance-abuse problems ultimately pushed him from the league. Right after Detroit took him with the second pick, the Texans selected Andre Johnson, who finished his NFL career with about 13,700 more receiving yards than Rogers.

    7: Tim Couch | No. 1 overall in 1999 | Cleveland Browns

    Like in most years, the Browns needed a quarterback in 1999. But they needed one more this time than others – this was the team’s return to the NFL after being granted an expansion franchise a few years after the original Browns left to become the Baltimore Ravens. The franchise turned to Kentucky product Tim Couch to fill the role of its first-ever QB, choosing him over the likes of Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper, who went No. 2 and No. 11 overall that spring, respectively.

    As a rookie, Couch was sacked 56 times and led Cleveland to a 2-12 record in his 14 starts. He continued on as the team’s main man for much of the next four seasons, putting together a winning record in his starts in just one of those campaigns. The quarterback was out after the 2003 season and ended his NFL time with a 22-37 record and 67 interceptions.

    6: Steve Emtman | No. 1 overall in 1992 | Indianapolis Colts

    A cornerstone of the defense that helped the Washington Huskies go 12-0 in 1991, Steve Emtman seemed pro-ready when the Colts took him with the first pick in 1992. The defensive lineman had won the Outland Trophy, Lombardi Award, Bill Willis Award, and UPI Lineman of the Year.

    Things did not go to plan in the pros. Emtman did have a productive rookie campaign, securing 49 total tackles and running 90 yards to return an interception for a touchdown, but he never had another season like that again. He lasted three campaigns in Indianapolis before bouncing between Miami and Washington to close out his NFL time. Emtman started just 19 NFL contests and recorded 8.0 total sacks for his career. Given his status before entering the league and his position as 1992’s top pick, Emtman is one of the NFL’s biggest draft busts.

    5: Tony Mandarich | No. 2 overall in 1989 | Green Bay Packers

    Tony Mandarich had crazy steam behind him heading into the 1989 NFL Draft. Sports Illustrated famously put him on its cover and called the 6-foot-6, 315-pound behemoth “the best offensive line prospect ever.” When The Incredible Bulk went to the Packers at No. 2, it was assumed that Green Bay had a superstar on its hands.

    Mandarich held out until the week before the start of his rookie season, in which he did not start a single game. His attitude became a major problem, and his use of steroids furthered his downfall. In 1992, the Packers cut the offensive lineman. After attending rehab, Mandarich reentered the NFL, this time with the Colts. He spent three seasons in Indianapolis from 1996 through 1998, featuring in 41 games.

    4: Akili Smith | No. 3 overall in 1999 | Cincinnati Bengals

    In 1999, the Bengals had the No. 3 overall pick. The Saints offered Cincinnati all of its picks in that year’s draft, plus first-round selections in 2000 and 2001, and a 2002 second-round pick. Mike Ditka wanted Ricky Williams, and he intended to get him by any means necessary. But the Bengals said no – they were confident that Akili Smith was the man to turn the franchise around. New Orleans swapped with Washington, and Cincinnati got its man.

    However, Cincinnati’s man didn’t turn out to be very good. In four years, Smith started just 17 games and went 3-14 in them, throwing 13 interceptions and suffering through 59 sacks. The Bengals rejected an unbelievable amount of draft capital for a quarterback that delivered them five-total touchdown passes. You can’t talk about all-time NFL draft busts without mentioning Akili Smith.

    3: Ki-Jana Carter | No. 1 overall in 1995 | Cincinnati Bengals

    Ki-Jana Carter finished second in the Heisman voting in 1994 after rushing for more than 1,500 yards and tallying 23 touchdowns in his final season at Penn State. It was enough to convince the Bengals to spend their No. 5 and No. 36 overall picks to get the No. 1 overall spot from the Panthers to add the running back to their stable. After a two-day holdout, the Bengals signed Carter to a seven-year, $19.2 million deal that included a $7.1 million signing bonus, the biggest ever for an NFL rookie at the time.

    Injuries destroyed Carter’s NFL career. In the preseason before what would have been his rookie campaign, Carter tore a ligament in his knee and had to miss the entire season. Throughout the course of his seven years in the league, the running back also managed to dislocate his kneecap, break his left wrist, and tear the rotator cuff on his left shoulder, essentially costing him the 1998 and 1999 seasons, too. After leaving Cincinnati, Carter played for Washington in 2001 and New Orleans in 2003 and 2004. He finished in NFL time with 1,144 rushing yards with 14 starts.

    2: Ryan Leaf | No. 2 overall in 1998 | San Diego Chargers

    There was a heated debate ongoing within football circles in the months leading up to the 1998 NFL Draft: Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf? The two were looked at as excellent pro prospects, with bright futures ahead of the pair. The Colts had the first pick, the Cardinals the second, and the Chargers the third. San Diego needed a QB, and with Indianapolis unwilling to play ball, the Chargers swapped its selection, a future first-round pick, a future second-round pick, and three-time Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf to Arizona for the No. 2 overall choice. San Diego wanted whomever Indianapolis didn’t.

    The Colts took Manning, who went on to have one of the greatest quarterback careers in NFL history. The Chargers took Leaf, who went on to become one of the biggest busts in NFL draft history.

    The Washington State QB threw 15 interceptions in nine starts as a rookie in 1998, then a shoulder injury 20 minutes into his first training camp workout for the 1999 campaign ended that season for him before it even started. Leaf returned in 2000, tossed 18 more interceptions while going 1-8 in his nine starts, and the Chargers released him after the campaign. Leaf had a stint with Tampa Bay in the preseason that didn’t work out, then did poorly in Dallas in 2001 to close the book on his NFL story. Leaf goes down as one of the biggest NFL draft busts of all time.

    1: JaMarcus Russell | No. 1 overall in 2007 | Oakland Raiders

    Could it really be anyone else? JaMarcus Russell had so much excitement surrounding him after his career at LSU. In his three starting seasons in Baton Rouge, the quarterback threw for 6,625 yards and tossed 52 touchdowns. He was discussed as a sure-fire generational talent with a unique body that gave him the arm strength of a catapult. There was even a rumor swirling that he could throw the ball 70 yards from his knees – that’s how insane the hype around this guy was.

    The Raiders made him the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and proceeded to get 18 passing touchdowns, 25 interceptions, a 52.1 completion percentage, and a 7-18 record out of him. Russell started 25 times and played 31 games in the league, all for the Raiders between 2007 and 2009.

    With the giant expectations, No. 1 pick status, and lack of much of anything positive from his time in the league, JaMarcus Russell is the biggest draft bust in NFL history.

    NFL FAQs

    How do you play football survival pool?

    Players pick one team each week they think will win the game outright. They may only pick a team ONCE per season, meaning you can't pick the same team twice in one season. If their pick is correct, the player survives another week and continues to play. An incorrect pick eliminates the player from the contest entirely. This is sometimes called an elimination or suicide pool. The last person standing wins.

    How to make a football pool?

    A football pool generally requires the creation of a shareable spreadsheet (like Google Sheets) so that members may pick teams. Then depending on the game type, creators must use several kinds of formulas (e.g. CountIF), data validation, and conditional formatting. Or, you can just use football pool hosting service like RunYourPool where we do all the work for you!

    How to run a weekly football pool?

    In order to run a football pool, you must first crown yourself as Pool Commissioner. Begin by picking a game type like Survivor or Pick'Em. You'll want to establish rules before inviting friends, family, and colleagues to join. As commissioner, you make the rules and also need to enforce them equally and fairly.

    What is a football survivor pool?

    In a Football Survivor Pool, players choose one team weekly they think will win. Usually, a team can be picked one time per season. Picks are made "straight up," no spreads necessary. If a pick is correct, members survive another week. An incorrect pick eliminates the player, unless a mulligan is used.

    How does a football pool work?

    Football pools are games of skill played among a group of people. There are a variety of pool types to fit every players needs, from casual to competitive. Pool commissioners can set up pools manually, or use a hosting service like RunYourPool whiel still customizing your own settings. Some examples include NFL Squares, NFL Survivor, NFL Pick 'Em, and Playoff Brackets.

    What is an NFL pickem pool?

    In an NFL pick’em pool, simply pick the outcome of each NFL game throughout the season. You can pick straight up winners or losers, or pick each game against the spread.

    How to play a football pool?

    The way one plays a football pool varies on the game type. For example, in Survivor, you pick one team to win each week and can't pick that team again. Guess wrong and you lose. Another example is Pick'em Pools in which you simply pick every game each week.

    How does a fantasy football pool work?

    Fantasy football pools don’t involve a traditional fantasy football draft. You can have as many members in your pool as you’d like, meaning no more 12 or 14 team limits! You pick a new lineup of players each week, and once you use a player once, you can’t use them again for the rest of the season.

    What is a fantasy football pool?

    A fantasy football pool is similar to a traditional fantasy football league but without the draft. Pick a new lineup each week, and once you use a player, you can’t use them for the rest of the season. Your players will receive points based on their in-game stats, and the member with the most points at the end of the season is the winner.

    What is a football pool?

    "Football Pool" is a broad term for a group of people competitively guessing the outcome of one or more football games. There are many types of formats, each assigning winners differently. They can be played informally between friends or through a more formalized system. They are often considered a great alternative to fantasy football given the ease of playing, although there are fantasy football pools as well.

    How do football pool squares work?

    There are different kinds of football square pools. Most have a 10x10 grid with one team for the rows and columns. In an attempt to win, participants select a square where they believe the last digit number of each team's score will intersect at the end of each quarter, and the game's end.

    How do you play football squares pools?

    To play a football squares pool, you're going to want to pick the squares with the best odds. As winners are determined by the point totals at the end of each quarter, try to consider options where scores are most common. Some of the most popular squares include 7-3, 7-0, 7-7, and 0-0. Numbers divisible by seven are good starting points.

    How many squares in a football pool?

    In a traditional football squares pool, a grid is sectioned off into 100 squares with 10 columns and 10 rows. This accounts for a direct relationship between each possible digit from 0 to 9 on both the X and Y axis. For smaller square grids like 5x5, multiple numbers can be assigned to each column and row.

    How to play squares football pools?

    Football squares are played by creating a grid, in which Team 1 takes the column and Team 2 the rows. In some cases, participants may claim as many squares as they like. In others, commissioners limit them to one. At the quarter times and end of the game, the winner is decided at the point the scores final digit intersect.

    What is a football squares pool?

    Also called Grid, Block, or Box Pools, Football Squares Pools can be played with any single game, but are most popular during the Super Bowl. Pool members claim squares on a 25, 50, or 100-square grid by putting their information in the square. Game scores are matched to the winning square(s), usually with winners being determined every quarter.

    How to read a football pool sheet?

    In Squares formats, football pool sheets include a grid, where one team is the column and one is the row. Winners are determined at the end of each quarter when the last number in the team’s score (on each side) is matched to the numbers on the grid, and the intersecting square wins.

    How do you play football credits pool?

    In the credits format, all players start with the same number of credits. Players make picks each week by risking a certain number of credits on games, assigning more credits to the picks with a higher confidence level. Members receive double the credits risked for each win. The member with the most credits at the end of the season wins.

    What is a football credits pool?

    In Football Credits Pools, players start with the same number of credits. They then make picks each week by risking a number of credits on games, assigning more to the picks they have more confidence in getting right. Members double credits risked for each win. The member with the highest credits at the end of the season wins.

    How to run a football pool?

    How you decide to run a football pool varies greatly depending on the game type. In each case, however, you'll want to determine the rules and settings before you begin inviting members to join you. You'll want to clearly establish how score will be kept, how tiebreakers work, and how winners are decided before anything else.

    How do you play football confidence pool?

    A football confidence pool is played straight up, not with a point spread. Not only do members pick the winning teams, they must back up their picks by giving them a relative confidence ranking. Your score reflects the number of confidence points given to winning teams. So if your confidence for a team winning is '1', then you can only win one point at most. If your confidence for a team winning is '5', then you can win five points for a win. The member with the most credits at the end wins.

    What is a football confidence pool?

    "Football Confidence Pool" refers to how you rank the teams that you think will win each week. For example, in the NFL, there are often 16 games weekly. In this scenario, you would rank each game from 16 to 1, based on the your confidence in that team winning.

    How do you play football margin pool?

    Margin pools are an NFL pool format that rewards members for picking a winning team each week. Pool commissioners can decide whether they award points equal to a winning teams margin of victory or the point spread for that game. When a commissioner chooses the point spread option, this format is often referred to as an NFL Underdog Pool.

    What is a football margin pool?

    In a Football Margin Pool, you are awarded points for picking a winning team. Pool commissioners get to decide whether they award points equal to a winning teams margin of victory or the point spread for that game. The player with the most points at the end of the season wins.

    How do you play football 33 point pool?

    The football 33 pool format is a casual pool where members are each assigned an NFL team (these pools are 32 members max, as there are 32 NFL teams). Members win when their team scores 33 points. Options for changing the target score, or having the closest to the target win each week is also available.

    What is a football 33 point pool?

    In the football 33 pool format, each member is assigned a unique NFL team (32 members max). A member will win when their team scores 33 points. This is a casual pool where you can change the target score or the option to have the closest to the target that week win.

    How to run a weekly football pool?

    In order to run a football pool, you must first crown yourself as Pool Commissioner. Begin by picking a game type like Survivor or Pick'Em. You'll want to establish rules before inviting friends, family, and colleagues to join. As commissioner, you make the rules and also need to enforce them equally and fairly.

    What is an NFL Playoff bracket pool?

    NFL Playoff Bracket pools are simple NFL pool formats where members pick every round of the playoffs before they start in an attempt to predict every match up correctly. It's optional to configure a multiplier for each round, or add a tiebreaker option of total points in the Super Bowl.

    How to make a football pool?

    A football pool generally requires the creation of a shareable spreadsheet (like Google Sheets) so that members may pick teams. Then depending on the game type, creators must use several kinds of formulas (e.g. CountIF), data validation, and conditional formatting. Or, you can just use football pool hosting service like RunYourPool where we do all the work for you!

    How to set up a football pool?

    To set up a football pool, you'll need to first choose a pool type like Survivor or Pick'em. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As pool commissioner, you'll enforce these rules and make sure the game runs smoothly throughout the season. Many commissioners use pool hosting sites like RunYourPool to make it easier and more engaging.

    What is a football power ranking playoff pool?

    In a power ranking playoff pool, members rank all 12 NFL teams competing in the playoffs from strongest (12 points) to weakest (1 point). Picks are made only ONCE before any games begin. Members are awarded the number of points assigned to a team when they win. Commissioners can optionally set up a point multiplier for each playoff round.

    What is a football confidence pool?

    "Football Confidence Pool" refers to how you rank the teams that you think will win each week. For example, in the NFL, there are often 16 games weekly. In this scenario, you would rank each game from 16 to 1, based on the your confidence in that team winning. This is similar to the Playoff Pool Power Ranking, just less teams.

    How to run a football pool?

    How you decide to run a football pool varies greatly depending on the game type. In each case, however, you'll want to determine the rules and settings before you begin inviting members to join you. You'll want to clearly establish how score will be kept, how tiebreakers work, and how winners are decided before anything else.

    What is a football playoff precision pool?

    In a playoff precision pool, members attempt to pick the winner of every playoff game each week. You can decide if it’s straight up or on a point spread picks, but point totals are also added. Points are awarded for correct picks AND for how close to the correct combined point total they were.

    How to read a football pool sheet?

    In Squares formats, football pool sheets include a grid, where one team is the column and one is the row. Winners are determined at the end of each quarter when the last number in the team’s score (on each side) is matched to the numbers on the grid, and the intersecting square wins.

    What is a Super Bowl Prop Bets Pool?

    A Super Bowl Prop Bet Pool is a fun and thrilling way to compete against friends and family during the big game! It's a simple questionaire of prop betting questions revolving around the Super Bowl, and whoever earns the most points based off correct answers wins!

    How does a Super Bowl Prop Bets Pool work?

    Pool members simply fill out a wide range of prop questions, each question worth a different value. Commissioners decide on the point value for each question, along with the amount of questions. Whichever member earns the most points based on corret answers wins the pool.

    What is a football Super Bowl Squares pool?

    Also called Grid, Block, or Box Pools, Football Squares Pools can be played with any single game, but are most popular during the Super Bowl. Pool members claim squares on a 25, 50, or 100-square grid by putting their information in the square. Game scores are matched to the winning square(s), usually with winners being determined every quarter.

    What is a prop bet?

    Prop bets are any sort of pick or wager on a game that has nothing to do with the score or the final score outcome. Props can range from game types, to team types and even player types - such as who will score the game's first and last touchdowns? Other props, such as novelty or exotic, feature bets on things such as the coin flip or the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

    How to read a football pool sheet?

    In Squares formats, football pool sheets include a grid, where one team is the column and one is the row. Winners are determined at the end of each quarter when the last number in the team’s score (on each side) is matched to the numbers on the grid, and the intersecting square wins.

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