5 Biggest NFL Draft Busts Ever

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With the National Football League’s scouting combine officially over and the draft just a few months away, teams are beginning to have an idea of who they will ideally sign. Some players distinguished themselves through stellar performances at last week’s combine, and some merely reaffirmed what scouts already knew: that they are elite.

The difficulty of deciding whom to draft stems much deeper than just how talented an athlete is. The player interviews with respective teams is one area of the combine that reveals more than just what someone can do on the field — it shows his personality, beliefs (though not too much), and character, among other things. These teams put the prospects through such an extensive screening process because they’re potentially investing millions of dollars in their future. They’re doing everything they can to ensure a successful investment (i.e., drafting a player who’s going to succeed).

Despite the combine and scouts’ opinions, sometimes a player just doesn’t work out. An athlete who was healthy in college could end up having an injury-plagued career. This, however, is almost impossible to predict, and sometimes a player’s success in college doesn’t translate into NFL success. It’s the teams’ scouts who are tasked with weeding out those players. Whether it was personal issues or injuries, here are five of the biggest draft busts to ever be taken in the top five spots.

Source: Marianne O’Leary / Flickr

1. Ryan Leaf, 1998, No. 2

Scouts were unsure whether Ryan Leaf, coming out of Washington State, or Peyton Manning would be the first pick of the 1998 draft. As we all know, Manning was selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the first overall pick, and Leaf went second, to the San Diego Chargers. Manning went on to have what many are proclaiming as a Hall of Fame career, and Leaf played for three seasons and then retired. He just never worked out, something that scouts can’t plan for.

In two seasons with the Chargers, Leaf started just 18 games. During that time, he threw for 13 touchdowns and an embarrassing 33 interceptions. Hoping a clean slate would help, Leaf played one more season with the Dallas Cowboys. It didn’t: He appeared in three games, throwing one touchdown and three interceptions. Currently, Leaf is serving a jail sentence for drug possession and burglary. As the second overall pick in 1998, Leaf went down as one of the biggest draft busts ever.

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