No matter how much time, effort and money NFL teams put into the draft, there will always be players that slip through the cracks. The Tom Bradys and Tony Romos and John Randles of the world who should have been first rounders, end up getting taken late in the draft or not even drafted at all. The draft is both an art and a science, and NFL teams will inevitably fail both subjects from time-to-time.
Everything that was just said about players that slip through the cracks can also be said about players that don’t live up to the hype. You can talk to college coaches, college teammates, former teachers, childhood friends and the family members of top draft prospects, but something will still be amiss which makes NFL personnel misevaluate players. There are no “sure things” when projecting whether a 20-year-old college superstar can become a great player in the NFL which is why there are so many draft busts.
We will take a look at those busts from the start of the 21st century and what they did after their playing careers. Some players may have been busts on the field, but they found great success after their playing days came to an end. Likewise, some busts just continued down their downward spiral and were just as bad off the field as they were on it. Here are 8 NFL draft busts since 2000 doing well for themselves and 7 draft busts doing terribly.
15 Doing Well: Matt Leinart
Matt Leinart could have been the top pick of the 2005 NFL Draft, but elected to go back to USC. It ended up being the wrong decision on two fronts as not only did the Trojans fall in the BCS Championship Game to Texas, but Leinart then fell to the 10th overall pick of the 2006 draft. He lost out in $10 million in guaranteed money by coming out a year late, and then lost out on an illustrious NFL career by just not being that good. He lasted eight seasons on an NFL roster, but started just 18 games and threw only 15 touchdowns.
But he proved to be more successful in his post-NFL career as he became a college football analyst for FOX Sports, which is broadcast in Leinart's hometown of Los Angeles.
14 Doing Terribly: Charles Rogers
After an All-American career at Michigan State in which he twice led the Big Ten in receiving touchdowns, Rogers turned pro in 2003. He became the second pick in the draft by the Detroit Lions and along with Keyshawn Johnson and Calvin Johnson, Rogers is one of three receivers to be drafted within the top two picks over the last 30 years. The two Johnsons combined for 1,545 catches and 147 touchdowns over their careers, while Rogers had 36 receptions and four touchdowns. But his problems on the football field didn’t compare to his problems off it.
He fathered AT LEAST EIGHT kids by AT LEAST FOUR different women and was charged with assault and battery of one of those women.
He also spent 93 days in jail in 2010 after violating the terms of his sobriety court order.
He was arrested six times between 2008 and 2012, with the last being after he threatened his mother for allegedly stealing $100,000 from him.
Today he is living in Florida and working at an auto repair shop, but admits he's more of a PR guy than an actual mechanic.
13 Doing Well: Vernon Gholston
Gholston certainly had the look of an NFL player as he looked like a pro bodybuilder in pads. But Gholston also earned the nickname of Jane as in “looks like Tarzan, but plays like Jane.” He was the sixth overall pick by the Jets in 2008 and was pegged as a Terrell Suggs-like pass rusher. Boy, were those scouts wrong! Gholston never recorded a single sack in his three-year NFL career and is the only defensive lineman picked in the top six to not record a sack since the statistic became official in 1982.
But Gholston did find success away from the football field as he became the vice president of a horticultural therapy company. Anew Wellness is located in New Jersey, and it aims to help people with mental health issues.
12 Doing Terribly: Justin Blackmon
Blackmon picked up right where Dez Bryant left off at Oklahoma State and bested his predecessor in every statistic. Blackmon set the NCAA record for most consecutive 100-yard receiving games and became just the second two-time Biletnikoff Award winner, which is given out to the nation’s best wide receiver. But things fell apart when he was taken fifth overall in the 2012 draft. Personal problems have plagued Blackmon and he lasted just 20 games with the Jaguars.
Blackmon has been arrested no fewer than five times since being drafted, with most dealing with substance abuse.
His last NFL action came in the 2013 season, and at the age of 28, his career is all but over.
Blackmon has kept a low profile since leaving the Jags; he did complete the terms of his probation in August 2017, but he has still not been reinstated by the NFL.
11 Doing Well: Danny Watkins
Watkins was born in Canada and didn’t start playing organized football until he was 22 years old. He spent much of his teenage years as a firefighter, but while studying fire sciences at a community college, the football coach convinced him to take up the sport. Watkins eventually transferred to Baylor and became a first-round pick in 2011 at the age of 27. He played two seasons with the Eagles and then one with the Dolphins before retiring at the age of 29.
After leaving football, Watkins went back to his first love of firefighting in Frisco, Texas.
He may have been a disappointment on the football field, but is certainly not one in real life, and in 2016, he was awarded Rookie of the Year honors from the Frisco Fire Department.
10 Doing Terribly: Rolando McClain
McClain was arguably the best defensive player in the nation while at Alabama and he became a first round pick with the Raiders in 2010. He played five seasons in the NFL but has also been arrested four times (at least). He infamously retired in 2013 and then decided to come back and play for the Cowboys. After two seasons in Dallas, he then retired again, or rather, was forced to retire for his addiction to purple drank. McClain apparently loved codeine more than playing football and hasn’t played since 2015.
He did manage to enroll back at Alabama and completed his degree in 2017, but he also was arrested in May 2017 for firearm and drug violations.
At least this time McClain didn’t pull what he did back in 2013 after getting pulled over. Back then, the police cited him and handed him a ticket, only for McClain to hand it back to the cops with “F--- ya’ll” written on it.
9 Doing Well: Mike Rumph
The cornerback was one of 11 Miami Hurricanes taken in the 2002 NFL Draft and was the last of five first rounders from the U. Others selected include Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, and Clinton Portis; all in all, the Canes produced 16 Pro Bowl selections from this draft alone, but none came from Rumph. He was frequently burned at CB and he should be grateful that Twitter wasn’t around when he played, as things would have been even worse for him. After his rookie contract ended in 2006, Rumph’s career ended as well and he posted just three interceptions during his five-year career. Rumph then went back to his home of Miami where he became a high school football coach until 2016. That year he joined Mark Richt’s staff with the Canes and became the team’s cornerbacks coach. Rumph and Richt are the only two former Hurricane players that are currently on the Canes’ coaching staff.
8 Doing Terribly: Justin Gilbert
I thought about going with fellow 2014 Browns bust Johnny Manziel, but Johnny Football comes from a wealthy family with oil money, so he’s probably doing just fine. Gilbert, on the other hand, reportedly had no passion for playing football and mailed it in once he signed his first contract. The venerable Joe Thomas even said as much after spending two years as Gilbert’s teammate.
If you don't like football, it doesn't matter how talented you are, your star will burn out quick. https://t.co/r7PfDSTljL— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) February 6, 2017
Gilbert had one interception in his rookie season and then was demoted to special teams in 2015. After an embarrassing road rage incident in which he threw a cup of tobacco spit at a man, Gilbert was traded to division rival Pittsburgh. The Browns thought so little of Gilbert that they traded him within a division with hopes that they could face him twice a year. Gilbert was cut by the Steelers after one season, was suspended for four games in May 2017 and then suspended for an entire year in June 2017.
7 Doing Well: Bjorn Werner
The German-born Werner first came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student in high school. Despite just two years of high school football, he was a three-star prospect and ended up at Florida State. After winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, Werner turned pro and was a first -round pick by the Colts. But the ability that Werner showed as a prep never materialized as a pro and the defensive end notched just 6.5 sacks in his career.
After three years in the NFL, he then headed back to Germany where he worked as a color commentator for German broadcasts of NFL games.
He has also founded Gridiron Imports, which is a German-based company that helps evaluate German football players who have an interest in playing the game in the United States. Just as Werner did in high school, the company will then help those prospects locate a high school, JUCO or college that will help them live out their dream of playing American football.
6 Doing Terribly: Matt Elam
Only two people in the last 15 years have won Mr. Football Award in a Florida high school and then gone onto the University of Florida: Tim Tebow and Matt Elam. The safety was an All-American as a junior and then left school early to join the NFL. The Ravens had high hopes for him as not only did they take him in the first round, but they slotted him into Ed Reed’s position as the team declined on re-signing the future Hall of Famer. Since joining Baltimore in 2013, Elam has had half as many interceptions (1) as he had arrests (2).
He last played in the 2016 season where he had all of four tackles, and no team has shown interest in him since then. Elam was arrested for drug possession in February 2017 and then arrested again for battery and theft in May 2017. If any team decides to take a chance on Elam and sign him to a contract, he will first have to serve a six-game suspension for violating NFL policy.
5 Doing Well: Anthony Gonzalez
A-Gon was supposed to be the next great Colts receiver following the likes of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. He was taken in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft and joined the Super Bowl champs, but Gonzalez struggled to stay healthy. He caught 94 passes through his first two seasons, but just 5 more passes over the last three years of his career. In 2012 he left the Colts and signed with New England, but after getting cut, he retired and enrolled in Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
He was more successful in grad school than the School of Peyton Manning, as he received his MBA from Stanford.
In August 2017, he filed to run for the US House of Representatives in Ohio in 2018. Among the people who have donated to his campaign are Manning, former Colts teammate Austin Collie and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.
4 Doing Terribly: John McCargo
McCargo was a surprise first-round pick by the Bills in 2006 and it was an even bigger surprise that Buffalo traded up to get him considering he was expected to be a second- or third-round pick. Seemingly as soon as the Bills drafted McCargo, they tried to rid themselves of him as they traded him in 2008, only for the deal to be voided when he couldn’t pass his physical with the new team. McCargo would ultimately play 44 games in the NFL (one start) and recorded all of 2.5 sacks. In October 2017 McCargo was arrested on three different charges in two different states. He was arrested in Virginia for gun and drug charges while also being wanted in California for domestic violence. His NFL career is undoubtedly over and the CFL probably won’t be calling any time soon either.
3 Doing Well: Aaron Maybin
Maybin played in just 26 games in college before leaving for the NFL early. Perhaps he should have stuck around at Penn State a bit longer, as he was physically overmatched in the NFL. He was the 11th-overall pick in 2009 and played two years with the Bills and then two years with the Jets. Maybin recorded six sacks in the 2011 season but zero sacks in his other three seasons combined. He announced his retirement in 2014 and then became an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. He opened an art studio in Baltimore and released a book titled Art Activism. He currently teaches art at an elementary school in Maryland and in 2017, he brought light to the destitute conditions that he and his students had to endure in a classroom without any heat.
Hey Twitter this is my bro Aaron Maybin who is a educator here in Baltimore! Currently his classroom has no heat and have electric issues. This is not the only case there a plenty of classrooms just the same pic.twitter.com/KFT3Dx6pG0— FLOW WEEKEND FEB 8-11 (@ITSDJFLOW) January 3, 2018
2 Doing Terribly: Trent Richardson
Hailing from the same hometown as Emmitt Smith, much was expected when Trent Richardson came out of Alabama. No one expected him to surpass Smith’s rushing records, but also, no one expected him to fall about 17,000 yards short.
Richardson became too addicted to weight lifting once he left college, became too bulky, and lacked the explosiveness which made him a force at Alabama.
He showed no improvement in the NFL, and actually got worst at each stop. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry in Cleveland, 3.1 yards per carry in Indianapolis, couldn’t make the team out of preseason in Oakland, and couldn’t even make the preseason roster in Baltimore.
In 2017 he was also arrested for domestic violence, which has pretty much ended any hopes of an NFL comeback. He last played in the CFL for four games in 2017 and returned to the only place he had success – the sidelines of Alabama during their CFP run.
1 Doing Well: Tim Tebow
Many (especially those in North Florida) consider Tim Tebow to be the greatest college football player of all-time. He did everything there is to do with the Florida Gators including two national championships, two SEC Player of the Year awards and a Heisman trophy. Many also consider Tebow to be the worst quarterback in NFL history because, quite simply, he couldn’t throw. He was taken 25th overall in the 2010 draft after the Broncos traded three draft picks to land another first round pick.
In three NFL seasons, Tebow completed under 48 percent of his passes but still won a playoff game vs. Pittsburgh in what’s considered one of the biggest postseason upsets in NFL history. Tebow spent some time on the Patriots and Eagles offseason squads but hasn’t played in a game since the 2012 season.
He then took up baseball, where he has been moderately successful as a minor league player within the Mets organization. However, his most success has come as an ESPN broadcaster for the SEC Network, and he even co-hosted Good Morning America shortly before a Super Bowl.