The NFL Draft, for all intents and purposes, is an inexact science that would be impossible to perfect. Trying to figure out which players, almost all of which are 22 years old or younger, will be stars on the professional level is no easy task. Sometimes you have to take the ones that have the most potential and wish for the best. More often than not, you won’t be getting a lot of production from a player even if they were first round picks, leading to the “bust” label.
At the skill positions, it seems that busts are more common since these players stand out the most. Thanks to fantasy football and big contracts and a lot of commercial attention, the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions are front and centre. After being a bust though, it seems that a player will fade away from the public eye after their careers have ended. Some have really seen their lives fall apart just like their NFL careers, while others have managed to start a new chapter in their lives and be relatively successful.
Let’s take a look back at some of the biggest busts from each of these positions to see what they’re up to today. Some have struggled while others have found that being away from all of that pressure has actually been great for their personal lives.
15 QB: Ryan Leaf
In 1998, the debate was heated between who should go first in the NFL Draft between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. It was Manning first, and then Leaf at the second slot to the Chargers. While Manning had a Hall of Fame worthy career, Leaf lasted just three seasons on active rosters and a fourth year with the Seahawks offseason squad before leaving the NFL.
Leaf turned his attention to working in finance, but would run into some legal trouble due to substance abuse problems. After going into rehab, Leaf announced in 2017 that he had been sober for four years running, and is now working as a Program Ambassador for Transcend Recovery Communication. He’s also started a foundation that raises money for people who can’t afford treatment.
14 RB: Trent Richardson
A Doak Walker Award winner and two-time champion at Alabama, Trent Richardson was the most coveted running back in 2012’s NFL Draft class. Richardson was the third overall pick behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, with the Browns rolling the dice. Richardson had a solid first season, but in 2013 was traded to the Indianapolis Colts.
From there, his career tanked pretty quickly, and he struggled in 2014, his final season on an active roster. Richardson got feelers from the Raiders and Ravens, but never saw the field. In 2017, Richardson signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. In his first season, Richardson collected 259 rushing yards and two touchdowns in four games. Richardson would miss much of the season due to an injury, but hopes to play again in 2018.
13 WR: Desmond Howard
Yes, Desmond Howard did have the honour of winning the Super Bowl MVP Award in Super Bowl XXXI for the Green Bay Packers, but that was the one shining moment of his NFL career. Otherwise, the former fourth overall pick in 1992 by the Washington Redskins could be deemed a bust, unless kick returners are worthy of a top five pick. The former Heisman winner lasted just three years in Washington, and retired in 2002 after spending time with the Jaguars, Packers, Raiders and Lions.
In those 10 years, Howard had just 1,597 receiving yards. Of course, since then, you’ve probably seen him on television. Howard has been working with ESPN for more than a decade, and since 2005 has been part of the “College Gameday” crew.
12 QB: Rick Mirer
It’s been quite some time since Notre Dame has produced a successful NFL quarterback, and one that many thought was going to be a star was Rick Mirer. In 1993, the Seahawks made Mirer the second overall selection, but things wouldn’t last. After four seasons, Mirer would leave and spend time with the Bears, Packers, Jets, 49ers, Raiders and Lions before finishing up his career in 2004.
Mirer enjoyed retirement for a couple of years, then decided to get into the wine business. In 2008, Mirer launched a winery called Mirror Napa Valley that’s still in business today. Mirer has used this business to help his charity, the Mirer Family Foundation. About his business, Mirer said that he doesn’t want to push the football aspect behind the label as “There’s enough goofy sports guy wines.”
11 RB: Curtis Enis
Not only did Penn State have arguably the biggest running back draft bust, but they might have had the second biggest, as well. In 1998, the Chicago Bears drafted Nittany Lions star Curtis Enis with the fifth overall pick. Enis would last for three seasons in Chicago, and played in 2001 with the Browns before retiring due to knee degeneration. He finished his career with 1,497 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Enis has held a few different jobs since retiring, including working as a receiving department supervisor. Since 2014, he has been working with Anheuser-Busch as an operations supervisor. Enis also spent time as a youth football coach, becoming the head coach of a school in Bradford, Ohio for a few years before leaving the job when he went to Anheuser-Busch.
10 WR: Charles Rogers
Another former Detroit Lion from a Michigan school, Charles Rogers was a standout at Michigan State, winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2002 as college’s best wide receiver. The Lions decided they couldn’t pass up the local product, making him the second overall pick in 2003. Due to a series of injuries and personal issues, Rogers lasted just three seasons in the league (all with Detroit), putting up just 440 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Rogers admitted that he had substance abuse problems and has been arrested several times since his post-playing career. Rogers now helps to run an auto repair shop in Fort Myers, Florida though he admits to not knowing much about cars. Now much lighter than his playing weight of 205 pounds, Rogers says that he’s still struggling, but his life has been much quieter as of late and most of his money is now gone. “I’ve done so much for so many people, and I can’t ask them for [anything]” he said.
9 QB: Todd Marinovich
After his father pushed him from a very young age to be a star NFL quarterback, there was a lot of pressure on Todd Marinovich. He seemed like a sure thing coming out of high school, but would have his struggles at USC. Still, the raw potential was there, and Marinovich was the 24th overall pick in 1991 by the Raiders. He played in just two seasons, however, throwing eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Marinovich would play in the CFL for one year, but substance abuse took him away from football, leading to a return in 1999 to Canada. He would play two more season with an Arena League team in Los Angeles, then walked away once more in 2001. After being arrested in 2016 for possession, Marinovich tried to find focus once again and became the quarterback for the SoCal Coyotes of the World Developmental League.
8 RB: Ki-Jana Carter
Running backs don’t go number one overall very often, but there was an exception in 1995 when the Bengals made Penn State star Ki-Jana Carter the top pick. Carter wouldn’t play in his first season after getting injured in the preseason, and it would affect the rest of his career. He missed significant time in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Overall, Carter played for three NFL teams, totalling 1,144 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.
In 2004, Carter retired from the NFL and started focusing on the business side of things. He started a website called OPENSports, as well as a sanitation company. The company, Byoglobe, specializes in disinfecting facilities that are at risk for a MRSA outbreak. Carter is the CEO of the company, which has been open for a decade.
7 WR: Troy Williamson
Troy Williamson wasn’t the biggest receiver coming out of college, but he sure was fast. Williamson was a former track star and standout on the University of South Carolina football team. In 2005, the Vikings decided that he would be the perfect fit alongside Randy Moss, and made him the seventh overall pick in 2005’s draft. He would end up with just 1,067 yards and three touchdowns over his three seasons, though.
The Vikings traded Williamson to the Jaguars, in 2008, but in two seasons had just 64 yards and one touchdown. After his release in 2010, Williamson was out of the league. Now back in Aiken, South Carolina, Williamson runs a restaurant (Which 'Wich?) and obsesses over his fantasy football team. He’s also been giving speeches about his playing career and growing up in the inner-city.
6 QB: JaMarcus Russell
A man of tremendous stature, LSU product JaMarcus Russell was the clear-cut number one pick in 2007 when the Oakland Raiders started the draft by picking him. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work out at all as Russell played in just three seasons, passing for 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
After looking for a new home, but not getting any offers, Russell was out of the league. After four years away from football, Russell attempted a comeback, but did not receive a workout. He would try again in 2016, and no teams responded to his request for a tryout. Russell says he’s now at peace with not being able to make it back to the NFL, and still has quite a bit of money to live off of. He’s coaching youth football these days, and says that avoiding injuries and head trauma has made walking away from football much easier.
5 RB: Blair Thomas
Sorry Penn State fans, but the list of running back busts isn’t over just yet. The 1990s saw one more former Nittany Lion product flop in the NFL, this time in the form of Blair Thomas. Thomas was the second overall selection by the Jets in 1990 after an All-American season. Thomas played in four seasons with the Jets, but then bounced around the league for two years, calling it quits after 1995 and finishing with 2,236 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
With his playing career over, Thomas became the running backs coach at Temple University for nearly a decade. Thomas has also been running his own business called eMMortal Enterprises, and has even gone into the restaurant business by partnering for a sports bar chain called KoKoMos.
4 WR: Lam Jones
John “Lam” Jones had all the speed in the world coming out of Texas. Not only was he a star wide receiver, but he was also a gold medalist in 1976 at the Olympics in Montreal during the 4x100 meter relay. The Jets weren’t able to say no to that type of speed, and made him the second overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft.
Jones’s career would last for just five seasons (all with the Jets), and he posted a paltry 2,322 yards and 13 touchdowns during that time. Substance abuse problems would start for Jones, hampering his career and then getting him into legal trouble. Jones would go into rehab where he successfully avoided further issues and became a motivational speaker for schools across the country. Jones had a health scare in 2005 after being diagnosed with cancer, but went into remission.
3 QB: Heath Shuler
Redskins fans that complain about Kirk Cousins probably aren’t old enough to remember the days of quarterbacks such as Heath Shuler. The Redskins drafted Shuler with the third overall pick out of Tennessee in 1994, and struggled from the get-go. He would spend three seasons in Washington and two more with the Saints, but never achieved greatness at just 15 touchdowns and 33 interceptions thrown.
Shuler would change career paths, going into politics. In 2007, the former draft bust won the election for North Carolina’s 11th district for the US House of Representatives. Shuler served in the position for six years, retiring from the House in 2013. Afterward, Shuler became a lobbyist with Duke Energy and is still living in Washington, D.C., even if he’s not a fan favourite in the area.
2 RB: D.J. Dozier
Of course, if you’re talking about Penn State running back busts in the NFL, the final member of the quartet, D.J. Dozier, has to be added. Dozier was an All-American in 1986 at Penn State, and the Vikings used the 14th overall pick on him hoping that he could eventually be the star over Darrin Nelson. Unfortunately, in four seasons, Dozier would play in just 37 games and collect 643 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Dozier then spent minimal time on the field in one season with the Lions before he attempted to continue his baseball career. He played in just 25 MLB games with the Mets, hitting .191 with no home runs. Dozier is now back in his home state of Virginia where he works with Verizon as a Global Partner of Sports & Entertainment Properties.
1 WR: David Terrell
Keeping it in the state of Michigan, former Wolverine star David Terrell had the size and speed that should have made him a slam dunk NFL star. The Chicago Bears, desperate for a wideout, saw his potential and used the eighth overall selection to take Terrell in 2001. Terrell would see action in just four regular seasons, all with the Bears. During that time, he amassed just 1,602 yards and nine touchdowns.
Terrell attempted to prolong his career after 2004, but would not see the playing field again. He attempted a comeback in 2009, but it came up short. He then was arrested for drug possession in 2013, though the charges were acquitted. Now, Terrell is watching his son try his hand at a football career. After receiving some glances from big schools, Terrell Jr. wound up at Howard University.
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