Top 15 Recent NFL Draft Busts: Where Are They Now?

Some first round selections go on to dominate the NFL from their rookie season, a la Peyton Manning.

Others go the Aaron Curry route and are out of the league in three pathetic years.

The label of bust is one of the most embarrassing titles to have bestowed upon an athlete that is expected to deliver a franchise from the muck and the mire. There are at least a handful of busts in each NFL draft, and where fans initially see a potential superstar, a stretch of disappointment is destined to be reality. From not working out with the team, to getting involved with the wrong crowd, to drugs, the opportunities to turn into a team's instant regret are much larger than being able to transcend the organization's expectations.

What happens to those failures after the fact, though? For some of the most infamous busts drafted in the last ten years, we'll take an inside look at their lives after football. From arrests to comeback attempts, coaching gigs to running a gym, the best of the worst have a wide array of life choices made after their time on the gridiron came to an abrupt end. Of course, a few managed to continue their careers, finding roles on other teams who think they can turn the bust's failures into some semblance of a productive career.

Making it into the NFL is a massive accomplishment no matter what happens after that. Those first rounders have made more money in one year than most can expect to make in their lifetime, but the fact remains: the label bust will always be attached to these names.

In respect to young players still finding their footing in this league the cutoff date for all busts has been limited to 2013, giving players drafted in 2014 and later a reasonable chance to prove themselves.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

15 Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009)

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Darrius Heyward-Bey could never live up to the expectations hoisted upon him at that draft slot. Regardless of that, DHB will go down as one of the worst top-10 selections in modern draft history. Late Raiders owner Al Davis chose the fastest player in that class but neglected to actually find out if the Maryland wide receiver could catch a ball. During his rookie year, Heyward-Bey managed to catch just nine out of 40 targets, a measly 22.5% catch rate. Peaking during his third season with 975 yards on the year, DHB regressed back into the disappointment that Oakland knew and loved.

Now you can find Hey-Bey streaking down the field in Pittsburgh. Through eight games played this season, the journeyman wideout has caught five passes for 68 yards. He's managed to nearly rush for as many, galloping for 60 yards against the Miami Dolphins in Week 6. Most certified busts in this league fizzle out and are gone in a matter of years, but the staying power of Heyward-Bey is something to be appreciated despite his shortcomings based on his draft status.

14 Barkevious Mingo (2013)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Among the Cleveland Browns' misfires in the draft, Barkevious Mingo is a strong contender for their worst selection in the top-10. Given how many picks the Browns have had in that range, there is a ton of competition for that dubious title. Mingo's career at LSU convinced almost every NFL scout and ESPN analyst that he would be a rampant success as an elite pass rusher in the league. What resulted was seven sacks, 72 total tackles, and one interception in four years, a rousing letdown of what could have been a great career chasing quarterbacks.

Mingo has since been traded to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round draft pick, and it looks increasingly more like the Browns won that trade. Mingo has played in 12 games for the Pats this season and has recorded just four tackles so far. The reclamation project that Bill Belichick and company believed they could pull off has failed superbly so far, although it has not affected their wins and losses, dropping just two games to the Bills and Seahawks. He's mostly been involved in special teams and has even earned Belichick's praise at times throughout the campaign. This could be Mingo's final year in the league, however, if he cannot produce on a consistent level. If he has any further use in him, New England is the place for Mingo to be.

13 Brady Quinn (2007)

via ftw.com

Brady Quinn was one of Notre Dame's finest quarterbacks to take the field in the last two decades, leading the Fighting Irish to two straight BCS Bowl Games. Unfortunately for Quinn, those successful years under head coach Charlie Weis did not translate into NFL prosperity. Drafted 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2007, Quinn was out of the league by 2014. In those seven years, the Columbus, Ohio native played in 24 games and threw for over 3,000 yards with a touchdown to interception ratio of 12-17 and a QBR high of 35.11. For all the excitement coming out of college, Quinn proved to be less than advertised. The moment that it became clear he was not what he appeared to be was when the Notre Dame standout plummeted from a top-five pick all the way down to the low-20s.

After his career fizzled out, Quinn married his college sweetheart and went on to begin working as a broadcaster for Fox Sports. He's covered NFL and college football matchups, and even has a spectacular gaffe committed on-air already. Working alongside Joe Davis, Quinn has begun calling a full slate of college games and is primed to become a fresh, young voice in the world of football analysis and broadcasting. While the ex-Brown QB works on becoming the next Kirk Herbstreit, he can pick apart which young signal callers might end up like him someday.

12 Vernon Gholston (2008)

via youtube.com

Life in New York City is never easy. From waitresses to stock brokers, the challenges presented for everyone to wallow in are endless. Athletes in this town are then subjected to the scrutiny of millions who rise and fall with the team, calling out any player who does not live up to the expectations thrust upon them. Vernon Gholston, the proud Ohio State sack specialist, committed the mortal sin of both stinking up the joint every weekend and questioning how committed the coaching staff was to his success. Gholston was quoted in a 2011 interview while in camp with the Chicago Bears, saying, "I heard how he was perceiving me before the [2008] draft, before he knew me, and I was the same way -- I wasn't hoping for him to be [my] first coach of the Jets when I was there, either." Now, it seems Rex is the one who got it right after all these years.

The defensive end mounted several comeback attempts in his quest to prove to himself and others that he belongs in the league. Unfortunately for him, those Twitter fingers wound up being stronger than his actions. Tryouts surfaced with the Bears, Rams, and most recently with Washington, but nothing panned out for Gholston. While he continues to actively pursue a career in the NFL, the 30-year-old faces an uphill battle in age, talent, and reputation. General managers across the league would be wise to turn away Gholston for further examination.

11 Jahvid Best (2010)

via sportingnews.com

There are few stories sadder than the one featuring Jahvid Best. Drafted 30th overall by the Detroit Lions in 2010, the speedster out of Cal was supposed to be the feature back in Motown for a good stretch. After several seasons were disrupted because of concussions, something that has plagued the NFL silently in the past and quite boisterously now, Best was forced into retirement for medical reasons. For less than two seasons, the sprinter had accomplished his goal of being in the league, but a stretch of unluckiness ended all that. Rather than give up on being a professional athlete and work as a personal trainer or sell vitamins, which are both fine professions, Best had a contingency plan in place.

After going back to school and helping the Cal football team, the former NFL running back wanted to run in track and field events so he could satisfy his athletic desires. It is hard to come up with a better introduction into the Olympic Games than racing Usain Bolt in the 100m in Rio. As the first NFL player to compete in a track and field competition at the Olympic Games, Best is a trailblazer in his own right. He and the rest of the field were blown away by the magnanimous Bolt, but making it to that grand of a stage is something not many before him have done. Rather than running for the United States, Best represented St. Lucia.

10 Vince Young (2006)

via bustedcoverage.com

The 2006 draft produced two of the all-time least impressive quarterbacks to be taken in the top-five. Vince Young, taken third behind Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, had some level of success in his pro career in contrast to his comrades on this list. What gave him the label of bust, however, was how unhinged he became after several seasons in Tennessee. Oddly enough, there were only two years where he did not throw more interceptions than touchdowns and he managed to make the Pro Bowl twice. Poor diet, depression and a big-head thwarted what might have been a good stint in the league. With only Longhorn fans still cherishing memories of Young, the former Jeff Fisher project will be remembered as a failure in Nashville.

Young has most recently been arrested after catching a DWI in Texas last winter. While working with his alma mater, the former Heisman finalist is in a position to influence young men and so far he is doing a poor job. Resting on the laurels of a National Championship that he won over ten years ago will not cut it anymore, and Young needs to be a leader now more than ever. As an analyst on the Longhorn Network, his career was in question when officials found out about his indiscretions. Young has remained with the network, however, but will be under much tighter scrutiny after creating such a dangerous situation.

9 Matt Leinart (2006)

via insidesocal.com

The other part of the 2006 quarterback odd couple, Heisman winner Matt Leinart, fared just about as poorly as his Lone Star counterpart. Drafted by the Cardinals 10th overall, Leinart gave the Arizona fanbase something to be excited about for two whole seconds. After head coach Denny Green was fired, Ken Whisenhunt came in and shut down Leinart, for the most part, in favor of Kurt Warner. The USC legend last played in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders in 2012.

Life has been kind to Leinart post-football. He is now married to actress Josie Loren, owns a $2.245 million home, and is working as one of Fox's top football analysts and covers a ton of PAC 12 action. Leinart is still salty with coach Whisenhunt and even applauded the Tennessee Titans for firing him after drafting Marcus Mariota. As mad as he is about that decision, which earned the Cards a spot in the Super Bowl against the Steelers, the blame for his benching should be put squarely on the shoulders of the lefty. Actions on the field speak much louder than anything said away from it.

8 Jake Locker (2011)

via businessinsider.com

Jake Locker represents part of the resurgence in Washington Huskies football within the last half decade. The Tennessee Titans bought into the hype and selected the northwest gunslinger 8th overall, not having the foresight to know he would be riddled with injuries and lose his passion for the game. Having played in just 30 games, Locker displayed flashes of what could have been but ultimately suffered from poor accuracy and an even worse offensive line. Tennessee should not feel too terrible about picking a dud at quarterback in the 2011 draft, however, as there was a minefield of bad choices to avoid.

Locker is now taking the $12.5 million he made in four years of tossing the pigskin and going home to Ferndale, Washington to focus on his family and new business ventures. He's been re-modeling a home with his wife, spending time with his children, and working on Locker Room Fitness, a local gym that both he and ex-Tampa Bay punter Michael Koenen bought in 2014. No matter what anyone thinks of Locker's decision to leave the league, stepping away from a violent sport in good health while being a multi-millionaire is a fantastic move.

7 E.J. Manuel (2013)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The abysmal 2013 draft produced a class worth forgetting. Not least of all is quarterback E.J. Manuel, who was once hailed both as the savior of the franchise and a sign of desperation for a team that has not been to the playoffs in well over a decade. If anyone has a friend that is a Bills fan, then they know that exact sinking feeling whenever Manuel is brought up in conversation. Buffalo has gone through a string of awful play under center, rivaling the Browns in ineptitude at that position, and Manuel has been peak-bad. In 27 games, the former Seminole threw for over 3,400 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.

Rex Ryan has elected to keep the former first-rounder on the roster as the backup, but the Bills are expected to release him once this season concludes. The team-option for his fifth year was not picked up, and the market for a backup QB who has as much to prove as Manuel will be slim. He may find a home in somewhere like Cleveland, but the odds of any organization taking a flyer on this failed experiment are slim to none.

6 Trent Richardson (2012)

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

No one could have seen the derailment of Trent Richardson's NFL career coming within the first three years of him being in the league. The Alabama Heisman trophy winner rumbled through his collegiate competition with relative ease en route to a national championship and all the praise in the world. Selected third overall by the world's worst scouts in Cleveland, he was dealt after a deceivingly productive rookie season in which he ran for 950 yards, 11 TDs, and gave modest contribution in the passing game. His 3.6 yards per carry indicated to the Browns that the future would be bleak for Richardson. Only an organization in complete disarray would have given up the king's ransom it took to trade up for the Heisman winner.

After being cut by the Indianapolis Colts, who surrendered a first-round pick that the Browns squandered away yet again, Richardson began looking for a new team. After failing to make the Ravens this offseason due to medical issues, per head coach John Harbaugh, the comeback mounted by the desperate rambler has fallen flat. If Harbaugh is to be believed, however, not all is lost yet, "I talked to him at length about a lot of things -- about life and his career -- but also about potentially coming back. He's definitely still on our radar." It could be that the Super Bowl winning boss is not just blowing smoke, and seeing Richardson back in Baltimore could be a realistic scenario in 2017.

5 Blaine Gabbert (2011)

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

If you were not paying attention to the Blaine Gabbert-era Jacksonville Jaguars, welcome to the clear majority. As unwatchable as Gabbert was, and still is, those luscious locks of his do not deserve the ridicule that comes with being attached to such a disappointment. The Jags have been perpetually horrendous since 2008, with their last winning season coming in 2007 under quarterback David Garrard. Apparently, no one cared about skill-level in the 2011 draft when it came to the quarterback position, especially considering that the Missouri QB was taken 10th overall.

Surprisingly, Gabbert is still in the league and has started for Chip Kelly's dreadful 49ers on and off this 2016 season. The one-win squad has been reeling and the lack of adequacy is not absolutely attributable to the struggling play caller, but he certainly has not been helping the cause. Being benched for a depleted Colin Kaepernick has not exactly been a career highlight, but luckily for Gabbert, Kaep is just as useless and Kelly has once again called upon the former Jaguar to save his job in the NFL.

4 Christian Ponder (2011)

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The third and final quarterback that burned from the 2011 draft class has also found his way onto the roster in San Francisco but somehow managed to be worse than both Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Christian Ponder, drafted 12th overall, looked like a possible answer in Minnesota to their quarterback woes. He had a better situation than most rookie quarterbacks ever do, surrounded by a decent offensive line, an admittedly average receiving core, and the coup de gras, Adrian Peterson. Anytime you can hand the ball off to a future Hall of Fame running back, the job of a young quarterback becomes that much easier. Ponder ultimately suffered from turnovers and injuries which derailed his career in the Twin Cities. After what seemed like the turning point in the second year of his Vikings' stint, in which Ponder racked up nearly 3,000 passing yards and 18 touchdowns, but everything came crashing down around him shortly thereafter.

Earlier this season when San Francisco was considering a change at quarterback, there was a movement to replace Gabbert with Ponder. Kaepernick took over the job, but there is still a feeling that the fans packing Levi's Stadium want to see what the former first-rounder can do. For a team with little to lose, it would be interesting to trot out Ponder just to see what he can do. As a sixth-year veteran who showed promise earlier in his career, unlike Gabbert, he may be able to offer his team a better chance at winning. The only positive the organization can look forward to is a top-three draft pick, so the question remains: why not?

3 Aaron Curry (2009)

via twitter.com

In what has turned out to be a rare miss on draft night for the Seattle Seahawks lately, Aaron Curry makes a great case to be labeled the biggest bust of all time. Curry turned in three pathetic seasons for the Seahawks and Raiders after being lauded as a lock for greatness. Seattle smartly cut their losses and managed to get some assets in return for the fourth overall pick, realizing how hopeless it would be to salvage Curry's career. The Wake Forest dud never got another contract after his rookie deal.

You can now find Curry on the sidelines as a defensive line coach for the Charlotte 49ers. The Conference USA team has brought on an in-state celebrity to coach up their young men in order to bring credibility to a program in desperate need of it. Curry was able to move away from the west coast to back home in North Carolina, something that likely brought him the comfort he sorely missed out in Seattle and Oakland. His new career will allow him to give back and continue staying involved in the game he loves. If things work out for Curry in Charlotte, don't be surprised if you see him moving on up in the coaching world.

2 Johnny Manziel (2014)

via movietvtechgeeks.com

Despite the reluctance to call anyone from the 2014 draft class a bust yet, Johnny Manziel is impossible to ignore. As the last in a seemingly endless line of Browns players on this list, and leaving Brandon Weeden off was a difficult thing to do, Johnny Football represents one of the most dramatic crash-and-burns in the history of the league. After two seasons with the Browns that resulted in seven touchdowns, seven interceptions, and seven fumbles, Manziel lost the faith of the coaching staff and the executives. Partying habits cost the Texas A&M star the trust of the people around him and took his focus away from the game much to the dismay of the fans, coaching staff, and his own family. The last time the Browns won a game coincidentally, was when Johnny Football was under center.

Manziel has since gone off the deep end, falling into addiction and causing his parents to publicly reach out to him through the media in an effort to get the former quarterback into rehab. TMZ has been one of the major outlets chronicling his descent, but the former Heisman winner has done plenty to show off just how quickly his life in spiraling down the drain. Having made just over $5 million with the Browns, he has not been shy in flaunting that cash. Manziel recently dropped $35,000 on his birthday celebration, partying with DJ Khaled, and buying $3,000 bottles of Armand de Brignac. Back in February of this year Paul Manziel, Johnny's father, ventured that his son would be dead by the age of 24 if he did not get any help.

1 JaMarcus Russell (2007)

via si.com

JaMarcus Russell epitomized the Oakland Raiders organization for the better part of a decade. While that is a hefty claim to heave upon the bust of all busts, especially since Russell only played for three years in the NFL, it is hard to find a player so useless from the get-go drafted so highly. Every analyst managed to misfire on how the prospect of Russell's career and the former LSU stud hoodwinked a host of scouts in the league. Laziness, poor diet, and a lack of work ethic all contributed in concert to the demise of JaMarcus. No team wanted to take a flyer on the former number one overall after the arrest for possession of controlled substances, and the player that looked like the next big thing found himself staring absolute failure in the face.

Russell has attempted several comebacks and his most recent one took place this offseason. He wrote letters to every NFL team and noted all his flaws that the media has been ripping him on since he entered the league. The $39 million-man vowed he would work for free, in exchange to be able to get a chance to run plays on the scout team for experience. There were some lessons learned by the 31-year-old, and it seems like he has matured since several run-ins with the law, "My tribulations have humbled me. I am a better man because of my struggles, and I simply desire an opportunity [to] redeem myself."

It is doubtful that any organization will be desperate enough to kick the tires on a washed-up has-been that cannot throw a football with any accuracy, but it has occurred in the past. Russell managed to get a tryout with the Chicago Bears in 2013, but he did not make it to training camp. Though it may be a long shot, you may not have heard the last of JaMarcus Russell.

More in NFL