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Top 20 NFL Players Who Should Have Been Better Than They Were

Russell Wilson is currently locked in a contentious contract dispute with his team, the Seattle Seahawks. As a third round pick earning a third rounder’s salary, Wilson has been the most criminally underpaid player since entering the league. However, two Super Bowl appearances, including a Super Bowl XLVIII victory, in three seasons has earned him quite a bit of leverage in negotiations. Whether Seattle decides to pay Wilson a top-tier salary remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Russell Wilson has exceeded all expectations.

Players like Wilson are scattered throughout the league: guys who nobody saw coming. Guys like Tom Brady, who had to wait for six other quarterbacks to hear their names called on draft day before he could go win his four Super Bowls. Guys like Arian Foster, who is still waiting for that draft day call four Pro Bowls and a rushing title later. These are the guys who came into the league and put it all together. They hit their peak in the pros and capitalized on every ounce of their potential.

But for every Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Arian Foster, there are dozens of players whose full potential goes unrealized. These are the guys who will frustrate you to no end. Sometimes it’s a high draft pick crushed under the weight of colossal expectations, sometimes it’s a talented but troubled player plagued by off-field issues, and too often it’s a player whose promising career is cut short by injury. These are the guys who have it all in college only to have it all fall apart in the pros. These are the guys who have had great success in the league but they should have had even greater. Whatever the case, NFL history is littered with players whose careers are defined by what could have been.

20 20. Adam "Pacman" Jones

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

19 19. Lawrence Phillips

via chicagotribune.com

18 18. Justin Blackmon

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

17 17. Randy Moss

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Randy Moss is a great player. A future Hall of Fame player. He was also the victim of his own lackadaisical attitude. He’s certainly not the first diva receiver, but he did popularize his own brand of “play when I want to” football. Following his first down year in Minnesota, Moss was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2005 where he proceeded to lose interest in football and fade into obscurity. When traded to the New England Patriots two seasons later, a rejuvenated Moss broke Jerry Rice’s single season touchdown record upon arrival. Once ousted from New England, Moss regressed to his disinterested, locker room obstructive ways during a brief reunion with Minnesota, as well as stints with Tennessee and San Francisco. Moss is an all time great receiver. But he could have been the greatest.

16 16. Andre Ware

via sportsmockery.com

15 15. Reggie Bush

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

14 14. Aundray Bruce

via sikids.com

13 13. Ricky Williams

via ftw.usatoday.com

12 12. Vernon Gholston

via nypost.com

11 11. Charles Rogers

via nflhu.blog.hu

10 10. Robert Gallery

via seahawksgab.com

9 9. Albert Haynesworth

via profootballmock.com

8 8. Larry Johnson

via sportsblink.com

7 7. Maurice Clarett

via athletepromotions.com

6 6. Tim Couch

via nflrt.com

5 5. Tony Mandarich

via chatsports.com

4 4. Terrell Davis

via thesportsfanjournal.com

3 3. Ryan Leaf

via foxsports.com

2 2. Sterling Sharpe

via allgbp.com

1 1. Greg Cook

via rsvlts.com

In 1969, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Walsh had just drafted a hometown quarterback named Greg Cook. Having coached the likes of Joe Montana and Steve Young, Walsh would go on to say that Cook “could very well have been remembered as the greatest quarterback of all time.” In his rookie season, Cook led Bengals to a 3 - 0 start before tearing his rotator cuff. With limited medical knowledge of this type of injury at the time, team doctors held Cook out of game action for just three weeks. Playing through the injury, Cook still managed to lead the league in passing and win Rookie of the Year. However, by the time he finally had surgery on the shoulder in the offseason, the injuries had worsened beyond repair. Cook would attempt to salvage his career, but unsuccessfully. He was released at 27 years old, never to play another down. His former teammate Bob Trump would say years later, “I don’t know what he would’ve done if he’d played ten or twelve years. I think my fingers would probably be filled with Super Bowl rings.”

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Top 20 NFL Players Who Should Have Been Better Than They Were