Every year teams pour hundreds of hours into college prospects, to find the next potential franchise player. Countless days are spent watching film, visiting with their former coaches, visiting their pro days and hosting personal workouts. The goal is for the team to know exactly everything about the young man so that they can make the decision on whether or not he is a good fit.
Sometimes, it pans out and you end up with a game changer like J.J. Watt, and sometimes you end up with a bust like Vernon Gholston. No position is out of play, as Robert Gallery and Joe Thomas at the tackle position proved.
So that got me thinking, who are the 10 biggest draft busts in NFL history?
10. Heath Schuler – Washington Redskins No. 3 overall, 1994
Shuler was a Heisman runner up at Tennessee and was tagged as the next great NFL quarterback. Yet, by his second year he lost his starting job to Gus Frerotte, a 7th round selection in the same draft as Schuler.
Career stats: 22 starts, 49.2 percent completion rate, 3,691 yards, 15 touchdowns, 33 interceptions. Yikes.
9. Lawrence Phillips – St. Louis Rams No. 6 overall, 1996
Phillips had the size and speed to become a hybrid mix of Berry Sanders and Emmit Smith. His off the field troubles before the draft warranted other teams to pass on him, allowing the Rams to draft him No. 6. The Rams even traded away Jerome Bettis to make room for him in the backfield.
He was arrested multiple times and had issues with head coach Dick Vermeil. In three seasons in the NFL, Phillips amassed 1,453 yards and only 14 touchdowns.
His off the field troubles never ended, as in 2006 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon.
8. Art Schlichter – Indianapolis Colts No. 4 overall, 1982
It’s easy to make the list when you have been banned from the NFL. Schlichter was drafted ahead of players like Marcus Allen, Andre Tippett, Jim McMahon and Mike Munchak.
He was considered to be the future of the Colts, but his gambling addiction spiraled out of control. He was suspended for gambling during the 1983 season, but was reinstated for the 1984 season.
Ultimately Schlichter didn’t even last two full seasons in the NFL after that. The Colts released him five games into the 1985 season, and after he lost millions of dollars. He left the NFL with six career starts, 1,006 yards passing, three touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He never won a game.
Schlichter’s gambling addiction never faded away, in 2012 he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for a sports ticket scheme.
7. Aundray Bruce – Atlanta Falcons No. 1 overall, 1988
Here comes the next Lawrence Taylor, or so the Atlanta Falcons thought when they made Bruce the first overall pick in a class that included the likes of Michael Irvin, Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe, Randall McDaniel and Thurman Thomas.
Although he lasted 11 years in the NFL, Bruce only made 42 starts. He never flourished at the linebacker position. He finished his career with only 32 sacks, four interceptions, and three fumble recoveries.
These are dismal stats for a player taken first overall. The Falcons and Raiders would even try to use him at tight end because of his athletic ability, but nothing could keep Bruce off the all-time bust list.
6. Akili Smith – Cincinatti Bengals No. 3 overall, 1999
Akili Smith was considered by many one of the best quarterback prospects to come out of college in years. The pool at quarterback that year was considered deep as five were taken in the first round. Two, ahead of Smith.
Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb were selected first and second as the Bengals took Smith third overall. Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown also went in the first round that year.
In four seasons with the Bengals, Smith would never fully grasp the playbook and ride the bench. His athletic attributes were not enough to compensate for the learning curve in the league. He started in only 17 games (three wins), throwing for 2,212 yards, five touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Smith was released shortly after the 2002 season.