Every year when the NFL draft comes around fans from every team begin the off-season with some kind of renewed optimism. Whether it’s a run at a Super Bowl title or selecting a player that is deemed the savior for a struggling franchise, this is the time of year where hope springs eternal. Well, maybe not eternal but for at least till the start of the preseason.
But over the last 20 years some of the biggest busts in NFL draft history have been selected, setting back and affecting franchises in every negative way imaginable. Every franchise that drafted a player on this list hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1981 or has never won a Super Bowl. With that being said, here are five of the worse draft picks in the last 20 years and what they are doing now.
The former University of Kentucky QB was the first overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in 1999. Being 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Couch had all the physical tools teams look for when selecting a QB. But you can’t spell Couch without OUCH and that’s exactly what happened the first three years of Couch’s career. After being sacked a combined 117 times in his first 38 games Couch ended the 2002 season with a broken leg and was benched for Kelly Holcomb to start the 2003 season. Couch would start the final eight games of the 2003 season for the Browns and in his last game as a starting QB in the NFL, Couch threw for only 115 yards. Couch would sign with the Green Bay Packers in 2004 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, but was cut by both teams before the start of each season. Couch would finish his career with a 59.8 percent pass completion, 11,131 passing yards, and a 64/67 TD/INT ratio. Couch is now an analyst covering the SEC in college football.
Players drafted after Couch: QB Donavan McNabb, RB Edgerrin James, RB Ricky Williams, WR Torry Holt, DB Champ Bailey, DE Jevon Kearse
In 1995 the Cincinnati Bengals drafted the explosive RB out of Penn State. Unfortunately, injuries would derail his career before it ever really started. In his first NFL preseason game ever Carter would tear his ACL on the third carry of the game, missing the entire 1995 season. Over seven injury-plagued seasons Carter would never rush for more than 464 yards in a season. Carter would end his NFL career with 1,144 total rushing yards and 20 TDs. In his last year playing college football Carter totaled 1,539 rushing yards, 395 yards more than his entire NFL career. Carter is now CEO and owner of ByoGlobe a company he started, offering green solutions such as energy savings and eco-friendly products.
Players drafted after Carter: LT Tony Boselli, QB Steve McNair, DE Kevin Carter, DT Warren Sapp, CB Ty Law, LB Derrick Brooks, RB Curtis Martin, RB Terrell Davis
The second overall pick in the 2003 draft, WR Charles Rogers was selected by the Detroit Lions with the hope of making the offense explosive and dangerous. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Rogers drew comparisons to future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens on pure physical ability. Though the comparisons made sense, Rogers’ body could not hold up to the beaten of the NFL. Rogers started his career off with a bang with two TDs in his first NFL regular season game. He would only score two more the rest of his career. Rogers’ talent was so high he was taken before future Hall of Fame WR Andre Johnson. That wasn’t the only thing high, however, since Rogers had issues off the field and with marijuana, testing positive three times — nearly one for every TD scored or one for every year in the NFL. Major injuries also contributed to Rogers’ career ending, breaking a clavicle in back-to-back seasons in 2003 and 2004. The saddest part to all this isn’t being a legendary NFL bust but the fact his off the field issues continued after leaving the NFL. In March 2013, he allegedly threatened to kill his mother in regard to money issues concerning $100,000, had an arrest warrant issued for him for being a no show in court, and has been in and out of rehab. Rogers finished his three year NFL career with 36 catches, 440 receiving yards, and 4 TDs.
Players drafted after Rogers: WR Andre Johnson, CB Terrance Newman, LB Terrell Suggs, DB Troy Polamalu, RB Willis McGahee, LB Lance Briggs, TE Jason Witten
There may never be another QB who has the arm strength or pure physical strength that JaMarcus Russell possessed. Standing at a towering 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Russell was consistently mistaken for a defensive lineman during warmups. The standout LSU tiger was taken with the first overall pick by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis in the 2007 draft. Knowing what is known today it seems almost criminal that the Raiders passed on numerous future Hall of Famers to take the 2007 first team All-SEC QB and Sugar Bowl MVP. After being in the NFL for only three seasons Russell hasn’t been able to convince a team to sign him since being released in 2009. Russell’s current stats stand at 52.1 percent pass completion, 4,083 passing yards, and an 18/23 TD/INT ratio. Russell has been in the news in the last year trying to resurrect his career, but weight and commitment issues have discouraged NFL teams from taking a chance on the 29-year-old.
Players drafted after Russell: WR Calvin Johnson, LT Joe Thomas, RB Adrian Peterson, LB Patrick Willis, RB Marshawn Lynch, CB Darrell Revis
Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf, Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning? Believe it or not but this was a real discussion entering the 1998 NFL draft, with half the scouts believing Leaf was the better pick and should go first overall. Luckily for the Indianapolis Colts they choose the best statistical QB in NFL history, taking Manning first overall and leaving the San Diego Chargers with the second pick and Leaf. Legend has it that during the player interviews the Colts asked Leaf what would be the first thing he would do after being picked first overall and signing a contract instantly making him a millionaire. Leaf responded with a truthful answering saying he would jump on a plane and party in Las Vegas all night. When Manning was asked the same question he looked GM Bill Polian straight in the eyes and gave the greatest answer back, simply saying, “I’m gonna earn it.” The rest would be history as Manning goes on to arguably be the greatest QB in NFL history holding nearly every important record for a QB to this day. Leaf played only four seasons compiling a stat line of 48.4 percent pass completion, 3,666 passing yards, and a 14/36 TD/INT ratio in 25 games. Immaturity and substance abuse played a role in Leaf’s downfall, both during and after his NFL career. After numerous run-ins with law enforcement Leaf was arrested on charges of burglary and possession of a dangerous drug. Leaf pleaded guilty and is serving a five-year sentence in a Montana State prison.
Players drafted after Leaf: DB Charles Woodson, RB Fred Taylor, LB Takeo Spikes, WR Hines Ward, QB Matthew Hasselbeck