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Russell supplants Leaf atop list of all-time draft busts

 

Ryan Leaf has waited a long time for this day, the one where his place on the all-time draft bust list matched his draft position: No. 2.

"If I'm going to be the biggest bust, I have to own up to it," Leaf told the Los Angeles Times last month. "I used to go to bed at night hoping somebody else like Heath Shuler might magically leapfrog me on those all-time bust lists.

"It never happened. Why? Because I am No. 1. I can't even think of anyone else in the ballpark that might be close to my combination of disappointment and failed expectations."

Hello, JaMarcus Russell.

And move over -- or should we say down? -- Mr. Leaf.

With the Oakland Raiders' release of Russell on Thursday, there is a new quarterback sitting atop the all-time bust list.

How bad was Russell's short-lived career in Oakland? Consider what the Raiders received with their nearly $40 million investment:

» $5.7 million per victory (7 wins in 25 starts).

» $2.2 million per touchdown pass (18 in three seasons).

» $113,000 per completion (354 in his career).

Those are facts. What follows is one man's opinion of the top 10 NFL draft busts.

1. JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU

It cost the Raiders $36 million to keep Russell -- the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft -- around for three seasons, and they still are on the hook for another $3 million. That's a lot of money for a player who never cared enough about the game.

What he's doing now: Looking for an NFL job.

2. Ryan Leaf, QB, Washington State

Immaturity, a lack of commitment, and a bad temper doomed the second overall pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 1998 draft from the outset. To think the Colts, with the No. 1 overall selection, had given some thought to taking Leaf over Peyton Manning.

What he's doing now: Leaf is serving 10 years of probation after pleading guilty in Amarillo, Texas, to eight felony drug charges and losing his job as an assistant football coach at West Texas A&M.

3. Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky

The top overall pick in the 1999 draft was supposed to be the franchise quarterback for the newly re-coined Cleveland Browns. Although Couch was plagued by nagging injuries and an inexperienced offensive line, he just simply didn't have the makings of an NFL quarterback. After getting cut by the Browns in 2004, he had two failed comebacks that sandwiched a two-year stint in the CFL.

What he's doing now: Couch is married to former Playboy Playmate Heather Kozar, and the couple have two sons. He serves as an analyst for the Big Blue Sports Network for Kentucky Wildcats football games.

Don Heupel / Associated Press
After a successful college career at Oregon, Akili Smith was never able to fulfill his potential in Cincinnati.

4. Akili Smith, QB, Oregon

Taken by the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 3 overall pick in 1999 draft, Smith never grasped the complexities of the NFL game and failed to show the work ethic required to succeed in the league. He started just 17 games over four years with the Bengals, throwing just five touchdowns. He had two failed comebacks with the Packers and Buccaneers before an uneventful, short stint in the CFL.

What he's doing now: In March, Smith became a graduate football assistant at Cal. He was hired by head coach Jeff Tedford, who previously coached Smith at Oregon as offensive coordinator.

5. Heath Shuler, QB, Tennessee

Shuler was a colossal flop after being drafted third overall by the Washington Redskins in 1994. He couldn't pass nearly as well as expected or handle the pressure of playing in the nation's capital. Shuler started just 18 games in his first two years and was benched in his third, losing his job to Gus Frerotte. He was out of the league by 1997.

What he's doing now: Shuler is a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing North Carolina's 11th congressional district since 2007.

6. Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State

The "Incredible Bulk" came into the league as one of the most hyped players in NFL draft history. The No. 2 overall pick of the Packers in 1989 never lived up to the incredible hype, and after just three disappointing seasons in Green Bay, he was cut. Meanwhile, the players chosen around him -- Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders -- were paving their way to the Hall of Fame.

What he's doing now: Mandarich, who currently owns a photography studio in Arizona, confirmed in his 2009 book -- My Dirty Little Secrets — Steroids, Alcohol & God -- what had been long speculated, that he had been taking steroids at Michigan State. It was one of the worst-kept secrets.

7. Blair Thomas, RB, Penn State

The second overall pick in the 1990 draft rushed for only 2,000 yards and five touchdowns in four years with the New York Jets. The next two seasons he spent time with three different teams. He was out of the league by 1995.

What he's doing now: After serving as running backs coach at Temple for eight years, Thomas formed a partnership with former Eagles wide receiver Kenny Jackson, and the two operate a chain of sports bars called KoKoMos around Harrisburg, Pa.

8. Lawrence Phillips, RB, Nebraska

How long would Phillips have lasted in the NFL if today's player conduct policy was in place? Not. For. Long. The sixth overall pick of the St. Louis Rams in 1996, Phillips disappointed even beyond the low expectations people had for him off the field upon entering the league. Making matters worse, the Rams traded Jerome Bettis shortly after drafting Phillips, who wore out his welcome in St. Louis with a series of insubordinate actions. He was cut after just 25 games.

L.G. Patterson / Associated Press
Touchdowns like this one were few and far between in Lawrence Phillips' disappointing stint with the Rams.

What he's doing now: Serving a 31-year prison sentence. Phillips had one run-in with the law after another after his playing career was over, none worse than the one that sent him to prison last December for attacking his girlfriend and driving his car into three teens.

9. Charles Rogers, WR, Michigan State

The No. 2 overall pick in 2003 by Detroit lasted just three seasons in the NFL, and caught just 36 passes in his 14-game career. Poor attitude, injuries, and a drug habit contributed to his failures as an NFL player. After getting cut by the Lions in 2005, the same year the NFL suspended him for substance abuse, he had tryouts with the Dolphins, Patriots and Buccaneers in 2006, but was not signed. His career was finished.

What he's doing now: Multiple arrests, many related to his abuse of alcohol and drugs, followed his brief stay in the NFL, and last month, Rogers was ordered to return $6.1 million of his $9.1 million signing bonus to the Lions because his drug use violated the terms of his NFL contract.

10. Bruce Pickens, CB, Nebraska

The Falcons chose Pickens with the third overall pick in the 1991 draft, but he produced just two interceptions in four starts during his two-and-a-half seasons in Atlanta. He was completely out of the league after four seasons.

What he's doing now: Unknown.

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