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NFL - Football's Draft Dodgers

By Mason Williams
Friday, April 19th, 2002

The complexity of selecting future NFL players in the yearly NFL draft always leaves some general managers jumping for joy while others are sent looking for places to hide. There are hundreds of college players who declare themselves eligible for the draft, which makes evaluating talent an arduously vital task.

Football, unlike basketball or baseball, has a higher job turnover rate due to the shear physicality of the game, so teams need to draft several players each year in order replace those who have been injured, become free agents, or gone on to pasture.

After two days and 1000 rounds of the draft, most fans are left thinking, "who did my team pick?" Another common response is "I've never even heard of this guy, why would we pick him in the 985th round?"

Each draft has about big-time names that the average fan recognizes and expected to watch play in the NFL. This year's names are David Carr, Joey Harrington, Mike Williams, Julius Peppers, Quentin Jammer, and Roy Williams. After those names, are a slew of other players that might be recognized in their own state or region. The abyssal third-tier consists of players whose own families didn't know they played football until draft day.

Unfortunately for the first-tier players, the fans expect them to be stars, but the NFL already is replete with stars, so it is inevitable that some of them will fade into obscurity or be labeled an NFL "bust." Now is the time to pay tribute to the first-tier players of the past who caused heartburn, hair loss, and hemorrhages for many misguided general managers. Let us salute the draft "busts."

Remember the Oklahoma Sooners of the middle and late '80s? Their smashmouth style was embodied by Bryan Bosworth, their wild-eyed, mulle- coifed middle linebacker. Experts assumed Bosworth would violently snatch the middle linebacker mantle from the likes of Mike Singletary and Jack Lambert as he transformed the position.

The Seahawks drafted Bosworth and he played well for about three weeks before Bo Jackson ran over him at the five yard line and drove him back into the end zone of drug dependency. Bosworth's confidence diminished and his penchant for steroids couldn't replenish his battered spirit. Luckily for Bosworth, he found work in Hollywood as an actor in such critically acclaimed movies as "Stone Cold."

Another wild-eyed and poorly-groomed number one pick from the late '80s might reign as the biggest bust ever. Tony Mandarich touted himself as the evolution of the offensive lineman and because he was big and looked crazy, people believed him. He was a giant man with a giant streak of aggression that was supposed to make him invincible.

Too bad for Mandarich - his giant body was inflated with steroids and other illicit substances. Within a year of being drafted and a year of trying to kick his habits, Mandarich was looking like an oversized country musician with an enlarged frontal lobe, degenerating teeth, and acne-filled skin. Here's to evolution.

The next set of "busts" is those who busted because of injury. Blair Thomas from Penn State ran like Earl Campbell, had tremendous heart, and was destined to transform some NFL team into a champ. Unfortunately, Blair Thomas' knees didn't receive the memo and they betrayed him and his potential.

Similarly, Heisman Trophy winner, Rashan Salaam of Colorado suffered the same fate and was last seen sauntering the sidelines of an XFL game last season. Injuries claim several victims each year and the top draft picks that become busts because of injury should be placed at a higher level of respect than those who destroy themselves.

No position in the NFL draft produces more bust than that of quarterback. Some highly-drafted quarterbacks are thrown into starting roles to quickly. Some couldn't read a defense if they were hooked on phonics. Some quarterbacks lose all their confidence when a well-trained and focused linebacker welcomes them into the league.

Others, however, just flat out suck. Heisman winner Andre Ware couldn't read the defenses and got one chance to prove himself. Rick Mirer of Notre Dame fame was forced to start too quickly. David Klingler and Ryan Leaf flat out sucked, no matter how many chances they got. No matter which road these quarterbacks took, they all ended up in the same place. They ended up labeled "busts."

This weekend, while the draft drags on and on, take the time to salute these athletes who paved the way for the future NFL "busts." No draft ever offers the guarantee of a great superstar, but every draft has its "busts."

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