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
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
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."