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NFL draft picks: The best and worst

  • We start off with such high hopes
  • Sometimes they get dashed pretty quickly
  • Andrew Luck: Future Pro-Bowler, or answer to trivia question?
NFL draft picks: The best and worst

The NFL’s worst teams will look for a chance at redemption today by choosing the best college football players. It’s NFL draft day.

It’s great to be the first draft pick, but it’s an accomplishment to be chosen at all. The Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts have the dubious honor of getting 2012’s first choice. They will go with Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck.

With great power comes great responsibility. For the duration of his professional career, Luck is assured analysts will look back to this moment to determine if he’s a success. In that vein, we take a look back at some of sports’ best and works draft picks.

Ryan Leaf

Today he’s known more for his legal troubles, but in 1998 Washington State University quarterback Ryan Leaf was considered one of the two best players in the NFL draft. (The other was some guy named Manning.)

Analysts eagerly debated who was better: Leaf or Manning. They didn’t have to wait long to find out. Leaf’s rookie season with the San Diego Chargers was marked by bad performances and his career only got worse from there.

The Chargers benched him in November 1998 and he missed the entire 1999 season with a shoulder injury. The team released Leaf in 2000 after he gave up five interceptions in the first two games of the season.

Tampa Bay signed him in 2001, but released him before the regular season. The former college star that shined so brightly ended his career in Dallas with a whimper.

JaMarcus Russell

“He’s the bust standard,” one HLN staffer says.

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell was the MVP of the 2007 Sugar Bowl. That year, he opted to skip his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.

The Oakland Raiders tapped Russell as the No. 1 pick, offering him a six-year contract. It was worth $68 million, which was a league rookie record. And $31.5 million of it was in guarantees, with an additional $3 million offered if Russell just reached minimum playing benchmarks.

With so much money at stake, who wouldn’t be motivated? JaMarcus Russell, that’s who. The Raiders cut him after three years. You know it’s bad when your life coach gives up on you, and everyone thinks you’re fat and lazy.

Michael Olowokandi

The year of the bust must have been 1998. Michael Olowokandi was the first all-around pick in the NBA draft. The 7-footer went to the Los Angeles Clippers to start a less-than-stellar career. He averaged just 8.9 points in his first season. The stats go down from there.

Somehow, he managed to stay in the league until 2007.

Sam Bowie

You could have had Michael Jordan, but instead you chose Sam Bowie in 1984. It will haunt the Portland Trailblazers for life (but Chicago is forever thankful). In his defense, Bowie did have an ​okay​ first season, but injuries plagued the rest of his basketball career.

The good news is that he’ll always be a very important footnote to basketball history. 

Kwame Brown

His stats are so mediocre they’re not worth mentioning. Just know Kwame Brown is another example of a first-round draft pick gone wrong. He started with the Washington Wizards in 2001 and the NBA expected great things from him. He didn’t deliver.

Today, Brown plays with the Milwaukee Bucks. The difference is, no one cares now.

Todd Marinovich

Todd Marinovich was groomed for the NFL from birth. As Esquire magazine said, “He was guaranteed to be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game of football. Engineered to be.”

You may want to call the manufacturer back for a refund.

Marinovich was drafted in 1991 above Brett Favre in the first round, but substance abuse problems hindered any success he could have had. Now, Marinovich is seen more the one who never was -- not to be confused with the best that never was.

Tom Brady

OK, so he is NOT a bust. But Tom Brady IS a cautionary tale that somewhere beyond the first round usually lies a diamond in the rough. The Super Bowl winning QB helped make the Patriots one of the league’s premier teams, yet he wasn’t even picked up until the sixth round in 2000. He was the 199th player picked.

And he’s still sad about it. But we think 11 years, three Super Bowl victories and a supermodel wife are great consolation prizes. 

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