NFL Draft busts: Worst picks of last 30 years

They were supposed to be sure bets, impact players who had the ability to change the fortunes of the teams that selected them.

They instead became the biggest NFL Draft busts of the last 30 years.

NFL DRAFT: Each team's worst-ever pick

These players, all of whom were drafted in the top 10 with hopes of NFL stardom, made SN's list, originally presented in slide-show format, updated and reformatted ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Here's the list of the biggest NFL Draft busts since 1987, arranged in reverse chronological order.

NFL Draft busts

— Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

2012 NFL Draft, No. 3 overall to Cleveland Browns

Coming off a record-breaking junior season that earned him the Doak Walker Award, Richardson was what many considered a sure bet in the draft. He was not. After a season and a couple games of mediocre-at-best production, Richardson was traded to the Colts early during the 2013 season. He hasn't played a down since the Colts cut him in 2015.

— Jason Smith, OT, Baylor

2009 NFL Draft, No. 2 overall to St. Louis Rams

Smith's Rams tenure lasted longer than one year, but effectively, he was finished with the franchise that drafted him before his rookie season ended. A concussion ended Smith's first year early, and he was replaced in the Rams' lineup by Year 2. He was traded to the Jets in 2012.

— Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest

2009 NFL Draft, No. 4 overall to Seattle Seahawks

Curry, then believed to be a can't-miss linebacker prospect out of Wake Forest, started his entire rookie year and a couple games into Year 2 before he was replaced in Seattle's lineup. He was traded to the Raiders a little more than two years after he was drafted.

— Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida

2008 NFL Draft, No. 8 overall to Jacksonville Jaguars

Harvey's Jaguars tenure got off to a poor start when he held out before the team signed him to a massive rookie contract, the only deal he'd sign with Jacksonville. Though Harvey played three seasons with the Jaguars, they released him in 2011. His last chance in the NFL was a poor 2011 season with the Broncos.

MORE: Each team's biggest draft regret

Jamarcus-Russell-Raiders-Getty-FTR-12616

— JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU

2007 NFL Draft, No. 1 overall to Oakland Raiders

Russell is in the conversation for biggest NFL Draft bust of all time primarily thanks to the hype he generated as a rare size-strength combo at quarterback. Thanks in part to a training camp holdout that carried into the season, he started only one game during his rookie year with the Raiders. The team dumped him in 2010 after 25 starts in three seasons (a record of 7-18), and Russell never again saw the field in the NFL.

— Matt Leinart, QB, USC

2006 NFL Draft, No. 10 overall to Arizona Cardinals

Leinart, a Heisman Trophy winner, was supposed to take over for Kurt Warner when the veteran QB was finished in Arizona. That remained the plan until 2010, when Leinart lost the job to Derek Anderson and was released. Leinard did start 17 games throughout his Cardinals tenure but managed just seven wins and 10 losses.

— Charles Rogers, WR, Michigan State

2003 NFL Draft, No. 2 overall to Detroit Lions

Two monster seasons at Michigan State made Rogers seem like a money pick for the Lions at the time. Then his rookie season was derailed by injuries. Then, in 2005, a violation of the NFL's drug policy got him suspended. When the Lions dumped Rogers in 2006, nobody else wanted him. The former college star managed just 36 catches and four touchdowns during his three years in Detroit.

— Akili Smith, QB, Oregon

1999 NFL Draft, No. 3 overall to Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals drafted Smith at No. 3 despite his relative lack of college production, and Smith missing rookie training camp time due to a contract dispute certainly didn't help. He ended up starting just 17 games in four years — 3-14 record, 5-13 TD-INT ratio — with the Bengals, the only NFL team on which he played.

— Ryan Leaf, QB, Washington State

1998 NFL Draft, No. 2 overall to San Diego Chargers

Many consider Leaf the biggest NFL Draft bust of all time, primarily due to the fact that he was debated alongside Peyton Manning atop the '98 class. While poor off-field behavior and injuries contributed to Leaf's NFL flame-out, his horrendous play — 13-33 TD-INT ratio, 48.8 rating and a record of 4-14 in 18 starts for the Chargers — would have been enough. San Diego dumped him as soon as the 2000 season ended.

— Curtis Ennis, RB, Penn State

1998 NFL Draft, No. 5 overall to Chicago Bears

Ennis, who was coming off a pair of stellar seasons at Penn State, never seemed to recover from the knee injury he suffered early in his rookie season with the Bears. He lasted just three seasons in the NFL, all with Chicago, and scored only four touchdowns. His bad knee forced his retirement at age 24.

— Lawrence Phillips, RB, Nebraska

1996 NFL Draft, No. 6 overall to St. Louis Rams

Some considered Phillips the best player in the '96 class considering what he had done in college on the field. But his actions off the field were what ruined his NFL career. The Rams cut Phillips during the 1997 season in part because the number of days he had spent in jail (23) was higher than the number of starts he had made for the team (20). Trouble followed Phillips after his NFL career; he tragically died in prison after he hanged himself in January 2016.

MORE: All-time NFL Draft steals, sleepers

Ki-Jana Carter

— Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Penn State

1995 NFL Draft, No. 1 overall to Cincinnati Bengals

Carter's pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons in college, including a 23-touchdown year in '94, led the Bengals to trade up in order to draft him at No. 1 overall and give the back a massive contract. His rookie season, though, was erased by a preseason knee injury, and more injuries hampered the rest of his NFL career. He ended up starting just 14 games in five years for the Bengals.

— Heath Shuler, QB, Tennessee

1994 NFL Draft, No. 3 overall to Washington Redskins

Shuler was coming off a Heisman-finalist season when Washington made him its hope at quarterback. But he couldn't even beat out Gus Frerotte, the team's seventh-rounder in the same draft, for the starting QB job in the long term. Shuler started just 13 games (4-9 record) in three seasons for the Redskins before he was traded to the Saints after the 1996 season.

— Trev Alberts, LB, Nebraska

1994 NFL Draft, No. 5 overall to Indianapolis Colts

The 1993 Dick Butkus Award winner was plagued by injuries during his three-year stint with the Colts, the only NFL team for which he played. Alberts retired before the 1997 season at age 26 with just seven starts to his name.

— Steve Emtman, DE, Washington

1992 NFL Draft, No. 1 overall to Indianapolis Colts

At least Emtman has a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown on his NFL resume, because that play, during his rookie season, was the highlight of his career. Injuries destroyed the remainder of Emtman's tenure with the Colts, for whom he managed just five sacks in three seasons before he was released.

— David Klingler, QB, Houston

1992 NFL Draft, No. 6 overall to Cincinnati Bengals

Klingler's record-shattering college career made him a logical choice for the lowly Bengals early in the '92 draft. But, after a few seasons and 24 rough starts, a shoulder injury all but ended his NFL career. Klingler won just four of the 24 starts he made in Cincinnati, which parted with him after the 1995 season.

— Bruce Pickens, CB, Nebraska

1991 NFL Draft, No. 3 overall to Atlanta Falcons

Pickens was projected to be a star defensive back due to his athleticism, and the Falcons took the bait. He was, to put it frankly, terrible in the NFL. Pickens was traded to the Packers during the 1993 season, a little more than two years after the Falcons drafted him. In just eight starts in Atlanta (27 games) through a little more than two seasons, he managed two interceptions and one sack.

— Blair Thomas, RB, Penn State

1990 NFL Draft, No. 2 overall to New York Jets

Thomas isn't as big of a bust as most on this list, as he did provide the Jets four years of service. But given his hype coming out of college and the fact that the Jets gave him their sacred No. 32 jersey as an assumed star, he was a major disappointment. Thomas split carries with other New York backs for the majority of his tenure. He ended up scoring just five touchdowns in four seasons with the Jets.

MORE: Ranking first-round QBs since 2000

Andre Ware

— Andre Ware, QB, Houston

1990 NFL Draft, No. 7 overall to Detroit Lions

A Heisman Trophy winner and with big college numbers, Ware joined fellow Heisman winner Barry Sanders in Detroit for what the Lions thought would be a winning duo in the offensive backfield. But Ware simply couldn't cut it as an NFL quarterback. He ended up starting just six games in four seasons with the Lions.

— Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State

1989 NFL Draft, No. 2 overall to Green Bay Packers

Mandarich wasn't the first highly-drafted tackle to fail with his first team, and he won't be the last. But the next three picks after Green Bay took him at No. 2 — Barry Sanders (Detroit), Derrick Thomas (Kansas City) and Deion Sanders (Atlanta) — all became Hall of Famers. Barry Sanders falling to the division-rival Lions, particularly, has to haunt the Packers when they think about the '89 draft.

— Brian Bosworth, LB, Oklahoma

1987 Supplemental Draft, Round 1 to Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks probably could have predicted Bosworth in the NFL would be known more for his off-field antics than his on-field performance. He was decent on the field — save for the infamous Bo Jackson encounter — until a bad shoulder forced his retirement during his third NFL season. Bosworth started just 24 games for Seattle.

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