Separated at birth? And other musings on the NFL Draft

Matt Ryan and Ryan Leaf

So the NFL Draft is this month and the only “franchise” QB in the draft this year is Matt Ryan from Boston College. Now I don’t know Matt Ryan from Adam, but I have seen a couple of his games. My analysis, he is a good QB prospect, maybet a “franchise” quarterback at the NFL level. So what are my draft-analysis-credentials?

  • I’ve TIVO’d every episode of “Path to the Draft” on The NFL Network (btw, Mike Mayock is the best draft expert on TV and much better than Mel Kiper).
  • I watch a ton of college football.
  • I’ve watched at least the first two rounds of every NFL draft over the last 20 years.
  • I partially paid my way through college as a sports writer for the Daily Advertiserin Lafayette, LA. As a writer for the Advertiser I actually got to cover the 1996 NFL draft from the Saints’ headquarters, which was an amazing opportunity since that was Mike Ditka’s first year as the Saints’ coach.
  • Like every other Draft-Nik I actually think I know what I’m talking about.

So after watching highlights of Matt Ryan’s Pro Day workout, I realized something – Matt Ryan is the spitting image of Ryan Leaf. Now this coincidence should scare any NFL GM considering Matt Ryan since Ryan Leaf was one of the biggest NFL draft busts ever. It’s funny, but just think that 10 years ago there was legitimate debate whether the Colts should draft Leaf instead of Peyton Manning . . . the Colts made the right choice. However, I actually think Matt Ryan will be a very good pro and there’s little chance he becomes a “bust”, but in memory of Ryan Leaf here are my 14 biggest busts in recent NFL draft history:

Brian Bosworth

Brian Bosworth, LB – 1987, Supplemental Draft, Seattle Seahawks

After Bosworth won the Butkus Award twice at Oklahoma, the Seahawks selected him in the 1987 supplemental draft and signed him to a 10-year, $11 million deal. He had one of the coolest sports posters of all-time (remember “The Land of Boz”). With his funky haircuts and his bad boy attitude, he was supposed to be the Dick Butkus of the 90’s. Instead, injuries and the embarassment of being run over by Bo Jackson on Monday Night Football limited him to a disappointing three-year career. However, Bosworth has had some minor success as an actor including Stone Cold and The Longest Yard.

Aundrey Bruce

Aundray Bruce, LB – 1988, #1 , Atlanta Falcons

Remember Aundrey Bruce? You’re not alone. The former Auburn star had four average seasons in Atlanta managed to hang around the league for another 7 years, but never produced. Probably one of the biggest non-injury-related #1 pick busts ever.

Tony Mandarich

Tony Mandarich, OL – 1989, #2, Green Bay Packers

SI called this guy the greatest offensive-line prospect of all time and if memory serves, Dr. Z (a NFL writer for SI) said he was one of the safest picks ever. Turns out Dr. Z was wrong. After holding out for a huge deal his rookie season, he was a disappointment from the start and only played three years for Green Bay and then made a comeback with the Colts. What makes this pick particular tough is the three picks that came after Mandarich (other players Green Bay could have taken) – Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders . . . ouch.

Andre Ware

Andre Ware, QB – 1990, #7, Detroit Lions

Ware won the Heisman Trophy and put up amazing numbers at Houston, but his game did not translate to the NFL. He was the first of several run-and-shoot collegiate quarterbacks to become NFL flops (similar to the current trend of spread-offense QB flops in the NFL). Ware couldn’t even get off the bench in the Canadian Football League – literally.

Blair Thomas

Blair Thomas, RB – 1990, #2, New York Jets

All that needs to be said is this:

Blair Thomas career rushing yards – 2,236

Emmit Smith career rushing yards (taken 17th in 1990) – 18,355

Todd Marinovich

Todd Marinovich, RB – 1991, #24, Oakland Raiders

Marinovich’s status as a draft bust is mostly due to the hype that surrounded him coming out of high school. “Robo-QB” was the first of the high school QBs groomed for a career in the NFL their whole life (his Dad played OL for the Raiders). He ran into trouble with drugs while starring at USC, and his problems continued after joining the Raiders, where he lasted just two seasons. I knew this kid was destined to blow-up after a story on him was printed that he had never had McDonald’s in his life. Therefore, when he was no longer under his Dad’s careful watch at USC, he became a Big Mac addict. So I guess Big Macs were his “gateway drug”.

Emtman and Coryatt

Steve Emtman, DL – 1992, #1 & Quentin Coryatt, LB – 1992, #2 Indianapolis Colts

An outstanding D-lineman at University of Washington, Emtman blew out his knee nine games into his rookie season, beginning a cycle of injuries he never overcame. Coryatt played five seasons for Colts before being released in 1997. Maybe the worst draft ever – not just for the Colts, 1992 was devoid of any real “star” talent.

David Klingler

David Klingler, QB – 1992, #6, Cincinnati Bengals

At the University of Houston (following in the footsteps of Andre Ware), Klingler threw 54 TDs in a season and six TDs in a quarter. He only threw 16 TDs in four whole seasons with the Bengals. I’ve often heard that Klinger had the best arm in the history of the NFL (including stories of the ability to throw the ball 100 yards in the air), but none of that helped him when he played for the “Bungles”.

Heath Shuler

Heath Shuler, QB – 1994, #3, Washington Redskins

This is a crazy one. It was always said that Shuler had the physical tools, but he never understood the nuances of an NFL offense while in Washington. This suggest that he wasn’t very smart; however, Shuler is back in Washington, but now as a U.S. Congressman reprensenting North Carolina . . . (insert joke here)

Ki-Jana Carter

Ki-Jana Carter, RB – 1995, #1, Cincinnati Bengals

After playing on one of the most talented offenses in college football histiry at Penn State, Carter blew out his knee before ever taking a snap in an NFL regular-season game. When he did make it back on the filed he only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Injuries plagues him his whole career (or lack thereof).

Lawrence Philips

Lawrence Phillips, RB – 1996, #6, St. Louis Rams

Before PacMan Jones there was Lawrence Philips. A speedster out of Nebraska, Phillips may have gone even higher if he hadn’t pleaded no contest to domestic-violence charges while in college (one of his many “incidents” in college). Even the great Dick Vermeil (widely known as the best “players coach” ever) couldn’t help the troubled back. As a result, St. Louis released Phillips a year after drafting him.

Ryan Leaf

Ryan Leaf, QB – 1998, #2, San Diego Chargers

I have several friends that went to WaZoo (Washington State) with Ryan Leaf. Every one of them told me he was a jerk. So I wasn’t shocked that he basically become the definition of a “bust” in in the NFL . Looking back, it’s pretty comical to think that there was actually a debate over which QB should be #1 – Leaf or Peyton Manning. Let’s just say the Colts made the right choice.

Akili Smith

Akili Smith, QB – 1999, #3, Cincinnati Bengals

Smith emerged after one good season at Oregon and almost went No. 1 over Tim Couch (who just missed making my list) and Donovan McNabb. This is the classic example of coaches and player personnel folks falling in love with a guys “measurables” and not trusting the film. Yes, he had one good year at Oregon, but to take a QB at #3, you need more film (guy has to do it for more than 11 games).

Charles Rogers

Charles Rogers, WR – 2003, #3, Detriot Lions

The gut you see on Rogers above is indicative of his poor attitude and poor work ethic. He also had issues with failing the NFL substance abuse policy and will probably never play again. This is pretty sad since this guy had Randy Moss-type talent.

Jim Drunkenmiller

Jim Drunkenmiller, QB – 1997, #26, San Franciso 49ers

This was the classic case of SF needing a QB of the future, but there was no QB worth a first round pick available. Therefore, the 49ers really reached on Drunkenmiller. The best thing about Drunkenmiller was his stregth – which is great if you are a linebacker, not so important if you are a QB. He was literally the strongest guy on the Va Tech team and benched 405 lbs and could clean-and-jerk 400 lbs+. His agent even put together a video of Drunkenmiller doing a “World’s Strongest Man” workout (lifting huge barrels, dragging big bags of sand behind him) that he sent to all the NFL teams. Looks like it worked.

UPDATE 10-1-2008: If you love sports, make sure to check out my post on the launch of OneSeason.com.

5 responses to “Separated at birth? And other musings on the NFL Draft

  1. Ricky Williams?? Not only a bust as a draft choice, but he busted the Saints and Ditka in one fell swoop. IMHO

    Bust in the making — Matt Leinart

    That could be an interesting list 🙂

  2. I left Ricky off for a couple reasons.
    #1 He did have some good years including a 1,000 yard season with the Saints and a 1,800 yard season with the Dolphins. Plus, there was an interesting story a couple years ago on ESPN.com (I think) that made a case for the Saints trading their entire draft for Ricky was a good thing. Basically, it free’d up so much cap space (by not having to sign all those draft picks) that the team was able to get sign some key free agents that contributed to their great 2006 season (when they went to the Conf. finals).

  3. Good stuff. Hopefully VY will stay off your list…

  4. You, sir, are an idiot.

    “Spitting image of Ryan Leaf?” How is that so? How many of your “friends” at Boston College have told you that Matt is a jerk? He is the epitome of hard-working and all around nice guy. Too many of you journalists are given free reign to convey your moronic opinions to the world. Years from now, I hope you remember that you wrote this piece of garbage and realize what an idiot you are.

  5. “Spitting image” purely in a visual sense (as you can see from the picture. I never questioned or compared Ryan’s work ethic to Ryan Leaf. By all accounts I have only heard good things about Ryan’s work ethic. However, any quarterback (regardless of how good a person they are) is a crap shoot in the first round of the NFL draft. I’m sure the Falcons have the same faith in Ryan as you do since they just gave him a $72 million contract – http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/football/bal-sp.nflnotes21may21,0,7278262.story

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