For three days at the end of April, all eyes will turn toward pro football once again. The NFL draft will be a boom or a bust for 32 teams.
With the draft approaching, it’s a good time to look at some of the great steals of past drafts and also those who failed after going pro.
Biggest Steal #1 – QB Tom Brady. A slightly above average quarterback at Michigan, Brady was drafted in the sixth round with a compensatory pick by the New England Patriots. The decision came to Brady or Tim Rattay (you haven’t heard of him for a reason). Three Super Bowls and Giselle Bündchen later, the Patriots made the right call.
Biggest Steal #2 – QB Roger Staubach. Although he won the Heisman Trophy after his junior season, Staubach was not drafted until the tenth round by the Cowboys out of the Naval Academy. He was drafted in ’64 but didn’t play a pro game until ’69 because he was serving in the Navy. A five-year wait was well worth it for America’s team as Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls and coined the famous expression, “Hail Mary.
Biggest Steal #3 – RB Terrell Davis. Spending two mediocre years at Georgia was enough to get Davis drafted in the sixth round by the Denver Broncos’ head coach Mike Shanahan in ’95. With the most rushing yards by a first-year player during his rookie season. Davis led the Broncos franchise to its first and second Super Bowl victories ever in back-to-back seasons. Another contribution to the city of Denver was the Mile High Salute.
Biggest Bust #1 – QB Ryan Leaf. A Washington State product, Leaf finished third in the Heisman voting his junior year after leading the Cougars to the Rose Bowl. He skipped his senior year to turn pro and was drafted second overall by the San Diego Chargers. After going 1-15 for four yards and three fumbles in his third game, his career went downhill. In his first 10 games, Leaf threw 2 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. He sat out his second season with a shoulder injury yet was videotaped during the season playing flag football with friends. His third season wasn’t much better, and he finished his three years with the Chargers with only four wins. In 2006, Leaf became the quarterback coach at West Texas and was beaten only twice in 2008 (both times by ACU). In November of ’08, Leaf was arrested for burglary and drug charges and fled to Canada. Players the Chargers could have drafted: Charles Woodson, Randy Moss or Hines Ward.
Biggest Bust #2 – QB Andre Ware. After compiling huge numbers and winning a Heisman Trophy at the University of Houston with his run-and-gun offense, Ware was drafted as the seventh pick overall by the Detroit Lions. But, believe it or not, the Detroit Lions were as bad in 1990 as they are now, and Ware finished with five touchdown passes and eight interceptions in the 14 NFL games he played. After his stint in the NFL, Ware played in both the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe, but honestly, who cares? Players the Lions could have drafted: Emmitt Smith, Emmitt Smith or Emmitt Smith.
Biggest Bust #3 – QB Heath Shuler. A standout quarterback at Tennessee, Shuler finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior year. Drafted third overall by the Washington Redskins in ’94, Shuler sat out of training camp nearly two weeks before receiving a seven-year, $19.25 million contract. Playing in only 18 games his first two years, Shuler was replaced in his third season by future Pro Bowler Gus Frerotte. After failing with both the New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders, Shuler decided to call it quits. Shuler’s current occupation? He sits in the House of Representatives representing North Carolina. Players the Redskins could have drafted: Issac Bruce, Rodney Harrison or Kurt Warner.