If you're looking to forecast the next generation of NFL stars, just take a look at the first round of the most recent draft. Savvy organizations can find value in all seven rounds, but in terms of success rate, there's no better bet than the first 32 picks.
But for every Peyton Manning or Von Miller, there is another former top prospect who didn't pan out. Whether they failed because of injuries, substance abuse, or simply poor play, all of these players provide fascinating case studies of the NFL's demanding environment and the fleeting nature of athletic success.
Below, read all about 20 of the most notorious draft busts from recent NFL history
One thing to know: Blackmon is a stark example of how drug and alcohol use can derail a promising career. The two-time consensus All-American struggled to control his drinking in college, but the Jaguars took a chance on him anyway. Things started out well enough, but after leading all rookies with 865 receiving yards in 2012, Blackmon was hit with two suspensions during the 2013 season and hasn't played in the NFL since. He was arrested for a DUI in late 2015.
One thing to know: This Ohio native was never the most coveted prospect out there, but his bizarre story makes him a noteworthy disappointment all the same. After a futile attempt to enter the 2004 draft as a sophomore and the loss his NCAA eligibility for that fall, Clarett should have arrived at the 2005 combine with a chip on his shoulder. Instead, he posted lackluster times of 4.72 and 4.82 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Undeterred, the Broncos still made a ridiculous reach to get him in the third round, but they got their just desserts when he washed out of training camp and never appeared in an NFL game.
One thing to know: Curry was a polished and tremendously versatile prospect when he was selected, earning the highest draft position of any linebacker since LaVar Arrington in 2000. While some analysts deemed him the safest prospect available, he lost his motivation and struggled in the Seattle, recording just 5.5 sacks in three seasons. He's now trying to make it as an NFL coach; he was seen at the Carolina Panthers training camp this summer.
(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Phillip Dorsett, WR
Selected: 29th overall, 2015 draft, Indianapolis Colts
Played for: Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
One thing to know: This Fort Lauderdale native still has time to turn things around, but at nearly 25 years old, his leash is starting to tighten. Three months after being traded to the Patriots for Jacoby Brissett, Dorsett has made just seven catches — not a good sign, especially given that the Patriots boast the most prolific passing game in the league. Bill Belichick has resurrected careers before, but in this case, he hasn't been able to work his magic.
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Vernon Gholston, DE
School: Ohio State
Selected: 6th overall, 2008 draft, New York Jets
Played for: New York Jets
One thing to know: As a prospect, Gholston looked like he had the right combination of size and speed to succeed in the NFL for years to come. He also earned the highest bench press score at the draft combine, teasing Jets fans who wanted an uncompromising defender to make life difficult for division foes like Tom Brady. Unfortunately, Gholston struggled throughout his tenure in New York, starting just five games and going without a sack in three years. He played his last game in January 2011.
One thing to know: How's this for a return on investment: Gilbert started just three games across two seasons before the Browns traded him to Pittsburgh for a sixth-round pick. The change of scenery didn't do much for the Texan, whose lack of interest was a constant cause of friction in the locker room. He was suspended for the entire 2017 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy and is currently a free agent.
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Robert Griffin III, QB
Selected: 2nd overall, 2012 draft, Washington Redskins
Played for: Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns
One thing to know: Griffin was the toast of the league after his rookie season, which ended with a Pro Bowl appearance and the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. It was all downhill from there, as the dual-threat's play suffered thanks to a series of frustrating knee injuries, as well as a growing rift with the coaching staff. He was released in 2016, caught on with the Browns for one more season, and hasn't played since.
One thing to know: Harvey entered the 2008 draft as one of the most fearsome pass rushers available, but he never found his footing in the NFL. He was riding the pine by the end of his third season in Jacksonville, finishing his career with 8 sacks in 52 games — a far cry from his glory days as co-MVP of the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.
One thing to know: Jones spent his college days as a hyper-athletic quarterback, but the Jaguars drafted him to be their wide receiver of the future. At 6-foot-6 and well over 200 pounds, his rare combination of size and explosivity led to fantasies of unbelievable 70-yard catches and deep playoff runs. Unfortunately, Jones was hit with a drug charge in 2008 and violated his plea agreement the following year, leading to his release.
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Dion Jordan, DE
Selected: 3rd overall, 2013 draft, Miami Dolphins
Played for: Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks
One thing to know: To date, Jordan has made one start in the NFL. That number would be higher, but the Arizona native just couldn't stay out of his own way as a young player, racking up three drug suspensions by April 2015. After failing a physical with the Dolphins this past spring, he ultimately caught on with the Seahawks, but he has appeared in just two games for them so far. At 27 years old, his career is verging on unsalvageable.
Played for: Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders
One thing to know: Leinart was set to be a top pick in the 2005 draft, but he chose to return to USC for his senior season and saw his stock plummet over the course of that fall, eventually dropping to 10th the following year. It's impossible to guess what would have happened if he hadn't waited, but we do know that he never developed into the franchise signal caller the Cardinals dreamed of. He spent three seasons as Kurt Warner's backup before washing out of the league.
One thing to know: Cleveland took Manziel after the 2012 Heisman winner sent a text instructing Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to "hurry up and draft me because I want to be there." Alas, the Texan had a rocky tenure in the Buckeye State. In less than two years, he had checked himself into rehab, was accused of assaulting his girlfriend, and was ultimately released after throwing just 258 passes as a professional. He has expressed interest in making a comeback in the Canadian Football League.
(Photo by James Allison/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
Dee Milliner, CB
Selected: 9th overall, 2013 draft, New York Jets
Played for: New York Jets
One thing to know: Milliner provided a fitting prelude to his NFL career when he underwent right shoulder surgery the month before he was drafted. In the years to come, the Alabama native suffered injuries to his hamstring, bicep, quadriceps, and just about everything else, appearing in just five games following his mostly healthy 2013 season. He was released in 2016 and hasn't appeared in a game since.
One thing to know: Okoye knew almost nothing about football when he took up the game as a high school sophomore, but just a few short years later, he heard his name called as the youngest first-round pick in NFL history. Unfortunately, his raw talent never translated into consistent success in the pros, and he was released by the Texans after the 2010 season. He survived a scary bout with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in 2013, making several comeback attempts but never appearing in another game.
One thing to know: Richardson was hyped as the game's best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, and with good reason: his incredible lower body strength, explosiveness, and field vision allowed him to whiz by the vast majority of defenders. He had a solid first season for the Browns, but they gave up on him quickly, shipping him to Indianapolis for a first round pick after just 17 games. From there, his career fell off a cliff. Richardson rushed for just 1,082 yards over his final two seasons, appearing in his final NFL game in 2014. He spent this fall playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL.
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Charles Rogers, WR
School: Michigan State
Selected: 2nd overall, 2003 draft, Detroit Lions
Played for: Detroit Lions
One thing to know: Rogers was drafted by his hometown team after earning unanimous All-American honors at Michigan State. The athleticism that helped him make 27 touchdown catches in two years as a Spartan didn't translate to the NFL, where he caught just four passes in the end zone. He was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy in 2005 and was cut by Detroit the following year. Rogers served jail time in 2010 after violating a court order to remain sober.
One thing to know: Russell was the definition of a can't-miss prospect when he declared for the 2007 draft. With a 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame and an absolute cannon for an arm, many scouts envisioned him developing into a superstar with the ability to beat defenses with monster passes and surprisingly nimble footwork. It never happened. Russell completed 52.1% of his attempts, became a nuisance in the locker room and was released after the 2009 season.
(Photo by Tony Medina/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
Mark Sanchez, QB
Selected: 5th overall, 2009 draft, New York Jets
Played for: New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys
One thing to know: Sanchez went to back-to-back Conference Championship appearances in his first two seasons, but make no mistake: the Jets won games in spite of their signal caller, not because of him. The California native threw 69 interceptions in just four years in New York and was released following his first losing season. He began 2017 as the Chicago Bears' third stringer before going down with a neck injury.
(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
Jason Smith, T
Selected: 2nd overall, 2009 draft, St. Louis Rams
Played for: St. Louis Rams, New York Jets
One thing to know: Smith's smaller size and inexperience with an NFL-style offense provided meaningful question marks in the months leading up to the 2009 draft, but the Rams, in need of a franchise left tackle to anchor their rebuilding project, still jumped at him early. They were quickly disappointed by his slow transition to the professional game and growing injury history, eventually trading him to the Jets in 2012. He never started another game, bouncing around the league for a couple of years before hanging up his cleats.
(Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Mike Williams, WR
Selected: 10th overall, 2005 draft, Detroit Lions
Played for: Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks
One thing to know: Like Clarett, Williams became ineligible for the 2004 college football season after he declared for the draft a year too early. The lost year didn't hurt his stock for the 2005 draft, but he never regained the form he flashed at USC, starting just six games for the Lions. He got a few other opportunities before ultimately falling out of the league. He now coaches the football team at Van Nuys High School.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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