The 12 Biggest Wastes of Talent in NFL History
12) Tony Mandarich, OT, Green Bay/Indianapolis
Mandarich was the second player taken in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He was hailed as the second coming of Anthony Munoz, but Mandarich fell well short of that. His career as a Packer was a complete disaster. He did redeem himself somewhat towards the end of his career. After a five-year battle with drug addiction, Mandarich returned to the NFL in 1996 and played three years with the Indianapolis Colts. Years later, Mandarich would admit to steroid use.
11) David Boston, WR, Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, Miami Diolphins
Boston’s career got off to a great start in 1999 with the Arizona Cardinals. He totaled 209 receptions for 3,227 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first three years. then his troubles began as he missed half of the next year due to injury and then signed a massive (at the time) seven-year deal worth $47 million with the San Diego Chargers. He never could get along with coach Marty Schottenheimer and he got into a fight with the Chargers strength and conditioning coach and was sent packing to Miami. He then, not surprisingly, tested positive for steroids and was suspended four games by the league and additionally was busted for a DUI in 2007. He never took another snap after limited action with Miami in 2005.
10) Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns
Manziel I am not sure ever could have been a great NFL QB, but in college he was unreal. He went to a situation in Cleveland that had low expectations for the QB position. Manziel makes this list because he never even gave himself a shot to succeed in Cleveland. Let’s face it, Manziel’s problem was that he never grew up and he constantly sabotaged himself.
9) JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders
Russell was an absolute beast behind center. Standing at 6’6”, 260 lbs., Russell had the ability to shed tacklers with size and speed and throw the ball 70 yards. There may have never been a QB with Russell’s physical skill set, but there has probably never been a QB outside of Ryan Leaf that had a worse work ethic. From his attitude to his weight issues, he set the Raiders back for at least 5 years with his immaturity.
8) Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins
Haynesworth may have been the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL for a few years. Then the 2008 season came. Haynesworth signed a massive 7 year, $100 million deal with the Washington Redskins. In hindsight, maybe the biggest throw-away of money in any team’s history.
That $100 million bought the Redskins two years of awful, lazy, sometimes dirty and uninspired play from Haynesworth. The DT was beyond out of shape, basically wasting his career away, with no intention of changing it or working hard on the field despite it. If those issues weren’t enough, Haynesworth didn’t get along with the Redskins as a franchise and their staff, leading to his release following the 2010 season, leaving the Skins with nothing.
7) Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots
Hernandez was a first-round talent coming out of Florida, but slipped to the fourth round because of character issues. This time the drop in draft stock was more than warranted, as Hernandez career was cut short when he was arrested for multiple murders. Just imagine Hernandez and Gronk together the last few years. The thought must terrify NFL teams.
6) Ryan Leaf, QB, San Diego Chargers
I think everybody knows the story of Ryan Leaf. If you don’t, you are not a football fan. Leaf had everything it takes to be an NFL QB, with one huge exception. That exception was he had a weak mind and a terrible work ethic, with of course the proverbial bad attitude that comes along with the weak mind.
5) Marcus Dupree, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Dupree had as much God-given talent as any man that ever stepped onto a football field. He only really played one complete college season and after a short stint in the USFL, he disappeared until 1990, when he resurfaced with the Los Angeles Rams. His shot with the Rams lasted all of 68 carries.
4) Aldon Smith, OLB, 49ers, Oakland Raiders
Smith set a 49ers franchise record with 19.5 sacks during his second season and racked up 33.5 in his first two seasons. The problems started after that second season and continue to this day, as he continues to try to get reinstated. Smith was a special talent and 49ers fans will always think “what if” about Aldon Smith.
3) Lawrence Phillips, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Rams Head Coach called Phillips the greatest running back he ever saw. There are not many sadder stories than the saga of Phillips who was plagued in college by off-field problems that would follow him all the way to the NFL. He was sentenced to 31 years in jail for hitting three teenagers with his vehicle and he was also suspected of killing his cellmate in prison. Phillips was a tremendous athlete who, like everybody else on this list, was their own worst enemy.
2) Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers
Vick looked ready to revolutionize the position of QB in the NFL in the early 2000s. He had unreal arm strength and could zip a ball between defenders with the best of them. He was a hot and cold QB, but when he was hot, nobody was ever better. Then 2007 came and the dog fighting accusations, and then jail time. When Vick came back, he was never the same.
1) Art Schlichter, QB, Baltimore Colts
Schlichter had unbelievable talent when he was drafted with the fourth pick of the first round in the NFL Draft. After a rookie season that saw him named NFL rookie of the year, it all fell apart. Schlichter was a compulsive gambler, which led to so many felonies that it would take forever to list them all here. He spent a few years in the Arena Football League where he was still a phenomenal player for the Detroit Drive and Cincinnati Rocker, but his demons were still following him as his arrests continued. Unlike many others on this list, Art never has been able to control his demons.