NFL Draft’s Top 10 Workout Warrior Busts
10. Adam Archuleta (2001)
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How a college player performs in workouts after their college career often has just as much (if not more) bearing on their draft stock as their college careers themselves. Unlike Brian Urlacher and Chris Johnson, many other “workout wonders” have failed to deliver in the NFL. We rank the NFL Draft’s Top 10 Workout Warrior Busts.
Archuleta’s size (5-foot-11 and 215 pounds) raised doubts about his draft stock. He rendered those concerns moot by running a 4.42 40-yard dash, posting a 39-inch vertical leap and benching 225 pounds 31 times (staggeringly high for a DB).
Archuleta was actually solid in five seasons with the Rams after they drafted him 21st overall. The dreaded b-word only became attached to him after he failed to live up to the six-year, $30 million contract the Redskins handed him following the 2005 season. Benched in D.C. and then traded, Yahoo’s Jason Cole recently ranked Archuleta the 10th-worst free agent signing ever.
9. Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009)
In defense of Heyward-Bey, he was likely just as shocked as everyone else when Oakland (now infamously) took him seventh overall four years ago.
Although the Maryland WR wasn’t a bad player by any means — he had 138 receptions and 13 TDs in three seasons with the Terps — most pundits predicted that Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree and Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin would be off the board before DHB.
At this point, the late Al Davis’ infatuation with speed (Heyward-Bey ran the fastest 40-yard dash [4.25 seconds] at that year’s combine) is largely to blame for this epitome of a reach pick. DHB managed just 11 TDs in his four seasons with Oakland before being released this past March. The Colts inked him to a one-year deal on April 1st and are hoping for better results.
8. Mike Mamula (1995)
If the phrase “workout wonder” ever finds its way into an actual dictionary, they might as well put Mamula’s picture next to it.
The former All-Big East defensive end from Boston College was one of the first players to train specifically for the drills at the NFL combine and it showed with his eye-popping performance: A 4.58 40-yard dash, 28 reps on the 225-pound bench press, a 38.5-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 5-inches on the broad jump. For “good measure,” he also scored a 49 out of 50 on the Wonderlic — the second-highest score ever recorded by an NFL player.
So what did the Philadelphia Eagles get out of Mamula after investing the eighth overall pick in him? Six seasons and a disappointing 31.5 sacks. By 2000, at the age of 27, he was already out of the league.
7. Matt Jones (2005)
After spending four years as Arkansas’ starting quarterback, Jones had scores of draft pundits — among them ESPN’s Chris Mortensen — gushing about the physical potential he possessed as a converted receiver/H-back.
It’s easy to see why Jones was referred to as “The Freak.” The 6-foot-6, 242-pounder turned in a gaudy combine performance: 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a 39.5-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump.
Jacksonville surprised many by drafting him 21st overall, only to watch Jones start just 15 games over the next four seasons. He never caught over 65 balls or had over 800 yards receiving in any one season. What was really Jones’ undoing with the Jaguars was his pair of substance abuse-related arrests, which led to his release in March 2009. He is now out of the league.
6. Charles Rogers (2003)
Rogers inspired comparisons to Randy Moss both in high school (he was Tom Lemming’s top recruit in the Class of 2000) and at Michigan State, where he won the 2002 Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout and set a still-standing school record for career TD receptions (27).
Those comparisons only gained more credence after Rogers ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the combine — a blisteringly fast time for a receiver as big as he was (6-foot-3 and 220 pounds). To the Detroit Lions, it was a no-brainer to select the Saginaw, MI, native second overall.
His drug-fueled fall from grace makes it easy to forget about the 22 receptions, 243 yards and three TDs he had during the first five games of his ’03 rookie season before a broken clavicle ended Rogers’ year. (He sustained the same season-ending injury on just the third play of the following season.)
Yes, injuries were a huge part of Rogers’ career, which he couldn’t control. But his off-the-field issues and a 36-catch NFL career is too much not to consider him a huge bust.
5. Brian Bosworth (1987)
There was a lot that made “The Boz” one of the most memorable players of the 1980s: His hatred of the NCAA, gaudy blonde Mohawk and undying love of the spotlight.
And he could play; the 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker was a two-time First Team All-American at Oklahoma. In preparation for the 1987 supplemental draft, Bosworth backed up those on-field credentials by running a 4.6 40-yard dash and bench-pressing 450 pounds.
In retrospect, unfortunately, the only substance to that style might have been the anabolic steroids that Bosworth tested positive for prior to the ‘87 Orange Bowl. After selecting Bosworth in the first round of the ‘87 supplemental draft, the Seahawks signed him to a 10-year, $11 million contract — then the biggest one in history given to a rookie — only for Bosworth’s most memorable NFL moment to be getting trucked by Bo Jackson.
Bosworth retired after just three years due to injury.
4. Akili Smith (1999)
A one-year wonder at Oregon who threw for 3,763 yards and 30 TDs in his 1998 senior season, Smith had the size (6-foot-3 and 227 pounds), speed (4.66 seconds in the 40), smarts (a 37 on the Wonderlic test), arm and athleticism (he had played two years of minor league baseball) that made scouts drool.
Smith flew up draft boards and was selected No. 3 overall, one spot behind Donovan McNabb. Alas, a long holdout impaired his efforts to grasp Cincy’s playbook fully. It didn’t help that Smith spent far too much time partying in the Queen City. He started just 17 games over four seasons with the Bengals — throwing five TDs and 13 INTs — before they released him in 2002.
3. Tony Mandarich (1989)
Before he was “The Incredible Bust,” steroid-fueled Tony Mandarich of Michigan State was “The Incredible Bulk” — a player who Sports Illustrated proclaimed to be “the best offensive line prospect ever.” His workout numbers are still the stuff of legend: 39 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press and a mind-boggling 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Taken second overall in the 1989 draft by the Packers, Mandarich was done in Green Bay after three years spent mostly in the throes of painkiller and alcohol addiction. While he enjoyed a nice three-year comeback with the Colts (1996–1998), it’s not enough to prevent him from being one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
Making this selection even more painful for Packer fans, a running named Barry Sanders was taken one pick later by the Detroit Lions.
2. Vernon Gholston (2008)
In retrospect, the glowing (and lengthy) praise in Gholston’s ’08 NFL draft profile just seems silly. But at the time, most scouts really thought he was going to turn into a “legendary pass rusher.”
After all, Gholston was a stud at Ohio State, registering 30.5 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks in three seasons with the Buckeyes. And he was even more of a stud at the combine, running a 4.58 40-yard dash (blazing for a 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive end), doing 37 reps on the 225-pound bench press and recording a 41-inch vertical leap.
Jets fans at Radio City Music Hall were overjoyed when their team supposedly got something right, taking Gholston sixth overall. They were decidedly less pleased after Gholston recorded zero sacks in three lackluster seasons with them. Gholston hasn’t played a down since.
1. JaMarcus Russell (2007)
It’s easy to forget now, but Russell was considered a freak of nature prior to being selected No. 1 overall in the 2007 draft.
NFL network analyst Mike Mayock called Russell’s pre-draft workout “the best pro day I’ve ever seen in my life.” Weighing in at 256 pounds and running the 40 in an impressive 4.8 seconds, the 6-foot-6 Russell showed off a cannon arm with which he could reportedly throw the ball 65 yards from one knee.
Of course, none of that mattered when Russell got to the league out-of-shape and looking completely lost in the pocket. In three seasons with the Raiders, Russell had more interceptions (23) than touchdowns (18) before getting the boot. Russell is widely considered the co-biggest NFL draft bust ever alongside Ryan Leaf.
Now mounting a football comeback, don’t hold your breath for an NFL team to give Russell another chance.