Marinovich's chance at stardom short-lived
But for every player who comes in, makes an immediate impact and becomes a perennial Pro Bowler, there are those who struggle to find their way and are out of the league in no time.
Here is ESPN.com's ranking of the top 50 busts in NFL draft history. These lists reflect players selected since the NFL and the old American Football League merged drafts in 1967.
Dubbed "Robo QB" by some, Marinovich got his chance as a rookie, starting the season finale against the Kansas City and a playoff game against the Chiefs a week later. But he made just eight regular-season starts (3-5) in two seasons with the silver and black.
The Redskins have had more than their fair share of poor draft picks, but this tops them all. Johnson did not appear in a game for the Skins during his rookie season and was cut during the summer of 1997.
We can still see the former Aggie sitting in the Green Room on draft day waiting for his name to be called. McElroy lasted until the second round and apparently wasn't worth waiting for, rushing for 729 yards and three touchdowns in just two seasons with the Cardinals.
Powell was more a victim of circumstances when it comes to being a first-round selection, but the fact remains that he made little or no impact in the league. The one-time Buckeye lasted 12 games with the Browns/Ravens, then wound up with the Jets briefly in 1998.
In Marty Schottenheimer's first year with the Chiefs, he selected Elkins in hopes of him becoming their future franchise quarterback. Elkins played in one game and attempted two passes as a rookie. He never appeared in a game again.
If you're going to select a punter/kicker in the first round, you'd better hope he lasts (see Ray Guy). Erxleben played five less-than-spectacular seasons with the Saints, and is perhaps best known for throwing an overtime interception (after a bad snap) that was returned for a TD in 1979 against the Falcons in his first NFL appearance.
Bates was with the Raiders' organization for three seasons, started just nine games and didn't play at all in 1995. Oakland traded him in 1996 to Atlanta, where he was a starter for half the season before losing his job. He had one interception in 44 NFL games.
McGwire didn't match the success of older brother Mark, the baseball star. In fact, his first two years were so bad (two starts, zero TD passes, three interceptions) that the Seahawks selected another quarterback, Rick Mirer, in the first round in 1993. It probably doesn't make Seahawks fans feel any better that Brett Favre was selected just 17 picks later.
Jenkins lasted just three years in the league, playing in only nine games and making just one start. After failing in the NFL, he tried out for the short-lived XFL, but couldn't make a roster there, either.
Five quarterbacks were selected among the first 12 picks of the '99 draft, and many believed McNown was the most prepared to contribute immediately. But the former UCLA product made more headlines off the field than on it, starting 15 games in two seasons before the Bears parted ways with him.
The Jets thought they had a steal with Rembert when he slipped into the second round, but they were unable to sign him and subsequently dealt him to Cincinnati. In three seasons with the Bengals, Rembert caught only 36 passes for 437 yards and a touchdown. Fortunately for the Jets, they managed to draft WR Rob Moore in the supplemental draft that year.
Smith started 17 games over four seasons for the Bengals. In those games, he threw just five touchdown passes and was picked off 13 times. Cincinnati essentially gave up on him after the 2000 season and he appeared in just three more games with the Bengals before disappearing from the NFL following the 2002 season.
When talk of the NFL combine begins each year, one of the first names mentioned is Mamula, who wowed many with his workouts there. But the former Boston College standout was also a classic tweener and never really settled in at outside linebacker or defensive end.
Looking to secure the middle of their run defense, the Saints hoped Sullivan would follow in the footsteps of former Bulldog DTs Richard Seymour (Patriots) and Marcus Stroud (Jaguars, since traded to Buffalo). But he lasted just three seasons in the Crescent City and made little or no impact.
A total disaster for the then-L.A. Raiders, the selection of Clay turned into mud as the former Tiger played in just 12 games in two seasons, 10 with the Raiders ('87) and two with San Diego in 1988.
After using the first overall selection on WR Keyshawn Johnson, the Jets went back to the wide receiver well and came up a lot drier. In three seasons with New York, Van Dyke managed just 25 receptions, three for touchdowns.
After leading Ohio State to the 2002 national championship, Clarett never played another football game, in college or the pros. Failing to overturn the NFL rule that mandated a player must be out of high school for three years to be eligible for the draft, Clarett sat out two seasons. Denver took a chance on him with the last pick of the third round. He was cut before the season began.
The last time Dallas took an offensive player in the first round, it was LaFleur, a reported personal choice of then quarterback Troy Aikman. In four seasons with the Cowboys, the massive tight end caught 85 passes for 12 TDs.
The former Cavalier was a questionable first-round selection by Ray Rhodes and the Philadelphia brain trust, and he lasted only two seasons with the Birds, playing in just 24 games (eight starts) and recording two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Three years after trading up to select WR Desmond Howard with the fourth overall pick, the Redskins dipped into the wideout pool again with Westbrook, who had the skills to dominate. The former Colorado Buffalo had a big year in 1999 (65 rec., 1,191 yards, 9 TDs) but a variety of issues kept him from ever achieving stardom.
Russell S. Baxter, Ryan McCrystal, Jon D. Kramer, Jon T. Stewart, Chris Fallica and Paul Kinney of ESPN research contributed to this report.
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RANKING NFL DRAFT BUSTS
Ryan Leaf, selected No. 2 overall in the 1998 draft, never measured up to the hype. In the first of a special two-part Hot Read, ESPN.com's ranks the top 50 busts in NFL draft history. In Part 2, ESPN.com ranked the top 50 draft steals.
• Top 50 draft busts: 1-15 | 16-30 | 31-50
• Kiper: 10 guys I can't believe failed
• Walker: Shuler enjoying second stint in D.C.
• Mosley: Leaf now at peace with NFL failure
• Yasinskas: No room for football for Westbrook
• Zoom Gallery: Notable busts
• SportsNation: Rank the top 10 busts
• Watch: Marcellus Wiley analysis
FROM LEAF TO WESTBROOK
1. Ryan Leaf, Chargers (1998)
2. Lawrence Phillips, Rams (1996)
3. Art Schlichter, Colts (1982)
4. Heath Shuler, Redskins (1994)
5. Charles Rogers, Lions (2003)
6. Keith McCants, Buccaneers (1990)
7. Johnny "Lam" Jones, Jets (1980)
8. Mike Junkin, Browns (1987)
9. Bo Matthews, Chargers (1974)
10. Jerry Tagge, Packers (1972)
11. Jim Drukenmiller, 49ers (1997)
12. Andre Ware, Lions (1990)
13. Reggie Rogers, Lions (1987)
14. Joe Profit, Falcons (1971)
15. Huey Richardson, Steelers (1991)
16. Peter Warrick, Bengals (2000)
17. David Klingler, Bengals (1992)
18. Derek Brown, Giants (1992)
19. Tim Couch, Browns (1999)
20. Curtis Enis, Bears (1998)
21. Steve Niehaus, Seahawks (1976)
22. Blair Thomas, Jets (1990)
23. Kelly Stouffer, Cardinals (1987)
24. Tony Sacca, Cardinals (1992)
25. Tim Worley, Steelers (1989)
26. Jack Thompson, Bengals (1979)
27. Walt Patulski, Bills (1972)
28. Tony Mandarich, Packers (1989)
29. Todd Blackledge, Chiefs (1983)
30. Aaron Gibson, Lions (1999)
31. Todd Marinovich, Raiders (1991)
32. Andre Johnson, Redskins (1996)
33. Leeland McElroy, Cardinals (1996)
34. Craig Powell, Browns (1995)
35. Mike Elkins, Chiefs (1999)
36. Russell Erxleben, Saints (1979)
37. Patrick Bates, Raiders (1993)
38. Dan McGwire, Seahawks (1991)
39. Trezelle Jenkins, Chiefs (1995)
40. Cade McNown, Bears (1999)
41. Reggie Rembert, Jets (1990)
42. Akili Smith, Bengals (1999)
43. Mike Mamula, Eagles (1995)
44. Jonathan Sullivan, Saints (2003)
45. John Clay, Raiders (1987)
46. Alex Van Dyke, Jets (1996)
47. Maurice Clarett, Broncos (2005)
48. David LaFleur, Cowboys (1997)
49. Jon Harris, Eagles (1997)
50. Michael Westbrook, Redskins (1995)
RANKING DRAFT STEALS
In the second of a two-part special report on the draft, ESPN.com ranked the top 50 draft steals.
• Top 50 draft steals: 1-15 | 16-30 | 31-50
• Kiper: 10 guys who surprised me
• Williamson: Waiting was hard for Sharpe
• Walker: Byner use 'Fumble' as coaching tool
• Mosley: Wright a respected ex-player, voice
• Sando: Houston keeps football, life in perspective
• Zoom Gallery: Notable steals
• SportsNation: Rank the top 10 steals
• Watch: Marcellus Wiley analysis