Selecting players in the NFL draft is a tantalizing risk/reward gamble for teams and fans across the country. Draft well and receive a future All-Pro and potential Hall of Famer (Peyton Manning, 1998 #1 overall). Draft poorly and receive scorn and derision for signing an underperforming player, a bust, to a terrible contract (Ryan Leaf, 1998 #2 overall).
If you’re an Oakland Raiders fan, you might want to sit down before you read this. Without further delay, here are the most disastrous rookie contracts in NFL history.
JaMarcus Russell: 6yrs/$61M
The Oakland Raiders selected quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the top pick in the 2007 draft. Hoping he could be the next face of the franchise, the Raiders rewarded Russell with a 6-year, $61 million contract, including $32 million in guaranteed money.
Russell started 25 games over three awful seasons in Oakland, compiling a 7-18 record with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He was released in 2010 and never took another NFL snap.
Players drafted after Russell: Calvin Johnson (#2), Joe Thomas (#3), Adrian Peterson (#7), Patrick Willis (#11), Marshawn Lynch (#12), Darrelle Revis (#14)
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 5yrs/$38.25M
Owner Al Davis was always infatuated with vertical speed when drafting. With the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, the Raiders selected Darrius Heyward-Bey in large part to his 4.3 seconds 40-yard-dash at the Combine. That speed earned him a five year, $38.25 million deal with $23.5 million guaranteed.
Heyward-Bey caught only 140 passes and scored a mere 11 touchdowns during his four seasons with the Raiders. He was released in 2013 and is currently a depth wide receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Players drafted after Heyward-Bey: B.J. Raji (#9), Michael Crabtree (#10), Malcolm Jenkins (#14), Jeremy Maclin (#19), Clay Matthews (#26)
Robert Gallery: 6yrs/$70M
Robert Gallery was the second overall selection in the 2004 draft by the Oakland Raiders. A tackle from the University of Iowa, he received a 7 year, $60 million contract with $18.5 million in guaranteed money.
Gallery started as a tackle in the NFL, but was moved to guard after 2006 when he played 13 games and still placed fourth in the league for most sacks given up. Gallery was drafted and paid to be a benchmark tackle, not to play guard.
Players drafted after Gallery: Larry Fitzgerald (#3), Philip Rivers (#4), Sean Taylor (#5), DeAngelo Hall (#8), Ben Roethlisberger (#11), Vince Wilfork (#21)
Aaron Maybin: 5yrs/$25M
The Buffalo Bills selected defensive end Aaron Maybin with the 11thpick in the 2009 draft. He was richly rewarded with a 5 year, $25 million contract including $15 million guaranteed.
In turn, Maybin rewarded the Bills with one forced fumble, 23 tackles, and zero sacks over 27 games. Buffalo released him after two terrible seasons, and he went on to play only 21 more games in his career with the New York Jets.
Players drafted after Maybin: Malcolm Jenkins (#14), Jeremy Maclin (#19), Alex Mack (#21), Clay Matthews (#26)
Reggie Bush: 6yrs/$62M
Heralded Heisman-winning running back Reggie Bush was selected second overall in the 2006 draft. The Saints hoped he’d bring his electric playmaking to the NFL, and inked him to a 6 year, $62 million contract with over $26.5 million in guaranteed money.
Bush spent five years in New Orleans, and while his first two seasons in the NFL (28 games) were nothing to scoff at, his final three seasons with the Saints (32 games) saw him accrue over 120 fewer touches and 22 fewer yards per game. Bush fumbled 19 times in five years, and only had five plays from scrimmage of 40 yards or more.
Players drafted after Bush: Vernon Davis (#6), Jay Cutler (#11), Haloti Ngata (#12), Antonio Cromartie (#19), Davin Joseph (#23), Nick Mangold (#29)
Vince Young: 6yrs/$58M
The third overall draft pick in the 2006 draft, Vince Young was signed to a 6 year, $58 million contract that included $25.75 million in guarantees. Young earned a Pro Bowl nod his rookie season after leading five game winning drives, despite throwing fewer touchdowns (12) than interceptions (13) with a 51.5% completion rate.
In five seasons with Tennessee, Young did compile a 30-17 record, but had a 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio and averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt.
Players drafted after Young: Vernon Davis (#6), Jay Cutler (#11), Haloti Ngata (#12), Antonio Cromartie (#19), Davin Joseph (#23), Nick Mangold (#29)
Vernon Gholston: 5yr/$50M
The New York J-E-T-S JETS had high hopes for DE Vernon Gholston after selecting him with the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft. He was handed a 5 year, $50 million deal with $21 million guaranteed. But, it’s never a good sign when a player has his deal re-negotiated two years later for just $3.45 million annually.
Gholston’s NFL career only lasted 45 games over three seasons. He shuffled between end, tackle, and linebacker, recording only 16 tackles in his career and failing to ever record a S-A-C-K SACK.
Players drafted after Gholston: Jerod Mayo (#10), Jonathan Stewart (#13), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (#16), Joe Flacco (#18), Aqib Talib (#20), Chris Johnson (#24)
Matt Leinart: 6yrs/$50.8M
The tenth overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, Matt Leinart signed a 6 year, $50.8 million contract with $14 million guaranteed to be the future star quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Leinart only started 17 games in his four seasons with the team. He went 7-10 in those starts, completing 57% of his passes with 14 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
After a year each with Houston and Oakland, appearing in just four games, Leinart was out of the NFL.
Players drafted after Leinart: Jay Cutler (#11), Haloti Ngata (#12), Antonio Cromartie (#19), Davin Joseph (#23), Nick Mangold (#29)
Alex Smith: 6yrs/$49.5M
Alex Smith is a currently a good NFL starting quarterback (69-31-1 since the start of 2011), but his inclusion on this list is for the 6 year, $49.5 million rookie contract with $24 million in guarantees he received after being the first overall pick in the 2005 draft.
In the six years of his rookie deal, Smith led the 49ers to a 19-31 record in 50 starts and never had a winning record. He threw 51 touchdowns, had 53 interceptions, and missed the 2008 season with an injury.
Players drafted after Smith: DeMarcus Ware (#11), Thomas Davis (#14), Derrick Johnson (#15), Aaron Rodgers (#24)
Ryan Leaf: 5yrs/$31.25M
It’s funny to look back 20 years ago and wonder how there was ever a debate between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf for the top spot in the 1998 draft. Leaf was drafted second overall by the San Diego Chargers and received a 5 year, $31.25 million contract with an $11.25 million signing bonus.
In just two seasons with the Chargers, Leaf went 4-14 as the starter with 13 touchdowns and a whopping 36 interceptions. But hey, three of his four wins came on QB led game-winning drives.
Players drafted after Leaf: Charles Woodson (#4), Fred Taylor (#9), Randy Moss (#21)
Sam Bradford: 6yrs/$78M
Bradford might be the reason for the current rookie wage scale, as his 2010 first overall rookie contract was for a staggering 6 years, $78 million. Oh yeah, and $50 million in guarantees. What did the Rams receive for all that cash? 49 starts, an 18-30-1 record, and 31 missed games due to a sprained ankle and a torn (and then re-torn) ACL.
Bradford is still playing in the NFL, currently for the Cardinals. He’s compiled a 16-16 record across three teams since leaving the Rams.
Players drafted after Bradford: Ndamukong Suh (#2), Gerald McCoy (#3), Trent Williams (#4), Eric Berry (#5), Joe Haden (#7), Earl Thomas (#14), Demaryius Thomas (#22), Dez Bryant (#24)
Aaron Curry: 6yrs/$60M
Aaron Curry was deemed a safe selection as the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft. He signed a 6 year, $60 million contract with $34 million guaranteed, which at the time was the most money ever given to a non-QB rookie in NFL history. In 35 games with the Seahawks over 2.25 seasons, Curry had 5.5 sacks and just 198 solo and assisted tackles.
For comparison, the 2017 NFL tackle leader, LB Preston Brown, accrued 144 combined tackles with a base salary of $1.76 million.
Players drafted after Curry: B.J. Raji (#9), Michael Crabtree (#10), Malcolm Jenkins (#14), Jeremy Maclin (#19), Alex Mack (#21), Clay Matthews (#26)
Jason Smith: 6yrs/$61M
With the second overall pick in the 2009 draft the Rams selected tackle Jason Smith. The supposed franchise bookend was signed for $61 million over 6 years, including $33 million guaranteed. In three seasons with the Rams, Smith only saw action in 29 of a possible 48 games, with 26 starts.
With an injury history and slow adaptation to an NFL-style offense (Smith played at Baylor in college), the Rams traded him after just three seasons of underperformance.
Players drafted after Smith: B.J. Raji (#9), Michael Crabtree (#10), Malcolm Jenkins (#14), Jeremy Maclin (#19), Alex Mack (#21), Clay Matthews (#26)
Derrick Harvey: 5yrs/$33.4M
The eighth overall draft pick in the 2008 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, DE Derrick Harvey signed a 5 year, $33.4 million contract with almost half of that money guaranteed. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Harvey only lasted three seasons with the team.
By the end of his third season Harvey was a backup and finished his Jags career with only eight sacks and one fumble recovery in 47 games.
Players drafted after Harvey: Jerod Mayo (#10), Jonathan Stewart (#13), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (#16), Joe Flacco (#18), Aqib Talib (#20), Chris Johnson (#24)
Tyson Jackson: 5yrs/$57M
The third pick in the 2009 draft, Tyson Jackson signed a five year, $57 million contract with $31 million guaranteed to be a disruptive DE with the Kansas City Chiefs. Lauded for his football intelligence by then coach Andy Reid, Jackson played five seasons with the Chiefs but only accrued nine sacks and 137 solo tackles.
After Jackson only recorded two sacks in his first three seasons, he recorded seven in his final two years in Kansas City.
Players drafted after Jackson: B.J. Raji (#9), Michael Crabtree (#10), Malcolm Jenkins (#14), Jeremy Maclin (#19), Alex Mack (#21), Clay Matthews (#26)
Charles Rogers: 6yrs/$39.4M
Local boy Charles Rogers was taken with the second overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions and GM Matt Millen. He was supposed to be a game changing WR worth the 6 year, $39.4 million contract with a $14.4 million signing bonus he received. Beset by injuries and off-field issues, Rogers played just three seasons for the Lions.
He only played in 15 games, starting nine, and recorded 36 receptions for 440 yards and four touchdowns.
Players drafted after Rogers: Andre Johnson (#3), Terence Newman (#5), Terrell Suggs (#10), Troy Polamalu (#16), Dallas Clark (#24), Larry Johnson (#27)
Dion Jordan: 4yrs/$20.57M
The Miami Dolphins selected the athletic Dion Jordan third in the 2013 draft and gave him a 4 year, $20.57 million contract with a $13 million signing bonus.Jordan repaid the team by playing in 26 games over three seasons, with only one start, and contributing three sacks and 46 combined tackles.
He also missed the entire 2015 season due to a violation of the league substance abuse policy. Jordan resurfaced with Seattle in 2017, appearing in five games with 4 sacks.
Players drafted after Jordan: Lane Johnson (#4), Zeke Ansah (#5), Sheldon Richardson (#13), Eric Reid (#18), Xavier Rhodes (#25), DeAndre Hopkins (#27), Travis Frederick (#31)
Trent Richardson: 4yrs/$20.4M
The Cleveland Browns drafted Trent Richardson out of Alabama with the third pick in the 2012 draft thinking he’d be a future all-Pro running back. Richardson was rewarded with a fully guaranteed $20.4 million contract over 4 years.
For that money, Richardson played only 17 games for the Browns, totaling 1,055 yards and 12 total touchdowns while rushing for a below average 3.5 yards per attempt. He was traded to the Colts in 2013 where he played 20 games and averaged 3.1 yards per attempt, and was out of the league after 2014.
Players drafted after Richardson: Matt Kalil (#4), Luke Kuechly (#9), Stephon Gilmore (#10), Melvin Ingram (#18), Chandler Jones (#21), Dont’a Hightower (#25)
Justin Blackmon: 4yrs/$18.5M
The Jacksonville Jaguars gave a fully guaranteed 4 year, $18.5 million contract to mercurial WR Justin Blackmon after drafting him fifth overall in 2012. He played a full rookie season for the Jaguars and had 64 receptions, 865 yards, and five touchdowns.
The train came derailed in 2013, however, when Blackmon was suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. After another violation in November of that year, Blackmon was suspended indefinitely and has yet to play another NFL down.
Players drafted after Blackmon: Luke Kuechly (#9), Stephon Gilmore (#10), Melvin Ingram (#18), Chandler Jones (#21), Dont’a Hightower (#25), Harrison Smith (#29)
Joey Harrington: 6yrs/$36.5M
Joey Harrington signed a 6 year, $36.5 million rookie deal with $13 million guaranteed after the Detroit Lions selected the gunslinger with the third overall pick in 2002. All he had to do was save the moribund Lions franchise. That dream never came close to materializing. Harrington played on awful teams with awful offensive lines, compiling a brutal 18-37 record over four years in Detroit.
He threw 60 touchdowns and 62 interceptions, and moved on from the Lions after the 2005 season.
Players drafted after Harrington: Bryant McKinnie (#7), Dwight Freeney (#11), Jeremy Shockey (#14), Albert Haynesworth (#15), Ed Reed (#24)