tampabay.com

Best, busts and biggest

By JOANNE KORTH
Published April 28, 2007


Five bargains

1. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

Sixth round (199th overall), 2000

Scouts said Brady, right, was too thin, too slow and his arm wasn't strong enough at Michigan. Too bad his ring finger isn't big enough to wear all three of his Super Bowl rings.

2. Shannon Sharpe, TE, Broncos

Seventh round (192nd overall), 1990

A lightly regarded receiver out of Savannah State, Sharpe won three Super Bowls (two with Denver, one with Baltimore) and was among the NFL's best pass-catching tight ends ever.

3. Terrell Davis, RB, Broncos

Sixth round (196th overall), 1995

A long shot to make the team after an unremarkable career at Georgia, Davis won two Super Bowls and rushed for a Broncos-record 7, 607 yards (2, 008 in 1998) during an injury-shortened career.

4. Hines Ward, WR, Steelers

Third round (92nd overall), 1998

An all-purpose player at Georgia, Ward has overcome the lack of an ACL in one knee to be the MVP of Super Bowl XL and Pittsburgh's all-time leading receiver.

5. Zach Thomas, LB, Dolphins

Fifth round (154th overall), 1996

Considered too small coming out of Texas Tech, Thomas has made seven Pro Bowls and more than 1, 500 tackles.

Five busts

1. Ryan Leaf, QB, Chargers

No. 2 overall, 1998

San Diego traded two first-round picks, one second-round pick and four-time Pro Bowl player Eric Metcalf to Arizona to move up one place. It then signed the Washington State product to a four-year, $31-million contract with $11.25-million guaranteed. Problematic on and off the field, he threw 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions in 26 games before retiring in 2002 at age 26.

2. Tony Mandarich, OT, Packers

No. 2 overall, 1989

The Michigan State product held out for a huge, four-year contract but was cut after three seasons. The next three players chosen: Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

3. Brian Bosworth, LB, Seahawks

Supplemental draft, 1987

A two-time Butkus Award winner from Oklahoma, the Boz cost Seattle its 1988 first-round pick (in the low 20s) and signed a 10-year, $11-million deal. But his injury-riddled career lasted only three seasons.

4. Aundray Bruce, LB, Falcons

No. 1 overall, 1988

The outside linebacker from Auburn started only 42 games during an 11-year career.

5. Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Bengals

No. 1 overall, 1995

The Penn State star tore an ACL on the first carry of his first preseason game and never fully recovered. He ran for 1, 144 yards in 10 seasons with the Bengals, Redskins and Saints.

Five super rookies

1. Eric Dickerson, RB, Rams

No. 2 overall, 1983

The SMU product's rookie rushing records of 390 carries and 1, 808 yards still stand.

2. George Rogers, RB, Saints

No. 1 overall, 1981

The Heisman Trophy winner from South Carolina scored 13 touchdowns and ran for a league-high 1, 674 yards.

3. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

No. 11 overall, 2004

Pressed into the starting job by an injury to Tommy Maddox in Week 2, the Miami (Ohio) product went 13-0 then helped Pittsburgh reach the AFC title game.

4. Jevon Kearse, DE, Titans

No. 16 overall, 1999

Considered a "tweener" because he played linebacker at Florida, "The Freak" had 141/2 sacks as a defensive end and helped Tennessee reach the Super Bowl.

5. Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals

No. 54 overall, 2003

The FSU product set a record with 101 receptions, and his 1, 377 yards were second to Bill Groman's 1, 473 for Houston in 1960.

Five impact trades

1. Ricky Williams, 1999

The Saints, led by Mike Ditka, sent all of their picks plus two in 2000 to the Redskins to select all-time NCAA and Texas rushing leader Ricky Williams at No. 5.

2. Eli Manning, 2004

The younger brother of Peyton made it clear he did not want to play for the Chargers, who drafted the Ole Miss quarterback No. 1 overall anyway. Soon after, the Giants sent the No. 4 overall pick (N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers), a third-round pick and first- and fifth-rounders in 2005 for Manning.

3. Jerry Rice, 1985

The 49ers were defending Super Bowl champions, but coach Bill Walsh was enamored with the Mississippi Valley State receiver. They traded their first two picks to move up to No. 16 to take Rice, one place ahead of the Cowboys, who some said intended to take him.

4. Tony Dorsett, 1977

When Tampa Bay chose Southern Cal running back Ricky Bell No. 1 overall, the Cowboys sent tight end Dee Mackey to the Colts for the No. 2 pick, which they used on the Pittsburgh running back.

5. Michael Vick, 2001

The Falcons traded their first- and third-round picks and a second-round pick in 2002 to the Chargers for the No. 1 pick, which they used on Virginia Tech quarterback Vick. Four picks later, the Chargers took TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and they took Purdue quarterback Drew Brees with the first pick of the second round.