The current structure of the NFL Draft, relative to rookie compensation, amounts to a cruel world of high stakes gambling. Participation is mandatory and each wager represents an educated guess that can alter the state of a franchise for years to come.
As a result, the system has caught up with each of the NFL’s 32 teams at one time or another. The degree of hurt is the differentiating factor.
When Chiefs fans think “BUST,” a handful names come to mind; Junior Siavii (2004), Ryan Sims (2002), Sylvester Morris (2000) and Trezelle Jenkins (1995). Those names by themselves are enough to make an Arrowhead addict cringe, but Oakland’s release of JaMarcus Russell on Thursday offered a friendly reminder that things could be much, much worse.
Going right down in the line in chronological order, Kansas City’s draft day heartaches don’t even begin to touch Oakland’s nightmare.
2004 - Siavii (36th overall) wasn’t even a first round pick, it just seemed that way since the he was taken towards the top of the second round. Originally inked to a six-year deal, Siavii played in 26 games for the Chiefs, but never cracked the starting lineup or recorded even one season of double-digit tackles.
*After being away from the game for two years due to microfracture knee surgery, Siavii re-appeared on Dallas’ active roster last season and played in all 16 games as a rotational nose tackle. He impressed the Cowboys enough to get a tender offer as a restricted free agent this off-season.
2002 – When the sixth overall pick develops into a rotational backup, it’s generally not well perceived by the drafting team’s fan base; especially if that player is selected ahead of positional peers like John Henderson (ninth overall) and Albert Haynesworth (15th). As much as Chiefs fans hate to admit, Sims has carved out a nice NFL career for himself playing in 99 games with 54 starts. The problem is that he was selected sixth overall, not in the sixth round.
*A year ago with the Bucs, Sims started all 16 games for the first time since 2003. Granted, Tampa Bay’s defensive tackle situation was a wreck in 2009, which is why Gerald McCoy went third-overall in the draft just a couple weeks ago.
2000 - Sly-Mo may have had it. Unfortunately, we were never able to find out. The knee that he suffered in his rookie season ultimately ended his career. In 15 games as a rookie, Morris caught nearly 50 footballs for 700 yards and had two 100-yard outings (we all remember his three TD game vs. San Diego in just his second NFL start). Who knows what he would have progressed to be in year-two and three of his career should he have been healthy?
1995 – The Chiefs first-round pick finished with more penalties than he did starts (three vs. one). The guy flat-out never produced and as a result never got on the field, playing in just nine games over three seasons. If it’s any consolation, Jenkins wasn’t selected until the 31st pick.
Those four players are among the Chiefs biggest draft day casualties. Now compare that list to what the Raiders just endured.
From the Associated Press:
Russell will now likely be considered the biggest draft bust in NFL history. He will have been paid more than $39 million by the Raiders, while producing only seven wins as a starter.
He lost his starting job midway through last season. His career has been hampered by a rookie holdout, poor work habits, being overweight and the lack of productive players around him.
There really is no comparison.
Though Russell still has better career numbers than San Diego’s Ryan Leaf - and by a considerable amount - he’ll forever sit towards the top of the “bust list,” should he not be re-born in another NFL city. It’s the incredible financial commitment lost by Oakland which sets Russell apart from the others.
Part of the problem is the Raiders poor evaluation of Russell, but an even bigger factor is that pay-before-you-play system involving the NFL’s top draft slots.
Until the current system gets a face-lift, it’s not a question of whether or not teams are going to get bit; it’s a matter of how hard. Russell’s release is a brutal reminder of that.