At first glance, there's not much difference between some of the NFL draft's biggest successes and biggest busts. On the strength of college greatness and lofty expectations, both types of players were promised contracts with sums that rival the GDP of small island nations. Take the 1998 draft for example. There was intense debate over who should be the No. 1 pick: quarterback Peyton Manning or signal-caller Ryan Leaf. Manning became one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game while Leaf turned into an all-around disappointment.
Leaf is on this list with nine others who were poised to be the next big thing. Of course, none of them were: Injuries, prima donna behavior, drug abuse, and plain ineffectiveness on the field turned them into case studies of just how far a reputation can sink in the NFL. Some of these outcomes seem like the karmic fruits of professional-level arrogance. Some are simply tragedies. Let's see who they are.