The Denver Broncos have had their share of ups and downs in the NFL Draft. Over the next few weeks, we'll look at the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We'll start with the Top-10 Draft Busts in Broncos history, followed by the Top-10 Draft picks in team history. Agree or disagree, this will help us pass the time as we march full-steam ahead towards the 2011 NFL Draft.
Finally...We've come to the #1 Draft Bust in Denver Broncos history. Now, before I talk about who I labeled the worst bust, I admit I did this for selfish reasons. There are several reasons why anyone on the list before could be number one. For me, however, this pick was the height of Mike Shanahan's arrogance as a personnel man and talent evaluator. There may be bigger busts in terms of draft position, or value traded away to acquire a player, but for me, this takes the cake and is a prime example of the thought process that led to so many draft failures the past decade.
First, a note - Alphonso Smith is not on this list. While I agree that Smith will likely be considered a bust - and the move turned out to be an awful one, I don't label anyone a 'bust' until after 3 seasons. That said, if this list was a list of 'Worst Draft Moves', Smith would be at or near the top.
Now, on with the list...
#1 Maurice Clarett, RB - Ohio State(2005, 3rd Round, 101 Overall)
A third round pick as the worst draft bust ever? I know, it is probably an exaggeration. To me, however, it was the arrogance used in making the pick, coupled with a complete lack of urgency placed on the importance of the NFL Draft that sticks out to me.
We all know the story. With the help of Clarett, the Ohio State Buckeyes won the 2003 Fiesta Bowl and the College Football National Championship. Even then, however, there were red flags about Clarett - allegations of cheating in the classroom and improper benefits. After filing a false police report, Clarett was suspended by Ohio State for the entire 2003 season. He left Columbus and moved to Los Angeles where he was part of a group that sued the NFL over their draft eligibility rules that forced players to be 3 years removed from high school graduation. After winning the case, it was overturned on appeal and Clarett was forced to miss a second full season.
That means Clarett missed all of 2003 and 2004. He entered the 2005 NFL Draft simply hoping to hear his name called. He was a participant in the 2005 Draft Combine in Indianapolis - his future on the line. Clarett ran a 4.72 and 4.82 in the 40 and refused to continue. In essence, he quit.
That made the surprise that much bigger when, with the final pick of the 3rd Round, the Broncos selected Clarett. I can remember the "I know more than you know' attitude from Shanny when he talked of the pick - like he really got a steal. What the Broncos did do, however, was protect themselves by offering a Clarett an incentive-laden deal with ZERO guaranteed money. Clarett signed the deal on July 28th, 2005.
After failing to really compete during training camp, which included multiple nagging injuries and zero carries in the preseason, the Broncos released Clarett on August 28, 2005. Even with an extremely team-friendly contract, no team expressed interest and Clarett was out of football.
Clarett was then arrested on two separate occasions, once in January, 2006, then again in August while awaiting trial for the January arrest. Taking both arrests into account, Clarett was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, with early release possible after 3 1/2 years. He did his time and was granted early release on April 7, 2010.
On August 30, 2010, nearly 5 years to the day after he was released by the Broncos, Clarett signed with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL, a teammate of another Broncos Bust on the list, OT George Foster. Clarett finished the season with 154 yards on 37 carries.
Clarett's story is a sad one, and an example of what was wrong with many of the Denver Broncos drafts. Gut feelings, risky moves and reaching for need are all recipes for disaster in the Draft and this list has a little bit of all of it.
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