Bring up the topic of biggest NFL draft busts of all time and most people come up with the same short list of notorious names, all of them quarterbacks. Ryan Leaf usually sits at the head of the class (as much for his attitude and general dickness as for his awful play), followed by ate-his-way-out-of-the-league standout JaMarcus Russell, then maybe Akili Smith and Tim Couch.
The bust parade is pretty long at the quarterback position, for the simple reason that, more than any other spot on the field, it's a pass/fail job. There's just no way for an NFL team to find a use for a $50 million quarterback who can't start and win games. So, the QBs who can't make it tend to flame out quickly and with great fanfare.
It's a little different at other positions. You draft an offensive tackle like Tony Mandarich or Robert Gallery high up in the first round — well, if he can't handle the edge, maybe you move him to guard. The running back who never turns into Emmitt Smith, maybe he sticks as a third-down guy. Defensive tackles tend to hang around, too — witness our own New England Patriot Gerard Warren, drafted third overall by Cleveland. He was once considered a big bust, but still earns a living.
When guys like this flame out, there's usually a good reason. In the past year or so, we've already seen three pretty famous examples grace these pages: Leaf, who got pinched for stealing prescription drugs from one of his players (he was working as a quarterbacks coach at a Texas college); former Lions wideout Charles Rogers, who got drunk and passed out in a Mexican restaurant while under a court-mandated sobriety program; and former Vikings defensive end Erasmus James, who punched a dude in the face after trying to order a drink in a bar after it closed.
Now we've got another: former Alabama star linebacker Keith McCants, who was drafted fourth overall by the Buccaneers in 1990 and basically never played. McCants has racked up at least four arrests in the past year, mostly for drug and traffic charges, but his troubles started earlier than that. In March 2008, he chucked a screwdriver, a crack pipe, and a pair of pliers at a cop's head. Police in Prichard, Alabama, in that incident ended up having to Taser McCants, and though he got hit with a variety of charges (loitering, resisting arrest, and possession of drug paraphernalia), he was soon out on the streets again. In December of the following year, McCants was picked up on the dubious charge of "loitering for the purposes of drug activity" (reminiscent of the Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood joke about being arrested "for being black on a Friday night"). He got off on that one, but was arrested in May of this year for trying to buy drugs at a Mobile hotel, and then just this week got arrested again — this time for "use and possession of drug paraphernalia," presumably a crack pipe.
Who will be the next draft bust to catch a charge? Will Russell step up to the plate? This is already shaping up to be the reigning theme of the year. In any case, six points to McCants for the drug charge.