10 Big Money NFL Draft Busts
Business + Economy

10 Big Money NFL Draft Busts

REUTERS/Anthony Bolante

Good news for football fans suffering from withdrawal: You don’t have to see the new Kevin Costner movie to get your fix because the actual NFL draft starts Thursday night.

The draft is all about hope and fear. Will your team pick up a Tom Brady in the sixth round or a Ryan Leaf in the first? The picks made this week can go a long way toward determining a team’s fortunes — and even further in determining how much players will earn.

For the athletes, the draft is a chance to realize a dream of playing professionally — and finally being financially rewarded for all their hard work in one of the most physically bruising sports in the world. Those rookies fortunate enough to get selected early on will become instant multimillionaires. Players selected in the later rounds will get a very nice paycheck and a chance to compete for a bigger multi-year, multimillion dollar contract when their rookie contract is up after four years.

SLIDESHOW: 10 Big Money NFL Draft Busts

For teams, the draft is a stock market. In the first round, they are looking to buy shares in the next blue chip prospect. At the same time, they want to avoid tying up money on a player who doesn’t pan out.

Plenty of teams have been burned by choosing first-round busts, though. League owners, and even veteran players, realized that giving kids six-year, $60 million dollar deals without their ever playing a professional game was probably a bad idea. In 2011, a new collective bargaining agreement was put in place, with a rookie salary cap to prevent teams from spending quite as much on rookies who weren’t quite ready for primetime.

This year’s top picks, like Jadeveon Clowney of the University of South Carolina, will still land huge contracts and plenty of guaranteed money, but those deals will pale in comparison to the huge sums teams had been lavishing on top picks.

As the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, Sam Bradford got a six-year deal from the St. Louis Rams worth $78 million, with $50 million guaranteed. The next year, after the new rookie salary cap was enacted, the top pick, Cam Newton, signed a fully guaranteed four-year deal with the Carolina Panthers worth just over $22 million. That’s not chump change, but it makes the financial risk of a bungled draft pick much easier to handle.

Click here to see a list of players who made crazy amounts of dough and never reached their full potential.

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