Panthers Avoid ESPN's Top 10 NFL Draft Steals that Busted List

Former SBN writer and obviously now ESPN writer Rivers McCown has a nice piece behind the pay wall at ESPN that I got through the SBN grapevine. Since it's paid content I'm not going to post the entire thing but instead pull a couple pertinent editions to the list. Here's the link if you are an ESPN Insider.

Before I get to the list though I thought McCown gave a nice set up to the post by providing an example of the inverse post, draft steals that were truly steals. The inverse example is a good one:

When Aaron Rodgers fell to the Packers with the 24th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, it was an apt definition of the word surprise. In the buildup to that draft, a majority of personnel men, mock drafters and other experts had Rodgers running neck-and-neck with Utah's Alex Smith for the first overall pick. Not only did Rodgers tumble out of his expected draft range, but he was taken by a team that employed one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time: the revered Brett Favre.

I'm sure 49er fans would love to stop hearing about this one. They not only picked the wrong guy but then seriously over paid him. The Panthers best example that comes to mind if Ryan Kalil. He had a first round grade but slide to mid-second and we have never looked back.

Back to the point of the post and that is just the opposite, players that slide in the draft who were then called steals but then ended up as a bust. At number 10, this one just makes by smile:

10. Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints (second overall pick, 2006)

A decent NFL player with a unique skill set, Bush is a running back who can cause matchup problems when used as a slot receiver. Five years ago, though, he looked like an absolutely transcendent talent in the Coliseum: A franchise running back who could redefine the position with his receiving skills. Unfortunately, he hasn't played all 16 games since his rookie year, and he has never shown the good vision that is a trademark of great NFL running backs. He's averaged just 4 yards per carry over his career, and by Football Outsiders'DVOA ratings, he's contributed just one above-average season carrying the football, and that was just over 70 carries in 2009. He'll never be the superstar he looked like he'd be in college, and the Texans have been vindicated for passing him up for Mario Williams.

I was one who thought the Texans were nuts. Shows yet again why I am no scout! I've got a couple more to share from the top 10...after the jump...

#9 Titans - Can you guess without cheating?

I couldn't pass on this one since the guy that drafted him is such a 'genius':

8. Andy Katzenmoyer, LB, New England Patriots (28th overall pick, 1999) 
The Big Kat was a sensation for Ohio State, becoming the Buckeyes' first linebacker to ever start as a freshman and compiling 12 sacks. He was highly coveted and well-regarded throughout his Ohio State tenure, but he made it all the way to the end of the first round in the 1999 NFL draft. He was on his way to a solid, if not spectacular, rookie season with the Patriots when a helmet-to-helmet hit with Buffalo fullback Sam Gash seriously damaged his neck. It troubled him through the rest of the season and 2000, even after it was operated on, and he finally retired from the league during training camp in 2001.

This one is bitter sweet for me as I'm a bit of a Buckeye fan. I'm not sure its fair to include a guy who sustained a pretty serious injury.

#7 Dolphins - Can you guess?

#6 Patriots again - Can you guess? Hint: It's a WR

#5 Cardinals

#4 49ers - Another WR that only the 30 and up crowd will probably remember

#3 Bowns - A recent QB

#2 Cardinals again - A former Seminole

#1 So which Panther do you see parallels with this guy:

1. Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals (10th overall pick, 2006) 
Let's bookend the list with another Trojans star. Leinart famously spurned being the favorite for the No. 1 pick in 2005, going back for his senior year at USC to take ballroom dancing and try to win back-to-back championships after 2004's romp of Oklahoma that the NCAA is now informing me never happened. His intensity and dedication were questioned frequently as Kurt Warner's understudy, and after Warner left, he embarrassingly lost a quarterback competition to Derek Anderson and was released. You hate to write off a player who admittedly hasn't looked completely clueless on the field, but it sure looks like Leinart is nothing more than a backup quarterback at this point.

Hint regarding my question above: I'm not referring to Cam Newton.

At first I thought Leinert might have been a victim of unrealistic expectations coming in behind Warner. He also was behind the 8-Ball with the fans and team being the last rookie to sign a deal in 2006. But he doesn't seem to doing much in Houston either.

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