Draft flashback: Colts smart not to turn over Leaf in ’98

A look back at the best and worst picks of the draft a dozen years ago:

Steals

Randy Moss made the 20 teams that passed on him in 1998 pay for it.
Randy Moss made the 20 teams that passed on him in 1998 pay for it.

Randy Moss, WR, Marshall
Vikings: Round 1, Pick 21

Despite starring as a touchdown machine for the Thundering Herd and having the talent to dominate in the NFL — as he’s since proved — Moss’ checkered past off the field rose a red flag for newly character-concerned teams, including Dallas. Minnesota’s gain was immediate, as Moss exploded as a rookie for the then highest-scoring offense in NFL history, until his record-breaking ’07 with New England.

London Fletcher, LB, John Carroll
Rams: Undrafted

So much for coming out of a small school with a small frame (5-10, 245) — his big heart became apparent in his second season as a young leader for the Super Bowl 34 champions. He has remained one of the league’s steadiest middle linebackers over the past decade, while racking up tackles and big plays for St. Louis, Buffalo and Washington.

Jeff Saturday, C, North Carolina
Colts: Undrafted

When Indianapolis drafted Peyton Manning first overall in ’98, it needed someone with the same football acumen to snap the ball to him, block right in front of him and make the line calls. Even though Saturday never heard his name called, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in that role.

Hines Ward, WR, Georgia
Steelers: Round 3, Pick 92

He turned out to be the ultimate Pittsburgh pick: a versatile skill player with great physical and mental toughness. The Steelers were able to get Ward after wide receivers such as Brian Alford, E.G. Green, Jammi German and Larry Shannon went ahead of him in the round.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Boston College
Packers: Round 6, Pick 187

Mike Holmgren showed that he had a good eye to find a sleeper quarterback who fit his offense and would be a fine young backup for Brett Favre. Three years later, Holmgren would acquire Hasselbeck in Seattle, and in 2005-06 the coach and quarterback led the Seahawks to Super Bowl 40.

Ryan Leaf, the No. 2 pick by the Chargers in 1998, is the quintessential draft bust.
Ryan Leaf, the No. 2 pick by the Chargers in 1998, is the quintessential draft bust.

Stinkers

Ryan Leaf, QB, Washington State
Chargers: Round 1, Pick 2

Few other players have become synonymous with the word "bust." Think of the outstanding career that Peyton Manning has had as the NFL’s white knight. In contrast, what happened to Leaf both on and off the field is a black hole.

Andre Wadsworth, DE, Florida State
Cardinals: Round 1, Pick 3

This is the kind of draft pick the once-lowly Cards would consistently make. Just like that, Wadsworth went from a surefire dominant pass rusher to a messy holdout and a career quickly cut short by knee injuries.

Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State
Bears: Round 1, Pick 5

Three years earlier it was Rashaan Salaam, and seven years later it was Cedric Benson, but this is the Bears’ biggest backfield whiff. Enis put in three years of unimpressive production before deciding to retire because of knee woes in 2001.

Jason Peter, DT, Nebraska
Panthers: Round 1, Pick 14

Peter had a good start to his NFL career, but because of neck and shoulder problems, it ended after four years. Unfortunately, while battling injuries, he became dependent on painkillers and needed to eventually fight back from crack and heroin addictions.

Marcus Nash, WR, Tennessee
Broncos: Round 1, Pick 30

For Denver, Nash caught only four passes before being traded for the player drafted just ahead of him, Dolphins running back John Avery. He didn’t end up playing for Miami, but he found a home in the XFL before becoming a bona fide star in the Arena Football League.

Vinnie Iyer is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

A look back at the best and worst picks of the draft a dozen years ago:

Steals

Randy Moss made the 20 teams that passed on him in 1998 pay for it.
Randy Moss made the 20 teams that passed on him in 1998 pay for it.

Randy Moss, WR, Marshall
Vikings: Round 1, Pick 21

Despite starring as a touchdown machine for the Thundering Herd and having the talent to dominate in the NFL — as he’s since proved — Moss’ checkered past off the field rose a red flag for newly character-concerned teams, including Dallas. Minnesota’s gain was immediate, as Moss exploded as a rookie for the then highest-scoring offense in NFL history, until his record-breaking ’07 with New England.

London Fletcher, LB, John Carroll
Rams: Undrafted

So much for coming out of a small school with a small frame (5-10, 245) — his big heart became apparent in his second season as a young leader for the Super Bowl 34 champions. He has remained one of the league’s steadiest middle linebackers over the past decade, while racking up tackles and big plays for St. Louis, Buffalo and Washington.

Jeff Saturday, C, North Carolina
Colts: Undrafted

When Indianapolis drafted Peyton Manning first overall in ’98, it needed someone with the same football acumen to snap the ball to him, block right in front of him and make the line calls. Even though Saturday never heard his name called, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in that role.

Hines Ward, WR, Georgia
Steelers: Round 3, Pick 92

He turned out to be the ultimate Pittsburgh pick: a versatile skill player with great physical and mental toughness. The Steelers were able to get Ward after wide receivers such as Brian Alford, E.G. Green, Jammi German and Larry Shannon went ahead of him in the round.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Boston College
Packers: Round 6, Pick 187

Mike Holmgren showed that he had a good eye to find a sleeper quarterback who fit his offense and would be a fine young backup for Brett Favre. Three years later, Holmgren would acquire Hasselbeck in Seattle, and in 2005-06 the coach and quarterback led the Seahawks to Super Bowl 40.

Ryan Leaf, the No. 2 pick by the Chargers in 1998, is the quintessential draft bust.
Ryan Leaf, the No. 2 pick by the Chargers in 1998, is the quintessential draft bust.

Stinkers

Ryan Leaf, QB, Washington State
Chargers: Round 1, Pick 2

Few other players have become synonymous with the word "bust." Think of the outstanding career that Peyton Manning has had as the NFL’s white knight. In contrast, what happened to Leaf both on and off the field is a black hole.

Andre Wadsworth, DE, Florida State
Cardinals: Round 1, Pick 3

This is the kind of draft pick the once-lowly Cards would consistently make. Just like that, Wadsworth went from a surefire dominant pass rusher to a messy holdout and a career quickly cut short by knee injuries.

Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State
Bears: Round 1, Pick 5

Three years earlier it was Rashaan Salaam, and seven years later it was Cedric Benson, but this is the Bears’ biggest backfield whiff. Enis put in three years of unimpressive production before deciding to retire because of knee woes in 2001.

Jason Peter, DT, Nebraska
Panthers: Round 1, Pick 14

Peter had a good start to his NFL career, but because of neck and shoulder problems, it ended after four years. Unfortunately, while battling injuries, he became dependent on painkillers and needed to eventually fight back from crack and heroin addictions.

Marcus Nash, WR, Tennessee
Broncos: Round 1, Pick 30

For Denver, Nash caught only four passes before being traded for the player drafted just ahead of him, Dolphins running back John Avery. He didn’t end up playing for Miami, but he found a home in the XFL before becoming a bona fide star in the Arena Football League.

Vinnie Iyer is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*