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What makes a draft bust?

The Chicago Bears have had their share of draft booms and busts, players who contributed and those who burned out. Recently John "Moon" Mullin weighed in on the "draft bust" debate about what constitutes a player a bust.

Adam Bettcher

Every year, in every sport, there will inevitably be a draft bust. Whether it's injuries, off-field issues, poor play or a combination of factors, no team is ever immune to having a bust.

Granted in sports like baseball and hockey, where players spend extensive time in minor leagues before ever getting a chance at the big leagues, it's sometimes harder to remember or keep track of busts compared to leagues like the NFL and NBA, where draft picks are expected to contribute immediately.

Chicago sports teams are no strangers to draft busts; from Marcus Fizer (Bulls, 2000), Scott Ruffcorn (White Sox, 1991), Josh Vitters (Cubs, 2007), Kyle Beach (Blackhawks, 2008) and of course, Gabe Carimi (Bears, 2011).

Pick any city and any team and there will no doubt be some bad picks who did not work out. But, pinning down the qualities that make a bust is much more subjective.

There is no doubt that there could be as many definitions of what constitutes a "bust" label as there are fans, but most certainly everyone can come up with at least a couple of criterion that they could agree on.

CSN Chicago's John Mullin tackled this very subject yesterday in this article:

Another fun stop-by with the Davids — Haugh and Kaplan — this morning on 87 7 The Game, catching the boys in mid-firefight over whether Jay Williams or other selected Chicago athletes constitute a "bust." The one thing the lads seemed to agree on was that a bust was someone who failed to fulfill or play to potential.

After deciding that Williams was a bust because of his own stupidity to ride a motorcycle, he then moves on to various Bears players who have been labeled busts. Some of his labels may surprise you.

On Cedric Benson:

But Benson then went to the Cincinnati Bengals and reeled off three 1,000-yard seasons. That earns him a pass out of the "bust" group.


Rashaan Salaam? Not the same thing as McNown. Salaam had early fumble issues but also rushed for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie, then was undone by knee injuries. Not a true "bust."

He does list Cade McNown and Curtis Enis (rightly) as busts, noting that while they did have injuries rob them of talent, that they were busts before the injuries because of play and attitude.

But then he gets to a player that the jury is still out on. A player whom the "bust" tag has been whispered about but is still too young to have a set label on: Shea McClellin.

Shea McClellin? No. At worst, an "incomplete" because none other than general manager Phil Emery acknowledged that two years spent trying to force a square peg (linebacker) into a round hole (defensive end) was a mistake. Did McClellin play like a 19th-overall draft pick? Of course not. But Brian Urlacher was well on his way to "bust" status when he couldn’t hold the Sam linebacker job he was handed, then became a great at the Mike spot. McClellin might never be No. 54, but he’s also not Keith McCants. Or Vernon Gholston. Or John Thierry. If you’re talking about college linebackers who were whiffs at D-end.

I think that's fair. We need to see how McClellin plays at linebacker before judging with any finality but, at worst, he's a disappointing pick but not quite a bust. At least in my own eyes.

To me, a bust is a player who - through either injury, poor play and/or attitude - flames out of the league and never comes close to contributing to the league. So, by my definition, former tackle Mark Colombo is not a bust; the fact that he went on and played several solid seasons with the Cowboys saves him the label. Chris Williams is also not a bust because, despite the fact that he did not stick with the Bears, the fact is he is still in the league and has only proved he wasn't worthy or being a franchise tackle, but he has still proved worth as a solid contributor.

Busts, to me, are the guys who only last less than five years in the league and are never heard from again. Players who are so bad they don't get a chance to contribute with a second or third team. Players like Ryan Leaf (four seasons, two teams), Vernon Gholston (three seasons, one training camp and two teams) and Vince Young (six seasons, two teams, offseasons with two other teams). But someone like Brady Quinn? Not a true bust, he's made a career as a solid back up.

Then there is a guy like Mark Prior, the former Cubs pitcher. It's a different sport yes, but I found his name on a couple of different "bust" lists while researching this article. To me, he isn't a bust. His career was short, yes, but he was truly dominant when he was healthy. To be a bust he would have had to have a .500 or below record AND injuries to qualify as a bust in my book. These would be the same reasons I would never label former Bears DT Tommie Harris a bust. he was a dominant player before injuries robbed him of the talent he had.

Injuries that are not the fault of the player save them from the bust label. If they have a lack of talent and injuries, that changes matters. By the same token someone like Justin Blackmon is a bust to me because, while he's dominant, his own decisions have led to him being suspended and unavailable for his team, and thus a bust.

What makes a bust to you?