Don't look, Heath

Former Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler would be wise to avoid all forms of media this weekend. Don't turn on the TV or radio. Don't pick up a newspaper. Run from anyone carrying a tape recorder.

That's because the NFL Draft is scheduled Saturday and Sunday in New York, and Shuler is widely considered one of the biggest "busts" in recent draft history. His name comes up every year at this time, as media types discuss some of the so-called "can't-miss prospects" who inevitably will wind up directing real estate companies instead of directing touchdown drives.

ESPN.com's "Page 2" section currently features a list of "The 100 worst draft picks ever." The list – compiled by David Schoenfield and encompassing pro football, pro baseball and pro basketball – has Shuler at No. 90.

Shuler completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 4,088 yards and 36 touchdowns at Tennessee, starting as a sophomore (1992) and junior (1993). Also an exceptional runner, he was runner-up for the 1993 Heisman Trophy. Heath was the ultimate Vol hero until he opted to bypass his senior season and turn pro. Then he became a villain to many of the fans who had been cheering him.

Tabbed by the Washington Redskins with the third pick in the 1994 draft, Shuler held out for a better contract, then struggled (as all rookie QBs do) to adjust to the high-speed world of pro football. He eventually was traded to the hapless Saints, where a foot injury prematurely ended his career.

Some fans still revel in Shuler's misfortune. They haven't forgiven him for choosing instant riches over his senior season at UT. But how many of them would've turned down $18 million just to play another year of college football? None, most likely.

In case you're wondering, Schoenfield's five worst draft picks ever were as follows:

5. Art Schlichter, quarterback, Ohio State. Taken by the Baltimore Colts with the fourth pick in the 1982 NFL Draft, he was a compulsive gambler who had no more success winning bets than he had winning games.

4. Lawrence Phillips, tailback, Nebraska. Taken by the St. Louis Rams with Pick No. 6 in the 1996 NFL Draft, an assortment of off-field problems made him perhaps the biggest headache in pro sports history.

3. Joe Barry Carroll, center, Purdue. Taken by the Golden State Warriors with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft, he came at a high price. To get him the Warriors traded star center Robert Parrish and the No. 3 pick (Kevin McHale) to the Boston Celtics. Parrish and McHale led the Celtics to a bunch of NBA titles, while Carroll became known as "Joe Barely Cares" because of his apparent indifference toward the game.

2. Ryan Leaf, quarterback, Washington State. Taken right behind Peyton Manning with the No. 2 pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, this is one Leaf that never blossomed. His stormy career with the San Diego Chargers produced more than twice as many interceptions (36) as touchdowns (14).

1. Sam Bowie, center, Kentucky. The Portland Trail Blazers tabbed the injury-plagued Bowie No. 2 in the 1984 NBA Draft, right behind Hakeem Olajuwan and right before some guy from North Carolina named Michael Jordan.


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