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San Diego Chargers Draft Busts - #1 Ryan Leaf

You saw this coming. Is he the highest pick in the history of the San Diego Chargers? I believe he is, if you take out the whole "The Chargers technically drafted Eli Manning" bit.

I had forgotten just how bad Ryan was until I looked at the numbers. These stats would be bad for Moses Moreno, much less the #2 overall draft pick.

18 starts (4-14), 48% completion percentage, 5.6 yards/attempt, 13 TDs, 33 INTs, 53 sacks.

My goodness, that is a lot of sacks and interceptions. The yards per attempt is bound to be low because of the insanely low completion percentage, but 5.6's really, really low. His QB rating for his time spent in San Diego is 48.8. To put that into perspective, Derek Anderson's QB rating last year was 65.9. JaMarcus Russell's career QB rating is 65.2, and he's never dipped below 50.

The years make you forget just how poorly Leaf played as a Charger, but I think that says it all. As bad as Derek Anderson was last season, and as bad as JaMarcus Russell was for his entire career....neither was anywhere close to as bad as Ryan Leaf was in San Diego.

So why was he even drafted? Well, Leaf was the right player in the right system at the right time and in the right conference. He dominated the Pac-10 as the QB of the Washington State Cougars. In his junior (and final) season, Leaf was the Pac-10 offensive player of the year (after breaking the record for the most passing TDs in a season), was a first-team All-American and finished 2nd in the nation in passing yards. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, losing out to Charles Woodson and Peyton Manning.

After being picked by the Chargers 2nd, and considered a player with talents equal to Manning, Leaf stated "I'm looking forward to a 15-year career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl and a parade through downtown San Diego." It's tough to be mad at him after saying that.

You don't need me to do a play-by-play on Leaf's career. The flaws were easy to identify from up close. Ryan did not get along well with his teammates, did not take kindly to heckling and did a terrible job at handling the media. On the field, Ryan was indecisive (a product of not being able to quickly read defenses, supposedly), inaccurate and generally frustrated.

After three years in San Diego (one spent on IR), Leaf was waived by the Bolts. He eventually caught on and performed similarly as a backup QB for the Cowboys and Buccaneers. After retiring, Leaf battled drug addiction and legal problems. It seems now that he's finally getting his life together, though. From his Wikipedia page:

In October 2009, it was reported that Leaf is living in Vancouver, Canada, and is a business development manager for a travel company. He feels that Vancouver is a fresh start and enjoys anonymity.

In December 2010, Leaf signed a contract to write three autobiographical books focusing on aspects of his football career and subsequent personal life.


Also, if you're not following Ryan on Twitter (and checking out his radio interviews with the Darren Smith Show) you're missing out. On it, Ryan comes across as humorous, humble and smart. Here's an example of one exchange with Marty Caswell.

Marty1090: So the NFL pre-season schedule is out. Normally I get excited over it- now am just wondering who exactly will be playing those games

RyanDLeaf: apparently maybe me, haha!! Let's see did I just totally kick the hornets nest!! Maybe build on that ugly W-L ratio, awful!!

Marty1090: Now THAT would be something! First game would have to be in San Diego, of course!

RyanDLeaf: oh god please don't do that to Chargers fans, haven't I done enough, ughhhh!

So there you go. Leaf has grown up, hopefully his troubles are behind him and Chargers fans wish him the best of luck moving forward with his life. Unfortunately, that doesn't save him from being the biggest bust in the history of the team.

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