Michigan State has become legendary in the first round of the NFL draft, but not in the way most Spartans would like. Unlike schools like Southern Cal and Miami, which are known for phenomenal first round successes, MSU has developed a reputation for high-profile draft busts.
As proof, I give you ESPN's Mock Draft for the Ages: A hypothetical account of how an NFL draft, with every player throughout history available, would go today based solely on their own draft stock coming out of school. MSU was the only school with two top-10 picks. State tied USC for first with three first-round picks. But ugh, what picks.
Pick 3 (Chiefs) - Bubba Smith, DE
This is the one slightly redeeming pick of the three. Smith played nine seasons in the NFL, going to two Pro Bowls and winning the 1970 Super Bowl with the Baltimore Colts. It's a very good career. A career most NFL players would kill for. Hell, he's still a legend among older football fans in Baltimore. A solid if not spectacular pick at number three, given that Smith didn't quite have a Hall of Fame pro career.
Pick 6 (Bengals) - Tony Mandarich, OT
Had it not been for a certain young whippersnapper from Washington State named Ryan Leaf, Mandarich might be viewed as the biggest draft bust of all time.
Mandarich was a beast in college. 6'6, 320 pounds of pure brick muscle. He flattened opposing players. He flattened opposing players while they were doubling him up.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, he did it all while ingesting enough steroids to stun a dead mule. And then there's the pain killers and booze he turned to in a futile effort to dull the constant pain in his freakish body. Mandarich told ESPN in a recent article (see link above) that he was drunk each and every day for four seasons with the Green Bay Packers and taking in up to 70 painkilling pills a day. That's a little more than an ENTIRE BOTTLE of pills each day.
Suffice it to say, NFL scouts aren't high on drafting the next Tony Mandarich.
Credit to Mandarich though, he eventually got his life back in order. He made a comeback with the Indianapolis Colts and now is trying to convince young people to not go the same route he did.
Pick 20 (Lions) - Charles Rogers, WR
I think this is ESPN's idea of a sick joke at the expense of Lions fans everywhere. Rogers, who at just 27 years old is in his prime as a receiver, should have spent late March and early April this year getting ready for the upcoming season. Instead, he spent it in the Oakland County jail for violating probation in a domestic violence case.
It's the latest in a long storied fall for Rogers, the "fire" part of the ill-fated "Smoke and Fire" partnership between himself and QB Jeff Smoker at the end of the infamous Bobby Williams era. Both dealt with drug problems in their own way - Smoker got suspended from State, came back and is now playing in the Arena League. Rogers got suspended in the NFL and, well, never made it all the way back.
The drug and behavior problems, his oft-injured collarbone, it all adds up to a big-time NFL draft bust.
It's not that MSU hasn't had good pros. Joe DeLamielleure is a Hall of Famer. Flozell Adams may get there. Morten Andersen is the best kicker in NFL history. Plaxico Burress, despite his recent dalliances, gave the Giants their last Super Bowl win. But we'll need a sure-fire first round stud or two to shake the Mandarich-Rogers legacy.
Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated