Every year at NFL draft time, Ryan Leaf’s name comes up as the example of the greatest bust the league has ever seen. Today Leaf said on the Dan Patrick Show that when he looks back on his draft experience, his greatest regret is that he decided to leave Washington State after his junior year.
“I was a very entitled, spoiled athlete at that time,” Leaf said of the 21-year-old version of himself that was taken second overall in 1998. “You don’t want to say the money changes you, but it definitely does. I think getting drafted later would have been a benefit, to sit behind a veteran quarterback and learn. But I really think the best thing I should have done was to stay in school one more year. The next year I would have had a lot of scrutiny on me, and we would have struggled because we lost so many players from the year before. I would have learned to deal with a little failing, and then when that happened in the league I could have dealt with it in a more positive way.”
Calling into the show from his home in Montana, Leaf sounded like he’s doing well, talked about recovery from painkiller addiction, and mentioned that he saved his money and is doing well financially. He also revealed that he recently visited San Diego and talked about how that felt.
“It had been seven years, which is kind of crazy to think of that,” Leaf said. “The way things turned out, the expectations that the city had on me, the way I let them down, I always felt some apprehension about doing that.”
As for this year’s draft, Leaf doesn’t claim to be an expert, but he does have a feeling that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is being set up for failure: Leaf worries that Newton is going to be thrown into a situation in Carolina where he is expected to be the leader of the franchise, when he needs more time to develop.
“If I were a general manager, which I’m not, I wouldn’t take a quarterback that high this year, just because none of the general managers seem to think there’s a franchise quarterback this year,” Leaf said. “If there isn’t, then don’t draft one.”