Indianapolis Colts Top 10 Draft Busts And Successes In Franchise History: Steve Emtman

13 Sep 1992: Defensive lineman Steve Emtman of the Indianapolis Colts looks on during a game against the Houston Oilers at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Oilers won the game, 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Gary Mook /Allsport

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This sponsored post is counting down the top ten draft busts in Colts history, and then counting up to the top ten successful picks all-time. I'll give you one big, wild guess who I think the top success pick is.

Colts Draft Bust No. 10: The Sad Story Of Steve Emtman

Starting here, we focus on the 'busts,' with No. 10 being the least disappointing to No. 1 being the worst pick the Colts have ever made. I'm taking into account draft selection value, money spent, and overall expectations. Because, I mean, it would be kind of silly to call someone like Frank Giannetti (10th Round pick in 1991) a 'bust.'

We start at No. 10 with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, defensive end Steve Emtman. This selection is bitter for me because I always loved Emtman as a player, and what happened to his NFL career almost seemed as if it were a cruel joke played on him by the powers-that-be.

Following the infamous 1-15 season of 1991, the Colts and then-general manager Jim Irsay (before he became owner) had the unique honor of having the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the 1992 NFL Draft. Today, under the current 'system,' no team could afford to have those picks. In this past season's draft, the No. 1 pick Sam Bradford signed a $78 million dollar contract with $50 mill in guaranteed money. The second overall pick, Ndamukong Suh, got $40 million guaranteed and maxed out at $68 million. That's over $146 million bucks invested in just two players!

But, back in 1992, there was no salary cap. There was no $9 billion in TV revenue. There was no 'scale' for signing rookies, and they certainly weren't making $78 million bucks. Thus, the Colts were able to retain their picks, and used the first one of a defensive end from the University of Washington: Steve Emtman.

Prior to Emtman's arrival, the Colts defense in 1991 was one of the worst in football. They were 26th in the league in points surrendered, and they lacked a consistent 'star' on defense. Emtman was to be that star. With speed off the edge, and an imposing size to match that speed (6'4, 290 pounds), Emtman could flat out overpower left tackles.

By Week Seven of the '92 season, the reviews for the Colts were that their defense had improved. They were keeping games close (surrendering 18.6 points per game), but the offense wasn't able to generate much (9.7 per game... ugh!).

It would be Week Eight of that '92 season which would be the apex of Steve Emtman's entire professional football career. With the Colts up 24-20 over then-AFC East division rival Miami, Dolhpins quarterback Dan Marino was driving his offense for the go-ahead touchdown to win with seconds remaining. Near the Colts goal-line, Marino zipped a pass in the right flat. However, the pass was tipped and then intercepted by Steve Emtman. Emtman then took the ball and ran 90 yards the other way for a touchdown. Ballgame. Colts win.

I personally remember that game as if it were yesterday. For the first time, people in Indianapolis had something to cheer about with the Colts.

Emtman's INT for a TD was one of several impressive stats that season for him. He'd also amassed three sacks, 49 tackles, and a forced fumble after nine games. However, it would be the season's ninth game (Week Ten) that would prove the beginning of the end for Steve Emtman in the NFL. Against the same Miami Dolphins he'd defeated two weeks prior, the No. 1 overall pick blew out his knee on a seemingly routine play. His ACL and MCL were both torn to shreds, and the savior for the Colts had to be carted off the field. His season was over.

Emtman never recovered from that injury.

Gone was the speed and power that had once been his trademark. To make matters worse, Emtman would blow out his other knee the next season, in a Week Six game against the Dallas Cowboys. The image of Emtman being carted off, his face red with anger as he bashed his fists onto the back seats, still haunts me.

A year later, Emtman would be cut from the team. He played another two years with the Miami Dolphins and a few games after that with the Washington Redskins in 1997. After that year, he was out of football. Six years, and done.

It's sad to see such a young, promising talent have his career dissolve like that. No one really knows why Emtman's knees both got destroyed in the turf of the old Hoosier Dome. But, regardless, a first overall pick getting cut from the team that drafted him three years after being picked qualifies as a 'bust.' Though, with this case, the circumstances make one feel empathy more than disappointment.

For years, Colts fans like me have wondered how different this franchise would have been had Emtman's knee not gotten torn up against the Dolphins. Because of that injury, we have Steve listed as No. 10 on our list of all-time Colts draft busts.

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