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Indianapolis Colts Top 10 Draft Busts And Successes In Franchise History: Anthony Johnson

1 Nov 1992: Running back Anthony Johnson of the Indianapolis Colts lies on the ground with the ball during a game against the San Diego Chargers at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Chargers won the game, 26-0. Photographer: Gary Newkirk
1 Nov 1992: Running back Anthony Johnson of the Indianapolis Colts lies on the ground with the ball during a game against the San Diego Chargers at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Chargers won the game, 26-0. Photographer: Gary Newkirk

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We're still in the 'top' five for all-time Colts draft busts, and No. 4 on our list might be a bit of a surprise for some Colts fans.

Colts Draft Bust No. 4: Anthony Johnson, Three Yards And A Cloud Of Dust

It's always been my impression that several old time Colts fans have positive feelings about the career of Notre Dame grad Anthony Johnson. He played for four years in Indy, and during that time he had to compete against running backs like Eric Dickerson and perennial fan favorite Albert Bentley for playing time. Eventually, he would beat out both men, and I think that, unlike Dickerson, Johnson seemed to actually care about winning football games. Fans enjoyed seeing this for a change, as years of the whiny and pampered Dickson had left a sour taste in everyone's mouth.

However, the reality is Johnson was a second round pick (No. 36 overall) in the now infamous 1990 NFL Draft, and in the four years he played  in Indianapolis he scored a grand total of ONE rushing touchdown. One. Yeah, that's pretty bad.

Before I get into the particulars with Johnson, let me say that if 2008 first round draft pick Donald Brown does not have a true breakout season in 2011, he's replacing Johnson on this list. Running back is the easiest position in football to learn, and one can tell from very early on whether or not a back 'gets it' or not. Right now, Brown doesn't get it. He has bust written all over him. However, I'm holding off putting him on the all-time bust list because he deserves one more year to prove he's worth a damn.

Johnson had four years to prove his worth, and while he managed to carve out a respectable overall NFL career (twelve years in the league primarily as a back-up), when one is drafted as a first day pick by a team that was, the year prior, an underwhelming 8-8, they're expecting a starting-caliber player. Johnson was never that.

A.J. averaged a poor 3.7 yards a rush in Indy (3.6 for his career), and never had more than 600 yards in one season despite starting in 1992 and 1993. He had quality offensive linemen in front of him in 1993, like All Pro left tackle Will Wolford and outstanding center Kirk Lowdermilk. Still, despite the improved talent along the line, he averaged only 3.5 yards a carry and rushed for just 331 yards despite starting eight games that year. Johnson also had problems holding onto the football. He had thirteen fumbles from 1991-1993.

After 1993, the Colts let A.J. go as Jim Irsay (the man who drafted Johnson) transitioned away from personnel decision-making. Bill Tobin took over as Colts V.P. of Football Operations, and he used the second overall pick in 1994 to draft Johnson's replacement: Marshall Faulk.

In a strange twist, Johnson would eventually be signed by future Colts president Bill Polian when he ran the front office for the Carolina Panthers. Johnson spent five years in Carolina, including an impressive season in 1996 when he ran for 1,120 yards and scored six touchdowns. The Panthers made the playoffs that year and went all the way to the AFC Championship Game, losing there to Brett Favre and the eventual champion Green Bay Packers.Johnson retired in 2000 after one season as a back-up with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Again, I think most old time Colts fans sort of give A.J. a break because he was seemingly a good guy who just didn't work out. He just happened to play for a Colts franchise that, from 1990-1993, won a grand total of 21 games out of a possible 64. They also never made the playoffs during that stretch. My argument for having Johnson here is that his inability to produce on the football field contributed to the team losing, and like it or not, when one is drafted 36th overall, one is expected to produce. Football is a bottom line business, and in Indianapolis Anthony Johnson just couldn't get it done.

No. 5 Draft Bust: Don Anderson

No. 6 Draft Bust: Eric Mahlum

No. 7 Draft Bust: Quinn Pitcock

No. 8 Draft Bust: Leonard Coleman

No. 9 Draft Bust: Quentin Coryatt

No. 10 Draft Bust: Steve Emtman

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