10 biggest NFL draft busts in Tennessee football history

The Tennessee Volunteers have produced many legendary players into the NFL, but a few early draft picks had careers that didn't pan out after leaving Knoxville.

Tennessee sophomore quarterback Heath Shuler (21)
Tennessee sophomore quarterback Heath Shuler (21) / Rex Perry / The Tennessean / USA TODAY
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. . 123. 1979. Robert Shaw, C. Robert Shaw. No. 27 overall. Robert Shaw, C. 7. player

The Cowboys drafted Robert Shaw in the first round in 1979 but planned for him to be John Fitzgerald’s backup during his first season. In 1980, Fitzgerald suffered an injury, so Shaw stared down the stretch, and for Dallas’s three playoff games. 

Shaw was expected to remain the starting center in 1981, but there is more than one way to be a bust. It’s not just underperformance, injury can derail a first-round pick’s career. That’s what happened with Shaw he sprained his knee early in 1981. 

That knee sprain ended his career as he was never able to pass his physical for the Cowboys and did not play another game after 1981. 

Shaw started as a backup in Dallas after being selected in the first round, which is why I can’t fully excuse his disappointing career and blame it all on his injury. Maybe he would have anchored a championship offensive line in Dallas for years, or maybe he was a backup for a reason. Either way, a three-year career with just six regular season starts belongs on this list.