Best, worst first-round NFL draft picks
The Associated Press takes a look at the best and worst
first-round draft picks for each NFL team:
Best: T Jonathan Ogden, UCLA, 1996
Selected with the team’s first-ever pick after the move from
Cleveland, Ogden held down the left tackle spot through 2006, was
selected to 11 Pro Bowls and was a star on 2000 Super Bowl
Worst: WR Travis Taylor, Florida, 2000
Taken 10th overall, Taylor battled injuries and never became the
big-play wideout Ravens envisioned in five seasons in
Best: DE Bruce Smith, Virginia Tech, 1985
With some question whether Smith or Ray Childress was worthy of
the No. 1 pick, the Bills went with Smith, who became the NFL’s
sack leader and cornerstone of a defense on a team that won four
straight AFC championships.
Worst: LB Tom Cousineau, Ohio State, 1979
Touted linebacker selected first overall who never played a game
for the Bills due to a contract squabble and better offer from the
CFL. He played seven NFL seasons elsewhere and was never selected
to the Pro Bowl.
Best: T Anthony Munoz, Southern California, 1980
Chosen third overall, Munoz ended up in the Hall of Fame as one
of the top offensive linemen ever. He made 11 Pro Bowls from
1980-92 and helped the Bengals reach both of their Super Bowls as
the main protector for QBs Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason.
Worst: RB Ki-Jana Carter, Penn State, 1995
Bengals moved up to take him first overall and gave him a
then-record $7.1 million signing bonus. Owner Mike Brown called him
the team’s ”bell cow.” Tore ACL in his left knee on his third
preseason carry in Detroit, ending the season and starting a career
cut short by injuries at every turn. Brown also mispronounced his
name as ”Ji-Kana” at the team’s preseason luncheon that year.
Best: RB Jim Brown, Syracuse, 1957
Arguably the greatest running back in NFL history, some say he
may be best player at any position. Sixth pick overall, Brown
rushed for 12,312 yards and 126 touchdowns before retiring at the
peak of career to pursue acting. A powerful runner with breakaway
speed, Brown was rookie of year, three-time player of the year and
nine-time Pro Bowler.
Worst: DE Courtney Brown, Penn State, 2000
Injuries doomed the talented, soft-spoken Brown, the top overall
choice. Had surgery on right knee in 2001 and left knee in 2002 and
2004. Missed 33 games in his final four seasons with Cleveland.
Best: S Steve Atwater, Arkansas, 1989
No, not John Elway, who actually was selected by Indianapolis
and traded to Denver.
Eight-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time Super Bowl champion
Atwater who was chosen 20th overall. Considered one of the hardest
hitters in the NFL and one of the more versatile safeties. He also
was a leader on defense on a team that featured Elway on
Worst: DE Jarvis Moss, Florida, 2007
Moss managed just 3 1/2 sacks in 3 1/2 seasons before the
Broncos released him last year. Moss never succeeded as an end
under Mike Shanahan in the 4-3 or at OLB under Josh McDaniels in
the 3-4 defense.
Best: WR Andre Johnson, Miami, 2003
Third overall pick, five-time Pro Bowl selection and franchise’s
all-time top receiver. Only receiver in NFL history to make at
least 60 catches in each of his first eight seasons, led league in
receptions in 2006 (103) and set a career high in ’08 with
league-best 115. One of two WRs with consecutive 1,500-yard
Worst: DT Travis Johnson, Florida State, 2005
At 16th overall pick underachieved and was plagued by injuries
in four seasons, then Houston traded him to San Diego in 2009.
Started 38 games in four seasons and had only two sacks. Drew
15-yard penalty for taunting Dolphins QB Trent Green after Green
went low to block him.
Best: QB Peyton Manning, Tennessee, 1998
Manning or Ryan Leaf? Manning told Colts if they didn’t pick
him, he’d ”kick their butt” for next 15 years. Manning is on pace
to break every major career passing record, turned a beleaguered
franchise into a perennial Super Bowl contender and won the 2006
Worst: LB Trev Alberts, Nebraska, 1994
Played only three seasons, finishing with four sacks and one
interception, after going fifth overall. Memorable flare-up between
Colts GM Bill Tobin and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper came after
Kiper faulted Colts for taking Alberts instead of QB Trent
Best: T Tony Boselli, Southern California, 1995
Franchise’s inaugural draft pick made the Pro Bowl in five of
first six seasons and was three-time All-Pro selection. Injuries
shortened his career to eight years, but he remains an integral
part of the small-market city’s campaign to sell tickets.
Worst: DE Derrick Harvey, Florida, 2008
Jacksonville gave up two third-round picks and fourth-rounder to
swap first-round selections with Baltimore and draft Harvey eighth
overall. Ravens, meanwhile, chose franchise quarterback Joe Flacco
at No. 18. Harvey has eight sacks in 47 career games, lackluster
production that got him benched last season.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Best: TE Tony Gonzalez, California, 1997
Chiefs traded up with Houston to take Gonzalez, who was coming
out as junior. In 12 years with KC, became most productive player
at his position and shattered NFL tight end records for receptions,
touchdown catches and yards receiving. Made 10 Pro Bowls. Now with
Worst: QB Todd Blackledge, Penn State, 1983
First player drafted by first-year coach John Mackovic, who was
hired to replace Marv Levy specifically because of expertise in
passing game. Seventh overall selection, Blackledge spent five
years in KC, went to Pittsburgh for two years and retired to the
broadcast booth with overall passer rating of 60.2.
Best: QB Dan Marino, Pittsburgh, 1983
Taken with the 27th pick, became a starter as a rookie, led the
Dolphins to the Super Bowl in 1984 and retired after the 1999
season as the most prolific passer in NFL history. Marino was
inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Worst: DE-LB Eric Kumerow, Ohio State, 1988. The 16th pick,
choice was panned from the start, and Kumerow was out of the NFL
after three seasons.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Best: G John Hannah, Alabama, 1973
Hannah, taken fourth overall, was inducted into the Pro Football
Hall of Fame in 1991 and voted to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team
after a 13-year pro career spent entirely with the Patriots. He was
chosen for nine Pro Bowls.
Worst: DE Kenneth Sims, Texas, 1982
Plagued by injuries, Sims started all 16 games just once and
played in only 74 games over his eight NFL seasons with Patriots.
Had just 16 sacks and Patriots released him in 1990 after he
reported out of shape.
NEW YORK JETS
Best: RB Freeman McNeil, UCLA, 1981
Third overall pick was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and
played his entire 12-year NFL career with the Jets, retiring as
their all-time leading rusher. McNeil averaged 4.5 yards a carry
and ran for 38 TDs.
Worst: RB Blair Thomas, Penn State, 1990
Second overall pick was plagued by injuries and was ineffective
when he did play, rushing for only 2,009 yards and five TDs in four
seasons with Jets. Two years and three teams later, Thomas’ career
Best: G Gene Upshaw, Texas A&M-Kingsville, 1967
Raiders found Upshaw out of NAIA school in the first common
draft and he quickly became an anchor on one of top offensive
lines. Upshaw became first exclusive guard to make Hall of Fame,
winning two of his three Super Bowl appearances, playing in 10 AFL
or AFC title games, and seven Pro Bowls during 15-year career.
Worst: QB JaMarcus Russell, LSU, 2007
One of the all-time draft busts, Russell got paid more than $39
million before being cut after three seasons in Oakland. He held
out of his first training camp, was out of shape and won only seven
of 25 starts. Threw 23 interceptions, lost 15 fumbles, completed
52.1 percent of passes and had a passer rating of 65.2.
Best: QB Terry Bradshaw, Louisiana Tech, 1970
Bradshaw barely edges Joe Greene, the 1969 pick and cornerstone
of the Steel Curtain defense. The top overall pick after a decent
but not spectacular college career, Bradshaw became the first
quarterback to win four Super Bowls, and was the MVP of two of
them. He turned the Steelers from a run-oriented team to a balanced
attack and entered the Hall of Fame in 1989.
Worst: LB Huey Richardson, Florida, 1991
Expected to be next in a long line of dominant Steelers
linebackers, but played in only five games and had no statistics
after being chosen 15th. He was traded to Washington the following
offseason and was out of the NFL after two years.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Best: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, 2001
No. 5 overall pick after Chargers traded top pick to Atlanta,
which used it on Michael Vick. Tomlinson was 2006 NFL MVP after
setting league records with 31 touchdowns, including 28 rushing,
and 186 points. Was eighth-leading career rusher when released
after 2009 season, now with Jets.
Worst: QB Ryan Leaf, Washington State, 1998
No. 2 overall pick after Indianapolis took Peyton Manning. Leaf
won only four of 14 starts during his messy three-year stay. Hurled
33 interceptions – compared to 13 TD passes – and lots of
obscenities. Career began melting down after just three games, when
he was caught on camera berating a reporter. Later that season, he
was suspended four games for cursing at GM Bobby Beathard.
Best: RB Earl Campbell, Texas, 1978
Then the Houston Oilers, team traded three picks and tight end
Jimmie Giles to Tampa Bay for right to pick the All-American back.
Campbell helped Oilers reach AFC championship game in 1978 and
1979, earning MVP honors in 1979. He was a three-time Offensive
Player of the Year.
Worst: DB Adam ”Pacman” Jones, West Virginia, 2005
Titans took the cornerback with the sixth pick overall, and he
immediately became a starter as Tennessee’s best defender in 2005
and 2006. But off-field troubles led to him being suspended in
April 2007 for the season, and the Titans traded him to Dallas in
April 2008. He’s had minimal impact since.
Best: WR Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh, 2004.
Although there was some criticism because of then-coach Dennis
Green’s close friendship with Fitzgerald’s family, the receiver has
gone to four Pro Bowls, becoming youngest player to reach 7,000
yards receiving, has five 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and helped
Cardinals to first Super Bowl in 2008 season.
Worst: DT Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin, 2002
Taken 12th overall, Bryant played in 29 games over three seasons
before he was released after team learned he would be suspended for
a year for substance abuse violations. He had 28 career tackles and
1 1/2 sacks. After battles with drugs and alcohol, Bryant
eventually got into a 12-step recovery program and played for Omaha
of the UFL last season.
Best: CB Deion Sanders, Florida State, 1989
No. 5 overall pick and most dynamic player in Falcons history,
only Atlanta draft pick to make Pro Football Hall of Fame (2011).
Had 24 interceptions and returned three for TDs in five years in
Atlanta. Scored seven other TDs with Falcons: three kickoff
returns, two punt returns and two receptions. Made two All-Pro
teams in those five years.
Worst: DE Aundray Bruce, Auburn, 1988
Top overall choice lasted 11 years in league, but made only 42
starts. Hyped as next Lawrence Taylor, but at best was only
serviceable, never impact player. Had no more than six sacks in a
season. He was arrested for pointing pellet gun at pizza
deliveryman in 1990.
CAROLINA PANTHERS Best: DE Julius Peppers, North Carolina,
Second overall pick immediately became one of most dominating
defensive ends in NFL. Helped Panthers reach their only Super Bowl
after 2003 season and amassed franchise-record 81 sacks before a
messy exit to Chicago via free agency in 2010.
Worst: WR Rae Carruth, Colorado, 1997
The 27th overall pick had mediocre three seasons until his
career abruptly ended with a Thanksgiving arrest in 1999. Was later
convicted of conspiracy to commit murder of his pregnant
girlfriend. He’s serving at least a 19-year prison sentence.
Best: RB Walter Payton, Jackson State, 1975
Drafted fourth overall, Payton retired after 1987 season as
NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards. Helped 1985 Bears
win the 1985 championship, running for 1,551 yards, and made nine
Pro Bowls during his career. League’s man of the year award is
named after Payton, who made the Hall of Fame in 1993.
Worst: RB Cedric Benson, Texas, 2005
Although he’s had some success with Cincinnati the past three
years, Benson was one of the biggest disappointments for the Bears.
The fourth pick, he never lived up to hype that accompanied him
from college and was released in June 2008 after his second
alcohol-related arrest in a month.
Best: RB Emmitt Smith, Florida, 1990
Smith went from being No. 17 in the draft and the second running
back taken that year to being the leading rusher in NFL history. He
helped the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in a four-year span,
was the MVP of the 1994 game, and also MVP of the 1993 season. He
finished with 18,355 yards rushing and 175 total TDs.
Worst: LB Billy Cannon Jr., Texas A&M, 1984
Son of 1959 Heisman Trophy winner – one of college football’s
greatest players – the younger Cannon was the 25th overall pick in
1984, played eight games, got hurt and never played again.
Best: RB Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State, 1989
Hall of Fame running back was first player to run for 1,000
yards in each of first 10 seasons and helped Detroit win its only
playoff game – in 1992 over Dallas – since its 1957 NFL title.
Shockingly retired just before training camp in 1999 with 15,269
yards rushing, within one of his average seasons of surpassing
Walter Payton’s record.
Worst: WR Charles Rogers, Michigan State, 2003
After scoring twice in his debut, a broken collarbone ended his
rookie season and same injury set him back in the 2004 opener.
Detroit cut Rogers entering his fourth season – with just 36 career
receptions for 440 yards and four TDs in 15 games – following
four-game suspension for violating substance abuse policy.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Best: RB Paul Hornung, Notre Dame, 1957
Heisman Trophy winner went to Green Bay after it won a lottery
for the top pick. Won four championships with the Packers, won
scoring title three straight seasons (1959-61), with league- record
176 points in 1960 – which stood until LaDainian Tomlinson broke it
in 2006. Career was marred by gambling suspension in 1963, made
Hall of Fame in 1986.
Worst: OL Tony Mandarich, Michigan State, 1989
Considered one of best offensive line prospects in history,
lasted only three seasons in Green Bay, is considered one of
biggest first-round busts ever. Later would admit to using steroids
in college and battling drug and alcohol problems in Green Bay.
Packers could have had Barry or Deion Sanders.
Best: WR Randy Moss, West Virginia, 1998
Character concerns, which continued to play out during his
mostly spectacular 13-year career, led to freakishly talented Moss
going 21st. Moss led Vikings to a 15-1 record that season and a
painful three points away from Super Bowl. He’s been a dynamic
receiver until recently, helping the Patriots go 16-0 in 2007
before a Super Bowl loss.
Worst: DE Dimitrius Underwood, Michigan State, 1999
Buoyed by the success of taking Moss the year before, Vikings
reached for physically gifted but unproven player who left school a
year early. Underwood didn’t last one day of training camp, dealing
with mental illness issues.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Best: T William Roaf, Louisiana Tech, 1993
Was a franchise-high seven-time Pro Bowl player with the Saints,
11 times in his career, including four with KC. Inducted into the
Saints Hall of Fame in 2008 and was a 2011 finalist for Pro
Football Hall of Fame. Started every game his rookie season at RT
before moving to LT in second season.
Worst: PK Russell Erxleben, Texas, 1979.
Saints used 11th overall pick on punter, as if in those days
they didn’t have many other needs. Lasted five seasons in New
Orleans, where his net punting average was never higher than 35.2
for a single season. Was rarely used on field goals.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Best: LB Lawrence Taylor, North Carolina, 1981
Second pick became the prototype for the modern linebacker.
Taylor revolutionized the sack with his arm chop that stripped the
ball. A 10-time Pro Bowl selection, won two Super Bowls, was NFL
MVP in 1986 and three-time Defensive Player of Year (1981, 1982,
1986). Also was Defensive Rookie of Year (1981).
Worst: RB Rocky Thompson, West Texas State, 1971
Chosen 17th overall when some projected him to go in third
round. Played two-plus years, 29 games, 68 carries, 217 yards, one
TD, with 16 receptions for 85 yards and 65 kick returns for two
Best: LB-C Chuck Bednarik, Penn, 1949
No. 1 overall pick – from Ivy League school, no less – Bednarik
is considered the last of the NFL’s great two-way players. He
starred at center and linebacker, was a 10-time All-Pro, eight-time
Pro-Bowl pick and helped the Eagles win two of their three NFL
titles. Was elected to Hall of Fame in first year of eligibility,
Worst: T Kevin Allen, Indiana, 1985
Played one season for the Eagles. Tested positive for cocaine
after reporting to training camp in 1986, then was charged with
sexual assault and spent three years in prison. Never played again
in the NFL.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Best: RB Eric Dickerson, SMU, 1983
Second overall pick rushed for 1,808 yards and 18 TDs his rookie
season. In 1984, set an NFL record with 2,105 yards, finished with
eight 1,000-yard seasons with the Rams and Colts. Made Pro Football
Hall of Fame in 1999.
Worst: RB Lawrence Phillips, Nebraska, 1996
Coming off a troubled college career, was a pro bust, totaling
1,453 yards in three seasons with three teams while trying the
patience of coach Dick Vermeil and others. Rams released him for
insubordination in 1997. Was sentenced to 10 years in prison in
2008 after a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Best: WR Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State, 1985
Rice’s No. 80 now hangs from the upper deck at Candlestick Park.
Hall of Fame receiver played first 16 of 21 NFL seasons with San
Francisco. Known for tireless work ethic even in late stages of
career, Rice holds virtually every significant receiving mark,
including most career receptions (1,549); yards receiving (22,895);
total touchdowns (208); and combined net yards (23,546).
Worst: QB Jim Druckenmiller, Virginia Tech, 1997
Niners picked Druckenmiller as heir apparent to Steve Young.
Made one start in two seasons, throwing just 52 passes and posting
29.2 passer rating before being dealt to Miami in 1999. Never
appeared in another NFL game.
Best: T Walter Jones, Florida State, 1997
An All-Pro selection four times and made nine Pro Bowls. Jones
was called for holding just nine times in 5,703 pass attempts, and
allowed only 23 sacks. Was the measuring stick at his position
after being sixth overall pick.
Worst: QB Rick Mirer, Notre Dame, 1993
Taken second overall, played four seasons in Seattle and went
20-31 with 41 touchdowns to 56 interceptions. Never became
franchise QB while player taken ahead of him by Patriots, Drew
Bledsoe, took New England to a Super Bowl.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Best: DE Lee Roy Selmon, Oklahoma, 1976
Team’s first-ever draft pick and is franchise’s only Hall of
Famer. Selmon-led Bucs rebounded from losing first 26 games in
team’s history to reach NFC title game in 1979, franchise’s fourth
season. Was versatile and dynamic player and team leader.
Worst: DE Eric Curry, Alabama, 1993
Bucs envisioned Curry being becoming the dominant pass rusher
they lacked since Selmon’s retirement in 1984. Never played up to
expectations. Had 12 sacks in five seasons with the Bucs, then
closed his career with a half-sack in two seasons with Jaguars.
Best: QB Sammy Baugh, TCU, 1937
Greatest player in franchise history, No. 6 overall pick, Baugh
arrived the same year franchise relocated from Boston and led
Redskins to titles in ’37 and ’42, revolutionizing passing game
along the way. As three-way player, he led the league in passing,
punting and interceptions in 1943 and was part of the Hall of
Fame’s inaugural class in 1963.
Worst: T Andre Johnson, Penn State, 1996
Washington traded up to nab the Penn State tackle with the 30th
pick, but he was so inept he never even got onto the field. Rode
the bench his entire rookie season and was cut at the end of
training camp the next year. Later played as a backup in all of
four games with Detroit.