Skip to main content

Best, Worst First-Round NFL Draft Picks



RB Earl Campbell goes down as arguably the top first-round draft pick in Oilers/Titans history.
NEW YORK -* 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 champions.

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 Baltimore.


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 asJi-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 offense.

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 receiving seasons.

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 NFL title.

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 Dilfer.


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.


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 Atlanta.

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.


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.


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 was over.


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.


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.


Best:DE Julius Peppers, North Carolina, 2002

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.


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.


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.


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 TDs.


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, 1967.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Related Content

Fan Zone

Titans + Nissan Stadium App presented by Verizon

Titans + Nissan Stadium App presented by Verizon

Stay up to date with team and stadium news, concert and event announcements, stream live Titans games and more!

Tennessee Titans Marketplace

Tennessee Titans Marketplace

A one-stop shop for Titans memorabilia, autographed items and more!

Tennessee Titans Email Newsletter

Tennessee Titans Email Newsletter

Get Titans news sent straight to your inbox.