NFL draft: Biggest first-round busts

You'd think a first-round draft pick would guarantee you a good chance of landing a successful player. Not so. Picks at every single position in the first round have failed to pan out, whether from lack of talent, injuries, front-office follies or bad attitudes. Here are the worst picks at every draft position of the first round. – Jay Busbee


31. Trezelle Jenkins, Kansas City, 1995
Nine games over three seasons isn’t what you want out of a first-round pick, and yet that’s all the Chiefs got. In perhaps the ultimate insult, Jenkins couldn’t even catch on with an XFL (remember that?) team after his NFL days.

30. Johnson

30. Andre Johnson, Washington, 1996
The definition of horrific draft-day maneuvering. Then-Redskins GM Charlie Casserly dealt away a third-round pick to move up and take Johnson, who never played a single down for the Redskins. He moved on to the Lions, but only played three games in his entire career.

29. Soward

29. R. Jay Soward, Jacksonville, 2000
The pressure of being a first-round pick was too much for Soward to handle, and he lasted only one season in the NFL. He played only 13 games before getting cut in the wake of multiple substance-abuse issues with the league.

28. Katzenmoyer

28. Andy Katzenmoyer, New England, 1999
An injury to his neck hampered his play, but Katzenmoyer only played in 24 games during his two seasons in the league. He played his entire career for New England … but retired just before the dynasty began. Bad timing.


27. Rae Carruth, Carolina, 1997
Regardless of how well he played on the field, he helped organize the murder of his girlfriend and unborn child, and remains in prison to this day. There’s worst-case scenarios for your draft picks, and then there’s Carruth.

26. Druckenmiller

26. Jim Druckenmiller, San Francisco, 1997
It’s always a dicey business drafting a player expected to live up to a legend, but when the kid is expected to follow in the footsteps of two? Yeah, good luck. Druckenmiller was supposed to carry on the mantle of Joe Montana and Steve Young, but flamed out, throwing only 52 passes in his entire NFL career.

25. Flagler

25. Terrence Flagler, San Francisco, 1987
When you’re a first-round pick, you’re expected to start more than a single game over your 41-game career. And yet, that’s all the 49ers and Cardinals got out of Flagler. Also possible for this position: Tim Tebow, who was selected way higher than he should have been by Denver in 2010.

24. Marinovich

24. Todd Marinovich, Oakland, 1991
Exhibit A for why parents shouldn’t project their own dreams onto their children, Marinovich’s attitude and off-field issues overshadowed his talent. After having a lifetime to prepare for this moment, he was out of the league in just two years.

23. Tubbs

23. Marcus Tubbs, Seattle, 2004
If it’s possible for a 6’3”, 300-pound defensive tackle to be invisible, Tubbs managed it. He played for only three injury-plagued seasons in Seattle, and you’d be forgiven if you don’t remember ever seeing him.

22. Brady Quinn

22. Brady Quinn, Cleveland, 2007
Here’s another case where the hype overwhelms the actual performance. Quinn was one of the most highly touted quarterbacks in years, but injuries and a pronounced lack of talent dogged him during his years in Cleveland. He never played in either of his two years in Denver, and only saw sporadic action in Kansas City. He’s now backing up Russell Wilson in Seattle.

21. Rivera

21. Gabe Rivera, Pittsburgh, 1983
The 1983 draft was so stocked that teams could close their eyes, throw a dart and target a future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, the Steelers threw their dart into their own foot. Rivera was a controversial pick from the start, because the Steelers passed on local product Dan Marino as a successor to Terry Bradshaw. Rivera, a defensive tackle, played only one season before he was left paralyzed from a car accident.

20. Klingler

20. David Klingler, Cincinnati, 1992
Coming out of pass-happy Houston, where he’d piled up astronomical statistics, Klingler was pegged as a QB of the future. Instead, he just got pegged into the turf. He did start for two of his four seasons in Cincinnati, and then played another two at Oakland. But his statistics for an average Houston game virtually outstripped his entire NFL career.

19. Palmer

19. Paul Palmer, Kansas City, 1987
When you’re the runner-up for the Heisman (to Vinny Testaverde), you’re expected to bring a bit more game to the field than Palmer (middle) could. He totaled 1,700 yards and 10 touchdowns over three years in the league.

15. James

18. Erasmus James, Minnesota, 2005
Four seasons, 28 games, 30 tackles, loads of injuries. On the plus side, he’s caught on with the New Mexico Stars of the … well, never mind.

17. Janikowski

17. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland, 2000
Janikowski is, without a doubt, the most successful player on this list. Still, the dubious wisdom of picking a kicker in the first round remains a consideration. Shaun Alexander was picked two spots later, and Neil Rackers, a kicker comparable to Janikowski, was still available as of Round 6 … as was some quarterback by the name of Brady.

16. McGwire

16. Dan McGwire, Seattle, 1991
Brother of then-Bash Brother Mark, Dan McGwire came into the league with name recognition … which does very little to ward off defenders. He played in pieces of six seasons, but totaled only 13 games, with two touchdowns and six interceptions. Good news: He was done with the NFL in time to watch his brother’s 1998 home run chase.

15. Richardson

15. Huey Richardson, Pittsburgh, 1991
The classic nothing-special-to-offer pick, Richardson, a linebacker, played just one year in Pittsburgh. He was out of the league in three years, playing in only 16 games and recording not a single start.


14. DJ Dozier, Minnesota, 1986
One of many Penn State running backs who were just awful in the pros, Dozier never did anything worth mentioning during his four years with the Vikings and Lions. He totaled 691 yards and nine touchdowns during his entire career.

13. Snow

13. Percy Snow, Kansas City, 1990
Few linebackers came into the league with more cachet than Snow, who won both the Lombardi and Butkus awards while at Michigan State. He had a promising first year, but an ill-advised trip on a moped before the 1991 season resulted in a wreck that put him on injured reserve. He’d never be the same.

12. McNown

12. Cade McNown, Chicago, 1999
Tip for today’s young quarterbacks: unless your name is Manning – and there aren’t any more of those for the foreseeable future – your talent is not enough to outstrip your terrible attitude. McNown “led” the Bears to a 3-12 record during his two seasons in the league, and his attitude meant there weren’t many tears shed at his departure.

11. Knight

11. Shawn Knight, New Orleans, 1987
Knight took a tour of the league in his three seasons, playing one year each for New Orleans, Denver and Phoenix (now Arizona) and not doing anything particularly memorable in any one of them. He played 31 games, and only started one.

10. Williams

10. Mike Williams, Detroit, 2005
The third straight first-round receiver selected by then-GM Matt Millen, Williams, to be fair, put together a decent journeyman career after leaving Detroit. But in his two years in a Lions uniform, he was the definition of unspectacular, catching only 37 passes for two touchdowns in 22 games.

Kevin Allen

9. Kevin Allen, Philadelphia Eagles, 1985
He played just one season before testing positive for cocaine. He later served three years in prison, and remains the butt of one of Buddy Ryan’s greatest jabs: Ryan called Allen a great player "if you want someone to stand around and kill the grass."

8. Coleman

8. Leonard Coleman, Indianapolis, 1984
Coleman, here trying to cover Jerry Rice, carries the distinction of being the first player drafted after the Colts left Baltimore. But he couldn’t agree on a contract, and so signed with the USFL for a year. He came back to the Colts and lasted for three seasons that included a three-interception game.

6. Phillips

6. Lawrence Philips, St. Louis, 1996
He was what we thought he was. Character issues dogged him in college, but St. Louis thought enough of him to deal a promising youngster named Jerome Bettis to Pittsburgh to make room. Phillips rewarded their faith with inconsistent play and attitude problems. He’s now in prison on a litany of charges, and will not be eligible for parole until 2034.

4. McCants

4. Keith McCants, Tampa Bay, 1990
Art Schlicter will own this slot forevermore thanks to his gambling problems, but in the last 30 years the worst #4 selection has to be McCants. A spectacular college linebacker at Alabama, he was never anything more than an undistinguished pro player, and only played six years in the league.

3. Shuler

3. Heath Shuler, Washington, 1994
Lost a quarterback battle to fellow 1994 draftee Gus Frerotte, and injuries had him out of the league by 1997. Still, he returned to Washington as a U.S. representative from North Carolina, where he served from 2007 until earlier this year.


2. Ryan Leaf, San Diego, 1998
Pretty much anyone would suffer in comparison to the guy picked ahead of Leaf – fella named Peyton – but Leaf did nothing to help his own cause. He was one hell of a quarterback, except for the fact that he lacked talent and had a terrible attitude. He was out of the league by 2001.

Bo Jackson

1. Bo Jackson, Tampa Bay, 1986
The conventional pick here would be Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell or Cleveland’s Tim Couch. But at least those galactic-level busts provided their teams with something. Jackson told Tampa Bay he wouldn’t sign with them, and carried through on his threat, leaving the Buccaneers with absolutely nothing to show for a No. 1 pick.