First Round Worst … Friday Cup O’Chiefs

Who were the worst first-round draft choices in the NFL since the merger in 1970?

As we did on Thursday with our best first-round picks, the selections are based on the player’s position in the round. In other words, who was the worst 12th pick taken in the first round of the NFL Draft from 1970 to 2010? Who was the least productive player taken with the 25th pick?

Picking the best first round picks was very subjective. We’ll use a more objective reference for picking the worst first round selections. The No. 1 ability any player can have is availability and that’s how we’ve made our selections: games played. It’s not a perfect barometer of their contributions, but they couldn’t begin to be productive if they weren’t on the field in the first place.

Injuries, in some cases death and in one case even murder led to departures from the league by first round selections. We violated this rule only once in 32 picks, and that’s the first choice.

And, remember that picks No. 27 through 32 have not always been in the first round. It was in 1976 that picks No. 27 and 28 joined the first round, with No. 29 and No. 30 coming in 1995, No. 31 in 1999 and No. 32 in the 2002 Draft. There were various exceptions along the way, like the ’95 draft when new teams in Jacksonville and Carolina received a pair of first round selections.

Plus, I considered picks from the last few years, even though those players have not proven themselves over any length of time. Not many have yet qualified to be part of this group.

So here we go, the best first-round picks, spot by spot:




Team On the Pick


JaMarcus Russell


Oakland He missed his rookie training camp then signed a $60 million contract and played 31 games over 3 seasons, 18 TDs, 23 INTs, 52.1% comp. percentage. Released in 2010 and has not signed with anyone.


Ryan Leaf


San Diego It’s hard to believe that some people thought Leaf was a better choice in the ’98 Draft than Peyton Manning. He played in just 25 games during his NFL career.


Akili Smith


Cincinnati Smith played in just 22 games before washing out of the NFL. He had five TD passes compared to 13 INTs for the Bengals.


Art Schlichter


Baltimore Colts It was not physical injury that ended Schlichter’s career; it was a mental and emotional malady: gambling. The inability to handle his gambling addiction allowed him to play in just 13 games over three seasons with the Colts.


Mike Junkin


Cleveland Easily the worst defensive draft choice over the last 35 years. Junkin played in just 20 games during his brief NFL career, finishing with five games in KC for the 1989 season with Marty Schottenheimer.


Rich Campbell


Green Bay Among the early first round quarterback busts over the years, Campbell qualifies as the biggest. He played in seven games over four seasons with the Packers and couldn’t beat out an aging Lynn Dickey and David Whitehurst.


Andre Ware


Detroit The Lions have had many first round failures over the years, but none bigger than Ware, who played in just 14 games in his brief four-year career in Detroit.


Larry Stegent


St. Louis Cardinals One of the biggest first-round busts in history, Stegent was a RB out of Texas A&M who played in just seven games for the Cardinals before suffering a knee injury that ended his career. He touched the ball twice, fumbled once and then disappeared.


Kevin Allen


Philadelphia Off-field problems ended Allen’s career with the Eagles after 16 games and one season. He spent time in prison on a sexual assault charge.


Jamar Reynolds


Green Bay Former Packers GM Ron Wolf was a pretty good judge of talent, but his final first-round pick flopped in a big way, playing just 18 games over three seasons before being released.


Aaron Maybin


Buffalo In 2 seasons, he’s played in 27 games, 15 tackles and no sacks. Maybin has started one game and has been a healthy scratch last season for several games.


Phil Dokes


Buffalo In two seasons, Dokes played in 25 games for the Bills and impressed few with his productivity. He was cut loose before the ’79 season and banged around the NFL and USFL for several more seasons.


David Overstreet


Miami Overstreet signed in Canada and played two seasons there, before signing with the Dolphins for the 1983 season. He played 14 games for Miami, but died in June of 1984 when the car he was driving swerved off an east Texas highway, ran into gas pumps at a service station and exploded. He died at the scene.


Bernard Williams


Philadelphia Williams had a solid rookie season with the Eagles, playing left tackle and protecting QB Randall Cunningham. But it was after that ’94 season that the Eagles and NFL found out Williams had a marijuana problem. He was suspended and never saw the NFL again, although he played in Canada and the XFL.


Yatil Green


Miami Coming out of the Univ. of Miami, Green showed promise, but he blew out the ACL in both knees in consecutive training camps and played just eight games in the ’99 season, catching 18 passes.


Dan McGwire


Seattle The brother of baseball’s Mark, Dan McGwire played in just 13 games over five seasons with the Seahawks and Dolphins. His only claim to fame is that at 6-8, he is considered the tallest QB in NFL history.


Clyde Duncan


St. Louis Cardinals It was two seasons, 20 games and Duncan was gone from the Cardinals. He ended up touching the ball 32 times (four catches, 28 kick returns) and had three fumbles.


Steve Schindler


Denver As a rookie guard, Schindler went to the Super Bowl with the Broncos and played in 28 games over two seasons. He was cut before the ’79 season; spent time in New England where he didn’t get on the field and his career was over.


Steve Pisarkiewicz


St. Louis Cardinals Drafted out of Missouri, Pisarkiewicz spent three years in the league, where he played a total of 10 games for the Cardinals and Packers, threw three TDs, seven INTs and disappeared into football oblivion.


Ken Novak


Baltimore Colts Two seasons in the middle of the Colts defensive line, a total of 23 games and then Novak was gone, never to return to the playing field.


Gabe Rivera


Pittsburgh In his rookie season, Rivera was a disappointment for the Steelers in the six games he played at DT. During the next off-season, Rivera was thrown from his auto in an accident and ended up a paraplegic, never to play again.


Brady Quinn


Cleveland The Browns traded back into the 1st-round to get him, and in 3 seasons Quinn played in 14 games with 10 TDs/9 INTs. He was traded to Denver and did not play for the Broncos in the ’10 season.


Tim Anderson


San Francisco Drafted out of Ohio State, Anderson decided to play in Canada, spending four years there before finally coming back and playing for the 49ers and Bills, for a total of 15 NFL games.


Todd Marinovich


Los Angeles Raiders He threw three TD passes against the Chiefs in the final game of the 1991 regular season, but came back the next week and threw four INTs in a first-round playoff game. Played in just eight NFL games, tried his hand in Canada and Arena Football, and has multiple arrests on drug charges over the last 20 years.


Billy Cannon Jr.


Dallas The son of the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner came out of Texas A&M and played eight games as a rookie before suffering a neck injury that aggravated a congenital spinal condition. Doctors ended his career.


Ted Gregory


Denver Easily the biggest first-round draft bust in the last 36 years. Drafted by the Broncos, he was traded before the ’88 pre-season was over to New Orleans. He played three games for the Saints, before going to the IR list with a knee injury and he was never seen again.


Rae Carruth


Carolina Carruth played 22 games over three seasons before he was arrested late in 1999 and charged w/ conspiracy to commit murder. He remains in a North Carolina prison after being found guilty of helping to kill the mother of his child.


Andy Katzenmoyer


New England Katzenmoyer came out of Ohio State as a Butkus-like middle linebacker. But halfway through his second season, he suffered a neck injury and never returned to the playing field.


Andre Johnson


Washington Then Redskins GM Charlie Casserly actually traded up to get Johnson, who never played a down for Washington. He dressed for one game as a rookie, and then was cut after his second training camp. He spent two years in Detroit and played in a total of four games.


Trezelle  Jenkins


Kansas City Certainly the most disastrous first-round choice in franchise history, Jenkins played in just nine games. He went from starter, to backup, to waiver wire in the span of three weeks in the 1997 season. He never played again.


Craig Newsome


Green Bay Of the six players taken at No. 32 in the first round, Newsome ranks as the most disappointing. He played in 53 games over five seasons, but 32 of those games came in his first two years with the Packers. He played just 21 games over his last three seasons.

One Response to “First Round Worst … Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • April 15, 2011  - RW says:

    That’s an amazing list of names with certain ones flashing distant memories of anticipated excellence only to have hopes dashed by their ineptitude. I actually thought Brady Quinn was going to be good and was disappointed when Cleveland jumped back in just ahead of the Chiefs to nab him. Talk about the luck of the Irish!

    Not to say that CP would have drafted Quinn but I think he might have pulled the trigger on him. Yatil Green is another name I’d almost forgotten, he of the blazing speed WR image, only to be taken down by his fragility.

    This list is a sobering reminder that even with the best of pre-draft evaluations, some guys are destined to bomb and, in most cases, set the drafting franchise back a year or two if taken with a premium pick.

    On a somewhat related note, I’d recommend viewing the ESPN special on the Tom Brady draft class of 2000 which speaks on this very topic. It is an excellent overview on the perils of making the wrong choices on draft day.

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