The time has come, and college is over. It’s that time where some of these college players go from nothing, to having everything. Taking everything they have ever known about the game of football, to the highest level of football in the world. These players have worked their whole lives for this very moment: The NFL Draft.
As the year goes on, reporters make their predictions on when these players will be chosen. Many camps and Pro Days go on for these players to show their abilities to the scouts of many teams. Sometimes, these events help the players out as they get to show them qualities that these scouts couldn’t see on the field, as other players fail to live up to expectations in certain categories, or fail to stay healthy through the process.
The process before the NFL Draft is a hefty one. These players are expected to stay on a clean slate, healthy, and ready to perform on their new team. As many of these players are looked at highly, other players aren’t even considered to have a chance to be drafted. Other players may perform at a high level, but not good enough for a team to draft them. These players also spend their whole lives preparing for this day, but unfortunately go undrafted.
With all these expectations for many of these players, you never know what to expect.
Here are the 8 Worst First Overall NFL Draft Picks And 7 Best Undrafted Players:
15 Worst First Pick: Tim Couch (QB)
If Myles Garrett ever decides to read this article, hopefully he comes away with some motivation knowing how bad some of these players that the Browns drafted with the top overall pick in a few of the past NFL Drafts. Tim Couch adds to the list of the failed Browns quarterbacks, although he did last longer than some of the other quarterbacks to play for this organization. Couch struggled constantly though, always managing to throw many interceptions. His career high of interceptions in one season was 21.
Couch also struggled to help give Browns’ fans something to be excited about and win. His overall record as the Browns starting quarterback was 22-37. Those numbers are pretty similar to the numbers of many other Browns quarterbacks. If Couch wasn’t the number one overall draft pick, maybe people would cut him some slack. But because of how high he was drafted, many will consider him a bust.
14 Best Undrafted: Kurt Warner (QB)
It would be a disrespect to not consider Kurt Warner among the best undrafted football player ever. Warner also managed to win a Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XXXIV when he and the Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans. Warner was thrilling to watch, one of the more exciting quarterbacks in recent history. His best season came in 1999, where he threw for 41 touchdown passes and 4,343 yards. Warner had some struggles throughout his career, but mainly had a very productive career.
This past year, he was finally inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. He was most known for a great passer rating, as he ranks 11th all-time with his passer rating. Warner is a legend, and Rams fans will always praise everything he did for the organization and the Super Bowl that he brought to them.
13 Worst First Pick: Ki-Jana Carter (RB)
Ki-Jana Carter adds to the list of football players who careers were completely damaged due to injuries. In his last two seasons at Penn State, Carter put up staggering numbers which led to the Cincinnati Bengals drafting him first overall in the 1995 NFL Draft. Injuries took over Carter’s career, labeling him a bust. Carter had knee injuries, shoulder injuries, a broken wrist, and an ACL injury. And when Carter was on the field, he failed to really make a splash during games. His best season came in 1997, when he rushed for 464 yards and scored seven touchdowns. For most teams, those numbers would show a below average running back or a RB who's part of a backfield committee.
The longest run he ever had in his career was for 35 yards, failing to ever make a big break for it. Maybe if injuries didn’t disrupt Carter’s career, we would have seen a completely different player.
12 Best Undrafted Signing: Antonio Gates (TE)
Antonio Gates has remained the heart and soul of the Chargers over the past decade whether they play in Los Angeles or San Diego. The former Kent State tight end has been very consistent and dominant for the Chargers. Gates has had 12 seasons where he has caught for at least five touchdowns, making him one of the best tight ends in the league. In the NFL, it’s very hard to find a consistent tight end. Some tight ends have their moments, while very few play as well as Gates for such a long period of time. Gates passed Tony Gonzalez this season for most career touchdowns by a tight end.
Gates has allowed Philip Rivers to always have a safe target to throw to. Gates has only had one season where he has caught for under 500 yards, making him a threat down the field. The only thing Gates really has against him, is no Super Bowl ring. But besides that, he has been one of the best undrafted tight ends this league has ever seen.
11 Worst First Pick: Courtney Brown (DE)
It’s heart breaking how many times the Browns have had a first overall draft pick, and have not been able to succeed. 2000 was another one of those years for the Browns, when they drafted defensive end Courtney Brown, from Penn State. Brown had a good rookie season, with 4.5 sacks and 61 tackles. After that, injuries contributed to his career spiraling downhill. He played six seasons until his career was finally over. He was unable to bring the production he had at Penn State to the Cleveland Browns. He also was unable to stay on the field much, as he only played one full season, which was his rookie year. He did have one very impression season in 2003, where he had six sacks. Unfortunately, though, that 2003 season wasn’t enough to save his career, or prevent him from being on this list.
10 Best Undrafted Signing: James Harrison (LB)
Even at the age of 39, James Harrison is still tough to play against. Harrison has been great at getting to the quarterback, staying extremely consistent even towards the end of his career. Harrison has even been able play coverage against teams, even coming up with eight interceptions. It seems that the Steelers are trying to prepare for the time after Harrison is gone, as they recently drafted T.J. Watt. The Steelers have gone 14 years of dominance with Harrison, and it seems that they realize how important his play has been to them. Out of all the active players, Harrison ranks fifth overall in sacks with 81.5. Harrison has been a part of multiple Super Bowl runs, adding to his legacy. It always seemed that as long as James Harrison was on the field, this defense had some sort of spark to it.
9 Worst First Pick: Tom Cousineau (LB)
Tom Cousineau’s situation was a confusing one. He was drafted first overall in the 1979 NFL Draft, but he never played a snap with the Buffalo Bills. He decided to go play Canadian football for the Montreal Alouettes, who offered him double the amount that the Bills offered him. After suffering an elbow injury, his career with the Alouettes collapsed and he made an attempt to make a NFL return. Nowadays, a first overall draft pick would never deny the opportunity to play in the NFL with the amount of money that they would be given at first as well as the opportunities to make more money in the future.
Cousineau was then traded to the Browns, and played out his career there. When he was on the feel he was great, but unfortunately that didn’t last for long. He was arrested in 1983, and had a short career after that.
8 Best Undrafted Signing: Warren Moon (QB)
What a career Warren Moon of the Houston Oilers had. It was a bumpy one, and not the most consistent, but he put up numbers worth being a starter, and helping put up some good numbers. For an undrafted player, Moon was phenomenal. He had a long career of 17 years, where some undrafted free agents don’t even play a snap. Moon ranks 7th on the all-time list for passing yards, and 12th overall on the all-time list of passing touchdowns. Moon is very similar to the present-day Eli Manning, can throw a lot, but also throws a lot of interceptions and can be very inconsistent. But Moon was good enough to last a long career, and for the most part a healthy career. He managed to play in 10 playoff games, so he was capable of bringing his team within a chance of a Super Bowl. Many fans may look at Moon differently based off of his production, but from where he came from, he was very successful.
7 Worst First Pick: Walt Patulski (DE)
The Buffalo Bills have not seemed to have much luck with drafting first overall. Before their mistake of drafting Tom Cousineau, they made a mistake drafting Walt Patulski. Unlike Cousineau, Patulski started his career actually playing on the field with the Bills and was pretty decent. Once Patulski was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, (not the baseball team) where he suffered a career-ending knee injury which finished off his career.
Patulski had the tools to be a dominant force, but unfortunately injuries took over his career and sadly ended his career. Patulski was considered a bust, regardless of his production at the beginning of his career. His inability to recover from such a horrific injury landed him 27th on the ESPN biggest draft busts of all-time list.
6 Best Undrafted Signing: Willie Brown (CB)
A lot of these undrafted players, come from schools that no one ever hears of. The fact that they are unknown schools many times is a big part of the reason why these players aren’t drafted. Cornerback from Grambling State University, Willie Brown, was signed by the Houston Oilers in 1963. During training camp, Brown was cut midway through. He was later signed by the Denver Broncos.
Brown became a beast, and the Oilers could do nothing but regret letting him go. In his second season, Brown had nine interceptions, gaining All-AFL Honors and became an all-star player. He was later traded to the Oakland Raiders, where he would become the team’s captain for the majority of his career. When he retired, he was tied for first having the most interceptions in team history, with 39. He now currently serves as an administrator for the Raiders since 1995. A signing of an undrafted free agent, lead to having one of the best cornerbacks in history on their roster.
5 Worst First Pick: Steve Emtman (DT)
Expectations were high for Steve Emtman after his impressive career at the University of Washington. With Washington’s success throughout the years, it made Emtman a greater candidate to be drafted first overall in the NFL Draft. He came in fourth place in the Heisman Trophy contest, which is almost never won by a defensive player. Steve Emtman was drafted first overall in the 1992 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
Emtman was one of those players that had the ability to play, but injuries held him back from only playing one full season throughout his six-year career. Injuries are tough to avoid, and Emtman is not the only first overall draft pick to suffer injuries, as the 2017 first overall draft pick, Myles Garrett, is currently facing an injury that will keep him out for 4-6 weeks. Emtman suffered injuries to his neck and knee. His knee injury was an injury that no NFL player had ever come back from, but Emtman did. Injuries took over Emtman’s career, and labels him as a bust of a first overall draft pick. The Colts made up for their mistake, by drafting Peyton Manning a few years later with their first overall draft pick, making up for this bust of a draft pick.
4 Best Undrafted Signing: Emlen Tunnell (DB)
The New York Giants got a steal when they signed undrafted free agent Emlen Tunnell, cornerback from Toledo University. Tunnell was the first African American to ever play for the Giants, and one of the best. Tunnell had an eye for the ball, putting up crazy numbers throughout his 14-year career. In 10 of his seasons, Tunnell had at least six interceptions. The numbers he put up were staggering, being a dominant force on defense week in and week out. Tunnell shows the kind of defense that the Giants strive for, and one that they have built currently. Tunnell’s career was a long and consistent one. It was almost as if you never had to worry about him performing at a high level. The numbers Tunnell put up, no other defender may come close to.
3 Worst First Pick: Terry Baker (QB)
The Los Angeles Rams thought they had their future franchise quarterback when they drafted Terry Baker from Oregon State University. Baker played both football and basketball in college, but decided to take his professional path with football, which may have been a decision he may have wanted to reconsider. Baker’s career in the NFL was short, only lasting three seasons. In his time with the Rams, he only started one game. This bust may have some fault on the Rams as well for not utilizing him, but there must have been something other teams saw too about him that didn’t make them want to give Baker a second chance on their team. In his three seasons with the Rams, he only threw for one touchdown pass and 210 yards. He actually had more success at receiver than he did at quarterback. But the highly talented kid from Oregon State, was unable to maintain a long professional career.
2 Best Undrafted Signing: Tony Romo (QB)
It was bound to come up in this article, and here it is. Yes, Tony Romo is one of the best undrafted players to play in the league. Romo may have not had much success in the postseason throughout his career, but Romo was one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch in this past generation. His skill level could put him right beneath the level of your Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Unfortunately, Jerry Jones never really put a team together for Romo until he was getting hurt with every little move. Romo’s offensive line was always weak, and never had much help around him.
Romo broke so many Cowboys records, but never really got the appreciation he deserved around the NFL. Romo is ranked 3rd all-time in passer rating, and 5th all-time is pass completion. Even through the struggles, Romo still managed to put on a show for Cowboys fans and gave them the best possible chance at winning.
1 Worst First Pick: JaMarcus Russell (QB)
Oh, JaMarcus Russell. The former LSU quarterback was so dominant in college, but was unable to transition that success over to the NFL. There seemed to be tension between Russell and the Raiders, unable to come together with a contract before the 2007 season. Russell’s career was short, only lasting three seasons. Russell signed a big contract that the Raiders did not want to keep paying, which led them to release Russell in 2010. Russell never got a second chance, which led to a short, awful career. JaMarcus Russell’s career was a complete disappointment, and was not what the Raiders may have expected. Luckily, the Raiders have made up for it by drafting Derek Carr and becoming successful once again. But as for JaMarcus Russell, he stays as one of the biggest busts in NFL Draft history.
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