For many fans, the first round of the NFL Draft is more exciting than the first week of a new NFL season. After all, the fans of 16 teams are going to be very sad after the first week of the NFL season (barring a tie). When it comes to the draft, though, the fans of every team that gets a first-round pick is going to be dreaming of Super Bowls. After all, surely this college star who scouts say is going to change the NFL and the game of football will come along and make everything better. Of course, we know that isn’t necessarily the truth. The truth of the matter is that the first round of an NFL draft is often filled with as many players who will amount to nothing as it is loaded with NFL stars.
In fact, a quick look at NFL Draft history reveals that a depressing number of teams have already given up on once coveted first-round picks they drafted just five years (or less) ago. No team gives up on a first-round pick easily (due to the investment they put in them and the risk of letting them go), but every team has a history of having to let that must-have player go after it all just didn’t work out. In fact, you might be surprised by some of the names who are no longer with the team that drafted them in the first round. This is every NFL team's most recent 1st round pick they've already given up on.
32 Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Cooper (7th Overall, 2013)
Jonathan Cooper was the highest drafted offensive guard since 1986. We suppose everyone wants tackles and centers. Regardless, Cooper was seen as a can’t miss offensive line prospect who the Cardinals were hoping would solidify their offensive line for years to come. Instead, he ended up being something of a bust. Cooper was shipped out of Arizona in 2016 and has been bouncing around the league ever since. Injuries and inconsistent performances have turned him into a journeyman who is using his last chances.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Peter Konz (2012)
The Falcons have drafted relatively well over the years even if their quality drafting has been the result of making some fairly safe/unexciting picks.
The Falcons' first round picks dating back to 2013 are all still on the roster. They didn't have a first round pick in 2012, which brings us to Konz by default, who was actually a 2nd round pick.
In Peter Konz, the Falcons probably thought they had another safe pick. He was a top-rated center who looked to fill a gaping hole on the Atlanta roster. Instead, he just kind of faded away. Konz saw limited playing time during his time with Atlanta and was quietly released by the team in 2015. He’s no longer in the NFL.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Breshad Perriman (26th Overall, 2015)
First-round wide receivers tend to be a huge gamble. The problem is that the quality of defensive competition is just so much better in the NFL than it is in college. That’s why you tend to see so many 1st round wideout busts. It’s certainly why Breshad Perriman is no longer with the Ravens. Perriman just never adjusted to the speed of the NFL, which perhaps isn’t too surprising when you consider that he was one of those guys whose draft stock was only improved by his pro day performance.
29 Buffalo Bills - Sammy Watkins (4th Overall, 2014)
Most people seemed to think that Sammy Watkins was about as sure of a thing as NFL wide receiver prospects get. He was fast, had great hands, and seemed to possess the coveted “it” factor. Nobody blamed the Bills for taking Watkins with the fourth overall pick in 2014, but some people do think they gave up on him too soon. Watkins had one very good and two less-than-good years in Buffalo. However, the truth of it may be that Buffalo just didn’t have the offense needed to support Watkins.
28 Carolina Panthers - Kelvin Benjamin (28th Overall, 2014)
Looking back, we should have all been a little concerned with Kelvin Benjamin’s lack of college experience. However, his incredible size, speed, and length meant that he was just one of those guys the Panthers couldn’t help but take a chance on. Benjamin had a very impressive rookie season, but a combination of attitude and performance problems soon showed why all NFL teams should be wary of players who didn’t demonstrate consistency in college. We imagine there are still teams out there that will take a chance on Benjamin.
27 Chicago Bears - Shea McClellin (19th Overall, 2012)
Realistically, we think that this spot will go to Kevin White sometime in the near future. The once highly rated wide receiver prospect just hasn’t gotten it done for the Bears since he was drafted in 2015. In the interest of fairness, though, we’ll go way back to 2012 to find a 1st round draft pick that isn’t still on the Bears’ roster. Shea McClellin looked like a nice little pick for the Bears, but concussions derailed whatever potential he might have had in Chicago and in the NFL.
26 Cincinnati Bengals - Kevin Zeitler
The Bengals have actually drafted exceptionally well over the years in terms of first round picks that are still with their team. As such, we’re not entirely sure what to do with this team. While we want to say that John Ross is going to end up being a miss, he’s not there yet. 2010 pick Jermaine Gresham isn’t with the team anymore, but he was pretty good. In the end, we’re going with Kevin Zeitler who is also very good, but the Bengals did technically give up on him.
25 Cleveland Browns - Corey Coleman (15th Overall, 2016)
There’s no shortage of first-round picks the Browns have given up on in recent years. While guys like Johnny Manziel are certainly at the top of the “What were the Browns thinking?” list, Corey Coleman is the obvious chronological “winner” here. Coleman was infamously traded out of Cleveland during an episode of Hard Knocks in which he threw a bit of a tantrum. After being traded to (and shipped out of) Buffalo, Coleman had a brief stint with the Patriots before ending up on the Giants.
24 Dallas Cowboys - Morris Claiborne (6th Overall, 2012)
Few teams have done more in the first round in recent years than the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott, Leighton Vander Esch, Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith...the Cowboys have been killing it on draft day. While we think that Taco Charlton might end up getting shipped out of Dallas, Morris Claiborne is the most recent example of a player that the Cowboys have given up on. Even then, Claiborne was a pretty good player who was just injured too often. He’s currently one of the better cornerbacks in the league.
23 Denver Broncos - Paxton Lynch (26th Overall, 2016)
Were it not for Peyton Manning’s brief stint with the Broncos, Denver would still be looking for John Elway’s replacement. The quarterback carousel in Denver has become quite infamous in recent years. The Broncos thought they were going to stop that crazy ride in 2016 when they selected Paxton Lynch. However, it turned out that Lynch simply didn’t have it at the NFL level. He wasn’t especially awful in any one way, but it was clear he wasn’t going to be a true franchise QB for Denver or anyone else.
22 Detroit Lions - Laken Tomlinson (28th Overall, 2015)
Generally speaking, the Lions most notable first-round busts have been big swings and misses. Specifically, they’ve had quite a few wide receiver and running back misses. However, the most recent first-round miss in Detroit involved a lineman. Laken Tomlinson wasn’t a very exciting 2015 draft prospect, but he was a big guy with real skills who could stop a defensive rush through sheer force of will. It’s not entirely clear what happened to his career with the Lions, but we do know they let him go and that he’s still signed with the 49ers.
21 Green Bay Packers - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21st Overall, 2014)
The story of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix became much more interesting in 2018 when the Packers shockingly decided to ship him ahead of the trade deadline. Until then, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had been a very good player for the Packers. In fact, he’s been one of the best safeties in the league. So why did the Packers give up on him? It’s not entirely clear, but it might have something to do with his chemistry with the rest of the team as well as the big payday he was set to receive.
20 Houston Texans - Brian Cushing (15th Overall, 2009)
We’re honestly stunned by how well the Texans have drafted over the years. In fact, you have to go back to 2009 to find a first-round draft pick from the Texans that is no longer with the team. Oh, and that player is Brian Cushing; the all-time leader in tackles for the Texans. While it feels weird to lump him in with some of the other players on this list, it’s technically accurate to include him. So far as that goes, it’s worth noting that Cushing’s career was probably cut short by his recent suspension.
19 Indianapolis Colts - Phillip Dorsett (29th Overall, 2015)
Phillip Dorsett was a draft day controversy from the moment that he was selected by the Colts with the 29th overall pick. Nobody really understood why the Colts took a receiver in the first round when they had so many receivers on the roster and needed a defensive player. You could say that Dorsett was the “best player available’ but his disappointing rookie season suggested otherwise. Dorsett’s most lasting contribution to the Colts’ franchise came when he became one of the few players ever traded between the Colts and Patriots over the last 20 years.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars - Dante Fowler (3rd Overall, 2015)
While the last couple of draft classes have looked promising for the Jaguars, they've definitely had their share of misses in the last decade. Just going back to the beginning of the 2010s, they have drafted two QBs in the top-10. They gave up on one after a few years (Blaine Gabbert) and there are questions whether Blake Bortles will be in Jacksonville long term. However, given that the team recently traded Dante Fowler, he gets the nod here. Whether it was the Jags feeling Fowler was expendable or he just didn't fit their scheme, he's now an L.A. Ram.
17 Kansas City Chiefs - Dontari Poe (11th Overall, 2012)
The Chiefs are another one of those franchises that have drafted surprisingly well in recent years, which is somewhat surprising when you consider that they’ve made some risky picks in recent drafts. Dontari Poe was seen as a risk by some and a sure thing by others. His incredible size instantly raised his appeal while his inconsistent production lowered his draft stock somewhat. He ultimately played reasonably well for the Chiefs, but he didn’t quite live up to expectations. Kansas City eventually decided to let him go.
16 Los Angeles Chargers - D.J. Fluker (11th Overall, 2013)
The Chargers have made some pretty brilliant draft picks in recent years (Melvin Gordon, Joey Bosa, Derwin James), but they’ve also made some instantly forgettable picks that just never worked panned out. D.J. Fluker is one of the latter. Fluker was an Alabama defensive guard chosen with the 11th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was a solid selection who played well during his rookie year but never really got to that next level. The Chargers sent him packing ahead of their move to L.A. in 2017.
15 Los Angeles Rams - Greg Robinson (2nd Overall, 2014)
The Rams have had to give up quite a few draft picks in recent years due to their aggressive trading practices, so we’ve got to go back to 2014 to find a pick who is no longer with the team. As the second overall pick that year, Greg Robinson was seen as much more than a safe offensive lineman pick. He was supposed to be an anchor. However, after a couple of down years and some problems with his weight, Robinson was eventually dropped by the Rams.
14 Miami Dolphins - Dion Jordan (3rd Overall, 2013)
Dion Jordan was supposed to be a beast. He was a force of nature defensive end at Oregon who wasn’t quite on the level of a guy like Jadeveon Clowney but was still a consensus top 10 selection. The Dolphins wanted him so bad that they even decided to trade up in the 2013 NFL Draft so they could take him third overall. Unfortunately, Jordan simply never produced at the NFL level. To make matters worse, he was suspended multiple times and even failed a physical.
13 Minnesota Vikings - Teddy Bridgewater (32nd Overall, 2014)
It’s easy to forget that Teddy Bridgewater was once an elite QB prospect. In fact, many scouts say that he might have been selected first overall if he had elected to enter the draft in 2013 and not 2014. That extra year really hurt his draft stock as he ended up being taken by the Vikings with the 32nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. While Bridgewater enjoyed some success with the Vikings, he ultimately struggled to become a complete player. His near-career ending ACL tear spelled the end of his Minnesota tenure.
12 New England Patriots - Dominique Easley (29th Overall, 2014)
The draft history of the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick is fascinating in the least interesting way possible. Simply put, the Patriots have struggled in recent years to pick up truly significant pieces of talent through the draft. Granted, that’s because they generally don’t play poorly enough to get high draft picks, but the Patriots have still struggled to acquire game changers in the draft. Dominique Easley wasn’t really supposed to be a game changer, but he was supposed to be a solid defensive prospect. Instead, he was shipped out of New England two years after he was drafted.
11 New Orleans Saints - Brandin Cooks (20th Overall, 2014)
The saga of Brandin Cooks is utterly bizarre. The worst quarterback he has had to play with has been Jared Goff, and he’s likely going to post 1,000 yard + seasons in four of his first five NFL years. Yet, the Saints decided to trade away Cooks for a first and fourth-round pick in 2017. That’s not a bad trade, but this is one of those instances where we can’t help but be amazed that both the Saints and the Patriots decided to part with such a talented player.
10 New York Giants - Ereck Flowers (9th Overall, 2015)
When first-round offensive linemen fail in the NFL, they typically just kind of fade away. You rarely see one that is an absolute bust. However, it’s pretty clear at this point that Ereck Flowers is an absolute bust. We understand why the Giants went for Flowers in the 2015 Draft considering how desperate they were for o-line help, but the fact that they ended up shipping him out of town just three years later and that they had to pass on Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon to get him has to sting.
9 New York Jets - Calvin Pryor (18th Overall, 2014)
When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that a first-round draft pick can just disappear. After all, only 32 people a year get selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, and they are supposed to be some of the elite talents in the world. Yet, Calvin Pryor ended up having an NFL career that was simply forgettable. Taken by the Jets with the 18th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, Pryor was seen as quite the prospect. However, he barely made headlines before New York traded him in 2017.
8 Oakland Raiders - Amari Cooper
Again, this isn’t really a case of “giving up on” in terms of a team deciding that a player is a failure. Amari Cooper was seen as an elite WR prospect who was taken by the Raiders with the fourth overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft without much criticism. Cooper rewarded Oakland with two Pro Bowl seasons and one forgettable one (even though he posted a career high in touchdowns). As part of an ongoing rebuilding effort/tank job, the Raiders sent him to Dallas for a first round pick in 2018.
7 Philadelphia Eagles - Marcus Smith (26th Overall, 2014)
Marcus Smith is another one of those guys who was generally seen as a first round talent but wasn’t necessarily thought of as some must-have guy. However, the Eagles had to feel pretty good about him falling to the 26th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. It was seen as a pretty good value pick at the time, but Smith just never really did much for the Eagles. They ended up waving him in 2017 without much noise, and he’s since also been dropped by the Seahawks.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers - Jarvis Jones (17th Overall, 2013)
While there are some players on the Steelers that we honestly think the team is done with at this point (we’re looking at Artie Burns), we’re going to stick with someone who is actually no longer with the team. To do that, we have to go back to the 2013 selection of Jarvis Jones. The Steelers love to draft defensive prospects, and Jarvis Jones certainly looked like a defensive prospect. However, he never really put it all together during his brief time with the Steelers. He’s currently a free agent.
5 San Francisco 49ers - Eric Reid
Here’s a strange entry for you. The San Francisco 49ers traded up to select Reid in the 2013 NFL Draft. The general consensus was that they got a very good NFL safety out of the deal. In fact, Reid played quite well during his first four NFL seasons. So why isn’t he with the 49ers any more? Well, Reid believes it is due to his support of Colin Kaepernick’s movement, as he was essentially the first teammate of Kaepernick's to join in. Regardless, Reid ended up signing with the Panthers in 2018.
4 Seattle Seahawks - Bruce Irvin (15th Overall, 2012)
The Seahawks actually skipped quite a few first-round picks in recent years, so you’ve got to go back quite a few years to find someone they drafted in the first round who isn’t still with the team (or even someone who isn’t performing well). That search takes us all the way back to 2012 when the Seahawks took Bruce Irvin with the 15th overall pick. To his credit, Irvin actually played reasonably well during his time with the Seahawks. His departure seemed to be based more on contract disputes.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston (1st Overall, 2015)
We feel a little strange saying that a team has given up on a first-round pick that is still part of their roster, but we’re really not sure what series of events would lead to the Bucs holding on to Jameis Winston after this season. Stats-wise, Winston hasn’t been the worst number one overall pick (or first-round QB pick) that we’ve ever seen. However, he hasn’t played like an undisputed franchise QB and the incidents in his personal life are starting to become too much to ignore. We just don’t think he stays on this team.
2 Tennessee Titans - Chance Warmack (10th Overall, 2013)
Here we have yet another offensive lineman prospect who the team that drafted him in the first round have already given up on. While guards aren’t always considered to be as valuable as tackles and centers in the first round, the general consensus was that Warmack was just too valuable to pass on. The Titans bit and snagged him with the 10th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. He just never lived up to his billing, but he was eventually picked up by the Eagles and now has a Super Bowl ring.
1 Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III (2nd Overall, 2012)
Every football fan already knows this story. Entering the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were seen as two can’t miss quarterback talents. While Luck was destined to go first, The Redskins were so high on RG III that they decided to give up an astonishing three first round draft picks just so they could move up four spots and take him. Sadly, an injury at the end of his brilliant rookie season pretty much ended RG III’s career right when it was looking more promising than ever.