Having the first or second pick in the NFL Draft can make or break a team. Those two teams have the upper hand over everybody else in the draft because they have the opportunity to draft the two best players available. Now when you’re a first or second overall pick in any kind of draft, that team expects that player to make an immediate impact. You don’t have to be the best player in the league, but they expect you to make the team better than the previous season. The hard part of that is that the NFL Draft has seven rounds and over 25o picks, so making sure the right player is selected is crucial.
Organizations spend a lot of time scouting, planning, and making decisions on what player they feel best fits their roster. While some teams make the right choice with their picks, other teams wish they could have that pick back to draft over again. Choosing from a pool of over hundreds of players is not the easiest task, but it is the most important, especially when teams have the first or second overall pick.
In 2007, the Oakland Raiders drafted QB JaMarcus Russell first overall and that has been declared as one of the biggest NFL busts in history by a variety of publications. The Detroit Lions had the second pick, selecting Calvin Johnson, showing how one team could do better with the second pick depending on how the draft goes. The Raiders passed on players such as Johnson and Adrain Peterson, to name a few.
These are the first two pick from each draft of the ’90s. Who made the right picks to change for the better and who set their franchise back instead of forward?
20. Ryan Leaf: Second Overall, San Diego Chargers (1998)
With Peyton Manning being selected first overall and the San Diego Chargers in need of a QB, they went with Ryan Leaf, which is by far the worst draft pick in franchise history. Leaf had a great college career, but looked like a totally different player when he got to the NFL. Leaf only lasted four seasons in the league and played in only 25 games. Leaf finished his career with 14 TDs, 36 INTs for 3,666 yards, and a QB rating of 50. The Chargers passed on Charles Woodson, who went fourth overall to Oakland. Ouch.
19. Rick Mirer: Second Overall, Seattle Seahawks (1993)
The Seattle Seahawks were in need of a QB but Drew Bledsoe was selected first overall. The Seahawks decided to go with their second option of QB Rick Mirer, which haunted them for many seasons. In 12 seasons, Mirer only played in a total of 80 games. Mirer finished his career with 50 TDs and 76 INTs for 11,969 yards and a QB rating of 63.5. The Seahawks wish they could get this pick back. In the four seasons Mirer played for the Seahawks, they did not reach the playoffs at all.
18. Tim Couch: First Overall, Cleveland Browns (1999)
In 1999, the Cleveland Browns had a chance to turn around one of the worst franchises in history by having the first overall pick. However, they failed to make a good selection by drafting QB Tim Couch. Couch only lasted five seasons in the league, which is obviously not good for a first overall pick. Couch finished his career with 64 TDs and 67 INTs for 11,131 yards and a QB rating of 75.1. In five season with the Browns, Couch only led the Browns to the playoffs once, though he got injured just before the playoffs began.
17. Blair Thomas: Second Overall, New York Jets (1990)
In order to make their offense better, the New York Jets selected Blair Thomas in 1990. In four seasons with the Jets, Thomas only helped them to a single playoff appearance. In six seasons with the Jets, Cowboys, Patriots, and Panthers, Thomas finished his career with 533 carries for 2,236 yards and seven TDs. During his second season with the Jets, Thomas had a career high of 728 rushing yards. After that season, he never ran for more than 440 yards in a season.
16. Ki-Jana Carter: First Overall, Cincinnati Bengals (1995)
The Cincinnati Bengals selected RB Ki-Jana Carter with the first overall pick in 1995, but his injuries turned him into a draft bust. In the very first preseason game of his rookie season, Carter tore a ligament in his knee on his third carry causing him to miss the entire regular season. This had the Bengals worried that they may have made a mistake. That was just the beginning of the injury problems for Carter and the Bengals. In 1997, Carter suffered a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. The following year, he missed the entire season after breaking his left wrist. The next year, Carter missed most of the season again after dislocating his right kneecap. In eight seasons with the Bengals, Redskins, and Saints, Carter finished his career with 319 carries for 1,144 yds and 20 TDs.
15. Steve Emtman: First Overall Pick by Indianapolis Colts (1992)
The Indianapolis Colts wanted to upgrade on defense by drafting DE Steve Emtman, but he was not exactly what they hoped for. In six seasons with the Colts, Dolphins, and Redskins, Emtman only played in a total of 50 games. Emtman finished his career with 134 tackles and eight sacks, which is no where close to the statistics of a first overall pick. Emtman was bothered by injuries throughout his entire career, including tearing his patellar tendon and rupturing a disc in his neck.
14. Quentin Coryatt: Second Overall, Indianapolis Colts (1992)
The Indianapolis Colts decided to fill out some holes on defense by drafting Quentin Coryatt in 1992. The only problem was that Coryatt was not the solution. Although he was a pretty good player, Coryatt was bothered by injuries during his career. In four of his seven seasons in the league, Coryatt did not play the entire season. Despite the injuries, Coryatt finished his career with 442 solo tackles, eight and a half sacks, and three interceptions.
13. Dan Wilkinson: First Overall, Cincinnati Bengals (1994)
For DT Dan Wilkinson, he actually had a pretty good career. He may not have put up the statistics of a first overall pick, but he was still an effective player. Wilkinson lasted 13 seasons in the NFL with the Bengals, Redskins, Lions, and Dolphins, which is more than good for an NFL player. Wilkinson finished his career with 398 solo tackles, 54.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and five interceptions.
12. Jeff George: First Overall, Indianapolis Colts (1990)
Jeff George wasn’t considered a great QB or one of the best in the league during his time, but he was decent and knew what to do to get the job done. George does not have any awards or milestones to show for it, but he did lead the league in passing yards in 1997 with 3,917 for the Oakland Raiders. In 14 seasons with five different teams, George finished his career with 154 TDs and 113 INTs for 27,602 yards.
11. Russell Maryland: First Overall, Dallas Cowboys (1991)
Russell Maryland was part of the Dallas Cowboys defense that won three Super Bowls in four seasons. Although he was still green at the time, he helped make that defense better. In 10 seasons with the Cowboys, Raiders, and Packers, Maryland finished his career with 375 solo tackles, 24.5 sacks, and nine forced fumbles. Maryland may not have been the first overall pick the Cowboys expected, but they did get three rings with him on their roster.
10. Kevin Hardy: Second Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars (1996)
The Jacksonville Jaguars looked to upgrade their defense by drafting LB Kevin Hardy. Hardy had his best season with the Jaguars in 1999, when he recorded career highs of 112 total tackles and 10.5 sacks. This season earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl and a spot on the All-Pro team. In nine seasons, Hardy played with the Jaguars, Bengals, and Cowboys and finished his career with 741 tackles, 36 sacks, five interceptions, and nine forced fumbles. After that career season, Hardy’s career went downhill with the Bengals and Cowboys, but he did have his best years with the Jaguars.
9. Eric Turner: Second Overall, Cleveland Browns (1991)
In the 1990 draft, the Cleveland Browns gave up their first round pick to the Green Bay Packers, which was not a great decision as the Browns went 3-13 that season. The following draft in 1991, they received the second overall pick and decided to keep it this time. The Browns upgraded on defense by drafting S Eric Turner, who was actually a solid pickup. In 1994, Turner had a career season as he led the league in interceptions. In nine seasons with the Browns, Ravens, and Raiders, Tuner ended his career with 30 interceptions and three INT return TDs.
8. Tony Boselli: Second Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars (1995)
The Jacksonville Jaguars were a new and struggling franchise and drafted OT Tony Boselli to help them. Boselli was a great pickup, but as a OT, there is only so much he can do to help his team. He can block for the QB to give him more time to throw and to open up holes for the running game, but he could not put points on the scoreboard or play defense for them. So, the Jaguars were still a bad team despite the success of Boselli. In eight seasons, Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowler and was named to three All-Pro teams.
7. Darrell Russell: Second Overall, Oakland Raiders (1997)
The Oakland Raiders needed help on defense and DT Darrell Russell provided that spark. In five seasons with the Raiders, Russell was a two-time Pro Bowler and was selected to one All-Pro team, to show what type of player he was with Oakland. In six seasons with the Raiders and Redskins, Russell had 184 solo tackles, 28.5 sacks, and one interceptions. Russell career was stopped short due to his drug problems off the field. Russell was disciplined seven times by the NFL for these drug related problems.
6. Keyshawn Johnson: First Overall, New York Jets (1996)
Keyshawn Johnson was a great WR during his time in the NFL. In 11 seasons, Johnson only had one season under 800 receiving yards in his career, and that season he only played in 10 games. After a good four seasons with the New York Jets, Johnson went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2003, Johnson help led them to the Super Bowl, which they beat the Oakland Raiders 48-21. In 11 seasons with the Jets, Bucs, Cowboys and Panthers, Johnson had 814 receptions for 10,571 yards and 64 TDs. He was a Super Bowl champ, 3-time Pro Bowler and was the Pro Bowl Co-MVP in 1998 with New England Patriots CB Ty Law.
5. Drew Bledsoe: First Overall, New England Patriots (1993)
Drew Bledsoe is a Super Bowl winning QB technically, although he did not play a single minute in Super Bowl XXXVI as the backup QB to Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. However, prior to Brady, Bledsoe went to three Pro Bowls as the Patriots starting QB. After his departure from the Patriots, he went to the Pro Bowl during his first season with the Buffalo Bills. In 14 seasons with the Patriots, Bills, and Cowboys, Bledsoe had 251 TD passes, 44,611 yards, and a career QB rating of 77.1. Bledsoe was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2011.
4. Orlando Pace: First Overall, St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams made a great choice in drafting OT Orlando Pace first overall. Pace was a great offensive lineman that was hard to get past for opposing defenses. After 13 seasons, Pace ended his career a seven-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro selection, and helped the Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV win over the Tennessee Titans. Pace was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013, making an impact at both stages of his career.
3. Donovan McNabb: Second Overall, Philadelphia Eagles (1999)
Quarterback Donovan McNabb played in the NFL for 13 seasons, but had his best moments with the Philadelphia Eagles. McNabb led the Eagles to eight playoff appearances in 11 seasons. In 2004, McNabb led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1980, although they fell short to the New England Patriots 24-21. McNabb is currently the Eagles franchise leader in career wins, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing TDs. In 13 seasons with the Eagles, Redskins, and Vikings, McNabb finished his career with 234 TDs, 37,276 yards, and a QB rating of 85.6.
2. Marshall Faulk: Second Overall, Indianapolis Colts (1994)
When the Indianapolis Colts drafted Marshall Faulk in 1994, they may have saw his greatness before anybody else. After 13 seasons in the NFL, Faulk is now regarded as one of the best RBs in history. With the Colts and Rams in 13 seasons, Faulk finished his career with 2,836 carries for 12,279 yards and 100 TDs. Faulk was a Super Bowl XXXIV Champion with Rams in 2000, seven-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro selections, and two-time MVP. In 1999, Faulk became one of two players to have over 1,000 yards receiving and rushing. Faulk had his #28 retired by the Rams and was inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor. Faulk was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
1. Peyton Manning: First Overall, Indianapolis Colts (1998)
The Indianapolis Colts had a choice between two QBs in the 1998, Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning. One ended up being one of the biggest draft busts in history and the other is one of the best QBs to ever play. The Colts made the right decision by drafting Manning over Leaf. Manning recently retired from the NFL after 18 seasons and his resume is one of the best you will ever see. In 18 seasons with the Colts and Denver Broncos, Manning led these teams to the playoffs 15 times.
In his career, Manning is a two-time Super Bowl Champion (one with the Broncos and one with the Colts), Super Bowl MVP, five-time NFL MVP, 14-time Pro Bowler, and 10-time All-Pro selection. Manning led the league in passing yards three times and passing TDs four times. Manning is the NFL’s all-time leader in career TD passes, passing yards, and wins.
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