When a team selects a player with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, a certain burden of expectation accompanies the massive salary and publicity that players receive. These athletes exit their college careers among the elite athletes in all of college football and teams are willing to make massive trades and mortgage their futures based on the projected future success of #1 picks. The first round has seen hundreds of players come and go to varying degrees of success, but the first overall pick is something that teams must not miss on in order for executives to ensure their respective futures with the franchise.
Many teams have made mistakes with the first overall pick during the course of the NFL’s illustrious history. Teams with the first overall pick have either been wise enough to make a trade with the worst team in the previous season, but it is far more common for the teams with the pick to have been the league’s worst in the year before. Many #1 picks enter the NFL with the expectation of helping their teams succeed in the following season, but all of the players on this list have been found wanting by the teams that selected them.
Being a #1 overall pick does not necessarily ensure that a player will succeed in the NFL. All eras of the NFL have seen first overall picks fail to develop into veteran NFL players. Injuries, off field issues, and poor evaluation of an athlete’s talent level have all contributed to the demise of athletes on this list. It is too soon to say whether the picks from the last few years can be considered to be busts, but the athletes on this list have certainly earned that label.
10 Ricky Bell – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9 Walt Patulski – Buffalo Bills
8 Tim Couch – Cleveland Browns
7 David Carr – Houston Texans
6 Courtney Brown – Cleveland Browns
5 Steve Emtman – Indianapolis Colts
4 Aundray Bruce – Atlanta Falcons
3 Tom Cousineau – Buffalo Bills
2 Ki-Jana Carter – Cincinnati Bengals
1 JaMarcus Russell – Oakland Raiders
The name JaMarcus is now synonymous with “bust.” JaMarcus Russell was handpicked by Al Davis as the savior of the Oakland Raiders after witnessing Russell throw a football through the uprights from his knees on the 50 yard line. Despite his size, speed, and cannon for an arm, Russell’s talents never translated to the NFL. He started only one game during his rookie season, and when given the reigns to the team in his second season, was only able to lead the team to a 5-10 record as a starter. This trend continued in his third NFL season when he was 2-7 as a starter, throwing 11 interceptions and only three touchdowns. Eventually the Raiders sought part of the massive salary paid to Russell to be returned after he was arrested for possession of codeine cough syrup. He has since attempted to make a comeback to the NFL, but has been unsuccessful.
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