Because the National Football League’s draft is such a long process that involves hundreds of young players, many believe that you cant go wrong when you choose talent in the first round.
However, that couldn’t be more further from the truth.
Sure, both college football and the NFL is the same game in terms of rules, schemes and positions; however, there’s a reason why both organizations are on completely different levels.
Over 70% of the players that play in college football don’t make it to the professional ranks. Because of that number, the players who do get selected by teams are generally playing against weaker opponents throughout their collegiate careers.
On the other hand, the NFL is made up of tough, hungry and tried and true professionals who not only know how to play the game of football, but are also amongst the best in the world at every position on the field.
While many college players have their NFL careers cut short due to poor preparation, that isn’t the only reason why some fail; poor technique, bad decisions off the field and addiction are only a few of the things that effect how young players move on to the next level.
Now, if a sixth or seventh round pick suffers from something that was mentioned above, it isn’t hard to cut bait with them and move on. However, when you invest millions of dollars into a first round pick and their vices overcome their talent, that becomes a tough pill to swallow.
With that being said, check out the worst first round NFL draft picks from each slot from number one to thirty-two.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view
32 JaMarcus Russell - Oakland Raiders - 2007
While speaking of JaMarcus Russell, the quarterback may not only be seen as the worst first overall selection – it could be argued that he was the worst first overall pick in any sport's history. Yes, Russell was that bad.
However, leading up to the draft, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be selected number one overall. Playing at Louisiana State University, Russell dominated the college ranks. His unique combination of size, strength and playmaking ability earned him awards like first team All-SEC and the Manning Award (college’s top quarterback), among others.
Unfortunately, as soon as he joined the Oakland Raiders, everything went downhill.
While his first season began in turmoil as he sat out during the entire training camp until the first game of the season due to contract disputes, Russell was never able to live up to his draft selection. In just 25 starts in 39 games, Russell threw 18 touchdowns to 23 interceptions while having a quarterback rating of just 65.2. After just three seasons in the black and silver, Russell was released and hasn’t joined another team since.
31 Ryan Leaf - San Diego Chargers - 1998
Although the Chargers knew character issues were apparent, Ryan Leaf, unfortunately, proved them right. Throughout his three year career in San Diego, the quarterback was mired by off-the-field issues like having trouble with his teammates and the media, while also having trouble with injury issues as well, including missing the entire 1999 season due to a shoulder injury.
Leaf abruptly retired at age 26 in 2002. He finished his career with a touchdown-to-interception ration of 14:36, while sporting a passer rating of 50.0.
30 Bruce Pickens - Atlanta Falcons - 1991
When it came to raw ability, Bruce Pickens truly had it all; unfortunately, he never was able to put it all together to justify being chosen third overall in the 1991 NFL draft.
With dreams of pairing Pickens with Deion Sanders in the secondary, the Falcons saw it as a no brainer to take him.
Unfortunately for both sides, the relationship never worked out. It started with Pickens partaking in a holdout due to contract talks, which lasted all the way until April. Because of this, Pickens didn’t have time learn how to play the position at the NFL level, so the struggles were apparent. Pickens even attempted to sue the Falcons organization; as one would expect, the Pickens/Falcons duo didn’t last long.
In four seasons, Pickens only started in nine games, playing for the Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Royals and Oakland Raiders.
29 Art Schlichter - Baltimore Colts - 1982
In what is already the third quarterback in four picks, Art Schichter had one of the most disappointing careers in NFL history – and it all stems from off the field vices.
After losing out in the quarterback competition in his rookie season, Schlichter was suspended for the entire 1983 season due to gambling problems. The following season, he was suspended yet again as he admitted that he was still gambling, so the Colts released him.
Although Schlichter found moderate success in the AFL, his troubles with sports betting only furthered. He is currently serving eight years in prison for money scams and drug use while on probation.
28 Curtis Enis - Chicago Bears - 1998
Not only is Curtis Enis regarded as a running back who failed to live up to his college hype in the NFL, but is also the worst no.5 pick ever.
Enis was one of the most dominant players of his time while playing under Joe Paterno at Penn State, hence the selection. There were two things working against Enis once he joined the Chicago Bears. One was that he had a contract dispute with management. The other was that Enis had preexisting knee injuries that would haunt him throughout his career.
Due to ineffectiveness and chronic knee problems, Enis was used primarily as a fullback due to the lack of burst out of the backfield.
27 Rich Campbell - Green Bay Packers - 1981
Many Green Bay Packers fans believe that the failure of Rich Campbell, was the main reason the organization didn’t select a quarterback in the first round until 2005.
During his time at the Cal, Campbell was one of the top passers in the country, as he was named an All-American in 1980, in a season where he set an NCAA record with 43 completed passes in a game. However, when he joined the NFL ranks, his game never translated.
During his four-year career, Campbell played in just seven games with zero starts, in which he threw just three touchdowns to nine interceptions over 386 yards.
26 Brian Jozwiak - Kansas City Chiefs - 1986
Coming in as the first offensive lineman on the list, Brian Jozwiak was never able to do what he did in college during his short stint in the NFL.
Playing at West Virginia, Jozwiak started off as a defensive lineman before being shipped over to the offensive side of the ball. Because of his standout performance as a senior in 1985, Jozwiak was named as a first team All-American before he declared himself for the NFL draft.
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Jozwiak seventh overall, as they saw him as a future staple to their offensive line for years to come.Unfortunately, Jozwiak never seemed to get the job done.
Jozwiak looked more like a backup than a starter. In year three, Jozwiak suffered a devastating hip injury that ended his playing career.
25 David Terrell - Chicago Bears - 2001
Back in the 2001 draft, there weren’t many top end wide receivers to be had; however, Terrell definitely was seen as the cream of the crop.
Although Terrell played just two years at Michigan, he topped over 1,000 receiving yards in consecutive seasons, making him the first receiver in school history to do so.
With the team was in dire need of playmakers, the Bears selected him with eighth overall.
In just four NFL seasons, Terrell never amassed 700 yards receiving, while scoring nine total touchdowns. Although he tried to continue his career with the Denver Broncos, he was cut before the regular season began.
24 Kevin Allen - Philadelphia Eagles - 1985
In his very short NFL career, offensive tackle Kevin Allen never gave himself a chance to succeed.
After being an anchor on the Indiana offensive line for four years, the Philadelphia Eagles made him the ninth overall pick in the 1985 NFL draft; similar to Brian Jowziak, the Eagles saw Allen as 10-year starter in their front five.
Unfortunately, his NFL debut was one that will never be forgotten.
Playing against the New York Giants, Allen had the near impossible task to block NFL great Lawrence Taylor. In the lopsided matchup, Taylor garnered eight sacks in the game, with a majority of them coming against Allen. After just four games, he was relegated to backup center and special teams duties.
In 1986, Allen was suspended for testing positive for cocaine, and the Eagles cut him. Soon after he was cut, Allen was arrested and charged with rape, which resulted in a ban from the NFL.
23 Jamal Reynolds - Green Bay Packers - 2001
After a strong college showing, Jamal Reynolds looked to be a top threat along the defensive line in the NFL .
Playing at Florida, Reynolds proved to be one of the best defensive linemen in the nation. A stout player in both the pass and the run, Reynolds capped off his senior season with 12 sacks and 58 tackles.
Needing help along the defensive line, it was a no brainer when the Green Bay Packers selected him with 10th overall.
Due to injuries, Reynolds didn’t see a snap over the first 10 games of his rookie season. Once he was able to actually get on the field, Reynolds didn’t make much of an impact; in just three seasons, he recorded just three sacks in 13 games.
22 Shawn Knight - New Orleans Saints - 1987
Sure, Shawn Knight wasn’t the most dominant player in college when he played for Brigham Young University; however, when the New Orleans Saints selected him with the 11th overall pick in 1987, they were hoping for at least some production.
Knight is known as one of the least productive first rounders ever. In his rookie season, Knight played less than 60 snaps before being traded to the Denver Broncos at the end of the season. After failing to provide any help with the Broncos, Knight played for the Arizona Cardinals in 1989 before calling it a career.
In what is an amazing feat, Knight registered zero tackles in his career.
21 Cade McNown - Chicago Bears - 1999
While playing for UCLA, Cade McNown looked to be the next great star as he was atop many freshmen quarterback rankings, as he started as a true freshman. After struggling in year two, McNown returned for his junior year and flashed his big game potential, as he was the Most Outstanding Player in the Cotton Bowl, while also earning All-American honors. His senior season was just icing on the cake, as McNown won the Johnny Unitas Award.
After a contract holdout that hindered his growth during his rookie training camp, McNown gained experience as he played in every game leading up to his first start in Week 5. However, inconsistences and injuries brought on severe ineffectiveness, and after going 3-12 as a starter, McNown was traded to the Miami Dolphins.
20 Ray McDonald - Washington Redskins - 1967
During his time in college, Ray McDonald was known as an elite athlete, as he played both football and track. However, the athleticism didn’t continue once he made it to the professional ranks.
Playing fullback for Idaho, McDonald led the nation in rushing with 1,329 yards. On top of that, McDonald was an imposing figure – at 6-foot-4 and 240-plus pounds, it appeared that he would shine in the NFL.
When the Washington Redskins selected him 13th overall, the plan was for McDonald to be the focal point of their offense. However, McDonald played just two seasons before being released and never picked up by any other team.
In those two seasons, McDonald totaled a poor 223 yards and four touchdowns – a far cry from his illustrious college career.
19 Bernard Williams - Philadelphia Eagles - 1994
As they thought with Kevin Allen, the Philadelphia Eagles believed that Bernard Williams would be a great player on their offensive line.
And, right off the bat, that looked to be the case. After starring at the University of Georgia, Williams started all 16 games at left tackle in his rookie campaign. Unfortunately, that was about all he did in the NFL.
Dealing with a multitude of substance abuse issues, Williams failed up to 15 drug tests and was banned from the NFL after he wouldn’t comply to their rehabilitation program.
18 Huey Richardson - Pittsburgh Steelers - 1991
Throughout the history of their franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their stout defenses. With the 15th overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft, the team thought they were adding to that by selecting defensive end Huey Richardson.
After all, Richardson, by and large, was a standout performer as a Gator during his time with Florida. Richardson’s name is all over Florida’s record books, as he ranks in the top five in sacks and tackles for a loss.
However, once he put on the yellow and black, Richardson looked like a different player.
The defensive end played in just 16 games over two seasons and he failed to register a tackle while on the field.
17 Justin Harrell - Green Bay Packers - 2007
Entering the 2007 season, the Green Bay Packers knew they would have a potent offense; however, they wanted to bolster their defense for a long playoff run. Because of this, the team selected defensive tackle Justin Harrell 16th overall.
Although Harrell didn’t have a great career while at Tennessee, the Packers thought highly enough of him to select him, with the hopes that he would fit in seamlessly on the defensive line.
As one would expect, things didn’t go as planned.
In his first season, Harrell started in just two games while playing in seven. And while that doesn’t seem to be a lot, that was the most action he saw in a season during his brief three game career, as he only played in 16 games.
16 Clyde Duncan - St. Louis Cardinals - 1984
Throughout his time in the amateur ranks, Clyde Duncan was viewed as an enigma who would dominate the NFL game, as he was considered to have both elite size and speed.
While he didn’t get much time to shine during his first three years at Tennessee, Duncan came on during his senior year, as he scored six touchdowns while having 33 catches for 640 yards. Duncan had a knack for making long catches, as he utilized both the aforementioned speed and size.
Due to what was seen as untapped potential, the Cardinals took Clyde Duncan 17th overall. Like many others on the list, Duncan got off on the wrong foot, as he had a contract dispute and didn’t join his team until the second week of September. To add salt to the wound, Duncan separated his shoulder early in the season, sidelining him for 1984.
After recording just four catches in 1985, Duncan had trouble with the Cleveland Browns and never appeared in another game.
15 Steve Schindler - Denver Broncos - 1977
During his time with Boston College, Steve Schindler was one of the best offensive linemen in the game. Lined up primarily at guard, Schindler was a three-year starter, and he was ranked an All-American in each of those seasons.
However, when Schindler was chosen by the Denver Broncos with the 18th overall pick in 1977, the hopes were he could play just as well as he did in college. That couldn’t have been anything further than what ended up happening. In just two seasons, Schindler started in only four games.
14 Harry Jones - Philadelphia Eagles - 1967
If Ray McDonald was the highest rated running back in the 1967 draft class, Harry Jones wasn’t too far behind him. As a Razorback at Arkansas, Jones was their best player during his four years at the college. In 1966 (his senior season), Jones was awarded with All-American honors. Once eligible for the draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected him 19th in the draft.
During his brief NFL career, Jones started in just five games and scored zero touchdowns.
13 Ken Novak - Baltimore Colts - 1976
Similar to the situation of Justin Harrell, Ken Novak wasn’t a highly touted prospect, but was thought of highly enough by the Baltimore Colts to be chosen 20th overall in the 1976 NFL draft.
And just like Harrell, Novak never made an impact with his team.
Only a Colt for two seasons, Novak made two starts and didn’t register any notable stats.
12 Clifford Charlton - Cleveland Browns - 1988
During his time with the University of Florida, there was arguably no better pass rusher than Clifford Charlton.
Representing the Gators from 1984-1987, Charlton was a massive part of the dominant defenses that led Florida to prominence in the mid-80s. Earning multiple All-American and All-SEC honors, Charlton is also ranked first in forced fumbles.
When Charlton was taken by the Cleveland Brows with the 21st pick in 1998, he was supposed to provide an edge to their defense; unfortunately, he struggled to do so.
Playing in only two seasons as an NFL player, Charlton, who was known for sacking the quarterback in college, registered just one sack. On top of that, Charlton only started in one of the 31 games he appeared in.
11 Brady Quinn - Cleveland Browns - 2007
In 2005 and 2006, it could be argued that Brady Quinn was the best young quarterback in America.
Playing for Notre Dame, Quinn was the poster boy for college football. In 2005, Quinn flourished under his new offensive system, as he threw 32 touchdowns and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. The next year was more of the same, as he completed 62% of his passes en route to winning the Maxwell Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
For a team that was struggling to find their franchise quarterback, the Cleveland Brows took Quinn with the 22nd overall pick, with hopes that he could fill that role.
In three years with the Browns, Quinn was never able to take a firm grasp on the starting position. In parts of seven seasons with the Browns, Broncos, Chiefs, Seahawks, Jets, Rams and Dolphins, Quinn went 4-16 as a starter, throwing 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions.
10 Rashard Anderson - Carolina Panthers - 2000
Although he came out of a small football program, Rashard Anderson’s sheer talent made him a first round lock. While playing at Jackson State, Anderson never received any national attention or highly touted awards. However, Anderson was quietly one of the most productive corner backs in all of college football.
The Carolina Panthers rewarded him, taking him 23rd overall in 2000. Due to a lack of experience, Anderson was relegated to special teams duties in his first season. Although he started in his second campaign, Anderson found it hard to live up to the lofty expectations. Dealing with substance abuse, Anderson was banned for the 2002-03 season, and was released from the Panthers when it concluded.
9 Todd Marinovich - Los Angeles Raiders - 1991
For those familiar with ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary specials, you may be familiar with quarterback Todd Marinovich.
Known by many as Robo Quarterback, Marinovich was groomed from a young age by his father to become a sensation. Those expectations were met for USC. Although he wasn’t planned to start, Marinovich was forced into the role due to injury. After a rough beginning, Marinovich eventually proved his worth, as he was the only freshman on the All-Pac 10 team. His sophomore campaign was met with much controversy, as off the field problems led to on the field struggles.
Although he was dealing with issues stemmed from cocaine, the Los Angeles Raiders selected Marinovich 24th overall in 1991. Unfortunately, both drug and alcohol issues continued the plague the once promising star. Marinovich only played in eight NFL games (eight touchdowns, nine interceptions), as his demons overcame him.
8 Billy Milner - Miami Dolphins - 1995
Like many selections, the Miami Dolphins were looking to solidify their offensive line – and Billy Milner was the man they chose to help their cause.
Milner was a part of the University of Houston and although it wasn’t a big program at the time, Milner still earned All-American honors as an offensive tackle. During his senior year, Milner was even awarded by his teammates and coaches as the team MVP.
Milner justified the Dolphins choosing him 25th overall in 1995, as he started nine games as a rookie en route to being named to the All-Rookie team. However, midway through the following season, Milner was shipped to the Rams for offensive help. While with the Rams, Milner suffered a very serious neck injury that eventually ended his career.
7 Jim Druckenmiller - San Francisco 49ers - 1997
When the San Francisco 49ers took Jim Druckenmiller 26th overall in 1997, the idea was for him to be the successor to Steve Young.
While the 49ers organization had their sight set on Druckenmiller as their future quarterback, he had to play prematurely due to injuries to Young. However, in the games he did play in, Druckenmiller proved he wasn’t up to the task.
In just six games from 1997-1999, Druckenmiller threw just one touchdown and four interceptions, good for a 29.2 passer rating.
6 Rae Carruth - Carolina Panthers - 1997
While many NFL hopefuls careers end early due to injuries and ineffectiveness, Rae Carruth got himself into much more serious problems.
While playing for the University of Colorado, Carruth shined as their top option at wide receiver, as he received All-American honors in 1996, his senior season. The Carolina Panthers selected him 27th overall in 1997, with the hopes that he would add to their passing attack.
After starting 14 games and scoring four touchdowns, Carruth was named to the All-Rookie team. However, after breaking his foot in the season opener in 1998, Carruth missed the entire season.
Although he was in the middle of his third NFL season, Carruth took part in a heinous act that put him in jail. Carruth pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first degree murder and shooting into an occupied car, as he tried to kill the woman who was bearing his child.
5 Larry Bethea - Dallas Cowboys - 1978
There aren’t too many people in the world that can say they had the best performance in a season in their team’s history. However, Larry Bethea can say that.
Playing for Michigan State, the defensive tackle’s 1977 season was amongst the all-time greats. During that year, Bethea combined for 90 solo and assisted tackles while also recording 16 sacks. He won the Big Ten Conference’s MVP award, a prestigious honor for a defensive player.
The Dallas Cowboys chose Bethea with the twenty-eighth overall pick in 1978 with hopes that he could carry on his dominance into the NFL. Unfortunately, that never came about.
Although he played in six seasons with the Cowboys, personal demons plagued Bethea, as he was never able to provide consistency on the field. After a stint in the USFL, Bethea ran into too many problems off the field, as he ended up taking his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
4 R. Jay Soward - Jacksonville Jaguars - 2000
One of the biggest issues with players coming out of the draft is character issues; however, R. Jay Soward’s athletic prowess superceeded those concerns.
Starring as a wide receiver at the USC, Soward totaled 32 touchdowns in his four-year career with the Trojans. Even with those lofty numbers, many believed Soward never lived up to his potential in college.
However, with Tom Coughlin running the Jacksonville Jaguars, the organization thought he would be able to straighten Soward out, so they chose him 29th overall. It didn’t matter who was running the team; Soward wouldn’t have his character issues corrected.
The talented yet troubled wide receiver lasted just one season in the NFL, making only fourteen catches.
3 Andre Johnson - Washington Redskins - 1996
Unfortunately for Andre Johnson, he is widely regarded as one of the worst first round selections of all-time.
Spending his college career at Penn State, Johnson was an above average offensive tackle and shot up many draft boards after his strong 1995 campaign. With the Washington Redskins needing a replacement at the position, they selected Johnson 30th overall in 1996.
Johnson never appeared in a game for the team that drafted him, as the Redskins cut him after year one. After another year in which he watched the entire season from the sidelines with the Miami Dolphins, Johnson stuck with the Detroit Lions for two years, where he started the only three games of his career.
2 Rashaun Woods - San Francisco 49ers - 2004
For whatever reason, wide receiver is a position that is played so well at the college level, yet those players have a hard time adjusting to the NFL. Rashaun Woods was just another example of that narrative.
Woods was an absolute stud during his time with Oklahoma State. Regarded as one of the greatest offensive players in school history, Woods capped off his four-year stint with 42 touchdowns, 293 receptions and 4,414 receiving yards, while earning both All-American and All-Big 12 honors as well.
For one reason or another, he looked like a shell of himself just one year removed from OSU after the San Francisco 49ers chose Woods 31st overall in 2004.
Woods only played in one season in the NFL. Over the 16 games, the wide receiver caught just seven passes while scoring one touchdown.
1 Patrick Ramsey - Washington Redskins - 2002
Similar to the situation with the Cleveland Browns, the Washington Redskins have also had trouble finding a stable quarterback. When the organization took Patrick Ramsey with the last pick of the first round in 2002, they thought they had their answer.
As a starter for Tulane, Ramsey was known as a bonafide gunslinger. Although he was prone to interceptions, Ramsey set over 20 Tulane passing records, while throwing at least one touchdown pass in 31 straight games.
The Redskins had a good reason to think that Ramsey would be a great fit in their offense; unfortunately, that never worked out. In four seasons, Ramsey was always under fire, as inconsistent play from both himself and the offensive line led to various changes at the position.
After leaving the Redskins, Ramsey spent the rest of his career as a backup, as he spent time with the Jets, Broncos, Titans, Lions, Saints, Jaguars, Dolphins and Vikings.
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