Ed Hochuli,Tim Couch

20 Worst First-Round NFL Draft Picks of All Time

The NFL Draft is just a couple of weeks away, and all 32 teams are looking to build upon their rosters in hopes of reaching and winning Super Bowl LIV.


This longstanding tradition in the league has seen some stud athletes selected in the first round, many of whom lived up to the billing and had stellar careers. Other times, unfortunately, we encounter supposed top football players who completely bust and flame out of the league.


Here are 20 of the worst first-round picks in NFL Draft history.

20. Ereck Flowers, New York Giants (2015)

The New York Giants always boasted a strong offensive line during their last two Super Bowl runs. However, once that unit uniformly retired, the Giants were in desperate need of a blindside tackle. After watching the Washington Redskins take Brandon Scherff, New York selected Ereck Flowers out of Miami. The pick turned out horrendously, as Flowers showcased zero mobility and turned out to be a liability for Eli Manning. After three seasons of no progress, the Giants released Flowers.

19. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (2012)

Trent Richardson was a stud running back out of Alabama, where he was a member of two National Championship teams. Richardson was a bulldozer, a trait that the Cleveland Browns were enticed by, taking him third overall. However, Richardson's NFL career never got going, as he failed to rush for over 1,000 yards, and was traded by Cleveland midway through his second season.

18. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans (2011)

The Tennessee Titans selected Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, in hopes of him becoming their next great franchise quarterback. Locker was viewed as the No. 1 overall prospect during his junior season, but he elected to return to school. Locker's NFL career never panned out, as he was plagued by injuries, and decided to retire after his fourth season, citing a lack of desire to play.


Understandable. After all, who wants to play poorly?

17. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills (2013)

Ah, the 2013 quarterback class. The signal callers entering the league were far from perfect, but there were plenty of teams in need of a quarterback. The Buffalo Bills would reach to select Manuel at No. 16, and had a strong start to his NFL career. After suffering a shoulder injury during his rookie year, Manuel never bounced back, and is now a journeyman NFL quarterback.

16. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars (2012)

Justin Blackmon had all of the talent in the world to become one of the NFL's top wide receivers, yet Blackmon's off-field issues would limit his potential. Four arrests related to alcohol and drug use helped lower his stock tremendously. However, his failed drug test that led to his indefinite suspension proved to be the final nail in the coffin, as he's currently on Jacksonville's reserve list.

15. Kevin White, Chicago Bears (2015)

Kevin White's NFL career never caught on, sadly. After being selected seventh overall by the Chicago Bears, White could never keep himself on the field, due to a bad and unfortunate string of injuries. In four seasons with Chicago, White was limited to 14 games. The team opted against picking up his fifth-year option, and he now finds himself on the Arizona Cardinals, starting again.

14. Aaron Curry, Seattle Seahawks (2009)

Aaron Curry was deemed one of the best defensive prospects in recent memory, emboldening the Seattle Seahawks to select him with the fourth overall pick, while making him the highest paid non-quarterback rookie in NFL history. Curry never lived up to his $60 million deal, as he accumulated just 244 tackles and 5.5 sacks during his three-season career in Seattle. Curry would bounce around the league for two years before announcing his retirement in 2013.

13. Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals (2006)

Matt Leinart was a Heisman-winning quarterback at USC, and was expected to make a large impact at the NFL level. The Arizona Cardinals thought they had their guy, but it never came to fruition. Why is that? The guy Leinart was supposed to replace, Kurt Warner, had a career resurgence in Arizona. Leinart would get his chance after Warner's retirement, but his play had declined so badly that he was released before the start of the 2010 season in favor of Derek Anderson.

12. Curtis Enis, Chicago Bears (1995)

Curtis Enis was highly coveted by both the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite offering two first-round draft picks to trade up, the Bears stood pat and selected Enis. Unfortunately, Enis' career would last just three seasons due to numerous injuries, forcing him into an early retirement. So who did the Jaguars end up selecting later that draft? Fred Taylor. Not bad.

11. Rae Carruth, Carolina Panthers (1997)

Rightfully so, Rae Carruth's actions off the field will forever cloud his NFL career. After posting just 44 catches in his rookie season, Carruth broke his foot in the 1998 season opener after being selected in the first round of the 1997 Draft. Carruth's NFL career would end after he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder in an attempt to kill his pregnant girlfriend. 

10. Charles Rogers, Detroit Lions (2003)

Charles Rogers was deemed by many to be the next Randy Moss. Unfortunately for him, injuries riddled his career after he was selected second overall by the Detroit Lions. Rogers broke his collarbone towards the end of his rookie season, and would suffer the same injury again in his second season. Following a drug suspension in 2005, Rogers' time in Detroit came to an end prior to the start of the 2006 season.

9. Tim Couch, Cleveland Browns (1999)

In the Cleveland Browns' return year to the NFL, they were given the first overall pick to ease the healing process. Cleveland decided to choose Tim Couch, and in doing so left Donovan McNabb on the board. While Couch wasn't the worst quarterback of all time, it was his immobility that made him a detriment to the Browns, as he was sacked a staggering 166 times in his five seasons with the team.

8. Art Schlichter, Baltimore Colts (1982)

Art Schlichter flamed out amid serious scandal. After being selected fourth overall, Schlichter showcased poor work ethic in every respect; turns out the former Buckeye was an avid gambler, and followed the games he bet on while on the sidelines, instead of charting up plays. The Colts tried to solve their problem by selecting John Elway, but he refused to play for them. Schlichter threw for three touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games, and is now in prison.

7. David Carr, Houston Texans (2002)

The Houston Texans entered the NFL in 2002, and the league rewarded them with the first overall pick in order to speed up their franchise build. Houston would select David Carr, and he never lived up to his projections, mostly due to an ineffective offensive line. In his five seasons in Houston, Carr threw for 59 touchdowns and 65 interceptions, while accumulating 40 fumbles. It was not all doom and gloom for Carr, as he solidified himself as a solid backup, parlaying that into a television job.

6. Tony Mandarich, Green Bay Packers (1989)

Tony Mandarich was a dominator at the line of scrimmage at Michigan State. The Green Bay Packers were so smitten by Mandarich that they selected him with the second overall pick...over the likes of Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders. Mandarich only played in 63 games for Green Bay, and after his career ended, the behemoth admitted he was a steroid user throughout his career.

5. Lawrence Phillips, St. Louis Rams (1996)

Lawrence Phillips was a talented running back out of Nebraska, but carried a lot of off-field issues along with him at the time. Regardless, the Rams took a chance on him with the sixth overall pick. Unfortunately, Phillips never panned out, and was released by St. Louis after three seasons. After bouncing around to the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, Phillips was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2008 for assault with a deadly weapon.


He committed suicide in prison in 2016.

4. Akili Smith, Cincinnati Bengals (1999)

Akili Smith shined late in his collegiate career at Oregon. The Bengals would select Smith with the third overall pick, but Smith never lived up to that hype. Smith struggled with accuracy, posting a 46.6 completion percentage. In 17 starts, Smith posted a 3-14 record and threw for five touchdowns and 13 interceptions. 

3. Vernon Gholston, New York Jets (2008)

NFL teams and scouts marveled over the physique of Vernon Gholston entering the 2008 NFL Draft. The New York Jets elected to choose Gholston with the sixth overall pick. However, Gholston had zero mobility to get past the offensive line, and to solidfy his status in NFL Draft lore, he never registered a sack.

2. Ryan Leaf, Los Angeles Chargers (1998)

The question heading into the 1998 NFL Draft was whether the Indianapolis Colts would select Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf with the first overall pick. The Colts chose Manning, and the then-San Diego Chargers happily took Leaf. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Leaf just couldn't handle the pressure of being an NFL quarterback. In four seasons, Leaf threw 14 touchdowns and a staggering 36 interceptions, while accumulating a 48.4 completion percentage.

1. JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders (2007)

JaMarcus Russell enticed many in the NFL following his final season at LSU. The Oakland Raiders thought Russell could be the franchise quarterback they desperately needed. After an extended holdout left him overweight, Russell never reached his full potential. His accuracy was off and he was very turnover prone. In 31 games, Russell threw 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions on a 52.1 completion percentage, while also fumbling the ball 25 times.