Every NFL Team's Best (and Worst) 1st-Round Draft Pick of the Super Bowl Era
The NFL draft is intoxicating because the event provides hope for every fanbase. Each first-round pick is a future Hall of Famer...until he takes the field.
Once the games begin, each of the top selections undertakes a divergent path based on numerous factors including situation, coaching staff, fit and everything that encompasses being a professional athlete.
Organizations hope they find a quality starter. None expect a Hall of Fame-caliber performer. Yet a lucky few emerge. Each of the 32 franchises made at least one of these selections in the opening frame since the Super Bowl era began in 1966.
Then, there are those everyone wants to forget. Amazing talents that, for whatever reason, never clicked and live in infamy. The league's worst draft picks won't find their busts in Canton. They're simply busts.
Best: Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald has gotten better with age. The 2004 third overall pick has caught 325 passes since turning 32 in 2015, and he's still going. Overall, the 11-time Pro Bowler ranks third all-time with 1,234 receptions and 15,545 receiving yards. Fitzgerald should eclipse Terrell Owens' 15,934 receiving yards during the 2018 campaign and take second place. The 6'3", 218-pound target came into the league making acrobatic catches before developing into an ideal slot receiver later in his career. He made the transition because he's an exceptional route-runner with velcro for hands.
Worst: Steve Little
Only five specialists have been first-round picks in the Super Bowl era. Normally, kickers and punters wouldn't even be included in this conversation. Yet Little's awful three-year career must be noted. Roberto Aguayo falls on the butt end of many jokes after being a 2016 second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and struggling. Imagine taking a specialist in the first round only to have him convert 48.1 percent of his field-goal attempts and average 38.5 yards per punt. The Cardinals don't have to imagine after wasting the 15th overall pick in 1978 on one.
Best: Mike Kenn
Deion Sanders is the flashiest draft pick in Atlanta Falcons history. Julio Jones has a chance to be the greatest. But Kenn is Mr. Falcon. The 1978 first-round round selection is tied for ninth all-time with 251 starts over his 17-year career. The left tackle went to five Pro Bowls and earned two All-Pro nominations. At 6'7" and 286 pounds, Kenn separated himself with athleticism. Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh said of Kenn in a Falcons media guide, "I've never seen any offensive tackle with his agility and quickness."
Worst: Aundray Bruce
Bruce never developed into the difference-maker the Falcons expected when they chose the outside linebacker with the first overall pick in the 1988 draft. In four seasons in Atlanta, he registered 16 sacks yet didn't become a dominant edge presence. Given that he was selected before Tim Brown and Michael Irvin along with five other first-rounders who earned Pro Bowl honors, Bruce's futility became even more glaring.
Best: Ray Lewis
The Baltimore Ravens' 1996 first-round selections may comprise the greatest singular draft frame in NFL history, because the neophyte franchise selected two future Hall of Famers in Jonathan Ogden (No. 4 overall) and Lewis. The linebacker has the edge over the left tackle as the franchise's greatest pick thanks his value as the 26th overall selection. That, and longevity. Lewis played 17 seasons to Ogden's 12, earned 13 Pro Bowl nods, garnered two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, became a two-time Super Bowl champion and captured the Super Bowl XXXV MVP award. The middle linebacker served as the physical and spiritual leader of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history when the Ravens allowed only 10.3 points per game during the 2000 campaign.
Worst: Kyle Boller
Prior to the current collective bargaining agreement, organizations were frightened to select the wrong quarterback prospect because it would set the franchise back years due to financial implications. Yet the Ravens traded up to select Boller with the 19th overall pick in the 2003 draft despite indicators he couldn't develop into a starting-caliber quarterback. Boller completed a woeful 47.8 percent of his passes at Cal. But, hey, he could throw ball 50 yards through the uprights from his knees. After five seasons, the Ravens gave up on Boller and his 45-to-44 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Best: Bruce Smith
The Buffalo Bills held the first overall pick four times in franchise history. O.J. Simpson and Smith were exceptional selections, while a third will be discussed in the next section. Smith developed into the NFL's greatest sack artist after he was drafted in 1985. Of his 200 career sacks, 171 came with Buffalo. The '90s Bills were littered with talent, hence their four straight Super Bowl berths. But Smith was the driving force behind an underappreciated defense. The defensive end went to 11 Pro Bowls, had eight All-Pro nods and took two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Worst: Tom Cousineau
At one point, the CFL challenged the NFL for top talent. The Bills selected Cousineau with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 draft. The linebacker never played a down for the organization. Instead, he signed with the Montreal Alouettes, because the CFL franchise offered more money. The Bills retained Cousineau's rights and traded him to the Cleveland Browns once he went to the NFL in 1982. All was not lost, though, since the first-round pick the Bills got turned into Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.
Best: Julius Peppers
When Peppers re-signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2017 after sevens seasons away from the organization, most expected a nice reunion tour as his career wound to a close. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The 2002 second overall pick tied for 11th overall last season with 11 sacks. The defensive end has eclipsed 10 or more sacks in 10 of his 16 seasons. The 38-year-old ranks fourth all-time with 154.5 sacks, and he will surpass Kevin Greene for third with six more. Peppers, a nine-time Pro Bowler, registered 92 of those sacks in a Panthers uniform.
Worst: Rae Carruth
What Carruth did is almost too heinous to even include him, because his failures as a human being extend far beyond the football field. The wide receiver showed promise as a rookie before his life spiraled out of control. The 1997 first-rounder caught 44 passes for 545 yards in his first year before breaking his foot in the following season's opener. In 2001, Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. He's still serving his sentence and has an expected October release.
Best: Walter Payton
So many different and wonderful words can be used to describe the Bears' best pick. Payton, the football player, left the game as its all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards. His gracefulness helped him earn the nickname Sweetness, even though he finished his runs with authority. The 1975 fourth overall pick still ranks in the top four overall in attempts, rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns and all-purpose yards. Payton, the person, will always be remembered, since the NFL hands out the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which honors a player's volunteer and charity work, as well as his on-field excellence.
Worst: Curtis Enis
Enis never realized his potential during a short-lived, injury-plagued career. The Bears drafted the Penn State running back with 1995's fifth overall pick, hoping he could become the next Payton. Unfortunately, Enis never started more than 12 games and didn't break the 1,000-yard plateau in his three seasons before taking an early retirement. To make matters worse, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected fellow running back Fred Taylor, who ran for 11,695 career yards, four picks later.
Best: Anthony Munoz
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted only one Hall of Fame inductee since the organization began in 1968. Munoz is the franchise's greatest player and arguably the best to ever play left tackle. His journey to becoming an 11-time Pro Bowl and nine-time All-Pro performer is amazing since the 6'6", 278-pounder was considered an injury risk coming into the league after dealing with knee issues at USC. Cincinnati still used 1980's third overall pick to secure the franchise cornerstone. Munoz started all 16 games in eight of his 13 seasons and became the standard by which all future blindside protectors are measured.
Worst: Akili Smith
The Bengals produced a string of terrible first-round busts during the 1990s. David Klinger (1992) and Ki-Jana Carter (1995) are worthy of mention. However, Smith spent four years in Cincinnati and managed only five touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. The 1999 third overall pick flashed talent late in his Oregon Ducks career, and NFL scouts drooled over his potential as an athlete who could spin the ball well. The quarterback never developed as a passer and completed only 46.6 percent of his NFL attempts.
Best: Joe Thomas
Thomas will forever be remembered as the NFL's ironman after playing 10,363 straight snaps before his career ended in 2017. The left tackle earned nine All-Pro (first and second team) nominations thanks to incomparable technique. Every pass set looked the same over 11 seasons. Thomas joined Merlin Olsen, Mel Renfro, Barry Sanders and Lawrence Taylor as the only players in NFL history to make 10 straight Pro Bowls to start their careers. The fact Thomas never played for a playoff team won't stop him from entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame soon.
Worst: Mike Junkin
So many options were available, since the Browns have been a bust factory. Yet the worst came in 1987 when the franchise traded for the fifth overall pick—sending linebacker Chip Banks and its first- and second-round selections to the San Diego Chargers—and chose Junkin, who then-scout Dom Anile infamously compared to a "mad dog in a meat market." Junkin played two seasons in Cleveland and never found a regular role among its linebacker corps before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fifth-round pick.
Best: Emmitt Smith
As the Cowboys Radio Network's Brad Sham famously called, "Move over, Sweetness, make a place for Emmitt." Smith became the NFL's all-time leading rusher Oct. 27, 2002, passing Payton. The 17th overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft amassed 18,355 rushing yards during his 15-year career. Smith left the game as a three-time Super Bowl champion, a Super Bowl XXVIII and NFL MVP (1993), an eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro. Consistency and availability matter. Smith ran for more than 1,000 yards 11 times to etch his name in the record book.
Worst: Bill Thomas
Dallas' rich history of drafting started with Tex Schramm, Tom Landry and Gil Brandt. Thomas is the closest thing to a complete swing and miss a team can experience. Worried about Calvin Hill's health, the Cowboys used their 1972 first-round pick (26th overall) to select another running back. Thomas played one season in Dallas, suffered a shoulder injury and never carried the ball before being released.
Best: Von Miller
At 29 years old, Miller is the youngest player on this list. Despite his relative youth, the outside linebacker's impact on the Denver Broncos can't be questioned. The 2011 second overall pick made an immediate positive impression by winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award after registering 11.5 sacks. In fact, Miller picked up at least 10 sacks in all but one of his seven seasons and became the second-fastest in NFL history to amass 80 sacks. As a result, the outside linebacker has been honored with six Pro Bowl and three All-Pro nods. Yet his career will be defined by a dominant Super Bowl 50 performance, which garnered the him game's MVP award.
Worst: Tommy Maddox
The Broncos drafted Maddox with 1992's 25th pick to be John Elway's replacement. The team obviously didn't think enough of its franchise quarterback, since Elway played until 1998 and brought the organization its first two Super Bowl victories during his final two seasons. Maddox, meanwhile, was off the Broncos roster after the 1993 campaign and ended up in the XFL before finding a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2001. The ill-advised first-round pick provided the Broncos with 758 passing yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Best: Barry Sanders
Sanders' highlight reel is unlike anything else in the NFL. The most elusive runner in football history made professional tacklers, 300-pound defensive linemen and secondary speed demons looked like kids on the playground flailing to stop the neighborhood's best athlete. Sanders routinely turned negative plays into big gains on his way to 15,269 yards as the NFL's third all-time leading rusher. The No. 3 pick in 1989 may have been the greatest running back in league history, but he abruptly retired after 10 seasons. The 1988 Heisman Trophy winner rushed for at least 1,115 yards and earned first- or second-team All-Pro honors every year he played.
Worst: Charles Rogers
NFL organizations search far and wide for talented, reliable and available players. Rogers lacked two of those traits. The wide receiver can't be blamed for the collarbone injuries that ruined the early portions of his career. But the Lions expected more than 36 receptions for 440 yards in three seasons from 2003's second overall selection. Rogers can be blamed for three violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy. The 6'3", 202-pound target never received a chance to play for another team after Detroit released him before the 2006 campaign.
Green Bay Packers
Best: Aaron Rodgers
Because of Rodgers' Hall of Fame-worthy turn after taking over for Brett Favre, his draft-day experience reached legendary status. The top-10 overall talent took a nosedive in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft before the Green Bay Packers selected him with the 24th overall pick. Now, he's arguably professional football's best quarterback and has unparalleled arm talent and pocket creativity. Tom Brady has the most notoriety, yet Rodgers is the game's most talented signal-caller. After sitting for three years behind Favre, Rodgers racked up 312 touchdowns compared to 77 interceptions in 10 seasons. He's also a two-time NFL MVP with a Super Bowl victory under his belt.
Worst: Tony Mandarich
Few prospects have entered the league with more fanfare than Mandarich. Sports Illustrated dubbed the Michigan State product "the best offensive line prospect ever," and the franchise took him No. 2 overall in 1989. Steroids, painkillers and alcohol fueled Mandarich's collegiate dominance. His lifestyle, attitude and style of play didn't work in the NFL. The Packers released him in 1992. He eventually redeemed himself to a degree in three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, but he'll forever be known as the "incredible bust."
Best: Andre Johnson
A healthy J.J. Watt is the Houston Texans' best first-round draft pick, but he hasn't been healthy the last two seasons. Four years of awesome production isn't enough to overshadow Johnson's 14-year career, especially his 12 seasons in Houston. Johnson, who the organization selected with the third overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft, became the Texans' all-time leading receiver with 1,012 receptions, 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns. The seven-time Pro Bowler posted five 100-catch and six 1,100-yard seasons between 2006 and 2013.
Worst: Travis Johnson
The Texans organization hasn't whiffed on many first-round picks since the franchise began in 2002. David Carr may seem like an obvious choice, an awful supporting cast and offensive line ruined the quarterback's career. Johnson, meanwhile, never developed into anything. The 16th overall pick in 2005 managed a measly 103 tackles and three sacks in four seasons before being traded to the San Diego Chargers for a sixth-round pick. Carr struggled; Johnson barely contributed.
Best: Peyton Manning
The Indianapolis Colts suffered through years of bad drafting and losing before Peyton Manning's arrival via the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. Manning developed into the organization's leader through his work ethic, intelligence and attention to detail. The quarterback practiced a certain way, expected a lot from his teammates and no defense could fool him. These qualities led him to 54,828 passing yards in 13 seasons with the Colts and a Super Bowl XLI victory. Before retiring, the five-time NFL MVP finished as the league's all-time leader with 71,940 passing yards and 539 passing touchdowns.
Worst: Steve Emtman
While a neck injury forced Manning out of Indianapolis, physical setbacks kept Emtman's career from truly beginning. The 1992 No. 1 overall pick played only 18 games over three seasons while dealing with a left knee injury, a torn patellar tendon in his right knee and a ruptured disk in his neck.
"As you get away from it for a few years, it's like, Man, it would have been a lot smarter to get 100 percent healthy," Emtman admitted in 2016, per Fox Sports' Sam Gardner. "But I didn't, and it's kind of one of those things I wish I could have changed, but I don't regret anything."
Best: Tony Boselli
Boselli is knocking on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's door even though injuries limited him to eight seasons. The Jacksonville Jaguars used the franchise's first-ever pick to select Boselli second overall in the 1995 draft. The 6'7", 322-pound tackle quickly developed into a rock-solid pass protector and one of the game's best overall blockers. He became a Pro Bowler in his second season and made it to Hawaii every year until 2000 when shoulder injuries kept him off the field until his early retirement in 2002. If someone were to build a perfect left tackle, Boselli could serve as the template.
Worst: Justin Blackmon
Blackmon's short-lived career serves as a warning to investigate the person as much as a young man's on-field prowess. The Oklahoma State wide receiver dominated the collegiate ranks as a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner (2010, 2011). The Jaguars then made him fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft. He managed 64 receptions for 865 yards as a rookie, yet multiple suspensions for violations of the league's substance-abuse policy destroyed his career. Blackmon's off-field problems sabotaged his career, and it's unlikely he'll play again.
Kansas City Chiefs
Best: Tony Gonzalez
Choosing between Gonzalez and Derrick Thomas was the hardest decision among all of the teams and their available options. Both were spectacular for the Kansas City Chiefs. Gonzalez gained an edge because of his lower draft slot—1997's 13th overall pick versus 1989's fourth selection—and the fact he played one more season (12 to 11) in a Chiefs uniform. He also walked away as the best tight end in NFL history. The 14-time Pro Bowl selection posted wide receiver numbers and changed the way we view the tight end position with 1,325 career receptions for 15,127 yards.
Worst: Todd Blackledge
Hall of Fame quarterbacks Elway, Kelly and Dan Marino entered the professional ranks courtesy of the 1983 draft. Not every quarterback selected that year experienced success, though. Blackledge may be included in the famed class, but he developed into its biggest disappointment after the Chiefs chose the 1982 Davey O'Brien Award winner with the seventh pick only to see him bomb with a career 48.1 completion percentage and a 29-38 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Los Angeles Chargers
Best: Junior Seau
Seau played with an unparalleled passion and unbridled enthusiasm. The San Diego Chargers selected the homegrown talent with the fifth pick in the 1990 draft, and the middle linebacker didn't take long to establish himself as one of the league's premier defenders. Seau started a string of 12 Pro Bowl performances in 1991. The six-time first-team All-Pro also became the driving force behind the Chargers' only Super Bowl appearance (1994). When the NFL's greatest linebackers are named, Seau should be counted among the first few mentioned.
Worst: Ryan Leaf
There are those incapable of handling the NFL's mental rigors. The Chargers settled on Leaf at No. 2 after the Indianapolis Colts selected Manning with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. The young man quickly became unhinged from dealing with the pressure. Outstanding arm talent didn't matter when coupled with immaturity and a lack of leadership. Leaf completed 48.4 percent of his passes in four seasons with only 14 touchdowns compared to 36 interceptions. Manning turned the Colts into a perennial playoff contender, while Leaf made the Chargers worse.
Los Angeles Rams
Best: Jack Youngblood
The Rams drafted six Hall of Fame players since the start of the Super Bowl era, including Orlando Pace, Jerome Bettis, Kevin Greene, Eric Dickerson, Jackie Slater and Youngblood. An argument can be made for each, yet Youngblood's impact, longevity and toughness can never be replicated. The Rams chose him with the 20th overall selection in the 1971 draft, and he went on to become a five-time first-team All-Pro. The defensive end famously played with a broken fibula during the 1979 playoffs and even sacked the Dallas Cowboys' Roger Staubach. Youngblood, who played 14 seasons, holds a Rams record for 201 consecutive games played and had 17 playoff starts and 8.5 career playoff sacks.
Worst: Lawrence Phillips
Phillips earned the designation as the worst pick in Rams history for two reasons. First, 1996's sixth overall pick never played to expected levels even though some considered him the top overall talent in the class. He played 25 games for the Rams and rushed for 1,265 yards before the organization released him because of off-field concerns. Second, the Rams traded Bettis after drafting Phillips.
Best: Dan Marino
An interesting argument will start with Marino's selection over the likes of Bob Griese and Larry Csonka. After all, the latter duo led the Miami Dolphins to a pair of Super Bowl victories and a perfect season. Yet no one questions Marino's status among the game's greatest players. The fact he didn't have the same surrounding cast as Griese and Csonka shouldn't be held against a player who left the game as its all-time leading passer with 61,361 yards (before being surpassed by Favre, Manning, Brady and Drew Brees). The Dolphins used the 27th overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft to land the best quarterback in franchise history.
Worst: Rick Norton
Miami owned the first and second overall picks in the 1966 AFL draft as an incoming expansion franchise. The organization selected Norton with the second pick. The quarterback played in 31 games over four seasons for the Dolphins and never completed more than 43.9 percent of his passes over an entire year. The Kentucky product completed 41.6 percent of his passes during his five-year career. He also had more than four times as many interceptions (30) as touchdowns (seven).
Best: Alan Page
The Purple People Eaters are counted among the most recognizable units in NFL history. Page led the Minnesota Vikings' ferocious front featuring Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen with nine Pro Bowl nods after being selected with the 15th overall pick in the 1967 draft. The defensive tackle even became the first defensive player in NFL history to be named Most Valuable Player (1971). Page earned six first-team All-Pro nods and was the 1971 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He revolutionized interior play and paved the way for modern 3-techniques.
Worst: Dimitrius Underwood
Most draft busts suffer from injuries, off-field problems or the realization they're just not good enough to play professional football. Underwood was unique, since he signed with the Vikings then walked out on the team shortly after, citing an unresolved decision between playing football and entering the ministry. The defensive tackle returned only to be released even though Minnesota used the 29th overall pick in the 1999 draft to select him.
New England Patriots
Best: John Hannah
The NFL has drastically changed over the last 25 years, particularly in line play. Offensive and defensive linemen are bigger, stronger and more athletic than ever. Sub-300-pound blockers are rare. Despite this shift, the 6'2", 265-pound Hannah is still arguably the best pure guard to ever play. The seven-time first-team All-Pro helped lead the way for the most productive ground game in NFL history when the New England Patriots ran for 3,165 yards during the 1978 campaign.
"I wanted to be the best guard who ever played football, plain and simple," said Hannah, 1973's fourth overall pick, per NFL Films.
Worst: Kenneth Sims
Sims was a supposed to be a sure thing entering the 1982 draft. Hall of Fame inductee and former Washington Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard called Sims "one of the most talented defensive linemen since I've been scouting," per Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum. The Patriots selected Sims with the No. 1 overall pick, but the talent Beathard saw never translated to the NFL. The defensive end caused more headaches for his team than he created sacks, with only 17 in eight seasons.
New Orleans Saints
Best: Willie Roaf
Roaf wasn't as athletic as the Seattle Seahawks' Walter Jones, as good of a technician as the Browns' Joe Thomas or the ideal physical specimen like Ogden (6'9", 345 lbs). But 1993's eighth overall pick got the job done on a weekly basis. In his nine seasons with the Saints, Roaf earned seven Pro Bowl bids and six first- and second-team All-Pro selections. The Saints have selected multiple Pro Bowlers in the first round, yet Roaf is the only one to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Worst: Johnathan Sullivan
Workout warriors are collegiate prospects who outperform expectations during the draft process with stellar physical testing. Mike Mamula is the most well-known example, but Sullivan isn't too far behind after tearing up the 2003 predraft circuit. The Saints traded up to the sixth overall pick and selected the 6'3", 315-pound defensive tackle. New Orleans then dealt Sullivan to the New England Patriots after three unproductive seasons.
New York Giants
Best: Lawrence Taylor
Anytime an individual revolutionizes the game, his name automatically rises to the top—whether the discussion involves the NFL's greatest players, draft picks or whatever topic comes to mind. As detailed in the Michael Lewis novel The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, Taylor's speed and athleticism off the edge forced coaching staffs throughout the league to find bigger, longer and more nimble left tackles to protect their quarterbacks' blind side. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year terrorized opposing offenses after the New York Giants selected him with the second overall pick in the 1981 draft. Taylor's impact still resonates.
Worst: Derek Brown
Knee problems cut short tight end Mark Bavaro's Giants career in 1990. Howard Cross managed only 20 receptions for 283 yards during the 1991 campaign. As a result, New York took Derek Brown with the 14th pick in the 1992 draft to replicate what Bavaro once brought. Brown never provided a significant contribution, putting up 11 receptions for 87 yards in three seasons before New York exposed him to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1995 expansion draft.
New York Jets
Best: Darrelle Revis
The New York Jets' history of first-round picks is awful, with only a few standouts since the team used the third overall pick in the 1965 draft to select Joe Namath. Sure, John Riggins (1971 first-rounder) became a Hall of Fame running back, but he built his reputation with the Washington Redskins. Revis is the only Jets first-round selection in the last 52 years to become a dominant player.
The "Revis Island" nickname originated because of the cornerback's ability to cover any wide receiver without help. The Jets only had the game's best cover corner for six of his prime seasons after making him the 14th pick in the 2007 draft. However, his dominance during that stretch is good enough to eclipse all other Jets opening-round selections.
Worst: Vernon Gholston
Gholston defined the term "body beautiful." At 6'3" and a magnificently sculpted 260 pounds, the defensive end looked how a professional athlete should look. However, chiseled frames don't equal flexibility. Gholston never displayed the ability to turn the corner against offensive tackles, even during his time at Ohio State, and he could overpower NFL linemen then. In three seasons, the pass-rusher—we're using that term as liberally as possible—never registered a sack.
Best: Gene Upshaw
Younger NFL fans probably remember Upshaw as the NFLPA executive director before DeMaurice Smith, a role in which he became a pioneer. But Upshaw was also one of the best guards to ever play. The five-time first-team All-Pro selection possessed a unique blend of athleticism and attitude. According to Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei, the 6'5", 255-pound blocker ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, which allowed him to excel as a pulling guard. He also did everything to bury or frighten his opponents. Upshaw was well worth the 17th pick in the 1967 draft, since he's the first individual in the sport's history to play in Super Bowls during three different decades.
Worst: JaMarcus Russell
Former Raiders owner Al Davis built his entire scouting philosophy on getting the biggest, fastest and toughest players available. At 6'6" and 260 pounds with a cannon strapped to his right shoulder, Russell was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, all of the quarterback's physical tools didn't translate to the field, because the 2007 No. 1 overall pick lacked the inner drive to realize his potential. In three seasons, Russell completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
Best: Reggie White (supplemental pick)
Since the Philadelphia Eagles' first-round draft history is suspect during the Super Bowl era, the rules had to be stretched slightly to include White, whom the organization chose as part of the 1984 supplemental draft. White came off the board as the fourth overall pick behind Steve Young, Mike Rozier and Gary Zimmerman. The Minister of Defense walked into the NFL and dominated with 11 or more sacks in each of his eight seasons with the Eagles. He still ranks second overall with 198 career sacks. There's never been anyone quite like the 6'5", 300-pound defensive end, who had enough athleticism to play on the edge, herculean strength to ragdoll offensive linemen and the versatility to excel at every position along a defensive front.
Worst: Michael Haddix
Everyone wants to be the best at something. No one wants to be considered the worst in their chosen profession. The Eagles used the eighth overall pick in the 1983 draft to select Haddix. In eight seasons—six in Philadelphia—Haddix averaged an NFL-worst 3.0 yards per carry for any back with 500 or more career totes. The 225-pound runner never averaged more than 3.5 yards per carry in any season.
Best: Mean Joe Greene
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II said Green helped "create the most dynamic and fantastic football city in the world," per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo. Without Greene, the Super Bowl victories, terrible towels and nationwide fanbase may not exist. As such, the importance of 1969's fourth overall pick can't be oversold. Greene came before Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount to become the bedrock of the four-time Super Bowl winners. The defensive tackle played 91 straight games until missing a contest in 1975. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was a dominant force on one of the league's all-time great defenses.
Worst: Huey Richardson
That a franchise would give up on a first-round pick after only one year is nearly impossible to comprehend. But the Steelers did it after selecting Richardson with the 15th overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft. The coaching staff couldn't find a role for Richardson, who came into the league as a defensive end before being moved to inside linebacker. The organization cut its losses when it realized he was a bad fit for its defensive scheme and traded him to the Washington Redskins before the 1992 campaign.
San Francisco 49ers
Best: Jerry Rice
Rice isn't simply the greatest wide receiver in NFL history; he may be the G.O.A.T. regardless of position. The San Francisco 49ers traded up in the 1985 draft to select the Mississippi Valley State receiver with the 16th overall pick despite concerns over his speed. In spite of a slow start to his professional career, Rice proved he was a perfect fit in Bill Walsh's burgeoning West Coast offense. The bricklayer's son left the NFL with numerous records. He's the all-time leader with 1,549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards, 23,546 all-purpose yards and 208 career touchdowns.
Worst: Steve Spurrier
Long before Spurrier became the "old ball coach," he dominated the collegiate ranks as a quarterback for the Florida Gators. Spurrier even won the 1966 Heisman Trophy. The 49ers traded up in the 1967 draft to select him with the third overall pick and develop him behind starter John Brodie for a few seasons. The plan never came to fruition, as Spurrier appeared in 92 games over nine seasons with a 52.5 completion percentage, 5,250 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and 48 interceptions before being traded to the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976.
Best: Walter Jones
Many offensive linemen have played at the professional level. None has been more physically gifted than Jones. The term "dancing bear" was coined for an athlete of Jones' size and athletic prowess. The 6'5", 325-pound blocker dominated at the point of attack, easily handled premier pass-rushers and buried defenders 15 yards downfield. The sixth overall pick in 1997 earned nine Pro Bowl berths in 12 seasons and deserved far more recognition. He didn't garner as much because he played in the Great Northwest before the Seahawks became a perennial power.
Worst: Aaron Curry
Being drafted doesn't mean a player "made it" in the NFL. Some act that way, though. Curry is a perfect example. The Seahawks used the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft to select the nation's best linebacker. He lost all of his motivation afterward and found himself out of the NFL four years later.
"I went and got exactly what I wanted, and as soon as I got it, I put it in my pocket and I was like, Oh, you guys need something else?" Curry told Sports Illustrated's Jonathan Jones. "That's where I lost my way. In college it was like, I'm going to keep grinding 'til I get it. And then I got it."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best: Derrick Brooks
Warren Sapp immediately comes to mind as the best first-round draft value in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history after he fell to the 12th pick in the 1995 NFL draft. Yet the Bucs selected another Hall of Fame performer in the same round. Brooks came off the board with the 28th pick and became the organization's all-time leader with 2,198 career tackles. In Brooks' 14 seasons, he earned 11 Pro Bowls nominations, five first-team All-Pro designations and the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. More importantly, his role as the weak-side linebacker in coordinator Monte Kiffin's defense provided a consistent playmaker behind Sapp and in front of safety John Lynch.
Worst: Bo Jackson
Bo knows who he does and doesn't want to associate with. The Buccaneers used the first overall pick in the 1986 draft to select the ubertalented multi-sport athlete. Jackson, who lost a year of collegiate baseball eligibility because of a plane ride set up by then-Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse, decided he didn't want to play for Tampa Bay. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner chose not to sign and concentrated on baseball until he re-entered the 1987 NFL draft. The Los Angeles Raiders selected the running back in the seventh round, and the rest is history.
Best: Bruce Matthews
Matthews is the NFL's greatest utility lineman. In his 19 seasons with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, 1983's ninth overall pick played every position along the offensive front and earned Pro Bowl honors as a center, guard and offensive tackle. His 293 career starts rank second all-time behind Favre. Most offensive linemen struggle to change positions because different skill sets are required to play each. Matthews made it look easy, which says everything about his natural gifts and overall talent.
Worst: John Matuszak
Matuszak is more fondly remembered as Sloth from The Goonies than the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 NFL draft. Matuszak signed with the Oilers and the World Football League's Houston Texans. Oilers representation took umbrage with the idea and served Matuszak with an injunction to prevent him from playing with the Texans. The Oilers front office became upset about the situation and traded the defensive lineman to the Kansas City Chiefs. Eventually, Matuszak became a standout performer for the Oakland Raiders, but he never played a down for the Oilers.
Best: Darrell Green
Generally speaking, the Washington Redskins capitalized on their draft selections since the organization traded away more first-round picks than any other franchise in the Super Bowl era. Since 1966, Washington didn't make a first-round selection in an astonishing 25 draft classes. The team chose one prospect, Green, in the opening frame from 1982 through 1990, though it maximized its value since the cornerback played 20 seasons and ranks seventh all-time with 258 starts. Considered the fastest player in NFL history, Green earned seven Pro Bowl bids and one first-team All-Pro nomination thanks to his coverage skills.
Worst: Heath Shuler
Shuler proved to be a more successful politician than a football player. The North Carolina native's six years in the United States House of Representatives surpasses his four-year playing career. Washington selected Shuler with the third overall pick in the 1994 draft. The organization chose Gus Frerotte 194 picks later, and the seventh-round selection outplayed his first-round counterpart. During Shuler's three seasons in Washington, the quarterback completed 47.7 percent of his passes with a 13-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio.