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All-Time First Round Mock Draft
Chuck Noll & Terry Bradshaw
Chuck Noll & Terry Bradshaw
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 24, 2009


Who were the greatest first round picks in each draft slot? Who were the biggest busts? Was Louisiana Tech's Terry Bradshaw the greatest No. 1 overall pick ever? Here's the annual update of the best and worst first rounders of all-time.

Ultimate First Round

The best and worst picks at
each 1st round draft slot
 

By Pete Fiutak

It's been well established that finding quality in a draft pick after the first round is an exercise in futility, but the top picks aren't always sure things, either. Teams invest/blow tens of millions of dollars every year on first round picks expecting them to be the cornerstones of their franchise, but more often than not they drain money and dreams.

Here are the best, and worst, first round picks of all-time with a very subjective look at the Ultimate NFL Draft First Round with the best player ever taken at each first round slot. It's far more difficult than you might think to find a sure-thing, Hall-of-Fame star for each first round pick. However, it's easy to find the epic misses that set teams back years. 

What's most stunning was how horrible the picks were to choose from in certain spots. The fifth pick, the 15th and 18th have been traditional wastelands, while the late 20s are utterly worthless. Learn from this you NFL teams; late first round draft picks aren't worth the money. History says they just don't work out (look at the "stars" to choose from at No. 22 & 24.)

Keep in mind that there were only more than 30 picks in the draft (at least regularly) from 1995 on. One more rule: A great pick is based on what the player did for the team that drafted him. John Elway was the greatest player of all-time, but not for Baltimore, so the Colts, in effect, blew the pick number one pick. Let the debate begin. 
 

 Pick The Greatest Pick The Worst Pick

1. 

Terry Bradshaw, QB Louisiana Tech
taken by Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970
Tom Cousineau, LB Ohio State 
taken by Buffalo Bills, 1979
Also considered: O.J. Simpson, RB USC (1969), Troy Aikman, QB UCLA (1988), Orlando Pace, OT, St. Louis (1997), Peyton Manning, QB Tennessee (1998)
 
Once again, Elway would be the choice except he didn't play for Baltimore. Simpson, Aikman, Earl Campbell and Bruce Smith are all fantastic choices for the greatest number one pick of all-time, but Bradshaw's four Super Bowls trumps anything the other players accomplished. Bo Jackson wasn't a bust of a player, but Tampa Bay completely blew it by alienating the Heisman winner so much that he chose to play baseball instead never suiting up for the Bucs. He would've been the choice for the worst pick if Buffalo didn't have the Tom Cousineau experience. The Ohio State star didn't sign with the Bills playing for the CFL's Montreal Alouettes where he was a marginal player at best. He came back to the NFL and played for Cleveland and San Francisco.

2. 

Lawrence Taylor, LB North Carolina
taken by NY Giants, 1981 
Tony Mandarich, OT Michigan State 
taken by Green Bay Packers, 1989
Also considered: Randy White, DT Maryland (1975), Tony Dorsett, RB Pittsburgh (1977), Donovan McNabb, QB Philadelphia (1999) 

White, Dorsett, Tony Boselli and Eric Dickerson were all worthy and Donovan McNabb deserves a bit of consideration, but L.T. is the obvious choice. There have been some tremendous busts at number two over the years and there's certainly an argument for Johnny "Lam" Jones, Blair Thomas and Rick Mirer, but Ryan Leaf is the only real challenger to Mandarich. The whiny brat from Washington State set San Diego back years after Bobby Beathard traded away a ton to get him. However, Mandarich gets the nod because of the players taken after him. The next three picks after steroid boy? Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Deion Sanders. Oops 

3.

Barry Sanders, RB Oklahoma State
taken by Detroit Lions, 1989
Akili Smith, QB Oregon 
taken by Cincinnati Bengals, 1999
Also considered: Anthony Munoz, OT USC (1980), Steve McNair, QB Alcorn State (1995), Larry Fitzgerald, WR Pitt (2004)

If there could be a tie, there would be one here between Munoz and Sanders. Do you take the greatest offensive tackle in NFL history over, perhaps, the greatest running back? No argument if you say yes. Surprisingly, the third pick has been a traditional dud as players like Nebraska CB Bruce Pickens, Miami RB Alonzo Highsmith, Florida State DE Andre Wadsworth and Tennessee QB Heath Shuler were just a few of the busts. Michigan State LB Carl Banks in 1988 and Penn State RB Curt Warner in 1983 are some of the main notables, and they weren't that great. Akili Smith finished his Cincinnati career with five touchdown passes and 13 interceptions forcing Carson Palmer to be the first overall pick in 2003. The next four picks after Smith? Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, Torry Holt, Champ Bailey. Daunte Culpepper went 11th. Ouch. 

4.

Walter Payton, RB Jackson State
taken by Chicago Bears, 1975 
Keith McCants, DL Alabama
taken by Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1990
Also considered: Joe Greene, DT North Texas State (1969), John Hannah, OG Alabama, Jonathan Odgen, OT UCLA (1996)

Payton isn't the lock you might think he considering how good Hannah was. It could also be argued that as the cornerstone of the Steel Curtain, Greene was a more important player than Sweetness. McCants was Tampa Bay's worst draft pick ever, which is saying a lot. He set the standard for looking like Tarzan, but playing like Jane. It also hurts that he was taken one pick ahead of Junior Seau. Auburn RB Brent Fullwood, Ohio State QB Art Schlichter and Michigan WR Desmond Howard were also in the running for worst pick.

5.

LaDanian Tomlinson, RB TCU
taken by San Diego Chargers, 2000 
Mike Junkin, LB Duke
taken by Cleveland Browns, 1987
Also considered: Junior Seau, LB USC (1990), Mike Haynes, CB Arizona State (1975) 

Mark it down; every ten years San Diego should get the fifth pick. Deion Sanders would be the slam-dunk choice for the greatest No. 5 pick if he didn't have his Hall-of-Fame years with San Francisco and Dallas instead of Atlanta. Even though Seau is a certain Hall-of-Famer, when all is said and done Tomlinson will be better. (Has there ever been a player that danced more after making a tackle nine yards down the field than Seau?)  Penn State RB Curtis Enis, Nebraska LB Trev Alberts and Oklahoma LB Cedric Jones didn't work out at the five, but Junkin was a legendarily bad pick. Cleveland traded draft positions with San Diego for two rounds and gave away LB Chip Banks to get the five taking Junkin at least two rounds too early. Penn State LB Shane Conlan went two picks later.

6.

Tim Brown, WR Notre Dame 
taken by Oakland Raiders, 1988
Rich Campbell, QB California
taken by Green Bay Packers, 1981
Also considered: Jimbo Covert, OT Pittsburgh (1983), Torry Holt, WR NC State (1999)

Brown is the pick for his Hall-of-Fame-to-be career scoring points for so many years of solid play. However, Covert probably still deserves the all-time slot. Campbell beat out Houston QB David Klingler and Nebraska RB Lawrence Phillips for the worst pick, but it's close. Campbell's career in Green Bay? Three years, 386 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions. Brett who?

7.

Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
taken by Minnesota Vikings, 2007
Andre Ware, QB Houston
taken by Detroit Lions, 1990 
Also considered: Phil Simms, QB Morehead State (1979), Champ Bailey, CB Georgia (1999), Troy Vincent, CB Wisconsin (1992), Sterling Sharpe, WR South Carolina (1988)

Like the third pick, the seventh has been a historic graveyard of mediocre selections. Phil Simms was the choice almost by default after winning a Super Bowl and taking the Giants to another (but won by Jeff Hostetler). Peterson has become something special after just a few years with all-time greatness within his reach. There are some fantastic, legendary dogs with the seven from Boston College DE Mike Mamula to Tennessee OL Charles McRae to Penn State QB Todd Blackledge, but Ware is the biggest bust of the bunch throwing for 1,112 yards and five touchdowns with eight interceptions in his four years.

8.

Ronnie Lott, S USC
taken by San Francisco 49ers, 1981 
Larry Stegent, RB Texas A&M
taken by St. Louis Cardinals (1970)
Also considered: Willie Roaf, OT Louisiana Tech (1993), Shane Conlan, LB Penn State (1987)

Obvious no doubter on the greatest No. 8 of all-time. There are plenty of old-timers in the hunt for the worst pick
. Mississippi State RB Michael Haddix had a mediocre career with Philadelphia, but his biggest problem was being taken one pick ahead of Bruce Matthews. Larry Stegent's career was brutally unfair. Expected to become a star, he made one catch for 12 yards before suffering a career-ending injury.

9.

Bruce Matthews, G USC
taken by Houston Oilers, 1983
Kevin Allen, T Indiana 
taken by Philadelphia Eagles, 1985
Also considered: Brian Urlacher, LB New Mexico (2000), Richmond Webb, OT Texas A&M (1990) 

Matthews was one of the NFL's all-time rocks on the offensive line. Kevin Allen was the opposite holding the unofficial distinction of being Buddy Ryan's least favorite player of all-time in his total bust of a career. He was later arrested and sent to prison on sexual assault charges. 

10.

Rod Woodson, DB Purdue 
taken by Pittsburgh Steelers, 1987 
David Verser, WR Kansas
taken by Cincinnati Bengals, 1981
Also considered: Marcus Allen, RB USC (1982), Al Toon, WR Wisconsin (1985), Herman Moore, WR Virginia (1991), Jerod Mayo (2008)

How do you possibly choose between Allen and Woodson? Had Al Davis actually used Allen for his whole career, it wouldn't be a debate. Woodson was one of the all-time greats for the Steelers making the NFL's All-Time team. Florida WR Travis Taylor can thank his lucky stars for David Verser who caught 23 passes for 454 yards and three touchdowns in his four year career taken one pick ahead of Keith Van Horne.

11.

Michael Irvin, WR Miami 
taken by Dallas Cowboys, 1988 
Jerry Tagge, QB Nebraska
taken by Green Bay Packers, 1972 
Also considered: Daunte Culpepper, QB UCF (1999), Wilber Marshall, LB Florida (1983), Dwight Freeney, DE Syracuse (2002) Demarcus Ware, DE Troy (2005), Patrick Willis, LB Ole Miss (2007)

The Playmaker had a huge career for the Cowboys catching 750 passes for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns. Alcorn State LB John Thierry was in the running for the worst pick, but Tagge blows him away. In three years, the former Husker quarterback threw three touchdown passes and 17 interceptions for the Packers.

12.

Warren Sapp, DT Miami
taken by Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1995
Cade McNown, QB UCLA 
taken by Chicago Bears, 1999 
Also considered: Chuck Foreman, RB Miami (1967), Warrick Dunn, RB Florida State (1997), Shawne Merriman, LB Maryland (2005)

Drug rumors dropped Sapp from being a sure-thing top five pick down to 12. He was the cornerstone of one of the NFL's most dominant defenses. Where would Minnesota had been if Dennis Green had taken Sapp instead of Florida State's Derrick Alexander? McNown was thrown to the wolves too early in Chicago and got eaten alive throwing 16 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions.

13.

Franco Harris, RB Penn State
taken by Pittsburgh Steelers, 1972
Leon Burns, RB Cal-State Long Beach
taken by San Diego Chargers, 1971
Also considered: Kellen Winslow, TE Missouri (1979), Tony Gonzalez, TE California (1997), Keith Jackson, TE Oklahoma (1988)

Tight ends turned out to be the value picks over the years, but Harris and his 12,120 career rushing yards and 100 total touchdowns makes him the pick. Burns gave the Chargers 223 yards and one touchdown.

14.

Jim Kelly, QB Miami
taken by Buffalo Bills, 1983 
Derek Brown, TE Notre Dame
taken by NY Giants, 1992 
Also considered: Randy Gradishar, LB Ohio State (1974), Eddie George, RB Ohio State (1996), Derrelle Revis, CB Pitt (2007)

After a stint with the Houston Gamblers, Kelly turned in a Hall of Fame career leading Buffalo to four Super Bowls. (Would Kelly be any better a quarterback if Scott Norwood had pushed his kick two feet the other way?) Derek Brown gave New York 11 catches for 87 yards for their 14th pick investment.

15.

Alan Page, DL Notre Dame
taken by Minnesota Vikings, 1967 
Ethan Horton, RB North Carolina 
taken by Kansas City Chiefs, 1985 
Also considered: Dennis Smith, DB USC (1981), Albert Haynesworth, DT Tennessee (2002)

Possibly the worst of all the first round draft slots, the 15th pick is littered with various take-a-flier picks that didn't come close to working out. Alan Page was the obvious exception.  It took something special to be the worst 15th pick of all-time and Ethan Horton was up the challenge. Converted to tight end, he ended up being a Pro Bowl player ... for the hated Raiders. He caught 28 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown for the Chiefs. That's significantly less production than the player taken with the 16th pick in the 1985 draft: Jerry Rice.

16.

Jerry Rice, WR Mississippi Valley St
taken by San Francisco 49ers, 1985 
Dan McGwire, QB San Diego State
taken by Seattle Seahawks, 1991 
Also considered: Russ Francis, TE Oregon (1975), Jevon Kearse, LB/DE Florida (1999)

The gap in production and talent between Rice and the second best receiver of all-time is possibly greater than any position in any sport. Dan McGwire threw for 745 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions for the Seahawks.

17.

Emmitt Smith, RB Florida
taken by Dallas Cowboys, 1990 
Clyde Duncan, WR Tennessee
taken by St. Louis Cardinals, 1984  
Also considered: Gene Upshaw, OL Texas A&I (1967), Doug Williams, QB Grambling (1978) 

Smith is the NFL's all-time leading rusher. The pick before him? Fresno State DB James Williams to Buffalo, and don't forget that Blair Thomas went second overall to the Jets. Clyde Duncan gave St. Louis four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown in his two years. Used as a kickoff returner, he lost three fumbles.

18.

Art Monk, WR Syracuse
taken by Washington Redskins, 1980
Don Rogers, DB UCLA
taken by Cleveland Browns, 1984 
Also considered: Will Smith, DE Ohio State (2003) 

Another total wasteland of picks, Monk and his 12,721 receiving yards and 68 touchdowns makes this the easiest pick on the board. It took something out of the ordinary to be the biggest bust at the 18, and Don Rogers did it dying of a cocaine overdose in 1986.

19.

Jack Tatum, DB Ohio State
taken by Oakland Raiders, 1971 
Steve Pisarkiewicz, QB Missouri 
taken by St. Louis, 1977 
Also considered: Marvin Harrison, WR Syracuse (1996), Randall McDaniel, OL Arizona State (1988)

Harrison should probably be the pick over Tatum. Southern Miss RB Tony Smith should've been a lock, but Missouri QB Steve Pisarkiewicz made this a no-brainer throwing for 785 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions in his career.

20.

Jack Youngblood, DL Florida 
taken by Los Angeles Rams, 1971 
Darryl Sims, DE Wisconsin
taken by Pittsburgh Steelers, 1985 
Also considered: Mark May, OL Pittsburgh (1981), Steve Atwater, S Arkansas (1989)

There haven't been many superstars selected with the 20th pick, but over the years it has been among the most consistently solid slots. Youngblood's Hall-of-Fame nod gave him a slight edge over May and the very underrated Atwater. Darryl Sims came to Pittsburgh, stunk for two years, and that was it.

21.

Randy Moss, WR Marshall
taken by Minnesota Vikings, 1998
Vaughn Dunbar, RB Indiana 
taken by New Orleans Saints, 1992
Also considered: Lynn Swann, WR USC (1974), Robert Smith, RB Ohio State (1993)

Yes, you take Randy Moss over Lynn Swann in a non-debatable heartbeat. Over his nine year career, Swann caught 336 passes for 5,461 yards and 51 touchdowns. Moss caught 525 passes for 8,375 yards and 77 touchdowns over his first six seasons. Dunbar ran for 574 yards and three touchdowns for the Saints. 2005 Jacksonville pick Matt Jones, the converted quarterback-turned-receiver, was a close call for the all-bust spot.

22.

Harris Barton, OL North Carolina
taken by San Francisco 49ers, 1987
Stan Thomas, OT Texas
taken by Chicago Bears, 1991
Also considered: Andre Rison, WR Michigan State (1989)

Welcome to another traditionally lean draft slot. Barton was a yearly Pro Bowl player but if he's your best choice, you know the 22nd pick has stunk. Several players gave it a good run to be the worst No. 22 of all-time, but Stan Thomas takes the prize. Mike Ditka bitched and moaned about the pick, and then Thomas banged up his shoulder. The Bears were planning on him taking over for the aging veterans. Instead, this pick set the Chicago line back a few years.

23.

Ozzie Newsome, TE Alabama
taken by Cleveland Browns, 1978 
Mike Schad, T Queens University
taken by Los Angeles Rams, 1986 
Also considered: Ray Guy, P Southern Miss (1973), Deuce McAllister, RB Ole Miss (2001)

Do you take the greatest punter of all-time over, perhaps, the greatest tight end of all-time? Schad played seven games for the Rams.

24.

Ed Reed, S Miami
taken by Baltimore Ravens, 2002
Leonard Renfro, DT Colorado
taken by Philadelphia Eagles, 1993 
Also considered: Craig Heyward, RB Pittsburgh (1988), Rodney Hampton, RB Georgia (1990), Steven Jackson, RB Oregon State (2004), Aaron Rodgers, QB California (2005), Chris Johnson, RB East Carolina (2008)

Now this is a lost pick ... at least before 2002, and then came Jackson, Rodgers, and Johnson. Reed redefined the safety position and could be considered among the greatest of all time. Craig Heyward? Yup, the pickings are slim. Hampton never got his just due for a solid eight-year career rushing for 6,897 yards and 49 touchdowns. Leonard Renfro was a major-league bust for an Eagle D hoping to replenish the defensive line.

25.

Stanley Morgan, WR Tennessee
taken by New England Patriots, 1977  
Terrence Flagler, RB Clemson
taken by San Francisco 49ers, 1987 
Also considered: Louis Oliver, S Florida (1989), Santonio Holmes, WR Ohio State (2006), Jon Beason LB Miami (2007)

Are you getting this yet? Louis Oliver? Late first round draft picks just don't become stars. Save your money and go after proven free agents. Stanley Morgan caught 68 touchdown passes for the Patriots. Tommy Maddox was worthy of worst No. 25 pick status proving to be used as a power play between Dan Reeves and John Elway while only throwing for 758 yards, six touchdown passes and nine interceptions in his Bronco career. Flagler was even worse rushing for 145 yards and one touchdown for the Niners.

26.

Ray Lewis, LB Miami
taken by Baltimore Ravens, 1996 
Reggie Dupard, RB SMU
taken by New England Patriots, 1986
Also considered: Joe Delamielleure, OL Michigan State (1973), Clay Matthews Jr., LB USC (2009)

Thank you. Finally, a worthwhile late first round pick. Lewis might be the greatest linebacker of all-time. Reggie Dupard ran for 574 yards and four touchdowns for the Patriots. Chicago took Neal Anderson with the next pick.

27.

Dan Marino, QB Pittsburgh
taken by Miami Dolphins, 1983 
Todd Kelly, DE Tennessee
taken by San Francisco 49ers, 1993
Also considered: Neal Anderson, RB Florida (1986), DeAngelo Williams, RB Memphis (2006(

Marino is the all-time first round value pick as bizarre and unfounded drug rumors caused him to slip. Just when San Francisco needed to boost up the defense in the arms race with Dallas, Todd Kelly came in and provided two mediocre years of service.

28.

Darrell Green, CB Texas A&I
taken by Washington Redskins, 1983 
Andy Katzenmoyer, LB Ohio State
taken by New England Patriots, 1999
Also considered: Derrick Brooks, LB Florida State (1985)

Green is the gold standard for cornerback consistency. He'll always be considered among the fastest defensive backs to ever play. Katzenmoyer was considered a bit of a risk going in the first round. After a few years of undistinguished play, a neck injury knocked him out of football.

29.

Nick Barnett, LB Oregon State
taken by Green Bay Packers, 2003
Dimitrius Underwood, DL Michigan State
taken by Minnesota Vikings, 1999 
Also considered: Derrick Alexander, WR Michigan (1994), Nick Mangold, C Ohio State (2006)

Remembering that there haven't always been No. 29 picks, there aren't many great players to choose from. Barnett had a strong rookie season proving to be better than Derrick Alexander and the rest of the 29ers. USC WR R. Jay Soward would be a lock as the worst 29 of all-time if it weren't for the bizarre and sad case of Dimitrius Underwood. Considered a flier at best in the mid-rounds. Minnesota head coach Dennis Green and staff didn't do their research to realize Underwood was battling depression, among other things, and wasn't going to be a productive pro.

30.

Keith Bulluck, LB Syracuse
taken by Tennessee Titans, 2000
Marcus Nash, WR Tennessee
taken by Denver Broncos, 1998
Also considered: Sammy Davis, CB Texas A&M (2003), Kevin Jones, RB Virginia Tech (2004), Joseph Addai, RB LSU (2006)

Bulluck is the pick by default with only a few 30s to choose from. Detroit RB Kevin Jones will get the honor in a few years. Marcus Nash caught four passes for 76 yards for the Broncos.

31.

Todd Heap, TE Arizona State
taken by Baltimore Ravens, 2001
Rashaun Woods, WR Oklahoma State
taken by San Francisco 49ers, 2004 
Also considered: Al Wilson, LB Tennessee (1999), Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Oakland (2003)

Trained well by Ozzie Newsome and Shannon Sharpe, Heap has only been limited by bad quarterback play. Trezelle Jenkins stunk from day one getting cut in 1997 after two years of service, but Rashaun Woods was next-level awful.

32.

Logan Mankins, G Fresno State
taken by New England Patriots, 2005
Craig Newsome, DB Arizona State
taken by Green Bay, 1995
Also considered: Ben Watson, TE Georgia (2004), Mathias Kiwanuka, DE Boston College (2006)

There's only a few No. 32 first round picks to choose from and Newsome wasn't that bad a player. Mankins started right off the bat.