With the NFL draft fast approaching, the anticipation of who will be the first pick is causing Mel Kiper and Todd McShay to lose sleep at night. This year’s lucky winner looks to be Andrew Luck of Stanford according to the experts. If Luck is the first pick next April, the pressure to produce immediately will be on his shoulders. Every year, the player chosen number one has the football world dissecting everything they do–good or bad–in their rookie season. Some number one picks produce, and others let the money, fame, and pressure get to them and they fade away as draft busts. A number one pick should be a sure thing, a “lock” if you will. But in the NFL, that’s not the case. Here is my list of the ten worst number one picks in NFL history.
10 - David Carr (2002- QB Fresno St.- drafted by Houston)
Carr was given five years to produce as the Texans started under center and could never quite do it. He has thrown 71 interceptions to only 65 touchdown passes in his NFL career. One small bright spot for Mr. Carr was that his #8 jersey at Fresno St. was retired back in 2007.
9 – Courtney Brown (2000- DE Penn St- drafted by Cleveland)
The injury bug got to Courtney Brown in his second season as a Browns starter. In the fifth game of his second season, he suffered a season-ending injury which slowed him down the rest of his career. Up to that point in his second season, Brown had already tied the sack total of his rookie season of 4.5.
8 – John Matuszak (1973- DE Tampa- drafted by Houston)
Matuszak was listed by Sports Illustrated as one of the top five bad boys in NFL history. After he was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1973, he also signed with the Houston Texans of the World Football League (WFL). A restraining order barred him from playing with two teams at the same time, so the following year, the Oilers released him. His football career was highlighted by helping the Raiders win Super Bowl XI and XV, but he never produced up to his potential. After his football playing days, he appeared in a handful of Hollywood movies which included his most famous role as “Sloth” in The Goonies. Known for his partying, steroid, and drug use, Matuszak died of heart failure at age 38.
7 – Tim Couch (1999- QB Kentucky- drafted by Cleveland)
Some experts link Couch’s pass oriented offense at Kentucky as a reason for his failure at the professional level. In his five-year career at Cleveland, he accounted for 67 interceptions and 64 touchdown passes. The one bright spot in his career was leading the Browns to a 9-7 record in 2002, good enough for a wildcard playoff birth. An interesting stat in Tim Couch’s athletic career is that while at Leslie County High School in Kentucky, he scored over 3,000 points in his basketball career. His 36 points per game average was the highest in the state during his junior year.
6 – Walt Patulski (1972- DT Notre Dame- drafted by Buffalo)
Patulski, who is the last Notre Dame player to be drafted first overall, had a forty-yard-dash time of 4.9 seconds. At 6’6, 250 pounds, Patulski was expected to be a force to be reckoned with once in the NFL. He led the Bills in sacks as a rookie and helped them make the playoffs the following two seasons. His career was cut short, however, in 1976 when he suffered a knee injury.
5 – Ricky Bell (1977- RB USC- drafted by Tampa Bay)
The most memorable thing about Ricky Bell being drafted first was that the he was drafted head of Tony Dorsett. Dorsett went on to rush for 12,739 yards in twelve seasons compared to Bell’s 3,063 rushing yards in six seasons. I guess you could say that Bell was the Sam Bowie of the NFL. Bell’s lone bright spot came in 1979, when he rushed for 1,263 yards and led the Buccaneers to the NFC Championship game before losing to the Los Angeles Rams.
4 – Tom Cousineau (1979- LB Ohio St.- drafted by Buffalo)
Although Cousineau was drafted by the Bills, he never played a down for them. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL because they offered him twice as much money as Buffalo. He was the MVP of Grey Cup in 1979. After three respective seasons in the CFL he wanted get back to the NFL, so the Bills traded him to the Browns for a first round draft choice. That draft pick just happened to be Jim Kelly, who is probably one of the most revered Bills of all-time. The upside for Cousineau was that he signed a five year deal worth 2.5 million, making him the highest paid Cleveland Brown in history up to that point. He finished his career with 10 interceptions and 6.5 sacks. He has basically been known as an overpaid disappointment.
3 – Ki-Jana Carter (1995- RB Penn St- drafted by Cincinnati)
Carter tore a ligament in his knee on the third carry of his first pre-season game his rookie season; talk about bad luck! He never fully recovered from this injury and had a career best 464 yards the following season with 7 touchdowns. His NFL career stats add up to a minimal 1,144 yards on the ground with 21 total touchdowns.
2 – Steve Emtman (1992- DT Washington- drafted by Indianapolis)
Emtman’s career like so many others on my list was cut short do to countless injuries he suffered early in the six year career. Nine games into his rookie campaign he blew out his left knee. The following season he tore his patella tendon in his right knee. Emtman was the first NFL player to make a comeback from that injury. During his comeback game against his childhood team the Seattle Seahawks, he ruptured a disc in his neck that caused him to have season-ending surgery a few weeks later.
1 – JaMarcus Russell (2007- QB LSU- drafted by Oakland)
Anytime a NFL rookie holds out of training camp for more money when they haven’t proven their place in the league yet has to make any fan believe their intentions as a pro athlete are not in the right place. Lucky for Russell, he was guaranteed $31.5 million of his six-year $68 million dollar contract. His three-year career stat line is a pedestrian 23 interceptions and only 18 touchdown passes in twenty-five career starts. Terrelle Pryor wanted to wear number two when he donned a Raider jersey for the first time in 2011, but was not allowed, due to the Raiders fear of the number being cursed.
The 2012 NFL Draft begins on April 26. The Indianapolis Colts have the first pick. Let’s hope that whoever they choose doesn’t make this list one day.
By: Craig Emmert