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It's one of the great stories that everyone loves to hear: the underdog coming up from the bottom and rising to the top.
One of the stories that very few people like to hear about are the opposites: the big shots who fall all the way from the top straight to the bottom.
Well here, we're going to take a look at some of the worst (undrafted) compared to the first (No. 1 overall) pick of each draft from 1995 to 2005, and see how each of them have done.
I'm only going to up to 2005 because it's still a little too early to tell about busts and gems from 2006 to 2008.
No kickers or punters will be included, as it's extremely common for them to go undrafted.
Next to each year will be the name of the team which owned the No. 1 overall pick.
And here we go:
1995. Cincinnati Bengals:
FIRST: Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Penn State
You'll be hard-pressed to find many busts worse than Ki-Jana Carter. Of course, it was out of his control. On the third carry of his pro career, in a preseason game, Carter tore a ligament in his knee, and subsequently was never the same back we saw for the Nittany Lions. He finished his career with 1,127 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.
WORST: Wayne Chrebet, WR, Hofstra (signed with New York Jets)
How perfect that this guy was undrafted. You'll never see Chrebet's name on any year's Pro-Bowl roster; you'll never see him lead the league in anything (except perhaps concussions); but if you ask any Jets fan, they'll tell you how much they loved the guy. On his first day of training camp, a New York Jets security guard stopped him at the front gate because he didn't believe the guy was an actual football player. Talk about a feel-good story, eh?
1996. New York Jets:
FIRST: Keyshawn Johnson, WR, USC
One of very, very few good draft picks the Jets have ever made. Keyshawn simply dominated in his prime. After three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring, I'd say he's had a very successful career no matter how you slice it.
WORST: Hollis Thomas, DT, Northern Illinois (signed by Philadelphia Eagles)
Hollis Thomas is a mammoth of a man at 6-0, 306 pounds. In his prime, he was one of the top run-stuffers in the league. He's never made a Pro-Bowl, but he's enjoyed a very nice career.
1997. St. Louis Rams:
FIRST: Orlando Pace, OT, Ohio State
Orlando Pace was simply dominant before being bit by the injury bug. He's only started nine games over the past two seasons, but prior to that, he was an impenetrable wall on the left side of the Rams line, making every Pro Bowl from 1999 to 2005. He also protected a guy by the name of Kurt Warner in 1999, who earned NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP honors that year, while the Rams were crowned NFL champs. Pace was vital to that title. (Yes, yes, I know. It was a nice rhyme.)
WORST: Priest Holmes, RB, Texas (signed with Ravens)
What can you say about Priest Holmes? For a long time, he was the poster boy for running back dominance in the NFL. After playing a somewhat small role on the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in 2000, Holmes bolted that offseason and landed in Kansas City, where the real fun started. In his first year with the Chiefs, he led the NFL in rushing with 1,555 yards. In 2003, he broke Marshall Faulk's record for single-season touchdowns with 27. That year he also joined Emmitt Smith as the only two backs to record back-to-back seasons with 20 rushing touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who was passed over for big names like Byron Hanspard and Sedrick Shaw...
1998. Indianapolis Colts:
FIRST: Peyton Manning, QB, Tennessee
I'm not even touching this one. He's too good.
WORST: London Fletcher, ILB, John Carrol (signed with Rams)
Fletcher has enjoyed a very productive career. The only argument that can be made against him is that many of his tackles are made 5-10 yards over the line of scrimmage. At least, this is how Bills fans (including myself) justified his not being re-signed by the team. In reality, the man is just a terrific story. You will not find a man with a bigger heart than "Werewolves of London" Fletcher. He is a great team player, a Super Bowl champion, a tackling machine, and the definition of a Pro-Bowl snub.
1999. Cleveland Browns:
FIRST: Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky
Couch. That's exactly where Tim should have stayed. On his couch. The pain he caused Browns fans is simply inexcusable. Of course, the 1999 Draft was full of bust quarterbacks, including Couch, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Shaun King, Brock Huard, and Joe Germaine. But the Browns took Couch ahead of Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper. That's just terrible. I would've even rather had Aaron Brooks over Couch.
WORST: Jeff Saturday, C, North Carolina (signed with Ravens; debuted with Colts)
Saturday never played for the Ravens because they cut him two months after signing him. Big mistake. Saturday has 128 games for the Colts over his career, and has a Super Bowl ring to go along with his three Pro-Bowl selections.
2000. Cleveland Browns (again):
FIRST: Courtney Brown, DE, Penn State
The Browns went 0-for-2 in their back-to-back No. 1 overall picks. Courtney Brown was picked ahead of both Shaun Ellis and Darren Howard, each of whom were stellar defensive ends. Brown is currently a free agent after being released by the Broncos, and it seems like he will retire due to a knee injury he suffered during the 2006 preseason.
WORST: Brian Waters, G, North Texas (signed with Chiefs)
Brian Waters has been an anchor of the Chiefs offensive line throughout his entire career. While playing next to 11-time Pro-Bowler Willie Roaf for four years, Waters helped formed one of the most dominant offensive line tandems the league has ever seen. Waters, a 3-time Pro-Bowler himself, has played at a monstrously high level his entire career, and shows no signs of slowing down at age 31.
2001. Atlanta Falcons:
FIRST: Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech
Your attention please: Michael Vick has officially been crowned the dumbest man on the face of the Earth. Congrats Mike, that's the last thing you'll ever win. Don't drop the soap homie.
WORST: Antonio Pierce, ILB, Arizona (signed with Redskins)
Pierce is widely regarded today as one of the most fiercely intense and emotional players in the NFL. He has a reason to be so mad all the time, as teams seemed to think he was a worse talent than Jamie Winborn (No. 47 overall), Quinton Caver (No. 55 overall), and Sedrick Hodge (No. 70 overall). That's just plain insulting. One Pro-Bowl appearance and one Super Bowl ring later, Pierce is enjoying the fact that he can rub it in everyone's face who passed over him seven times.
2002. Houston Texans:
FIRST: David Carr, QB, Fresno State
It's just not fair to judge David Carr. After starting all but four games in his career with the Houston Texans, Carr compiled a 23-55 record. Awful. But he also wasn't surrounded by stellar talent. With Andre Johnson being his only target and his offensive line being nothing short of dreadful, it's a wonder Carr ever won any games. His backup role in New York may not be completely deserved, but his years in Houston shattered any shot he had at holding down a starting gig anywhere else in the league.
WORST: James Harrison, LB, Kent State (signed with Steelers)
Harrison made his first Pro Bowl this past season, and already has a Super Bowl ring in his short career. He's living the dream. A lot like Antonio Pierce, he's an inside linebacker who went undrafted and already has a Pro Bowl appearance and a Super Bowl ring to shove in the faces of his doubters. Harrison is a solid player who will continue to enjoy a very nice career.
2003. Cincinnati Bengals:
FIRST: Carson Palmer, QB, USC
I feel so bad for Carson Palmer. He's a terrific quarterback, but just look at what his team is doing to him. Chad Johnson wants out, Chris Henry couldn't stay out of jail and now finds himself getting Chad's wish, and the defense's best players were all convicts who now either no longer play for the team or are currently serving suspensions. I would demand a trade or retire if I were in Palmer's shoes. Seriously, he probably cried more this offseason than T.O. did when he was talking about Tony Romo after their playoff loss...
WORST: Antonio Gates, TE, Kent State (signed with Chargers)
You can't really blame other teams for passing on Gates as much as you can reward the Chargers for plucking a diamond out of the rough. Gates was a pure basketball player during his years at Kent State, and decided to go pro in football. Good choice.
2004. New York Giants:
FIRST: Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss
Let me be the first to eat my crow on Eli Manning. I never thought he had it in him. But after he won the Super Bowl last year (and there's no denying he was the leader that brought them there) against the all-powerful New England Patriots WITHOUT Tiki Barber in his backfield, I'm sold. Well done. Keep it up.
WORST: Willie Parker, RB, North Carolina (signed with Steelers)
"Fast Willie" Parker was an absolute gem. He's been to two Pro-Bowls already and holds the record for the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history (75 yards). He's accomplished an awful lot already and he has a terrific career still ahead of him.
San Francisco 49ers:
FIRST: Alex Smith, QB, Utah
Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers for the top pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. Wow, you really can't go right with that choice can you? Rodgers has the upper hand right now because he HASN'T PLAYED YET. If that doesn't tell you enough about Alex Smith's career to date, I don't know what will.
WORST: Joshua Cribbs, WR/KR, Kent State (signed with Browns)
There has got to be something in the water at Kent State. Their guys don't get drafted, but they end up being extremely successful. Antonio Gates, James Harrison, Josh Cribbs... this cannot be a coincidence. Nevertheless, Cribbs is one of the most outstanding return men in the game today, and it's a shame he got passed over so many times. I would call him a poor man's Devin Hester. And trust me, that is saying A LOT.
Greg's 2009 NFL Mock Draft
Walt's 2009 NFL Mock Draft
2009 NFL Mock Draft Database
2009 NFL Draft Prospects
2008 NFL Draft Grades