The Oakland Raiders own the first overall pick in the NFL draft this season and, as a result, have a chance to right a franchise that won just 2 games last year.
However, while finding the best player with that pick can turn your franchise’s fortunes around, finding the wrong player can keep your organization drafting near the top of the order for years to follow. Something nearly half the teams picking first overall have learned over the past 25 years.
1982: Ken Sims, DE, Texas – The New England Patriots hoped to get a pass rushing threat from Sims but he only managed 17 sacks during his 8 seasons with the league; 5.5 of those came during the Patriots’ 1985 Super Bowl run. The Patriots would go on to have the 1st overall pick again two years later. They drafted wide receiver Irving Fryar.
1983: John Elway, QB, Stanford – Yes, I know Elway went on to appear in a record 5 Super Bowls and won two of those. He’s also in the NFL Hall of Fame. But, he did that with the Denver Broncos. He was drafted 1st overall by the Baltimore Colts. Shortly after being drafted, he refused to play for the Colts and forced a trade to Denver. In exchange they received quarterback Mark Hermann, lineman Chris Hinton and a 1st round pick that they used on guard Ron Solt.
Solt and Hinton turned out to be Pro Bowl players. However, without a star quarterback, their streak of 5 straight losing seasons would continue until 1987 while the Broncos went on to post a 44-25 record with a Super Bowl appearance in the same amount of time.
1987: Vinny Testaverde, QB, Miami – Much like Elway, Testaverde would go on to have a halfway decent career, playing 20 seasons and making two Pro Bowls. Unfortunately for the team that drafted him, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was a late bloomer. In 6 seasons with the team, he completed just 52 percent of his passes and threw 35 more interceptions than touchdowns. The Buccaneers also never won more than 6 games in a season during that span.
1988: Aundray Bruce, DE, Auburn – Picking first, the Atlanta Falcons had a choice between Bruce and Nebraska defensive end Neil Smith. Bruce started just 42 games in 11 seasons with three different teams. Smith, who was picked second by the Kansas City Chiefs, went on to play in six Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls.
1990: Jeff George, QB, Illinois – Eight years before finally finding success by drafting Peyton Manning the Colts once again failed in a bid to select a franchise quarterback. It wasn’t quite as ugly as the Elway situation but George spent much of his time arguing with coaches, making obscene gestures toward fans, holding out and demanding to be traded. The Colts traded him to the Falcons after four seasons.
1992: Steve Emtmann, DT, Washington – If there is any question about why the Colts held the first overall pick three times in 9 years, Emtmann is a good example. Emtmann played three seasons in Indianapolis, finishing all three on injured reserve.
1994: Dan Wilkinson, DT, Ohio State – Wilkinson is still in the NFL but has played for four different teams starting with the Cincinnati Bengals who were rewarded with four unimpressive seasons after picking him over future Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk.
1995: Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Penn State – One season after passing on Faulk, the Bengals used their second-straight first overall pick to select a back that many experts referred to as the next Barry Sanders. Carter injured his knee on his first carry in his first preseason game and never fully recovered. His best season with the Bengals had him gaining 464 yards on 128 carries in 1997.
1999: Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky – The expansion Cleveland Browns made Couch their first pick and he gave them five lackluster seasons before being cut. He is no longer in the NFL.
2000: Courtney Brown, DE, Penn State – Much like the Bengals, the Browns had the 1st overall pick in back-to-back drafts and both turned out to be busts. Brown showed flashes of talent when he was on the field but his rookie season was the only year he played in all 16 games and he was traded to Denver in 2005. Denver cut him March 19 and he reportedly is considering retirement.
2002: David Carr, QB, Fresno State – I actually think Carr will eventually be an effective starter but he was 24-56 with the Houston Texans after they made him their first ever draft pick in part because they couldn’t put together an offensive line that could protect him. He is currently a free agent.
The Raiders better be careful with their pick or they could find themselves near that top spot for years to come.