There’s nothing like the optimism that comes with a top NFL draft pick to help a team take a step forward with exciting young talent added to the roster. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out.
What happened the last time each team made a selection with the first pick they currently hold? Was it a hit or a bust? Let’s examine what happened the last time we were here.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2021: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Last year was the first time that the Jaguars held the No. 1 overall pick and it didn’t take long to be right back in the same spot. The jury is still out on Lawrence but he is set up much better to succeed after an active free agency period to build around him with Doug Pedersen now serving as the head coach.
2. Detroit Lions, 2010: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
I can’t be reminded of this pick without getting angry that Suh didn’t win the Heisman for the 2009 season. While Suh only lasted five seasons in Detroit, he has absolutely delivered a career worthy of the No. 2 pick. Suh is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.
3. Houston Texans, 2003: WR Andre Johnson, Miami
Johnson is a lock for the Texans’ “Mt. Rushmore” and is destined to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Johnson is No. 11 all-time in both receptions and receiving yards while holding NFL records for most seasons with 100+ receptions, games with 10+ receptions, and is the only player in NFL history with 60+ receptions in each of his first eight seasons. Johnson is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time receiving champion.
4. New York Jets, 2006: OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia
It’s common for teams to pick an offensive lineman and say “we can plug him into the lineup and forget about the position for the next 10 years.” While rarely does that ever actually happen, that was exactly the case with Ferguson, who started 160 consecutive games across 10 seasons and earned Pro Bowl honors on three occasions.
5. New York Giants, 1996: DE Cedric Jones, Oklahoma
Jones lasted five seasons with the Giants and his impact was very minimal in his first two years. That said, he did collect 15 sacks over the final three seasons of his tenure. He signed with the Rams in 2001 but never played due to injury.
6. Carolina Panthers: Never Happened
7. New York Giants, 1997: WR Ike Hilliard, Florida
Hilliard delivered a productive career across 12 seasons with the Giants and Buccaneers, although he never collected a 1,000-yard season or more than 72 receptions in any year. Since his playing days ended in 2008, Hillard has been making his mark as a receivers coach—11 years in the NFL and currently with the Auburn Tigers.
8. Atlanta Falcons, 2015: EDGE Vic Beasley, Clemson
While Beasley collected 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles to lead the league in both categories in his second season, his career has mostly been inconsistent. He did not play in 2021 and failed to make an impact with the Titans and Raiders in 2020.
9. Seattle Seahawks, 2001: WR Koren Robinson, NC State
In his second season, Robinson caught 78 passes for 1,240 yards but never came close to replicating that in any of his other seven seasons in the NFL. After four seasons in Seattle, Robinson spent time with the Vikings and Packers before coming back to the Seahawks for his final campaign in 2008. For his career, he logged 294 receptions for 4,244 yards with 16 touchdowns.
10. New York Jets, 1985: WR Al Toon, Wisconsin
A member of the New York Jets Ring of Honor, Toon was a three-time Pro Bowler that led the NFL with 92 receptions in 1988. Toon retired after eight seasons at the age of 29 after frequent concussions. He is one of two retired players in league history to play in fewer than 110 games and log more than 500 receptions.
11. Washington Commanders, 1936: E Keith Topping, Stanford
The second draft pick in franchise history, Topping never played a down for the Commanders. Instead, he played two seasons for the minor league Danbury Trojans before becoming a sports writer and co-owning two newspapers.
12. Minnesota Vikings, 2011: QB Christian Ponder, Florida State
Ponder started 36 games across four seasons in Minnesota, including a 10-6 playoff campaign during his second season. He was viewed as a reach when the Vikings made him the No. 12 pick and his ability to run an NFL offense proved that to be true. After four seasons in Minnesota, Ponder spent time with the Broncos and 49ers but never appeared in a game.
13. Houston Texans: Never Happened
14. Baltimore Ravens: Never Happened
15. Philadelphia Eagles, 2003: DE Jerome McDougle, Miami
After being part of the legendary early 2000s Miami Hurricanes teams, McDougle battled frequent injuries during his six-year NFL career. He missed all of 2005 and 2007, appeared in a total of 37 games (started none), and logged three sacks.
16. New Orleans Saints: Never Happened
17. Los Angeles Chargers, 2018: S Derwin James, Florida State
When James is healthy, he’s among the most dynamic defensive playmakers in the NFL. In his two healthy seasons, James has earned All-Pro Honors but played in just five games in 2019 and missed the entire 2020 season. If James can stay on the field, he has a chance to be among the top defensive players in this era of football.
18. Philadelphia Eagles, 1963: DT Ray Mansfield, Washington
Mansfield spent just one season with the Eagles before moving to the Steelers and converting to the offensive line. He started 152 games across 13 seasons for the Steelers, earned Second-Team All-Pro honors twice, and was part of two Super Bowl championships.
19. New Orleans Saints, 1989: DE Wayne Martin, Arkansas
A member of the Saints Hall of Fame, Martin started 155 games across 11 seasons with New Orleans. He logged five double-digit-sack seasons, including four in a row from 1994 to 1997 and a career-high 15.5 in 1992. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 1994.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1985: DE Darryl Sims, Wisconsin
Sims played two seasons in Pittsburgh, collecting three sacks in 32 games with no starts. He then spent two seasons in Cleveland where he started 10 games but never recorded a sack.
21. New England Patriots, 2012: DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse
Since getting drafted, Jones has been one of the NFL’s most dynamic defensive playmakers and has recorded 107.5 sacks in 10 seasons. He has seven double-digit sack campaigns and is a four-time Pro Bowl selection. He is a member of the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.
22. Green Bay Packers, 1982: IOL Ron Hallstrom, Iowa
After a quiet first two seasons to start his career, Hallstrom became a starter in 1984 and manned the right guard position for the Packers through 1992. He finished his career with one season in Philadelphia. For his career, Hallstrom appeared in 174 games with 132 starts.
23. Arizona Cardinals, 1966: T Harold Lucas, Michigan State
When the Cardinals made Lucas the No. 23 pick in the draft, it was well into the second round. Lucas never appeared in an NFL game.
24. Dallas Cowboys, 2010: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
While Bryant didn’t age gracefully, he enjoyed eight productive seasons with the Cowboys, including a dominant stretch from 2012 to 2013 where he logged at least 88 catches, 1,233 yards, and 12 touchdowns in each year. He is a three-time Pro Bowl selection that led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2014. He holds the Cowboys franchise record for receiving touchdowns with 73.
25. Buffalo Bills: Never Happened
26. Tennessee Titans, 1994: DE Henry Ford, Arkansas
Ford spent nine seasons with the Oilers/Titans franchise, appearing in 133 games, starting 76, and logging 24 sacks. He finished his 10-year career with the Saints in 2003.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Never Happened
28. Green Bay Packers, 2012: DE Nick Perry, USC
Perry served as a rotational player in his first four seasons before developing into a primary starter in 2016 and breaking out with 11 sacks. He registered seven more in 2017 but fizzled in 2018 and was released after the season and never latched on with another team. In seven seasons, Perry played in 81 games with 48 stars and 32 sacks.
29. Kansas City Chiefs, 1978: DE Sylvester Hicks, Tennessee State
Hicks lasted four seasons in the NFL and was a starter for the Chiefs in his first two, logging 7.5 sacks before becoming a rotational player in 1980. He appeared in just one game in 1981 before calling it a career.
30. Kansas City Chiefs, Never Happened
31. Cincinnati Bengals, 1992: WR Carl Pickens, Tennessee
The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Pickens delivered a productive career for Cincinnati. He earned Pro Bowl honors in two seasons and collected more than 1,000 yards in four of five seasons spanning from 1994-1998. He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 1005 with 17.
32. Detroit Lions, 1988: TE Pat Carter, Florida State
Carter played in the NFL for 10 seasons but only spent his rookie campaign in Detroit. In 154 games with 94 starts, Carter collected 107 receptions for 1,117 yards and nine touchdowns. He spent time with the Rams, Oilers, and Cardinals in addition to the Lions.
39. Chicago Bears, 2021: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
The Bears are right back at pick No. 39 after selecting Jenkins in the same slot just one year ago. As a rookie, Jenkins was limited to just six games played and two starts due to injury but is in line for a starting gig as a sophomore.
42. Indianapolis Colts, 2007: G Tony Ugoh, Arkansas
Despite it being a second-round pick in 2007, the Colts parted with its 2008 first-round selection to move up for Ugoh. He was slated to take over for starting left tackle Tarik Glenn, who retired, but it didn’t pan out. Ugoh lasted just two seasons as the starter for the Colts. He retired following the 2011 season after appearing in 40 games with 28 starts.
44. Cleveland Browns, 2020: S Grant Delpit, LSU
Delpit missed his rookie season with an Achilles injury but bounced back in 2021 to appear in 15 games with seven starts for the Browns. He has a chance to take a step forward in 2022 and solidify his role in the Cleveland secondary after a promising career at LSU.
61. San Francisco 49ers, 2012: RB LaMichael James, Oregon
After an incredible college career that saw him gain more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in just three seasons at Oregon, James was never able to carve out a meaningful role in the NFL. In five seasons, James had a total of 49 touches from scrimmage for 238 yards and no touchdowns.
64. Denver Broncos, 2009: TE Richard Quinn, North Carolina
Quinn appeared in 30 games across two seasons in Denver and caught just one pass for nine yards. That would be his only NFL reception. After two years with the Broncos, Quinn got chances with Washington, Cincinnati, Arizona, and the Saints but never carved out a meaningful role.
86. Las Vegas Raiders, 1995: RB Joe Aska, Central State
Aska was a reserve running back for the Raiders and logged just 82 touches from scrimmage for 399 yards and one touchdown in three seasons. He then took his talents to the XFL.
102. Miami Dolphins, 2004: DB Will Poole, USC
Poole showed some promise as a rookie in 2004 but injuries quickly plagued him. His rookie campaign was cut short and he was placed on IR during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He never appeared in an NFL game after 2004.
104. Los Angeles Rams, 2020: DB Terrell Burgess, Utah
Burgess broke his ankle as a rookie in 2020, which ended his season after seven games. He bounced back in 2021 to appear in 16 games with two starts and was part of the Rams’ Super Bowl championship team. Still part of the Rams roster, Burgess is a depth safety that is hopeful to take a step in 2022 and carve out a more prominent role for the defense. His impact to this point has primarily been on special teams.