When The No. 1 NFL Draft Picks Go Wrong

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Every single year we build our expectations for the top NFL Draft selections, as experts and leading football journalists make their predictions, while fans eagerly anticipate which players their teams will eventually select. The buzz and hype surrounding potential draftees are phenomenal, although things don’t always go to plan.

The predictions game is a difficult business, arguably even more so when it comes to speculation built around potential NFL stars of the future. Arguably, it’s the same reason why many of us look for safety and security when betting, which only the most reliable sportsbook sites around the world can provide.

There are guides, strategy tips, as well as top bookies that provide the best odds available on comparison platforms to assist bettors in making informed decisions. Reputation is everything when it comes to online betting, which is also what NFL organizations aim to find when making their draft picks before we try to back the outcome of their performances. Indeed, it’s actually easier for us to research quality betting options, than it is for general managers and scouts to predict the next big thing in the NFL.

But what happens when things don’t work out for the top NFL Draft selections? Unfortunately, there are countless examples of players who didn’t make the grade, when they made the switch from college to professional football in the NFL. Let’s take a look at three situations with players tipped for greatness, which didn’t quite go to plan.

Trevor Lawrence – 2021

Given this is a situation playing out right now, it perfectly highlights when things can go wrong for the No. 1 NFL Draft pick. Trevor Lawrence was widely hailed as a “generational” quarterback when he was picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars, heralded for his outstanding potential, following a stellar collegiate career at Clemson.

Unfortunately, this rookie QB is now statistically rated amongst the worst in the NFL, as are the Jacksonville Jaguars, where everything seems to have imploded. Much of the blame has been aimed at head coach Urban Meyer, who hardly helped his own cause before being fired on 16 December 2021. That said, this organization was never a great fit for Lawrence.

However, there are those who believe that Lawrence also needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Based upon his experience as a former scout with the New York Jets, our very own Daniel Kelly was amongst those who believes Lawrence was always overrated to begin with, feeling the player must also shoulder a portion of the blame for poor team performances.  

Lawrence has been amongst those who were openly critical of their head coach, publicly scathing of play-calls and the atmosphere surrounding his head coach. That’s never a good look for someone who is a rookie, who still has much to prove in the NFL, regardless of how promising their college career seemed. It could also be his downfall in the longer term.

JaMarcus Russell – 2007

Winner of the Manning Award in 2006, considered the best collegiate American football quarterback in the United States, practically everyone predicted a career filled with greatness for JaMarcus Russell. Named in the all-SEC first team at the end of the 2006 season, he decided to skip the final season of NCAA eligibility to enter the 2007 NFL Draft.

Widely praised after the 2007 NFL Scouting Combine and with several organizations interested, Russel was selected by the Oakland Raiders as the No.1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, even amidst concerns by their Head coach at the time, Lane Kiffin. During a later interview at Sports Illustrated, Kiffin explained that he never wanted Russel, having preferred wide receiver Calvin Johnson instead, who went No. 2 overall to the Detroit Lions.

Right from the start, the relationship between the Raiders and Russel turned sour. He missed the entire training camp, holding out for better financial terms, which eventually resolved in the first week of the season. Having signed a six-year deal worth up to $68 million, with $31.5 million guaranteed, Russel consistently underperformed and never matched expectations,

Problems with the work ethic of Russel soon became apparent, as he went on to become regarded as the biggest bust in the history of the NFL Draft. In 2010 Russel was infamously arrested for possession of a codeine cough syrup, without a valid prescription. Waived by the Raiders and unclaimed by other teams, he never played again in the NFL.

Steve Emtman – 1992

Throughout his exceptional collegiate career, defensive end Steve Emtman was most certainly a star in the making, earning 2x PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year awards at the University of Washington. Easily the best player on the 1991 Husky undefeated national championship team, Emtman was an All-American and winner of numerous individual awards.

Opting to forgo the senior year, Emtman declared himself available for the 1992 NFL Draft, becoming the first overall pick when selected by the Indianapolis Colts. This initially appeared to be a great move for all concerned, particularly during a 31-20 upset win against the Miami Dolphins in his rookie season. Emtman made a game-sealing 90-yard interception return for a touchdown, as time expired, then was recognized as the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Despite his fledgling NFL career being filled with such promise, sadly, Emtman was also blighted by injuries. He only managed to play a total of 18 games over each campaign with the Colts, ending up on the injured reserve list every season. This included the 1993 season, after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee.

At the time, no NFL player had ever recovered from what was considered a career-ending injury. However, in October 1994, and against all the odds, Emtman returned to action. Unfortunately, after managing one complete season in 1995 with the Miami Dolphins, injury problems would continue to affect his career. Following just 3 appearances at the Washington Redskins in 1997 and still only 27, it was game over for Emtman.

Never Any Guarantees

What each of these three examples proves is that in professional sports, and especially the high-profile and intensely pressurized arena of the NFL, it’s impossible to predict how individual careers will pan out. All we can do is wish each prospect the best of fortune, hoping they will join suitable organizations that help to nurture their talents, while avoiding problems beyond the field and injuries that can devour stardom in an instant.