What constitutes as the worst Fantasy picks ever? A first-round pick injured in Week 1 is comparable to getting a beautiful 32-oz. porterhouse steak — with a curly black hair on it. And nothing kills your Fantasy Football season quicker than a busted first-round pick. Well, that and picking a kicker in the second round.
Owners of Randy Moss in 2010 can attest to how a season can sour quickly. After being selected in the first couple of rounds of most drafts, Moss turned in a brutal season, with just 28 catches and five TDs while playing for three different teams.
So here are the horror stories of former first-round picks gone bad. Very few have rebounded, and for many, this was the beginning of the end of their Fantasy reign – much like Mr. Moss.
(Only the past 27 seasons are included, dating back to 1989, since I didn’t play Fantasy Football before then.)
The 15 Worst Fantasy Picks Ever
These 15 guys make up the worst Fantasy Football picks in history … or at least since 1989. (Preseason ranking in parentheses.)
No. 15 – 2005 — Terrell Owens, WR, Philadelphia (11th overall)
T.O.’s first season in Philly (’04) was a huge success, with 14 TD catches before suffering some injuries late in the year. Fantasy owners should have been worried in April of ’05 – when he signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus (see Errict Rhett holdout). After several issues, including a contract quibble and criticism of QB Donovan McNabb, T.O. was suspended and then deactivated for the final nine games of the season.
No. 14 — 2006 – Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle (second overall)
Picking Alexander this high was a no-brainer. In 2005, he became the first running back in NFL history to score at least 15 TDs in five consecutive seasons, and he set the NFL’s single season TD record with 28 TDs in an MVP year. He signed a huge contract before ’06 and crashed with an injury-riddled season, scoring just seven times.
No. 13 – 1997 — Terry Allen, RB, Washington (sixth overall)
In 1996, Allen became just the 10th running back in NFL history to rush for over 20 touchdowns. Banged up enough to play just 10 games, he scored only five TDs in ’97. Two surgically repaired knees finally caught up to him.
No. 12 –2004 –Marshall Faulk, RB, St. Louis (12th overall)
This was a tough one, since people who drafted Faulk were hoping for the version from a few seasons earlier. He was the No. 1 overall pick in ’03, but in ’04, his injuries caught up to him and the bubble had officially burst with just four total TDs. This was also the beginning of Steven Jackson’s reign on Fantasy Football with the Rams.
No. 11 – 1998 — Kordell Stewart, QB, Pittsburgh (fifth overall)
After a ridiculous start to his NFL QB career in ’97, Slash crashed in ’98. After throwing 21 TDs, and rushing for 11 more, he lost Chan Gailey as his offensive coordinator, along with his Pro Bowl receiver, Yancey Thigpen (TEN). In ’98, he posted 11 passing TDs and just two more rushing TDs than I did.
No. 10 — 2007 – Larry Johnson, RB, KC (third overall)
After rushing an NFL record 416 times in 2006, Holmes held out for a better contract for the 2007 season. He eventually signed, joined camp late, and then suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 9 – ouch. Four touchdowns total – OUCH!
No. 9 – 2013 – Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay (second overall)
The Muscle Hamster turned in one of the greatest season by a Fantasy Football rookie running back ever in 2012, posting huge games to single-handedly help his owners win games. But in 2013, Fantasy owners made him the second overall pick behind Adrian Peterson, and he delivered just one touchdown before a torn labrum in his shoulder got him placed on injured reserve just six games into the NFL season. #SadTrombone
No. 8 — 1998 – Dorsey Levens, RB, Green Bay (fourth overall)
He became a top back in ’97 after replacing an injured Edgar Bennett, totaling over 1,800 yards and 12 TDs. However, he re-injured his knee in ’08 and finished with just one TD.
No. 7 — 2005 – Daunte Culpepper, QB, Minnesota (fifth overall)
Randy Moss moved on to Oakland – and so did Culpepper’s Fantasy value. After 4,717 passing yards and 39 TDs in ’04, he dropped immediately. His first two games of ’05: zero TDs, eight INTs and two fumbles. He finished the season ranked 35th among Fantasy QBs.
No. 6 – 2011 — Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City (fifth overall)
The Texas product was a Fantasy boom in 2010, with 1,467 rushing yards and 468 receiving yards – with Thomas Jones on the roster and taking touches away. He came into 2011 as a top-five pick, and many took him top-three (guilty!), but he tore his ACL in Week 2, ruining his owners’ chances at a championship.
No. 5 — 1997 – Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco (seventh overall)
Fantasy veterans knew that Rice was the only consistent first-round Fantasy pick since 1986. No one even came close to that. He still had Steve Young at QB and he was coming off a career-high 108 receptions in ’96. In the season opener against Tampa Bay, Warren Sapp tackled him by the facemask on a reverse and Rice tore both his ACL and MCL in his left knee.
No. 4 — 2008 — Tom Brady, QB, New England (fifth overall)
Coming off an NFL record 50 TD passes, his Fantasy stock was at an all-time high – and his blown out left knee in Game 1 was his owners’ all-time low.
No. 3 – 2014 – Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota (second overall)
Adrian Peterson is considered one of the greatest Fantasy Football players in history, and in 2014, many considered him as the top pick above LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles. But he played just one game before the Vikings and the NFL suspended him for his off-the-field issues (using a switch to discipline/wound his son).
For A.P.’s Fantasy owners (and A.P.’s kid), it would’ve been better had he just blown out his knee, so they could move on. But the league dragged their feet on his suspension, making it tough for owners to just outright cut Peterson. The NFL was reacting in such a manner only because of the video that came out earlier that showed Ray Rice punch his fiancée in the face. (Rice was just a fifth-round pick this season.)
What was in the NFL water in 2014?
No. 2 — 1999 – Terrell Davis, RB, Denver (first overall)
After three All-Pro seasons and rushing for 2,000 yards in 1998, Davis tore his ACL trying to make a tackle on an interception in the fourth game of the year. Just two TDs in ’99 make him the all-time worst No. 1 overall Fantasy pick ever. Other high draft picks have scored fewer Fantasy points in one season, but they weren’t coming off the season T.D. was, and they weren’t back-to-back No. 1 overall picks like Davis.
No. 1 – 1991 – Randall Cunningham, QB, Philadelphia (first overall)
In 1990, Cunningham rushed for 942 yards – the third-most ever for an NFL quarterback, while also throwing 30 touchdown passes that season! Fantasy owners love dual-threat quarterbacks, and he quickly shot up the Fantasy charts to become the best Fantasy Football player – by far – for the 1990 season. That made him the top choice in 1991, of course, and Fantasy owners were rewarded with just one game played before tearing his ACL in the first regular season game, after just one completion. Brutal.
*cough* Don’t draft quarterbacks early. *cough*
- 1999 – Jamal Anderson, RB, Atlanta (12th overall): Torn ACL in second game to end season.
- 2004 – Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City (first overall): Season-ending injury just eight games in.
- 1999 — Barry Sanders, RB, Detroit (18th overall): Retired from the game.
- 1996 — Errict Rhett, RB, Tampa Bay (21st overall): Held out first part of the season (see Rosenhaus).
- 1996 — Scott Mitchell, QB, Detroit (ninth overall) End of run ‘n’ shoot.
Preseason rankings taken from the following sources:
- 1990-2003: Fantasy Football Index magazines that I’ve collected through the years.
- 2004: TheHuddle.com
- 2005: SI.com
- 2006: USAToday.com
- 2007: FantasyFootballCafe.com
- 2008: CBS/PFW Fantasy Football Guide (magazine)
- 2009-10: MyFantasyLeague.com’s ADP
- 2011-16: FantasyFootballCalculator.com’s ADP
Did you own some of these worst Fantasy picks ever? Or were you the one gut that somehow dodged them all!?! Were there some draft picks that especially hurt you that I might have missed? Try using some of the Top 50 FREE Fantasy Football Draft Tools we found online?
Adrian Peterson Featured Photo Credit: Joe Bielawa
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.