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NFL draft: Best/worst first-round picks for all 32 slots (1-4)

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Best/worst first-round picks: 32-29 | 28-25 | 24-21 | 20-17 | 16-13 | 12-9 | 8-5 | 4-1


CFB 24/7 finishes up its countdown of the best and worst first-round picks at all 32 slots during the Super Bowl era.

No. 4 pick

Who picks here in 2015: Oakland Raiders
Overview: A strong argument can be made that, for sheer collection of talent, the picks made at No. 4 rival those made at any pick. There have been eight Hall of Famers selected at No. 4 in the regular draft during the Super Bowl era; those who did not make our cut are Chris Doleman, Bob Griese, Dan Hampton, Jonathan Ogden, and Derrick Thomas. (Reggie White was picked in a special supplemental draft.) And though there have been a handful of disappointing players picked at No. 4, there has been just one flat-out bust.

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HITS

DT Joe Greene: Taken in 1969 by the Pittsburgh Steelers out of North Texas State. "Mean Joe" lived up to that nickname on the field, wreaking havoc for the "Steel Curtain" defense. He played 13 seasons for the Steelers and was a five-time All-Pro and 10-time Pro Bowler. Greene twice was The Associated Press defensive player of the year, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

G John Hannah: Taken in 1973 by the New England Patriots out of Alabama. He played in 183 games in 13 seasons and started every one of them on his way to being possibly the best guard in NFL history. Hannah, whose Twitter handle is @hoghannah, was an absolute mauler in the running game. He was a seven-time All-Pro and a nine-time Pro Bowler, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

RB Walter Payton: Taken in 1975 by the Chicago Bears out of Jackson State. "Sweetness" also played for 13 seasons, and he reached the 1,000-yard plateau 10 times. He retired after the 1987 season with a then-NFL record 16,726 rushing yards, a figure that now is second. He is fourth in league history with 110 rushing TDs, and his 21,264 yards from scrimmage is third-most in NFL history. Payton was a five-time All-Pro and a nine-time Pro Bowler, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

MISSES

LB Aaron Curry: Taken in 2009 by the Seattle Seahawks out of Wake Forest. Curry started for his first two seasons but underwhelmed, to the point that he was traded in the middle of his third season to Oakland for a late-round pick. He started nine games for the Raiders that fall but played just two games for them in 2012 before his career ended. He currently is the defensive line coach for Charlotte, which begins play as an FBS program this fall as a member of Conference USA.

WR Kenny Jackson: Taken in 1984 by the Philadelphia Eagles out of Penn State. He played eight seasons in the NFL, starting 53 games, but had just 126 career receptions. He caught more than 30 passes in just one season and had four or fewer receptions in four seasons.

QB Art Schlichter: Taken in 1982 by the Baltimore Colts out of Ohio State. Here's the one flat-out bust taken at No. 4. Schlichter's gambling habit has been well-documented -- he was suspended for the 1983 season because of gambling -- and he played in just 13 games, starting six, in three NFL seasons. He currently is in prison in Ohio for fraud. He was imprisoned from 1994-2006 on separate fraud charges.

No. 3 pick

Who picks here in 2015: Jacksonville Jaguars
Overview: Perhaps the most exciting running back in history and one of the best offensive tackles in history were taken at No. 3. But there also have been a surprisingly large number of bad picks; it actually was tougher to pick the misses than the hits at No. 3 because there were so many bad picks from which to choose.

HITS

DT Cortez Kennedy: Taken in 1990 by the Seattle Seahawks out of Miami. He didn't become a fulltime starter until his second season in the league, then dominated opposing offensive linemen for a decade. He played 11 seasons and was a three-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler. He was stout against the run and an effective pass rusher, with 58 career sacks. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

OT Anthony Munoz: Taken in 1980 by the Cincinnati Bengals out of USC. He played in 185 games in his 13-season career and started 184 of them. He is among the elite tackles of all-time; he was a nine-time All-Pro and an 11-time Pro Bowler. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. A cool stat: He caught seven passes in his career on tackle-eligible plays and scored on four of them.

RB Barry Sanders: Taken in 1989 by the Detroit Lions out of Oklahoma State. He simply was electrifying even though he toiled for some mediocre teams. Sanders played 10 seasons and was a Pro Bowler in every one of them; he also was a six-time All-Pro. He rushed for 1,000 yards in every season of his career and led the league in rushing four times, including an epic 2,053-yard campaign in 1997. His 15,269 career rushing yards rank third in league history, and his 99 career rushing TDs are ninth-most. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

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MISSES

CB Bruce Pickens: Taken in 1991 by the Atlanta Falcons out of Nebraska. He lasted four NFL seasons, playing for four teams in that span, and started just nine games. The Falcons' idea was to pair Pickens and Deion Sanders at corner and have possibly the fastest cornerback duo in the league. But Pickens had a long contract holdout, during which he threatened to sue the Falcons, and he didn't report until October of his rookie season. He was raw technique-wise as it was, and he never caught up.

QB Heath Shuler: Taken in 1994 by the Washington Redskins out of Tennessee. Shuler held out and reported to camp late and never found his groove. He started eight times as a rookie and five times in his second season, and the Redskins went 4-9 in those games. The Redskins drafted Gus Frerotte in the seventh round out of Tulsa in 1994, and he eventually beat out Shuler for the starting job in 1995. Shuler played in one game in 1996, then was traded to the New Orleans Saints after the season. He started nine games for the Saints in 1997 before suffering a foot injury that basically ended his career; that was his final season in the NFL. He later served in Congress representing a district in his home state of North Carolina.

AB Akili Smith: Taken in 1999 by the Cincinnati Bengals out of Oregon. Quarterbacks were taken with the top three picks in 1999; Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb preceded Smith, and while Couch often is referred to as a bust, he was an All-Pro compared to Smith. Smith reported to camp late because of a contract holdout and ended up going 1-3 as a starter as a rookie. He started 11 games in 2000, and the Bengals went 2-9 in those contests. That basically was it for his career. He played in three games over the next two seasons and finished his career with five TDs and 13 picks.


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No. 2 pick

Who picks here in 2015: Tennessee Titans
Overview: Again, there were a surprisingly high number of bad picks at No. 2. Three of the best running backs in NFL history were taken second, too, and we left out two of them (Tony Dorsett and Marshall Faulk) in our "hits" grouping.

HITS

RB Eric Dickerson: Taken in 1983 by the Los Angeles Rams out of SMU. Dickerson was part of the "Pony Express" backfield in college, and he continued to run wild in the NFL. He rushed for 1,000 yards eight times in his 11-season career, including a 2,105-yard campaign in 1984 that is the highest single-season total in league history. Dickerson had three seasons of at least 1,800 yards, the most in NFL history. He finished his career with 13,259 yards, which is seventh in NFL history. Dickerson was a five-time All-Pro and a six-time Pro Bowler, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

LB Lawrence Taylor: Taken in 1981 by the New York Giants out of North Carolina. Stud outside linebackers always will be compared to "LT," who tortured offensive tackles and terrorized quarterbacks for most of his 13-season career. He finished his career with 132.5 official sacks (sacks weren't an official stat during his rookie season), which is 11th in NFL history. Taylor had double-digit sacks for seven seasons in a row (1984-90) and was an eight-time All-Pro and a 10-time Pro Bowler. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

DT Randy White: Taken in 1975 by the Dallas Cowboys out of Maryland. "The Manster" -- half-man, half-monster -- was a dominating inside presence for Dallas' "Doomsday Defense." He weighed less than 260 pounds, but was incredibly quick and played with a rough edge. He lasted 14 seasons and had a three-season run in his 30s in which he had double-digit sacks each season. White was a seven-time All-Pro and a nine-time Pro Bowler, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.


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MISSES

QB Ryan Leaf: Taken in 1998 by the San Diego Chargers out of Washington State. Yes, there actually was legitimate discussion about who was better -- Leaf or Peyton Manning. The Colts had the first pick and took Manning; the Chargers got stuck with Leaf, who started 21 games in three seasons, including one season with Dallas, and was 4-17 in those games. Leaf missed the 1999 season with a shoulder injury, but he can't blame injuries for his truncated career. He was bad on the field and a boor off it. He has had legal troubles since his career ended, including spending almost a year in jail.

RB Bo Matthews: Taken in 1974 by the San Diego Chargers out of Colorado. He played eight seasons in the NFL, eventually moving to fullback, so he was not an out-and-out bust. Still, in those eight seasons, he rushed for a total of 1,566 yards and 11 TDs. And he started just 39 games. His best season? His rookie year, when he ran for 328 yards. The Chargers' leading rusher that season was another rookie, Don Woods, who was a sixth-round pick by Green Bay but was cut and signed by the Chargers. Yep, a rookie who was signed off waivers outrushed the guy who was taken No. 2 overall. Yikes.

WR Charles Rogers: Taken in 2003 by the Detroit Lions out of Michigan State. Pablo Picasso had his "blue period," and the Lions had their "let's draft a wide receiver in the first round" period. Picasso's was much more successful. From 2003-07, Detroit drafted four receivers in the first round (the Lions had two first-rounders in 2004). Rogers was the first -- and the worst. Yes, he had a solid start to his rookie season, with 22 receptions and two TDs in the first five games. But he broke his collarbone in a practice-field squabble with CB Dre Bly, and that started a downhill slide from which he never recovered. He again broke his collarbone on the third play of the 2004 season and missed the rest of the year. He was suspended for a time in 2005 for drug use and played in only nine games. The Lions cut him in 2006, and that was it for his career. He played in 15 career games, with 36 receptions.

No. 1 pick

Who picks here in 2015: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Overview: As you'd expect, most of the No. 1 picks enjoyed productive NFL careers. Only one overall No. 1 has been a no-holds-barred bust. Others definitely failed to live up to expectations, and a few of those (RB Ki-Jana Carter, for example, who blew out his ACL on his third carry in his first preseason game and missed his rookie season) had injury issues.

HITS

QB John Elway: Taken in 1983 by the Baltimore Colts out of Stanford. He may never have played a game for the team that drafted him -- he forced a trade to Denver -- but he still belongs on this list. He played 16 seasons and owns two Super Bowl rings. Elway threw for 51,475 yards (sixth in NFL history) and 300 TDs (seventh in NFL history). He also rushed for 3,407 yards and 33 TDs. In addition, he guided 46 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter. Elway, who was a nine-time Pro Bowler, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

QB Peyton Manning: Taken in 1998 by the Indianapolis Colts out of Tennessee. He has played 17 seasons and is a seven-time All-Pro (tied for the most for any quarterback in history) and a 14-time Pro Bowler (tied for the most for any player in history). He has thrown for 5,000 yards once and for 4,000 yards 14 times. Manning has thrown for 69,691 yards in his career, second-most in NFL history, and is the NFL career leader with 530 TD passes. His career completion percentage of 65.6 is fourth-best all-time.

DE Bruce Smith: Taken in 1985 by the Buffalo Bills out of Virginia Tech. When you talk about dominating defensive ends, this guy should be at the top of the list. He played 19 NFL seasons and was a starter for 18 of them. He was an eight-time All-Pro and an 11-time Pro Bowler. Smith had 13 seasons with double-digit sacks and finished his career with a league-record 200 sacks. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

MISSES

LB Aundray Bruce: Taken in 1988 by the Atlanta Falcons out of Auburn. He was an excellent athlete who started for the Falcons in his first two seasons. But to say he lacked football instincts would be kind, and though he had an 11-season career, he was a reserve for the final nine seasons and finished with 32 sacks (12 of those came in his first two seasons). Bruce, who started just 41 games in his career, didn't top 40 tackles in any of his final nine seasons.

DE Walt Patulski: Taken in 1972 by the Buffalo Bills out of Notre Dame. Patulski, who was a native of upstate New York, showed up late to his first training camp because of obligations as a representative at the New York State Democratic Convention, and his perceived lack of passion for football remained a storyline throughout his career. He started for all four of his seasons in Buffalo but didn't make an impact. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1976 season, sat out the 1977 season with a knee injury, then was a reserve for the Cardinals in 1978. He was cut after that season and never played again.

QB JaMarcus Russell: Taken in 2007 by the Oakland Raiders out of LSU. There have been some quarterbacks taken first overall who failed to live up to the hype, but Russell was in a different stratosphere when it comes to failing to live up to the hype. His work ethic was questioned repeatedly, and he never appeared to be in shape. Russell started once as a rookie, 15 times as a second-year pro and nine times in 2009. Oakland cut him in May 2010, and his career was over. His final NFL numbers: 31 games, 25 starts (7-18 record), 18 TDs, 23 picks.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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