Most Successful #1 Overall Draft Picks in Sports History

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In pro sports, the franchise picking first in a draft is almost always one of the worst in the league, in dire need of a superstar to turn the team around. Expectations are always sky high for top picks, yet some players are able to surpass even the most optimistic projections for their future.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed statistics from the Sports Reference family of sites to determine the most successful top overall draft picks in the history of the four major American sports leagues — the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Players were ranked based on their statistical contributions to their teams as well as individual accolades and accomplishments. Players selected in supplemental drafts were not considered.

Being selected first overall is hardly a guarantee for greatness. For instance, of the more than 80 players who have been selected first overall in the NFL Draft, just 15 have been inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame. While most top picks have good careers, some of them will be remembered for their wasted potential — due to injuries, off the field issues, or simply being selected by an inept franchise. These are the most disappointing draft picks in sports history.