We often think of running back as the one position where rookies are most likely to make a big impact. After all, the position doesn’t always have a lot of longevity and tends to be dominated by younger players. However, we’ve learned on more than one occasion that the most promising young running backs don’t always work out. Let’s take a look at some of the running backs drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft who turned out to be some of the biggest flops in league history.
Ki-Jana Carter, 1st Overall, 1995
Part of the problem is the Bengals traded up to draft Carter first overall, creating massive expectations. Of course, the bigger problem is that he missed his entire rookie season after hurting his knee in the preseason.
Carter never recovered from that knee injury and continued to be slowed by other injuries. He did his best but only produced 1,144 rushing yards in his career, never living up to being the top pick in the draft.
David Wilson, 32nd Overall, 2012
A neck injury ended Wilson’s career after just 21 NFL games. To his credit, he had some bright moments in those 21 games, including a game in which he racked up 327 all-purpose yards, setting a Giants team record.
However, he ended up doing most of his work on special teams and was never a huge part of the offense before he was permanently sidelined by spinal stenosis.
Lawrence Phillips, 6th Overall, 1996
His problems with the law were easily the biggest reason why Phillips only played three seasons in the NFL. He also didn’t like it when Dick Vermeil cited his legal issues as part of the reason he was demoted to second string.
Phillips finished his NFL career with 1,453 rushing yards, although he was more trouble than he was worth. The worst part for the Rams was they traded Jerome Bettis to Pittsburgh, believing that Phillips would be their answer. Sadly, Phillips hanged himself in prison in 2016.
Jahvid Best, 30th Overall, 2010
The Lions have never been that good at drafting players, but they really got it wrong with Best. As a former track star, he seemed like a good bet. However, turf toe his rookie season and then a series of concussions kept Best from living up to his potential.
Thanks to the concussions, he only played two seasons in the NFL, finishing with 945 total rushing yards. To his credit, Best eventually bounced back and competed in the 2016 Olympics as a sprinter, representing the country of St. Lucia.
Trent Richardson, 3rd Overall, 2012
How Richardson went from being so good to being so bad is quite the mystery. He rushed for 950 yards as a rookie and then fell completely off the map. A trade to the Colts didn’t change anything, as he averaged just 2.9 yards per carry for Indy in 2013.
Once the Colts were done with him, Richardson struggled to catch on anywhere else. Despite rushing for over 2,000 yards in three seasons, Richardson is one of the biggest running back busts in NFL history.