Who sizzled, who fizzled from the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Quarterback Troy Aikman (left), standing with then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, was the top pick in the 1989 NFL Draft.

Thirty years have passed since the 1989 NFL Draft. Here is what happened to the first-round selections in that draft.

1. Dallas Cowboys — Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA

Shaking off a sluggish start to his career, Aikman was selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 1991-96, compiling a 63-24 regular-season record during that stretch. A three-time Super Bowl winner and MVP of Super Bowl XXVII, Aikman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, his first year of eligibility.

2. Green Bay Packers — Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State

Often called one of the greatest busts in NFL history, Mandrich barely played as a rookie after a lengthy holdout. In his two years as a starter for the Packers, he struggled mightily with pass protection and was eventually cut. After four years out of the league to address personal issues, he returned to play three decent seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, starting 32 games from 1996-98.

3. Detroit Lions — Barry Sanders, RB, Oklahoma State

Barry Sanders (20) rushed for more than 15,000 yards in 10 seasons with the Lions.

Arguably the most elusive runner in NFL history, Sanders rushed for more than 15,000 yards during his 10-year career prior to his abrupt retirement in 1999. He gained more more than 1,100 yards on the ground in each of his 10 seasons and is one of just seven players to top 2,000 in a year, running for 2,053 in 1997. Sanders was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, elected in 2004. 

4. Kansas City Chiefs — Derrick Thomas, LB, Alabama

One of the top pass rushers of his era, Thomas dropped quarterbacks in the backfield 126.5 times during his 11-year career with the Chiefs, topping double-digits in the category on seven occasions. Selected to the Pro Bowl his first nine seasons, Thomas’ life was tragically cut short shortly in 2000 after he was paralyzed in a car accident and died of a pulmonary embolism in the hospital days later. Thomas was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.

5. Atlanta Falcons — Deion Sanders, CB, Florida State

The flamboyant two-sport star, Sanders played for five teams during his 14-year career. Remarkably, he recorded multiple interceptions in each season and his 53 career picks are tied for 24th all-time. He was also an outstanding return man, scoring nine times during his career. A six-time, first-team All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler, Sanders was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2011.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Broderick Thomas, LB, Nebraska

Thomas had an up-and-down career, peaking in 1991 when he recorded 174 tackles, 11 sacks and led the NFL with seven forced fumbles. His play slipped the next two seasons, and after losing playing time in 1993, he was waived the following offseason. He played for three teams his final four seasons, including a one-year stop in Detroit where he led the team with seven sacks.  

7. Pittsburgh Steelers — Tim Worley, RB, Georgia

Overshadowed by Mandarich’s shortcomings, Worley was also a colossal disappointment. He rushed for a career-high 770 yards as a rookie, but ball security was an issue. He fumbled nine times that year and 16 times in 33 games over parts of four seasons with the Steelers. Suspended in 1992 for missing mandatory drug tests, he was eventually traded to Chicago for a mid-round draft pick where his career fizzled due to off-field issues.

8. San Diego Chargers — Burt Grossman, DE, Pittsburgh

Grossman’s career got off to a promising start, recording 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons with the Chargers. But after tallying 17.5 sacks the next three years, he was waived. Picked up by the Eagles, he played just one more season before suffering a career-ending neck injury. Post-career, he’s tried his hand at politics, was named the NFL’s teacher of the year and was recently hired to coach the San Diego Strike Force of the Indoor Football League.

9. Miami Dolphins — Sammie Smith, RB, Florida State

Smith’s career lasted all of four years. A highly efficient college rusher, he never averaged more than 3.7 yards per carry during his three seasons with the Dolphins. His career ended after appearing in three games for the Broncos in 1992. Post-career, Smith spent several years in prison on drug-trafficking charges and now works as a director of character development for Ole Miss through Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

More: 'No question:' In 1989 draft, Lions were locked on Barry Sanders at No. 3

More: Sanders edges Calvin Johnson as CBS IDs top NFL draft pick for every team

10. Phoenix Cardinals — Eric Hill, LB, Louisiana State

Hill put together a productive 11-year, mostly with the Cardinals. A nine-year starter for the organization, he averaged more than 100 tackles per season, maxing out at 131 stops in 1996. He played two more years, one with St. Louis and another with San Diego, before calling it a career.

11. Chicago Bears — Donnell Woolford, DB, Clemson

Woolford had a nine-year career, spending his first eight seasons as a starter for the Bears. Averaging four interceptions per year during that stretch, he earned his lone Pro Bowl selection in 1993. Wolford recently went back and completed his degree at Clemson, while also serving on the team’s coaching staff as a grad assistant.

12. Chicago Bears — Trace Armstrong, DE, Florida

The Bears hit again with their second of back-to-back selections, getting six mostly productive seasons out of Armstrong, which included 42 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 87 starts. Chicago eventually traded Armstrong to the Dolphins for a second- and third-round draft pick. He went on to play eight more seasons with the Dolphins and Raiders, turning in a Pro Bowl performance with Miami in 2000, when he led the AFC with 16.5 sacks.

13. Cleveland Browns — Eric Metcalf, WR, Texas

Best known for his success as a return man, Metcalf brought back 10 punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns during his 13-year career. After spending his first six seasons with the Browns, including Pro Bowl honors in 1993 and 1994, he played for six different franchises his final seven seasons, including a 104-reception campaign with the Falcons in 1995. Nephew D.K. Metcalf is projected as a first-round pick in 2019.

14. New York Jets — Jeff Lageman, DE, Virginia

The pick is well known for Mel Kiper’s criticism (“...the Jets have no idea what they're doing”), but Lageman put together a solid 10-year career, playing six with the Jets and four more with the Jaguars. In 122 games (118 starts), he tallied 459 tackles, 47 sacks and 11 forced fumbles. He earned second-team All-Pro recognition with 10 sacks in 1991. He’s currently a color commentator for the Jaguars.

15. Seattle Seahawks — Andy Heck, T, Notre Dame

In 12 NFL seasons, Heck was a starter for 11, primarily handling blindside duties for the Seahawks and Bears. Never a Pro Bowler, Heck still parlayed his early-career success into a five-year, $10 million contract with Chicago, a big-money deal at the time. After his playing career, he transitioned into coaching and currently serves as the offensive line coach in Kansas City.

16. New England Patriots — Hart Lee Dykes, WR, Oklahoma State

College teammates with Barry Sanders, Dykes career was cut short after just two seasons with the Patriots. Decently productive during that stretch, catching 83 passes for 1,344 yards and seven touchdowns, he was undone by a string of serious knee injuries. He also suffered an eye injury in a bar fight with a teammate.

17. Phoenix Cardinals — Joe Wolf, G, Boston College

After starting 15 games as a rookie, Wolf spent his next eight seasons largely serving as a backup. What’s unique about that is he managed to play his entire career with the Cardinals, despite four different head coaches.

18. New York Giants — Brian Williams, C, Minnesota

Like Wolf, Williams played nine seasons, all with the same team. A reserve his first five seasons while backing up five-time Pro Bowler Bart Oates, Williams started 56 games his final four years with the Giants. His son, Maxx, plays tight end for the Baltimore Ravens.

19. New Orleans Saints — Wayne Martin, DE, Arkansas

It took a few years for Martin to hit his stride, but the Saints were rewarded for their patience with the 275-pound defensive end.  From 1992-97, he recorded double-digit sacks five times. His 82.5 career sacks are second in franchise history and he didn’t miss a game his final nine seasons.

Safety Steve Atwater (27) was an eight-time Pro Bowler after the Broncos drafted him No. 20 overall in 1989.

20. Denver Broncos — Steve Atwater, DB, Arkansas

An eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time first-team All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion, Atwater was a fixture in the Broncos secondary for a decade before playing his final season with the New York Jets. Known for his punishing hits, he racked up some gaudy tackle totals, including a career-high 173 stops in 1990. He added 24 interceptions and six forced fumbles during his career, and was one of 19 finalists for the Hall of Fame this past year.

21. Los Angeles Rams — Bill Hawkins, DT, Miami (Fla.)

A first-team All-American coming into the league, Hawkins pro career was marred by injuries and schematic changes. He played four seasons with the Rams, appearing in 42 of 64 possible games, while making just eight starts. He finished with five sacks.

22. Indianapolis Colts — Andre Rison, WR, Michigan State

Michigan State product Andre Rison was drafted No. 22 overall in 1989 by the Indianapolis Colts, but his most productive seasons were with the Atlanta Falcons. He He averaged 85 catches and more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns during his time there.

After a productive rookie season for the Colts, Rison was shipped to Atlanta as part of a package for the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 draft. He thrived in Atlanta, averaging 85 catches and more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns the next five years, earning Pro Bowl honors four times. He played six more seasons with five teams, but was never able to recapture the success he had with the Faclons. His 10,205 career receiving yards rank 46th all-time.

23. Houston Oilers — David Williams, T, Florida

Williams played seven seasons for the Oilers, earning the starting right tackle job his third year and maintaining it until signing with the Jets in 1996, where he played two more seasons before back issues ended his career. Williams’ unique claim to fame is Babygate, a $111,000 fine he received for missing a game to attend the birth of his child.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Tom Ricketts, G, Pittsburgh

The Steelers whiffed twice in 1989, first with Worley and again with Ricketts, the hometown kid who made 13 starts in three seasons. He struggled through injuries and position changes and was ultimately released by first-year head coach Bill Cowher in 1992.

25. Miami Dolphins — Louis Oliver, DB, Florida

Oliver provided the Dolphins with good first-round value, starting 72 games and recording 21 interceptions over five seasons. His 103-yard pick-six in 1992 was the longest interception return in NFL history at the time. After a brief, one-year stint with the Bengals, Oliver returned to finish his career in Miami, playing two more seasons.

26. Los Angeles Rams — Cleveland Gary, RB, Miami (Fla.)

The bruising back had some up-and-down years for the Rams. After a holdout cost him significant playing time as a rookie, he led the NFL with 14 rushing touchdowns in his second season. His best year was 1992, when he started all 16 games, rushed for 1,125 yards and caught 52 passes. But fumbles plagued him through his time in Los Angeles. He put the ball on the ground 24 times in five seasons, contributing to his release after the 1993 season. He appeared in just two more games, for Miami in 1994, before calling it a career.

27. Atlanta Falcons — Shawn Collins, WR, Northern Arizona

The small-school standout was shocked to be taken in the first round, but delivered 58 catches as a rookie. That's more passes than Julio Jones caught his first season with the Falcons. But Collins was overshadowed by Rison the next two years before being traded to the Cleveland. Collins caught just three passes in nine games for the Browns in 1992 and made four catch-less appearances in Green Bay before fizzling out of the league. 

28. San Francisco 49ers — Keith DeLong, LB, Tennessee

DeLong spent his entire five-year career with the 49ers, appearing in 64 games and starting 39. He currently owns a construction company back in Tennessee.


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers