In 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Antonio Brown with the 194th overall pick in the NFL Draft. There were 22 wide receivers taken before him, a number which Brown used as motivation to prove his doubters wrong. Before troubling character concerns sent Brown packing from the NFL in 2019, he amassed 11,263 receiving yards and four First-Team All-Pro selections. As for the players taken ahead of him, some are still around, while others failed to live up their hype. Here are all the wide receivers taken before Antonio Brown and what they’ve accomplished.
The Fall Of Mr. Big Chest
With the Steelers, Brown made an immediate impact but also became a troublesome personality in the locker room. Tired of his shenanigans, Pittsburgh hauled him off to Oakland in 2019, where he dramatically became the off-season storyline for literally freezing his feet, not bothering to show up for meetings, complaining about his helmet, and getting into a verbal fight with his GM.
Unable to handle Brown, the Raiders released him, and he was quickly signed by the Patriots. Almost immediately he was sued for inappropriate conduct with a former female associate. After his first game with New England, another allegation surfaced, forcing the team to cut him.
Dezmon Briscoe – 191st Pick
Three picks before the Steelers selected Antonio Brown, the Cincinnati Bengals took Dezmon Briscoe. Unlike Brown, Briscoe was cut before ever playing a snap with the Bengals. Free to sign with any team, the wide receiver inked a deal with the Buccaneers.
In 18 games with Tampa Bay, Briscoe caught 41 passes for 480 yards and hauled in seven touchdowns. His next stop was in Washington, where he played one season before injuring his shoulder, effectively ending his career.
Carlton Mitchell – 177th Pick
Life has rarely been easy for the Cleveland Browns. The oft-maligned franchise could have taken Brown in 2010, but instead selected Carlton Mitchell from South Florida. The flashy prospect was known for his speed, and he could have been a high reward selection.
Instead, Mitchell was a risk that shouldn’t have been taken. In two seasons with Cleveland he caught three balls for 31 yards. After the 2011 season, the team released him. For the next two seasons he floated around the league before moving north to join the Canadian Football League.
Kerry Meier – 165th Pick
When the Atlanta Falcons took Kerry Meier with the 165th pick, they thought they were getting a steal. He broke several receiving records at Kansas and hauled in 100 passes his senior year. Before the start of his rookie season, Meier injured his knee, forcing Atlanta to put him on the injured reserve.
Finally healthy in 2011, Meier disappointed, failing to catch a single pass in 12 games. The next season he was placed on injured reserve again and was waived by the team.
Riley Cooper – 159th Pick
Like Antonio Brown, Riley Cooper ended up being a steal in the NFL Draft. Taken with the 159th overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, Cooper turned his college success into a productive NFL career. Cooper’s best season came in 2013, when he grabbed 47 balls for 835 yards.
Like Brown, Cooper also had issues off the field. While at a country concert during his breakout season, he was recorded using offensive language. When the video leaked, it nearly ended his career. After the 2016 season, the Eagles cut Cooper, who announced his retirement in 2017.
David Reed – 156th Pick
In his final year at Utah, David Reed hauled in the 15th most receiving yards in the nation. His production caught the attention of the Baltimore Ravens, who selected him nearly 40 picks before the Steelers grabbed Antonio Brown.
During his NFL career, Reed made a name for himself as a return specialist. Handling kick-off return duties, he averaged 27 yards per return. His biggest highlight came in his rookie season when he returned a kick-off 103 yards for a touchdown.
Jacoby Ford – 108th Pick
Selected in the fourth round of the draft by the Oakland Raiders, Jacoby Ford became known in the Bay Area as a dynamic kick returner. In his rookie season, he returned three kicks for touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 470 yards.
The next season, Ford broke the Raiders’ franchise record for return touchdowns, taking four to “the house.” For the next few seasons, Ford bounced around the league before heading to Canada to join the Edmonton Eskimos. Most recently he played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Marcus Easley – 107th Pick
Marcus Easley had an unremarkable career with the Buffalo Bills. Taken one spot before Jacoby Ford, Easley was frequently injured and had to fight his way onto the team’s active roster. When he was healthy and suited up, Easley made an impact on special teams, recording 22 tackles with the unit in 2013.
Unfortunately, Easley dislocated his kneecap and subsequently broke his knee in three places in 2015. The gruesome injury required him to be carted off the field. In 2017, Buffalo released him after six wildly inconsistent and injury-riddled seasons.
Mike Williams – 101st Pick
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Mike Williams in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, they thought they had a steal. He had a stellar college career at Syracuse but was seen as a “low character” player by league scouts.
Williams spent four years in Tampa, catching 25 touchdown passes. Looking every bit like the steal he was billed to be, the team re-signed him. When he got injured the next season, the Bucs traded him to Buffalo, where he fizzled and was released mid-season.
Mardy Gilyard – 99th Pick
In his final two years at Cincinnati, Mardy Gilyard caught 168 passes for 2,467 yards. When the Rams saw him fall to them with the 99th overall pick in the draft, they didn’t hesitate to call his name.
During the offseason, Gilyard failed to impress and found his way off the roster before the start of the regular season. After that, he moved from team to team, finding sparse playing time. In 2013, Gilyard signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL before moving to the Arena Football league to play for the Jacksonville Sharks.
Taylor Price – 90th Pick
In his senior season at Ohio University Taylor Price set a school record with 2,019 receiving yards. At the NFL Draft Combine, he continued to impress, running a sub 4.40 time at the 40-yard dash. New England liked what they saw, and took Price with the 90th overall pick.
In his rookie season, Price was only active for one game, the season finale. He caught three passes for 41 yards and was waived by the team. He never made it to another team’s active roster after.
Armanti Edwards – 89th Pick
In college at Appalachian State Armanti Edwards played quarterback. When the Carolina Panthers drafted him in the third round of the draft, he became a wide receiver. For the next few seasons, he worked mostly on the special teams unit as a kick returner.
The Panthers cut ties with Edwards in 2013, and he failed to land anywhere else. Unable to play in the NFL, Edwards moved to the CFL where he blossomed. In three years he has amassed over 2,100 receiving yards,
Andre Roberts – 88th Pick
The first receiver on this list who is still in the NFL, Andre Roberts was originally a third-round pick in the 2010 Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. For the last decade, he has proven to be a reliable, if unspectacular player, gaining nearly 3,000 yards in the air.
Like Antonio Brown, Roberts career looks to be on the downside, but not for the same reasons. Since 2015, the reliable receiver has barely seen game action. In 2019, he signed a contract with the Buffalo Bills but has not played.
Eric Decker – 87th Pick
Eric Decker was one of the best wide receivers from the 2010 draft class. Taken by the Denver Broncos, he excelled with Peyton Manning throwing to him. In his last two years with the Broncos, he had back-to-back 1,000 yard campaigns.
As a free agent, Decker signed with the New York Jets where he continued to have success. In his first two seasons in green he amassed over 2,000 yards. In 2017 Decker took his talents to Tennessee where a shoulder injury derailed his his career. On August 26th, 2018 he officially retired from the NFL.
Jordan Shipley – 84th Pick
As a rookie with the Bengals, Jordan Shipley caught 52 passes for 600 yards. His future looked bright heading into his sophomore season until he tore two knee ligaments. The injury ended his season after two games, and he never fully recovered.
Coming out of college, Shipley was compared to Green Bay Packer standout Jordy Nelson. With the injury marring his promising career, Shipley retired in 2014, leaving the entire football world to wonder what could have been.
Emmanuel Sanders – 82nd Pick
Taken over 100 picks before Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders has been one of the best wide receivers in the league. One of the only wideouts on this list to live up to his college hype, Sanders has collected over 7,000 yards and counting.
Originally playing alongside Brown in Pittsburgh, the Broncos acquired him in 2014, where he reached his full potential thanks to Peyton Manning. His best season so far has been his first season with the Broncos, where he caught 101 passes for 1,404 yards.
Brandon LaFell – 78th Pick
Drafted bu the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the draft, Brandon LaFell has been an inconsistent wide receiver. When he’s been good, he’s more than proven why he was drafted so high. When he’s bad, however, he becomes a coaches worst nightmare.
LaFell’s best season came 2014 when LaFell caught 74 passes from Tom Brady for 953 yards. His worst season came in 2018 when he only caught 12 passes for 135 yards.
Damian Williams – 77th Pick
The Tennessee Titans were so convinced that Damian Williams would be a top tier wide receiver that they pushed him into a starting role in his second season. The move backfired, and Williams was eventually released.
By the end of his career, Williams had 107 catches and 1,327 receiving yards. If he was the superstar the Titans had hoped he would become, he would have gotten those numbers in one season. In 2014, Williams retired from the NFL.
Golden Tate – 60th Pick
Taken with the 60th overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks, Golden Tate is one of the toughest wide receivers to come out of the draft. While his stats were nothing special in Seattle, he bloomed in Detroit, where he caught 99 passes for 1,331 yards in his first season.
In nine seasons in the NFL, Tate has over 7,000 career yards. Prior to the 2019 season, he signed a $37.5 million contract with the New York Giants, where he will have a chance to reach 10,000 yards for his career.
Arrelious Benn – 39th Pick
Playing his college ball at Illinois, Arrelious Benn had a monster final year. His draft stock soared through the roof, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to take a chance on him early in the second round of the draft.
After two average seasons to start his career, Benn’s production took a nosedive. At the end of his third year, the Bucs released him, making him a free agent. After sitting out of the game for two years, Benn signed with the Jaguars and made the roster. In 2018, Jacksonville declined their option on his contract.
Dexter McCluster – 36th Pick
Tyreek Hill before there was a Tyreek Hill, Dexter McCluster was a speedy force to be reckoned with coming out of college. The Chiefs happily snatched him up with the 36th overall pick, and deployed him as both a wide receiver and a running back.
Unfortunately, McCluster was never able to hold down either role. Perhaps the NFL wasn’t ready for his gadget style playing abilities. Today, running backs regularly line up as receivers and vice versa.
Dez Bryant – 24th Pick
When the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant with the 24th overall pick in the draft, they arguably got the wide receiver many scouts thought was the most talented. From 2012 through 2014, they were right. Bryant had three straight 1,000 yard seasons and became the go to target for Dallas QB Tony Romo.
After the 2014 season, Bryant’s body began to break down on him. After three underwhelming seasons, Bryant became a free agent in 2018. The New Orleans Saints signed him, and in his second day with the team he tore his Achilles tendon.
Demaryius Thomas – 22nd Pick
The first wide receiver taken in the 2010 NFL Draft, there were a lot of expectations for Demaryius Thomas to be a franchise player for the Broncos. In his third year, Thomas broke out of his shell, hauling in 94 passes for 1,434 yards.
For the next five seasons, Thomas continued to dominate, peaking in 2014 with 1,619 yards. Of course, it helped that Peyton Manning was throwing him the ball. In 2018 Thomas was traded to the Texans. He now plays for the Jets.