The AFL has seen some strange and saddening stories of careers falling short of their potential, especially with the first overall pick.

Some who couldn't fulfil high pick expectations were still able to forge a lengthy career with a high quality season mixed in, others were just never able to get started.

This list goes through the rare cases of careers that never took flight. Some have a warm silver lining, others involve some cruel and bizzare twists, but all would have fans hoping for their clubs not to repeat the mistake at future draft tables.

2014  |  Pick 1 - Paddy McCartin (St Kilda)

Career stats:

  • 63 games
    10.3 disposals
    4.7 marks
    0.9 tackles
    0.6 goals

One of footy's true heartbreak stories.

Of course, McCartin's career was never able to take full flight, constantly sidelined with concussion to the point of becoming one of the recent premature retirees.

He looked to have turn his football life around when he joined the Swans after three years away from the game, relishing a role change at Sydney, in defence alongside his brother Tom.

The last of his 10 concussive head-knocks worryingly came in an innocuous contest at ground-level, where his head made minor, but substantial enough contact to rule him out of the match and the AFL entirely.

Players picked after:

  • Christian Petracca
  • Jordan De Goey
  • Touk Miller

2013  |  Pick 1 - Tom Boyd (Western Bulldogs)

Career stats:

  • 61 games
    10.0 disposals
    2.8 marks
    2.2 tackles
    0.8 goals

Another saddening story given the documented mental health challenges Boyd had faced in his AFL career, the former pick one played just 61 games across five seasons at the Bulldogs, retiring in 2019 at the age of just 23.

The heartwarming silver-lining of his story comes in the best game of his career, the most memorable day in the lives of all Bulldog fans; the 2016 Grand Final.

With 14 disposals, 14 hit-outs, eight marks and three goals, including the iconic fourth quarter centre-square launch, Boyd nearly earned Norm-Smith medal honours, saving the crowning moment of a shirt-lived career for the biggest stage of all.

Players picked after:

  • Josh Kelly
  • Marcus Bontempelli
  • Patrick Cripps
  • Zach Merrett

1991  |  Pick 1 - John Hutton (Brisbane)

Career stats:

  • 36 games
    9.9 disposals
    3.8 marks
    1.1 tackles
    2.2 goals

Hutton's career actually started with a bang in 1992 when he booted 43 goals from his 18 games for the Bears, including eight in their final ever match against Sydney.

Shockingly, he was delisted ahead of the 1993 season and later joined the team he tormented that day for the Bears, playing just five matches with Sydney without any success.

Sydney then let him go at the end of the year, leaving him to play a year in the QAFL before rejoining the AFL in a Dockers uniform for the 1995 season. For Fremantle he enjoyed some moments of glory, including another eight goal performance against the Swans.

He was again delisted at season's end and never returned to the big league.

Players picked after:

  • Jason Norrish
  • Shane Crawford
  • Andrew Dunkley

1990  |  Pick 1 - Stephen Hooper (Geelong)

Career stats:

  • 21 games
    7.0 disposals
    2.2 marks
    1.3 tackles
    9.5 hit-outs

Pick one just the year prior, Stephen Hooper's career was even shorter lived, managing just 21 appearances across two season with the Cats.

Playing ruck, Hooper enjoyed a couple of nice outings in a successful side, recording 38 hit-outs, 17 disposals and seven marks in a West Coast clash. He even featured in two finals, performing admirably in an elimination final victory over the Saints, collecting 14 disposals and 21 hit-outs.

His next appearances came in 1993, where he played seven more games for Geelong, failing to register more than seven disposals in any.

Players picked after:

  • Jason McCartney
  • Allen Jakovich
  • James Hird

1989  |  Pick 1 - Anthony Banik (Richmond)

Career stats:

  • 49 games
    13.8 disposals
    2.1 marks
    0.9 tackles
    0 goals

The first of the year prior still, Anthony Banik was picked up by Richmond as an exciting 16-year-old prodigy who was meant to build into his AFL career and gradually meet the expectations of a prized pick.

Instead, Banik shot out the gates as a 17-year-old in 1990, starring for the Tigers off the half-back flank with 18 straight games in his first season.

His second year was even better, playing 20 games with some notable performances throughout, six times racking up 20+ disposals.

In a cruel twist, Banik suffered glandular fever in 1992 and was never the same. He played two more years in the prime of his youth through '93 and '94, but only managed six games in this period and averaged a measly nine disposals.

Players picked after:

  • Peter Matera
  • Gavin Wanganeen
  • Shaun Hart

1987  |  Pick 1 - Richard Lounder (Richmond)

Career stats:

  • 4 games
    3.0 disposals
    1.5 marks
    0 tackles
    1.2 goals
    1.2 hit-outs

This is the most bizzare case of all number one draft pick busts. Selected first in 1987, the 203cm, 116kg ruckman was made to wait for his debut in Round five, 1989 against North Melbourne.

The wait was worth it, as Lounder booted four goals from his first four kicks in the big league, setting his career off on a tear.

Shockingly, he would combine for three disposals and three marks across his next three consecutive games in 1989 and was never seen at AFL level again.

With four appearances, Lounder has the shortest playing career of all number one draft picks, and one of the strangest career arcs to date.

Players picked after:

  • Chris McDermott
  • Graham Wright