Best of the Firsts, No. 22: Andre Rison
As part of our offseason coverage, we're taking a look back at some of the best first-round draft picks since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. We'll work our way up the draft board, starting with the best selection made with the No. 32 pick and ending with the top No. 1 pick. Track all the choices here.
The No. 22 Pick: Andre Rison, 1989, Colts
His Credentials: Five-time Pro Bowl selection, four-time All-Pro, Super Bowl XXXI champion, made 743 career catches for 10,205 yards and 84 touchdowns, only receiver in NFL history to catch a TD pass for seven different teams
If you prefer stability -- as in, a player that set up roots in one place for most or all of his career -- then Andre Rison is probably not your pick here. Jack Reynolds played 11 years of his 15-season NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams; Harris Barton never suited up for a team other than the 49ers; same for Harris Dixon and the Browns.
Rison, meanwhile, was one of the NFL's most well-traveled players. He spent just one year with Indianapolis, the team that drafted him, before the Colts dealt him to Atlanta as part of a trade that brought back the No. 1 pick -- Indianapolis used that selection on Jeff George in 1990.
Rison would go on to finish his five seasons in Atlanta with 56 touchdowns, more than 5,000 yards receiving and four Pro Bowl berths.
He was a nomad from then out, jumping to Cleveland in 1995, Jacksonville and later Green Bay (where he scored a TD in the Packers' Super Bowl win) in 1996, Kansas City from 1997-99, Oakland in 2000, and then the CFL. He actually won a Grey Cup title too before he hung up his cleats, taking home the 2004 championship with the Toronto Argonauts.
"Bad Moon" Rison also had his share of off-field incidents, including his arrest for firing a gun inside a Kroger, a couple of weeks in jail after failing to pay child support, and then-girlfriend and TLC member, the now-deceased Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, burning down his house.
He kept producing when he played, though -- Rison sits in the top 50 all-time for catches, yards receiving and touchdowns. And Rison believes that he was an even better player than the number showed, according to what he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2009:
“Best receiver to ever play the game. I can’t show my highlights because I don’t own NFL Films, but all my coaches in college, in high school, in junior college, they all told me I could be the best. But they must’ve lied because that title was already given to Jerry Rice. Just because you have stats doesn’t mean you’re the best. Can’t nobody tell me that Andre Reed isn’t better than Jerry Rice. I’m seeing cornerbacks on the 75th anniversary team that I used to demolish. But I’m coming out with my own hall of fame.”
Rison will never get the call from the official Hall of Fame, which is par for the course for this spot in the draft -- not one of the players taken at No. 22 since 1970 has claimed a spot in Canton and, unless Percy Harvin stays healthy and turns in an incredible career, that drought could last for years to come. Even though Rison's career never measured up to the NFL's elite wide receivers, he proved to be a solid, and sometimes spectacular, player for several different teams. That's enough to land him atop the list at No. 22.