The Best First Overall Draft Picks in NFL History
Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, David Carr, Steve Emtman, Tim Couch… None of these guys will ever make a list of the best top overall NFL Draft picks in history. But they will make the biggest busts in Draft history. Those five guys represent a larger number of players that turned into busts.
But that is just how it goes in the NFL Draft. There is no guarantees that the athlete you pick today will be a star tomorrow. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the exact predicament tonight as they hold the top overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Should they take Jameis Winston and please the thousands of fans just dying to have something to cheer for in South Florida? Or do they go another route and take Leonard Williams which would help solidify their defensive line? When they announce, you will find out. Until then, all you can do is submit and educated guess.
Instead of wasting time trying to figure out a puzzle that can’t be solved, why not take a moment and look over the Best 1st Overall Draft Picks in NFL History. Enjoy
35. Cam Newton (QB) Panthers, 2011
If you were wondering when the running QB phase started, honestly, it was in 2011 when the Carolina Panthers risked it all and took Cam Newton as the top pick in the draft. Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, and a some other QBs could technically be argued as the beginning of this trend but Cam is bigger, faster, and stronger. He is a monster that can move like a ballerina on the field.
34. Sam Bradford (QB) Rams, 2010
Without injuries, Sam Bradford is one of the better QB’s in the NFL. Unfortunately for him, however, he keeps getting hurt and he has missed almost as many games as he played in for the past five seasons. It was not a bad selection because he is young and has another shot in Philadelphia now. If you called him a bust, you’re an idiot. It is too early to label him a bust.
33. Matthew Stafford (QB) Lions, 2009
Matthew Stafford is the guy all guys want to be. He is about to get married to one of the most beautiful women in United States, Kelly Hall, and he also gets to throw to Calvin “Megatron” Johnson every year. If he could only figure out how to win in the playoffs, then the Lions might be on to something. Give him time, he is a year or two away from reaching that next level.
32. Andrew Luck (QB) Colts, 2012
In only two seasons, Andrew Luck has lived up to the hype. He has a devastating arm that has pinpoint accuracy. But when he cannot find an open receiver, he can take off and run the ball. Aside from his physical abilities, he has an extremely high football IQ and has the ability to read a defense much like the last guy to lead the Colts to the playoffs. What was that guy’s name again? (Wink, Wink)
31. Billy Sims (RB) Lions, 1980
After five seasons, Billy Sims destroyed his knee causing him to retire from the NFL much too soon. His numbers, at the time, were ridiculous. He finished his career with 5,106 rushing yards, 2,072 receiving yards, and 47 total TDs.
30. Drew Bledsoe (QB) Patriots, 1993
Drew Bledsoe owns a Super Bowl ring but it was not because he was the starter. Everyone knows the story of Tom Brady but they might not remember is that Drew Bledsoe started the first two games of the season they won the Super Bowl. He was setting Mr. Brady up for a legendary career.
29. George Rogers (RB) Saints, 1981
Seven seasons, two teams, 7,176 rushing yards, 54 rushing TDs, two Pro Bowl selections, one Super Bowl Championship, and one Rookie of the Year award. That is George Rogers in a nutshell.
28. Michael Vick (QB) Falcons, 2001
Imagine Michael Vick doesn’t get arrested and he doesn’t go to jail for fighting dogs. He would have remained in Atlanta and might still be there until this day. But that would have caused a butterfly effect to the rest of the NFL and who knows where many of these other guys would end up. (Matt Ryan would not be wearing red and black, which could have caused players in the 2008 draft to go all over the place)
27. Mario Williams (DE) Texans, 2006
The 2006 top selection Mario Williams has five seasons with 10 or more sacks. Since he has only played nine seasons, two of which he missed a lot of games due to injury, that is very impressive. He still has a lot more time to play and he already has 91 career sacks. He is currently ranked 40th all-time in career sacks.
26. Kyle Rote (RB) Giants, 1951
What else can we say about Kyle Rote than you have already read about in Sports Illu…ESP…um, sorry about that. You have probably never heard of this guy mainly because he played back in the 1950’s when he also was selected to four Pro Bowls.
25. Tommy Mason (RB) Vikings, 1961
The former Tulane University star running back might not have been the greatest RB in NFL history but he did go to three Pro Bowls and he was the first ever selection by the Minnesota Vikings, ever.
24. Tommy Nobis (LB) Falcons, 1966
Can someone explain why the NFL did not track one of the best defensive statistics of all-time, Sacks, until 1982? If they did, Tommy Nobis probably would have had 250 during his career. This guy spent more time in the backfield than the quarterback’s.
23. Keyshawn Johnson (WR) Jets, 1996
The smack talking wideout played a few seasons in New York, then Tampa Bay, Dallas and finally Carolina. He might have traveled a lot during his career but he was still one of the best ever that was lucky enough to also win a Super Bowl Championship.
22. Irving Fryar (WR) Patriots, 1984
To be the best, you have to work with the best. Irving Fryar has played with some of the best QBs in the NFL. He played with Dan Marino for three seasons and boosted his star status from a 4 to a 8 out of 10.
21. Eli Manning (QB) Chargers, 2004
Eli Manning is the greatest mediocre QB of all-time. Why? Because he won two Super Bowls but still throws 1,000 INTs. No one knows how he does it but he finds a way.
20. Bubba Smith (DE) Colts, 1967
Again, why was a Sack not tracked until 1982? It is simply not fair for these defensive lineman that spent years busting through the offensive line to reach the QB only to not have it tracked. Bubba Smith was once the guy sacking all the QBs in the NFL before the Police Academy movies.
19. Dave Parks (WR) 49ers, 1964
In 1965, Dave Parks had one of the all-time greatest seasons ever by a Tight End. He had 80 receptions, 1,344 receiving yards, and 12 TDs. He never reached that level again but he did that in only his second season.
18. Ed Jones (DE) Cowboys, 1974
The nickname wasn’t an accident. Ed “Too Tall” Jones is one of the tallest NFL players of all time. He was once measured at 6’10” and according to the NFL, had 57.5 career sacks but when it was all said and done, that number should have been 105 since they only tracked his stats from 1982 until he retired in 1989.
17. Ron Yary (OT) Vikings, 1968
Offensive lineman do not have a long list of statistical categories to speak about so you are just going to have to trust us, this guy was great. He was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and the NFL decided to induct him into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
16. Charley Trippi (QB/RB) Cardinals, 1945
Before the Super Bowl, the NFL still had a Championship game. And Charley Trippi led his Chicago Cardinals to the 1947 NFL Championship title. He did it by rushing, receiving, and even throwing the ball. He finished his career with 7,374 total yards.
15. Bill Dudley (RB) Steelers, 1942
Another vintage NFL star, Bill Dudley, makes the list of top draft picks. Since we have no footage of his playing days in Pittsburgh, we are going to rely on the NFL stat book to take us home here. He had 4,440 total yards to go along with his 44 TDs. He was even a kicker making 33 Field Goals.
14. Russell Maryland (DT) Cowboys, 1991
Russell Maryland was more hype than he wanted to be coming out of the University of Miami back in 1991. He became one of the better defensive tackles of all-time and owns three Super Bowl rings to prove it.
13. Jake Long (OT) Dolphins, 2008
The Miami Dolphins passed on Matt Ryan and Darren McFadden to draft an offensive lineman. It isn’t a sexy pick but it was the best pick of that season as Jake Long is one of the best in the NFL today and now plays in St.Louis.
12. Jim Plunkett (QB) Patriots, 1971
If you ask any NFL star if they would rather win a Super Bowl or own multiple records without a Super Bowl, 135% of them will say win a Super Bowl. Jim Plunkett owns two of them and also a Super Bowl MVP.
11. Bo Jackson (RB) Raiders, 1986
Bo Jackson is the most amazing two-sport athlete in both MLB and NFL history. He could have played in the NBA if he wanted to but probably felt like it was a bit too much and would not be fair to the rest of the league. It is scary to think that a bad knee injury forced him to retire way too early.
10. Bruce Smith (DE) Bills, 1985
Just read about his accomplishments while we grab a cup of coffee.
11 Pro Bowls, 9 First Team All-Pro Selections, Four-time AFC Champion, Four Super Bowl appearances, 11 different NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, and the only player in NFL history to reach 200 sacks.
9. Lee Roy Selmon (DE) Buccaneers, 1976
23 sacks in his final three seasons and that was only three seasons of Lee Roy Selmon’s 9 year career. The NFL needs to hire a team to go back and review tapes of all the games ever and give these defensive players credit for the sacks they earned prior to 1976.
8. Terry Bradshaw (QB) Steelers, 1970
For 14 seasons, Terry Bradshaw turned the Pittsburgh Steelers into champions. He led them to victories in Super Bowl IX, X, XIII, and XIV. He was also the MVP of two of those Super Bowls and was the 1978 NFL MVP. He wasn’t the best passer or the most accurate but he was a winner.
7. Orlando Pace (OT) Rams, 1997
Remember when Kurt Warner ran the “Greatest Show on Turf”? Remember when the St.Louis Rams had an offense that was so dominate, it broke all the records and even went to a couple Super Bowls? Orlando Pace was the guy protecting Kurt Warner’s blindside the entire time.
6. Paul Hornung (RB) Packers, 1957
Name a position on the football field and Paul Hornung played it. He threw, rushed, kicked, and caught the ball. He even won four NFL Championships in 1961, 1962, 1965, and 1966.
5. John Elway (QB) Colts, 1983
Eli Manning said he did not want to play in San Diego and throw a tantrum until they traded him to New York. John Elway did not throw a fit, he simply said he was not going to play in the NFL if the Colts drafted him. So when they did, he said peace out and went to Spring Training with the Kansas City Royals. It was a good thing they traded the pick to Denver otherwise the NFL would have missed out on one of the best QBs to ever play the game.
4. Chuck Bednarik (C/LB) Eagles, 1949
If there is a list of NFL’s best athletes, Chuck Bednarik will be on it. He is one of the last true two-way players of all-time and he was such an athlete, he might just be the best ever.
3. Peyton Manning (QB) Colts, 1998
Is there any way we can agree that statistically, Peyton Manning is the greatest Quarterback to ever play in the NFL? He owns the NFL record for owning the most records. How did he do it? By being able to predict the opponent’s defense play after play. It is amazing to watch him break down a defense when he walks up to the center.
2. Troy Aikman (QB) Cowboys, 1989
It is rare for a player to stay with the same team that drafted him for his entire career but Troy Aikman managed to do so. Along the way he won three Super Bowls (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX), Super Bowl XXVII MVP, six Pro Bowls, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
1. Earl Campbell (RB) Oilers, 1978
Earl Campbell will forever be one of the greatest running backs ever to play in the NFL without a Super Bowl appearance. In only six and a half seasons with the Houston Oilers, Earl rushed for 8,574 yards and 73 touchdowns. Not to mention he caught another 115 passes for 718 yards. Overall, he had one of the most productive short careers in NFL history.
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