It's not the most fun feeling world to go into an NFL season and know that your team probably has a better chance of competing for the #1 pick in the draft than appearing in the Super Bowl. But at least you can spend some time during the year making sure you tune into all the different college games so that you can see firsthand who the next player is that may come around and turn your entire franchise around.
The first overall pick in the NFL draft is a coveted position, but with the high reward that can come, also comes the very high risk. Nothing puts the spotlight on you quite like being the first overall pick and while some people took that pressure and thrived, others made names for themselves as some of the biggest busts in NFL history.
I'm sure that if the Cleveland Browns also hadn't had multiple appearances on this list than their franchise's past few years probably would have gone a lot better than they have. But hey, there's always next year and maybe Baker Mayfield (and Myles Garrett) will be what finally helps turn the corner for the Browns! And if not, there's always the next draft!
I've looked at every 1st overall pick from the last 20 years and ranked them accordingly. While some player's potential was cut short due to injury, there is sure to be at least one bust in Canton by the time the final player on this list takes their final snap.
20 JaMarcus Russell (2007)
JaMarcus Russell has only himself to be blamed for why his NFL career didn't turn out. After being first overall in 2007, Russell was out of the NFL by 2009. His highlights included being bumped to #3 on the depth chart and making headlines for showing up to camp in his 4th, and final year, reportedly weighing close to 300 pounds. And unless he had planned to switch to the offensive line and not let anyone know about it, that's not going to be a good look. Coaches also had a problem with Russell's work ethic, including his unwillingness to watch game tape.
19 Courtney Brown (2000)
Even if you are not a huge fan of the NFL, you may be able to know that the Cleveland Browns are not a very good football team. This isn't something new and back in 2000, the Browns missed in a huge way with Courtney Brown. Brown showed glimpses of promise in his rookie year, recording 69 tackles and 4.5 sacks, but the next year he played in only 5 games. The year after 11, then 13 and then 2, as injuries continued to plague him.
When he did finally play 14 games for the Broncos in 2005, he was a shell of himself having only 24 tackles.
18 David Carr (2002)
One of the worst feelings an NFL quarterback must feel is when they get sacked. And sadly for David Carr, that was essentially the main takeaway from his disappointing career. The Texans had hoped Carr would be the face of their franchise that was debuting the next year, but instead, Carr was sacked 76 times in his rookie year, a record that still stands. It improved to 15 the next year but jumped back up to 49 in 2004 and 68 times in 2005 (both leading the league).
Carr was released and the Texans instead felt more confident in Matt Shaub.
17 Tim Couch (1999)
The highlight of Tim Couch's career came in 2002 when he led the Browns to the playoffs. But then he broke his leg and his backup, Kelly Holcomb, played in the playoff game instead and played well and despite the loss, ended up eventually taking the job from Couch. Talk about a bad break!
His sophomore year in the NFL also saw him struggle with a broken thumb that saw him play in only 7 games and surely didn't have a positive impact on the fan's perception of him as a player. While talented enough to go first overall, Couch's career was over after 5 years.
16 Sam Bradford (2010)
If Sam Bradford's next season ends with an injury, it's not like the Arizona Cardinals weren't warned. Bradford's time with the Rams had moments of brilliance - including Rookie Of The Year - but in 2013 Bradford tore his left ACL. He tore it again the next year during a preseason game. Bradford was traded to the Eagles where he played well in stretches, but the team moved on and drafted Carson Wentz.
Bradford signed with the Vikings for the 2016 season, but his 2017 season saw more issues with his knee emerge. Bradford can still play when he's healthy, but is that ever going to happen for a long enough stretch to make anyone comfortable?
15 Eric Fisher (2013)
The positive thing about Eric Fisher is that at the moment, he is still with the Chiefs. Which means he'll maybe grow into the player they had hoped he would be. But the rookie year for Fisher that saw him switch from left to right tackle caused headaches for the fanbase. He did manage to improve significantly, however, the following year when he was put back to left tackle.
Fisher has yet to earn any honors such as being voted into the Pro Bowl, but the team did sign him to a $48 million contract (with $40 million guaranteed) back in 2016 which means they at the very least have the expectation that, that's just around the corner.
14 Alex Smith (2005)
A strong quarterback is going to be helped dramatically by having consistency in the offensive coordinator position. Alex Smith had 6 different O.C's in his 6 years in San Francisco. No wonder he struggled. Smith turned it around when Jim Harbaugh came to town and was fortunate enough to get traded to the Chiefs in 2012.
There he spent 5 years putting up a 65.1 completion percentage and 102 TDs to only 33 interceptions. His biggest test could be this upcoming year as a member of the Redskins, but either way, he's definitely deserving of some praise for turning his career around.
13 Jameis Winston (2015)
Jameis Winston had character concerns coming out of the draft and considering he's suspended for the first few games of the next season, well, let's just say they weren't unfounded. But when Winston is on the field, he does show flashes of brilliance. He's helped out by the amazing Mike Evans, but statistics alone may make Bucs fans happy that Winston is their guy.
2017 was the only year where Winston missed time, playing in only 13 games, but he still threw for 3,504 yards. The two previous years bot saw him throw for over 4,000. On the plus side, his completion rate has also improved from 58.3 to 60.8 to 63.8 last year.
12 Mario Williams (2006)
If Mario Williams had managed to stay healthy, I'm sure the Texans would have done all they could to keep him on the team, as Williams accounted for 53 sacks over his 6 years with the team. They moved on however after a hernia hurt his 2010 year and a torn pectoral muscle hampered him in 2011.
Williams went on to play fairly well for the Bills after signing in 2012 but had a hard time living up to the 6-year contract that had $49.5 million guaranteed and bonuses that could make the contract worth upwards of $100 million. He was released and played one year for the Dolphins where he recorded only 1.5 sacks.
11 Baker Mayfield (2018)
I would love to tell you that I have access to a crystal ball and can tell you what the future looks like for the Cleveland Browns with Baker Mayfield as their starting quarterback. And while he definitely may feel a lot of pressure to help turn Cleveland around, throwing to Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry is sure to help. And while a failed career could be more costly than any miss the Browns have suffered in the past, a success could be the turning point that this fanbase so desperately needs and I won't blame them for taking that shot.
10 Jake Long (2008)
There are several great quarterbacks on this list, but they wouldn't be as great if they didn't have a strong offensive line in front of them. Jake Long is a player that quarterbacks always should have felt comfortable playing in front of. Long went to 4 Pro Bowls in his career including being named as a First-Team All-Pro for his performance in the 2010 campaign.
Sadly, Long has suffered some serious injuries including two torn ACL's with the Rams and a torn Achilles as a member of the Vikings that ended his career in 2016. A longer career would have meant a higher spot for Jake.
9 Jared Goff (2016)
Some rookies come on the scene and seem poised to dominate from the start. For Goff, his rookie year saw him play in only 7 games and had 5 TDs to 7 interceptions. Not exactly what he wanted. But Goff deserves a lot of credit for improving under the new head coach the team had brought in, Sean McVay who has made a big difference. His 2017 season saw him throw 28 TD's to only 7 interceptions and throw for close to 4,000 yards (3,804). You're only going to get so far in the NFL without a good quarterback and the Rams may have found their guy.
8 Myles Garrett (2017)
When Myles Garrett is on the field, he looks poised to become a future winner of Defensive Player of the Year and that's something that the Cleveland Browns fanbase sorely needs. His rookie year sadly saw a high-ankle sprain and concussion limit what he can do on the field, but you need difference makers on both sides of the ball and Garrett has shown he can be that guy with 7 sacks and 19 tackles over the course of 11 games. And if he takes a step back next year, nobody should blame the Browns fanbase for just trying to be excited about a player going into a season!
7 2003 - Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer with Chad Johnson made the Bengals look like an amazing team. But a torn ACL suffered in a playoff game in 2005 was one of the most devastating injuries in sports history.
Palmer returned in a strong fashion the next year, but Palmer struggled in 2008, 2009 and 2010 (the latter of which saw them finish 4-12) and reports surfaced in that he was planning to retire, leading him to be traded to Oakland during the middle of the 2011 season.
Palmer played reasonably well in Oakland for 2 years before being a strong quarterback for Arizona. Only injuries in the 2014 and 2017 season prevented Palmer from throwing for over 4,000 yards in each of his 4 years.
6 2012 - Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck's career may be very well defined by how he does this upcoming season. His 2017 season was the stuff of nightmares after a surgery done after the 2016 season caused significant enough issues to see him miss the entire year. Not to mention also having more surgery back in February.
But when he's performing and healthy, Luck doesn't have anyone questioning why he was picked first. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards in 3 of the 5 seasons and the two misses saw one year of 3,822 and the 2015 season where he played in only 7 games.
5 2014 - Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney may never be the most popular player on the Texans as long as J.J. Watt is there, but he's clearly learned a lot from Watt. After injuries hurt him in his rookie year, Clowney played well in 2015 and even better in 2016. The latter of which had him be named as the 49th best player in the NFL as he totaled 6 sacks, 16 TFL, and 52 tackles.
Clowney continued to improve, being ranked as the 32nd best player in 2017 with 9.5 sacks, 59 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles and I'm sure he is going to do everything he can to improve on those numbers in 2018.
4 2001 - Michael Vick
We all know what the scandal is when it comes to Michael Vick. But part of why the scandal was such a big deal was because of how amazing of a player Vick was. I'm sure Falcons fans would have wanted nothing more than for his career to have stayed untarnished in Atlanta, as his numbers there over 6 years of 11,505 yards passing, not to mention another 3,859 yards as a rusher, made him destined for the Hall of Fame.
Vick played well with Philly for stretches following his return from suspension before fading out with the Jets and Steelers.
3 2009 - Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford may never have a career that matches that of Aaron Rodgers, but there is still plenty to be proud of. And when you consider the Lions had struggled mightily at the QB position before he came along, I'm sure fans are ecstatic that it's still Stafford throwing the ball around for them going into the next season. With several big targets such as Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., Stafford's next season may be the best of his entire career. But even if an injury knocks him out of the season early and he never recovers, he has still thrown for over 34,000 yards.
2 2011 - Cam Newton
Cam Newton has not had a career that has been free of scandals, but he is still a talented quarterback and hopefully, 2018 will continue to prove that. Newton's most accomplished year came in 2015 where he took home the NFL Offensive Player Of The Year, as well as the MVP. Proving he was outstanding from the start, Newton was also the recipient of Offensive Rookie Of The Year. Though I'm sure when his career is all said and done there are many people who are going to knock Newton for failing to win the Super Bowl. But at least he lost to the greatest quarterback of all-time in Peyton Manning?
1 2004 - Eli Manning
Is Eli Manning's career as amazing as Peyton Manning? No, but there should be no denying the fact that he was well worth the first overall pick, as well as the first overall spot on our list. Along with winning two Super Bowls, Eli has been the hallmark of durability for a large majority of his career and will go down as one of the greatest New York Giants to ever play. The only asterisk on Eli is that he was drafted by the Chargers with the understanding that he would then be traded to play for the New York Giants.