There's a lot of pressure that comes with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. For the most part, the team that gets that first pick had a terrible year and is looking to draft a player that can make an immediate impact at the professional level. Sometimes you get Terry Bradshaw or John Elway or Troy Aikman or Peyton Manning. Other times you get Tim Couch or JaMarcus Russell, who as I'm sure you've guessed will make an early appearance on this list. It's a very tough decision to have to make for a football team and it's a choice that you don't want to squander. The wrong choice can devastate a franchise for years. Imagine how different the NFL would have looked had the Colts picked Ryan Leaf instead of Peyton Manning in 1998.
Of the 80 players that have been selected with the first overall pick, just over half have ever made the Pro Bowl, only five have won the Rookie of the Year and only 12 have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Over the last 15 years, there are a few players that have been selected with the first overall pick that may make that Hall of Fame number rise. Some of those picks will also go down as some of the worst decisions in history.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the last 15 men that were taken first overall in the NFL Draft and have a little fun ranking them. I'm sure you'll fight me on a few of these and I encourage and welcome you to tell me how your rankings differ from mine in the comments section. Enjoy.
15 2007 - JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders
Let's take another look at some of Russell's NFL stats: 7-18 record, 52.1 completion percentage, 4,083 passing yards, 18 TD, 23 INT with 175 rushing yards, 1 TD
14 2014 - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans
13 2002 - David Carr, QB, Houston Texans
David Carr's career lasted much longer than Russell's, but his stats aren't much more flattering. In 79 starts he mustered a 23-56 record. He managed a 59.7 completion percentage with 14,452 passing yards, 65 TDs, 71 INTs and 1,328 rushing yards with 9 TDs.
12 2013 - Eric Fisher, OT, Kansas City Chiefs
11 2015 - Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston managed to impress in his rookie year, already surpassing four on this list. In his rookie year, Winston posted a 58.3 completion percentage with 4,042 passing yards, 22 TDs and 15 INTs. He added 210 rushing yards with six scores and made a Pro Bowl appearance.
10 2010 - Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
9 2009 - Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
8 2005 - Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
7 2008 - Jake Long, OT, Miami Dolphins
6 2001 - Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons
5 2012-Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
4 2006 - Mario Williams, DT, Houston Texans
3 2003 - Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Carson Palmer is the only guy on this list who did not play one snap during his rookie campaign. He didn't start until his second season in Cincinnati and to this day, Palmer still owns nine franchise records. Although he'd put up big numbers, he was never able to win a playoff game with the Bengals and caused quite a stir when he threatened to retire in 2011. When the Bengals drafted and started Andy Dalton that season, they finally traded Palmer to Oakland, where he spent one and a half seasons. He threw for more than 4,000 yards in 2012 before being traded to Arizona in 2013.
2 2011-Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
1 2004 - Eli Manning, QB, San Diego Chargers (traded to New York Giants)
While I certainly don't think that Eli Manning is the most talented guy on this list, he does deserve this top spot, if for nothing else beating Tom Brady in a Super Bowl....twice. Say what you want about him, but he's the most decorated player on this list: 59.3 completion percentage, 44,191 passing yards, 294 TDs, 199 INTs, 523 rushing yards, 5 TDs and made four Pro Bowls. He is a two-time Super Bowl Champion and two-time Super Bowl MVP.
Outside of David Carr, who was his backup for the second Super Bowl win, he's the only man on this list that even has a Super Bowl ring and most of the guys don't even have a Super Bowl appearance. He has two Super Bowl MVP trophies at home and while he'll always be looked at as the less-talented Manning brother, Eli has carved out his own legacy as one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history.
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