One is higher than two. Gold is better than silver. If you're not first you're last.
While we'd like to think we can look at professional sports drafts and say the higher the pick, the better the player is going to be, this isn't always the case. Let's take a look back at the 1994 Draft for instance. Dan Wilkinson, a defensive tackle, was drafted first overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Dan Wilkinson doesn't quite register right away to the casual fan. Well, a guy named Marshall Faulk went second overall and his name should ring a bell. All he did was win Offensive Player of the Year three times, was selected to seven Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl with the Rams, and was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Now for every scenario like this, there is another one where the first-overall guy enjoyed a much more glorious career than number 2. The arguably biggest gap came in 1998 when Peyton Manning was selected by the Indianapolis Colts and Ryan Leaf was selected second by the San Diego Chargers. Peyton will go down as one of, if not the greatest, quarterback of all time and Ryan Leaf will mainly be known as "the guy who got picked after Manning."
All in all, there have been times where the first pick has been better and times when the second has been better. Let's take a look at the top two selections in the last 15 drafts and figure out how they stack up against each other each other.
30 Jared Goff And Carson Wentz (2016)
The Los Angeles Rams front office basically gave up their children to move up from the 15th overall pick to the number one spot and grab Goff. They traded a slew of picks to the Titans including their first-round pick in 2016, two second-round picks in 2016, a third- round pick in 2016, a first-round pick in 2017, and another third-round pick in 2017. All of this was given up for a guy who did not even come in and start day one. Goff would eventually play in seven games in 2016 and throw for 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
The Philadelphia Eagles weren’t shy on giving up picks to move up in 2016 either. They traded a gang of picks including their 2016 first-round pick (8th overall), a third-round pick in 2016, a fourth-round pick in 2016, a first-round pick in 2017, and a second round pick in 2018 to the Cleveland Browns to move up to the number 2 spot and select Carson Wentz. Wentz would start all 16 games for the Eagles in 2016 and started the season very strong. He would eventually hit some patches, but still threw for over 3,000 yards and 16 touchdowns with 14 interceptions.
29 Who Is Better?
After one season in the books this one isn’t that close at all. Wentz has started all 16 games and looks to be the franchise guy in Philadelphia. Goff, on the other hand, has only seen NFL action in seven games and didn’t look like a number one overall pick for most of that time. Granted, Wentz has walked into a much better situation than Goff as far as the talent around him is concerned.
When looking at the raw stats, per NFL.com, Wentz has Goff beat as well regardless of how many games they’ve played. Goff finished 2016 with a 54.6 completion percentage and a passer rating of 63.6. Wentz, on the other hand, finished with a 62.4 percent completion percentage and a passer rating of 79.3. With a year under their belts, the early advantage clearly goes to Carson Wentz.
28 Jameis Winston And Marcus Mariota (2015)
Unlike the 2016 draft, these first two picks were drafted straight up without being traded up to snag. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held the first overall pick and it wasn’t very difficult to know the pick was going to be Jameis Winston, a Heisman winner and national champion from Florida State. Winston has taken the Buccaneers from drafting first overall to a borderline playoff team in just two seasons. Winston has thrown for over 4,000 yards in both seasons to go with 50 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. He has also rushed for 7 touchdowns.
The Tennessee Titans picked Marcus Mariota second overall with another obvious decision. Mariota won a Heisman of his own at Oregon and looked to be just as good in many scouts’ eyes as Winston. Just as Winston has done, Mariota has taken the Titans from the bottom of the AFC South to being a contender in the division in just two short years. He has thrown for 6,244 yards and 45 touchdowns with 19 interceptions in his two years thus far. He has missed four games due to injury in that time as well.
27 Who Is Better?
This one is much closer than the 2016 draft. Both of these guys have been brought into losing teams and brought them up very quickly.
Again, according to NFL.com, Winston has a career completion percentage of 59.6 and a passer rating of 85.2. Mariota, on the flip side, has a career completion percentage of 61.6 and a passer rating of 93.8. Most of the time, the numbers don’t lie. However in this case don’t let them fool you.
Winston has played in more games and has over 200 more attempts than Mariota. The fact that Winston has thrown for over 4,000 yards in both seasons thus far also says a lot. Both of these young signal callers are definitely franchise guys and the call here is close. However, due to Winston being on the field more and having better numbers for the most part, he gets the edge.
26 Jadeveon Clowney And Greg Robinson (2014)
The Houston Texans held the first overall pick in 2014 and selected Jadeveon Clowney to no one's surprise. He was a once in a decade type of player that you simply could not pass up. He looked like a man among boys during his days at South Carolina. He dominated at the combine as well posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds. That is close to defensive back speed and he is 6-5, 270 pounds.
Unfortunately, he only played in four games his first year in the league due to injury. However, in the past two seasons he has come along nicely. He isn't putting up numbers that would be expected with a number one pick, but he looks to be coming into this own three years into his career.
The then St. Louis Rams probably wish they had this pick back because of what was still on the board after they selected Greg Robinson, a tackle from Auburn, with the second overall pick. To say Robinson has been a disappointment thus far is an understatement. Some scouts were going as far as to say he could be the next Orlando Pace when he was drafted. His career is still very young, but I think it's safe to say we can put the Pace comparison to rest. He has been benched and moved across the offensive line more times than a second overall pick should be in just three short years.
25 Who Is Better?
This is our first no brainer of the list ladies and gentlemen.
While Clowney is arguably not living up to his potential as the top pick, Robinson has disappointed much further and looks to be a bust so far. After not getting a sack his first year in the league, Clowney put up 4.5 in 2015 and six last year. If that's any indication, we may see him find double digits very soon.
Robinson, on the other hand, hasn't done anything but damage the Rams at this point. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson has had the lowest starting LT grade since he has been in the league. That is not a good sign for a former second overall pick. The stats do not lie here. With Khalil Mack being available still at the time, all the Rams can do now is think what if? Clowney definitely gets the edge here.
24 Eric Fisher And Luke Joeckel (2013)
The 2013 Draft was the year of the tackle. Three of the top five picks were all tackles. The Kansas City Chiefs had the honor of selecting which one they felt was the best and they decided on Eric Fisher from Central Michigan. Some questioned the decision because of Central Michigan not being a big time school, but after a dominant Senior Bowl and combine, he was the pick. He has played in 59 of a possible 64 games since being drafted and has held his own for the most part. He struggled early in his career, but has come together for the most part.
Luke Joeckel was regarded as the top pick for months leading up to the draft until the last minute when Fisher sky rocketed boards above him. The former Texas A&M stand out was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars second overall. He has only played in 39 of a possible 64 games due to various injuries and when judging offensive line, a key factor is how healthy a guy has been. He hasn't looked like the dominant left tackle everyone was expecting to see straight out of college.
23 Who Is Better?
While neither of these tackles look like future Hall of Famers just yet, they both have tremendous upside.
However, when you look at something as simple as how many games they've played, the clear edge goes to Eric Fisher. He simply has been on the field more and able to help his team. Luke Joeckel even recently has switched teams. The Seattle Seahawks snagged him this past offseason during free agency. When picking a guy second overall in the draft, you have plans to keep him on the roster for longer than four years.
Fisher on the other hand, has been improving every season and still remains on the team that drafted him. That says a lot in this circumstance. Maybe Joeckel needed a fresh start in a place with much better talent and coaching than the Jaguars, but the early advantage goes to Fisher here.
22 Andrew Luck And Robert Griffin III (2012)
The Indianapolis Colts let Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, walk because they knew they were selecting first overall in the upcoming draft and that meant they would land Andrew Luck. To let a player of Manning's caliber walk, means the guy you plan to bring in must be something special. Well, Luck is indeed special. He has thrown for 19,078 yards, 132 touchdowns, and 68 picks while leading a Colts team with a revolving door as a defense.
Robert Griffin III was coming off of a Heisman season and was the more exciting explosive quarterback of the two in 2012. He was thought of so highly by the Washington Redskins that they decided to give three first-round picks and a second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams in order to move up the second spot and draft him. After two seasons it looked to be worth it after he led the Redskins to the playoffs his rookie year and had a strong second season before getting hurt.
21 Who Is Better?
Andrew Luck is the clear leader and franchise quarterback in Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III is currently unemployed.
Griffin III has not completed a full season since his rookie year and may never be the same player he once was after multiple knee and ankle injuries. Luck, on the other hand, has only missed nine games in five years due to injury. He has surpassed 4,000 yards passing in three of the five seasons as well. He has already become one of the leagues premier passers and has made it clear why he was selected first overall. Griffin III was just released by the Cleveland Browns recently. If he was unable to win the starting spot in Cleveland, I'm not sure where he can. He looks to be a manageable backup at this point. Andrew Luck is the better guy here and it's not even close.
20 Cam Newton And Von Miller (2011)
The Carolina Panthers desperately needed a franchise quarterback and were lucky enough to pick recent national champion from Auburn, Cam Newton. The combination of size and athleticism made him the clear number one overall pick. Newton exploded in his first year throwing for over 4,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also rushed for 14 touchdowns that year which is unheard of by a quarterback.
Von Miller is having quite the career as well. After going second overall to the Denver Broncos, Miller has emerged as arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL. The numbers support this as he has had double digit sacks in all six years of his career minus one, in 2013 where he missed seven games. He has become one of the most dominating defensive players in the league and can change games by himself alone.
19 Who Is Better?
This one is a lot closer than some of the previous drafts we have discussed to this point.
It's still not that close though. While Newton has enjoyed a successful career to this point, Miller has enjoyed a much more successful one. Cam's numbers have gone up and down while Von's have been rock steady over six years. Newton led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015 after an MVP season, but lost to you guessed it, the Broncos and eventual Super Bowl MVP, Von Miller. And we all remember how Miller gave Newton nightmares.
The numbers are there for both, but rings talk and Miller has one over Newton. It just so happens that they played each other in both of their one and only Super Bowl appearances thus far.
18 Sam Bradford And Ndamukong Suh (2010)
Before the Rams went all in on Jared Goff, they selected Heisman winning Oklahoma star, Sam Bradford. Bradford was expected to come in and be the guy to turn around the abysmal Rams. After a promising rookie year in which he threw for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns, the injury bug bit Bradford and never let go. Year after year Bradford battled injuries and would eventually find himself on the Philadelphia Eagles and now the Minnesota Vikings.
The Detroit Lions decided to select a force to anchor the middle of their defense when they chose Suh out of Nebraska second overall. He would immediately prove why he was chosen so high after posting 10 sacks in his rookie year. He has been a force up front ever since he entered the league. Regardless of his reputation as a dirty player, he is still putting up the numbers you would expect from a second overall pick.
17 Who Is Better?
This is another one that boils down mainly to who has been on the field longer.
Sam Bradford has not lived up to his potential due largely in part to being hurt so often. We are still waiting to see just how good he can be seven years later because we haven't seen him finish seasons consistently. His 62.3 percent career completion percentage says he his accurate enough to succeed when he is on the field. However, his yardage doesn't stack up which paints the picture that he doesn't push the ball down the field.
Suh has only missed two games in his career and has posted over 5 sacks in each season he's been in the league. That is consistency at its finest. Suh looks to be the better pick thus far.
16 Mathew Stafford And Jason Smith (2009)
Well, we have another no contest here.
The Detroit Lions needed a franchise quarterback and decided to take Mathew Stafford, the young gunslinger out of Georgia. That move is looking to be paying off quite nicely for the Lions thus far. It hasn't translated to playoff wins and titles, but Stafford is a clearly a franchise quarterback capable of getting the job done if given the right tools. He has thrown for over 30,000 yards already and 187 touchdowns.
Who is Jason Smith? The St. Louis Rams selected the tackle from Baylor with the second overall pick in 2009. The once tight end turned tackle, was viewed as a very athletic prospect who possibly could grow into something great. Unfortunately, he didn't grow into anything but one of the biggest busts in Rams history. He was eventually dealt to the New York Jets in 2012 and is not in the league anymore.
15 Who Is Better?
There might be only one other duo on this list where the gap is larger than this one. Stay tuned.
Mathew Stafford is a franchise quarterback and has continued to carry a Lions team that was a laughing stock for years. Sure, he hasn't won a playoff game yet or won an MVP award but he has posted some unreal stats in his eight year career to this point. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards in six of those seasons and even over 5,000 in 2011. After losing Calvin Johnson in 2015, some believed he would fall off. Well, all he did in 2016 was statistically have his best season yet where he threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns with only 10 picks.
Jason Smith is not on an NFL roster and hasn't been for years now. No debate here. Mathew Stafford wins by a landslide.
14 Jake Long And Chris Long (2008)
The Miami Dolphins chose Jake Long first overall and no one batted an eye. The Michigan tackle entered the NFL and became one of the premier left tackles in the game for four strong years. His play after that slowly started to decline due in large part to injuries. He hasn't completed a full season since 2010 and has only played in 15 games in the past three seasons. He has also been on three different teams in that span.
Chris Long was taken second overall by, you guessed it, the St. Louis Rams! They have become a frequent participant in this list. The versatile pass rushing end out of Virginia and son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, was unfortunate to be drafted by the Rams and be a part of many losing teams to start his career. While he never has jumped off the page as a dominant end, he has been solid through out his career. In 2011 and 2012 he posted his best sack numbers with 13 and 11.5.
13 Who Is Better?
This is a pretty close call. We can argue Jake Long was at the top of the left tackle list for the beginning of his career but has fallen off quite a bit. On the contrary, Chris Long has not been at the very top of the list, but has been productive steadily through out the past nine seasons. What does Chris have over Jake though? Hardware. Chris joined the New England Patriots last season and went on to win the Super Bowl with them. Yeah, he wasn't a dominant piece of that team, but a title is a title. In very close call, Chris Long gets the edge here. Unfortunately, injuries heavily derailed Jake Long's career, pushing him out of the top spot.
12 JaMarcus Russel And Calvin Johnson (2007)
Here it is folks. The largest gap on this list.
Remember when Mel Kiper Jr. said he thought JaMarcus Russel could be the next Joe Montana? Unfortunately, I think we all remember. To this day, I will not believe a word Kiper says. It's safe to say Russel will go down as one of the biggest if not the bust in NFL history. He was out of the league in just three short seasons where he only played in 31 games. He threw for 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions in his career. Fifth-round quarterbacks have put up better numbers in one season let alone the career of a number one overall pick.
Calvin "Megatron" Johnson also had a surprisingly short career. However, his career was short because he decided to walk away rather than not being good enough to play. Megatron still may go down as one of the best receivers to play the game even after only playing for nine seasons. He surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in seven of his nine years and his 1,964 yards in 2012 is the record for most single season receiving yards.
11 Who Is Better?
Calvin Johnson has had more impressive single games than JaMarcus Russel's entire career was.
This one is not even remotely close. Russel will go down as one of the worst whiffs in draft history while Johnson may even find himself in the Hall of Fame one day. There really is not much more to say on this, Megatron by a mile. It's just a shame that we won't be able to see Megatron play into his 30s and chase a championship. Johnson has repeatedly been asked if he would consider coming out of retirement and he's always said he's happy in retirement. Meanwhile JaMarcus Russell is only in quasi-retirement because no NFL team has been willing to sign him since the Raiders released him back in 2010.
10 Mario Williams And Reggie Bush (2006)
Reggie Bush will always be remembered as one of the most explosive backs in college football history. However, the Houston Texans decided to select Mario Williams, the elite pass rusher out of North Carolina State and that turned out to be a pretty good move. Williams went on to have 53 sacks for the Texans over six seasons before being signed by the Buffalo Bills. He spent four seasons with the Bills and is now currently on the Miami Dolphins. He has enjoyed a very successful career for the most part.
Reggie Bush simply did not live up to the hype coming out of USC. His highlights left people in awe and it was expected that he would continue to do so in the NFL. In fact, he has some great NFL highlights. He just doesn't have as many as you would think a second overall pick should have with his talent. In 11 seasons, he only rushed for 1,000 yards or more twice.
9 Who Is Better?
While Reggie Bush has had some moments in the NFL, Mario Williams has clearly been more productive over time. Bush's best days are well behind him.
Williams has 97.5 sacks, good for 34th all time. Reggie Bush, on the contrary, has 5,490 rush yards in his career. There are undrafted running backs that put up better numbers than that in five or six years. For a second overall pick, Bush dramatically underachieved and for that Mario Williams gets the nod here. While Reggie Bush has had a fairly successful NFL career, his stats just don't equate to what was expected by a second overall pick. Even if they only got a few productive years from him, the Texans made the right call by going with Williams.
8 Alex Smith And Ronnie Brown (2005)
Alex Smith was taken over Aaron Rodgers. That will always be the talk of the 2005 draft.
We have all seen what Alex Smith has done and it doesn't come close to what Rodgers does. Alex Smith is the definition of a game managing quarterback. He won't do much to completely lose games for his team, but he also won't do much more to help them win. He has taken both the 49ers and Chiefs to the playoffs multiple times and blown it multiple times. He just doesn't seem to be able to get over the hump.
Remember the first you seen the wildcat offense? Chances are Ronnie Brown was part of it. He was a very versatile back coming out of Auburn and is why the Miami Dolphins decided to select him with their second overall pick. However, much like Reggie Bush, Brown just didn't live up to the hype of a second overall pick. After leaving the Dolphins in 2010 he bounced around Eagles, Chargers, and Texans and never really caught on anywhere.
7 Who Is Better?
Neither one of these guys has really lived up to their position in the draft. It is tough to compare a running back and a quarterback because a running backs career lasts about less than half of that of a quarterback. Nonetheless, Alex Smith has been the better player.
Regardless of all the game managing he does, he is still a quality starter in the NFL. Ronnie Brown was mainly part of a gimmick offense and never really was able to flourish in a pro system. Brown only rushed for over 1,000 yards once in his career while Alex Smith has been one game away from a Super Bowl. It's not pretty, but with a solid body of work, Smith gets the win here.
6 Eli Manning And Robert Gallery (2004)
Ladies and gentlemen, another no brainer.
Eli Manning was drafted first overall by the New York Giants to be their franchise guy for years to come. He has done just that and more. He hasn't missed a game since he became the starter in his rookie season. He has been to four Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls where he was Super Bowl MVP both times. Who did he beat in those two Super Bowls? None other than the great Tom Brady. Say what you want about Eli manning, but he has two more rings than Dan Marino.
Robert Gallery does not have two rings. He did start all but one of his 104 career games, but never lived up to his potential. He was a part of an abysmal Raiders offensive line that ranked near the bottom of the league in sacks surrendered for most of his tenure with the team. He eventually would sign a three-year deal with the Seahawks, but be released after just one season after disappointing again. The Patriots would be the last team to take a chance on him, but he retired and never played a down for them.
5 Who Is Better?
Now this isn't quite Calvin Johnson over JaMarcus Russel, but it's not that far off.
Eli Manning has brought the Giants two Super Bowls and continues to have them in contention. Gallery is not in the league anymore after a disappointing career. Manning has 48,214 yards and 320 touchdowns in his career thus far. If he is able to capture another ring, we may have to start the Hall of Fame talks. He may always be underneath his brother Peyton, but don't forget they both have the same amount of Super Bowls.
Gallery is another second overall pick that just never lived up to the hype. This has looked like it has happened quite often in recent years. Eli Manning takes it in another landslide.
4 Carson Palmer And Charles Rogers (2003)
Well, we have another no contest here.
The former Heisman winner Carson Palmer was chosen first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. He has had a very successful career to this point. He doesn't have a Super Bowl win and only one playoff win which is the main knock on him. To this point in his career, he has 44,269 yards and 285 touchdowns. That sounds like a decent career in my eyes.
There was what seemed like a five-year stretch that the Detroit Lions selected receivers with top picks and they didn't pan out. The man at the top of that list is Charles Rogers out of Michigan State. After a promising start to his rookie season, he broke his collarbone and was out on injured reserve. It is said that after that he became addicted to prescription drugs and marijuana. The following year he broke his collarbone again and well, the rest is history. He never played another down in the league.
3 Who Is Better?
Carson Palmer has thrown for more yards in single games than Rogers had receiving in his entire career.
This one is not close at all. While Palmer is regarded as not being able to win the big games, at least he is still in games. He has been in the league for 14 seasons which is the same number of receptions Rogers had in his final NFL season. Are you catching on yet? It's truly a shame that drugs got to Charles Rogers because he could have been something special.
The injury bug has claimed a good amount of victims on this list and Rogers is just another example. Palmer is still playing and may one day get to the big game, who knows? What we do know, however, is that he is the better player here.
2 David Carr And Julius Peppers (2002)
It's only fitting we end the list with another clear winner.
The Houston Texans desperately needed a franchise quarterback and believed they had their guy when they chose David Carr out of Fresno State with the first overall pick. If only they knew what they were getting themselves into. Carr underachieved in his career from day one. He just didn't transition to the NFL smoothly. After 2006, the Texans noticed this as well as they parted ways and Carr would go on to be a backup for the Panthers, Giants and briefly the 49ers. He is out of the NFL now and ended his career with 14,452 yards and 65 touchdowns.
Julius Peppers will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He is fifth all time in sacks with 143.5 and still counting as he is still currently playing for the Carolina Panthers again. He brings massive size as well as finesse to his pass rushing game and the entire league has fallen victim to it at one point or another.
1 Who Is Better?
In a close call the future Hall of Famer gets the edge over the biggest bust in Texan history.
David Carr never worked out in Texas or anywhere else in the NFL. He wasn't on the same level at JaMarcus Russel, but still a bust nonetheless. The Texans, actually, are still searching for their quarterback. It is crazy to think that they were able to find a guy like Arian Foster, who went undrafted, but they missed on the number one overall pick in the draft.
Julius Peppers has been dominating the NFL since his first season way back in 2002. He will be remembered as one of the best defensive players in NFL history. He hasn't missed many games at all from injury and has been consistent throughout. He has only had less than seven sacks one time in his 15 seasons. That is the definition of consistency.
Peppers over Carr in a landslide to close out the list.