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All the No 1 Overall Picks in NFL Draft History

Being the NFL first overall pick in the draft is an honor that only 88 players have shared. While some have been able to churn out some of the most promising careers in the pros, including 14 earning Hall of Fame honors, some others have fallen as flat on their faces as flat can be.

Yes, JaMarcus Russell (2007), I’m talking about you. I’ll be damned if there’s ever a day where I don’t remember you as the biggest flop to be selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft.

All the No 1 Overall Picks in NFL Draft History
Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway/Timothy A CLARY / AFP

Even if we’re weeks away from the event, I can already hear Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing who the Chicago Bears, owners of this year’s No. 1 draft pick, will select.

For now, let’s look back at all the prior first-overall picks in the history of the draft.

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3 Best No.1 Picks Of All Time

1. QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (1997)

I think many can agree on the fact that besides being one of America’s favorite athletes/TV commercial stars, former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is the best No. 1 pick in the history of the NFL draft.

Not only is Manning one of the greatest passers of all time, the probability of him making NFL betting lines fanatics a fat wad of cash back in the day was pretty high.

With two Super Bowl titles to his name with the Colts and Denver Broncos, as well as five regular-season MVP awards – a record that stands to this day – as well as an immense number of accolades to his name, Manning will always be the best first pick in draft history.




2. QB John Elway, Denver Broncos (1983)

Former Broncos legend John Elway’s career was destined for absolute greatness ever since the moment he decided to refuse going to the Baltimore Colts, who picked him first overall in the 1983 draft . Elway held out until getting traded to another team – in this case Denver.

What would follow would be five trips to the Super Bowl, including two wins in his last years in the NFL. Combined with one of the best overall careers for a passer in league history, Elway has a case as one of the best No.1 NFL picks ever.

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3. DE Bruce Smith, Buffalo Bills (1985)

We could sit down and argue for a lifetime about who was the best defensive player drafted No. 1 overall. My nod goes to the NFL’s sack behemoth, Bruce Smith, who was the top pick in a class that included San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice at No. 16.

Even back in 1985, NFL news outlets featured a chorus of critics bashing Buffalo’s decision to draft Smith, who went on to amass 200 career sacks, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, eight First-Team All Pro nods and 11 Pro Bowl selections in 15 seasons. That should be enough proof that Smith was the best pick Buffalo could have selected.

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Full List Of No.1 Picks Of All Time

  • 2023: QB Bryce Young, Alabama, Carolina Panthers
  • 2022: DE Travon Walker, Georgia, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • 2021: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson, Jaguars
  • 2020: QB Joe Burrow, LSU, Cincinnati Bengals
  • 2019: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, Arizona Cardinals
  • 2018: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, Cleveland Browns
  • 2017: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M, Browns
  • 2016: QB Jared Goff, Cal, Los Angeles Rams
  • 2015: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • 2014: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, Houston Texans
  • 2013: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, Kansas City Chiefs
  • 2012: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford, Indianapolis Colts
  • 2011: QB Cam Newton, Auburn, Panthers
  • 2010: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, St Louis Rams
  • 2009: QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia, Detroit Lions
  • 2008: OT Jake Long, Michigan, Miami Dolphins
  • 2007: QB JaMarcus Russell, LSU, Oakland Raiders
  • 2006: DE Mario Williams, North Carolina State, Texans
  • 2005: QB Alex Smith, Utah, San Francisco 49ers
  • 2004: QB Eli Manning, Ole Miss, San Diego Chargers
  • 2003: QB Carson Palmer, USC, Bengals
  • 2002: QB David Carr, Fresno State, Texans
  • 2001: QB Michael Vick, Virginia Tech, Atlanta Falcons
  • 2000: DE Courtney Brown, Penn State, Browns
  • 1999: QB Tim Couch, Kentucky, Browns
  • 1998: QB Peyton Manning, Tennessee, Colts
  • 1997: OT Orlando Pace, Ohio State, Rams
  • 1996: WR Keyshawn Johnson, USC, New York Jets
  • 1995: HB Ki-Jana Carter, Penn State, Bengals
  • 1994: DT Dan Wilkinson, Ohio State, Bengals
  • 1993: QB Drew Bledsoe, Washington State, New England Patriots
  • 1992: DE Steve Emtman, Washington, Colts
  • 1991: DT Russell Maryland, Miami (FL), Dallas Cowboys
  • 1990: QB Jeff George, Illinois, Colts
  • 1989: QB Troy Aikman, UCLA, Cowboys
  • 1988: LB Aundray Bruce, Auburn, Falcons
  • 1987: QB Vinny Testaverde, Miami (FL), Buccaneers
  • 1986: HB Bo Jackson, Auburn, Buccaneers
  • 1985: DE Bruce Smith, Virginia Tech, Buffalo Bills
  • 1984: WR Irving Fryar, Nebraska, Patriots
  • 1983: QB John Elway, Stanford, Colts
  • 1982: DE Kenneth Sims, Texas, Patriots
  • 1981: HB George Rogers, South Carolina, New Orleans Saints
  • 1980: HB Billy Sims, Oklahoma, Lions
  • 1979: LB Tom Cousineau, Ohio State, Bills
  • 1978: HB Earl Campbell, Texas, Houston Oilers
  • 1977: HB Ricky Bell, USC, Buccaneers
  • 1976: DE Lee Roy Selmon, Oklahoma, Buccaneers
  • 1975: QB Steve Bartkowski, Cal, Falcons
  • 1974: DE Ed Jones, Tennessee State, Cowboys
  • 1973: DE John Matuszak, Tampa, Oilers
  • 1972: DE Walt Patulski, Notre Dame, Bills
  • 1971: QB Jim Plunkett, Stanford, Patriots
  • 1970: QB Terry Bradshaw, Louisiana Tech, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 1969: HB O.J. Simpson, USC, Bills
  • 1968: OT Ron Yary, USC, Minnesota Vikings
  • 1967: DE Bubba Smith, Michigan State, Colts
  • 1966: LB Tommy Nobis, Texas, Falcons
  • 1965: HB Tucker Frederickson, Auburn, New York Giants
  • 1964: WR Dave Parks, Texas Tech, 49ers
  • 1963: QB Terry Baker, Oregon State, Rams
  • 1962: HB Ernie Davis, Syracuse, Washington Redskins
  • 1961: HB Tommy Mason, Tulane, Vikings
  • 1960: HB Billy Cannon, LSU, Rams
  • 1959: QB Randy Duncan, Iowa, Green Bay Packers
  • 1958: QB King Hill, Rice, Chicago Cardinals
  • 1957: HB Paul Hornung, Notre Dame, Packers
  • 1956: DB Gary Glick, Colorado A&M, Steelers
  • 1955: QB George Shaw, Oregon, Colts
  • 1954: QB Bobby Garrett, Stanford, Browns
  • 1953: OE Harry Babcock, Georgia, 49ers
  • 1952: QB Bill Wade, Vanderbilt, Rams
  • 1951: HB Kyle Rote, SMU, Giants
  • 1950: OE Leon Hart, Notre Dame, Lions
  • 1949: C/LB Chuck Bednarik, Penn, Eagles
  • 1948: HB/WR Harry Gilmer, Alabama, Washington
  • 1947: HB Bob Fenimore, Oklahoma A&M, Chicago Bears
  • 1946: QB Frank Dancewicz, Notre Dame, Yanks
  • 1945: HB Charley Trippi, Georgia, Cardinals
  • 1944: QB Angelo Bertelli, Notre Dame, Boston Yanks
  • 1943: HB Frank Sinkwich, Georgia, Lions
  • 1942: HB Bill Dudley, Virginia, Steelers
  • 1941: HB Tom Harmon, Michigan, Bears
  • 1940: HB George Cafego, Tennessee, Cardinals
  • 1939: C Ki Aldrich, TCU, Cardinals
  • 1938: FB Corbett Davis, Indiana, Rams
  • 1937: FB Sam Francis, Nebraska, Eagles
  • 1936: HB Jay Berwanger, Chicago, Eagles




Questions Of The Day

Which Team Holds The No.1 Pick In The 2024 NFL Draft?

For the 2024 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears hold the No.1 overall pick, with USC Caleb Williams slated as the favorite to be picked first according to our odds at BetUS Sportsbook.

What Position Is Picked The Most As First Overall In The NFL Draft?

Quarterback is the position that has been picked the most as first overall in the NFL Draft throughout history.


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