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The last 21 No. 1 picks from the NFL Draft, ranked by their success

·10 min read
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Andrew Luck is selected with the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
Andrew Luck. AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
  • The NFL Draft's top pick is one of the most valuable assets in the NFL.

  • Star players have been selected first overall, including Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Michael Vick.

  • Check out our full ranking of every first overall draft pick since 2001 below.

21. JaMarcus Russell - 2007

JaMarcus Russell fumbles the ball against the Atlanta Falcons.
JaMarcus Russell. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Position: QB

Drafted out of: LSU

Drafted by: Oakland Raiders

Career earnings: $39,365,000

One thing to know: JaMarcus Russell started just 25 games in his NFL career, going a dismal 7-18 in those starts. He finished his career, completing just 52.1% of his passes. Simply put, this was not a great pick.

20. Sam Bradford - 2010

Sam Bradford makes a throw for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018.
Sam Bradford. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Oklahoma

Drafted by: St. Louis Rams

Career earnings: $130,022,863

One thing to know: In his eight years in the NFL, Sam Bradford had a winning record just once, when he got off to a 2-0 start with the Vikings in 2017 before going down with a season-ending injury. Bradford finished his career with a record of 34-48-1. Despite his underwhelming performance, just 21 players in NFL history have made more money on the field.

19. Trevor Lawrence - 2021

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence looks for a receiver against the Cleveland Browns.
Trevor Lawrence. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Clemson

Drafted by: Jacksonville Jaguars

Career earnings: $24,778,900

One thing to know: Through his high school and college career as a starting quarterback, Trevor Lawrence lost just four games. He then began his NFL career with the Jaguars by losing five straight. Still, the future looks rather bright for the 2021 first overall draft pick.

18. David Carr - 2002

David Carr is drafted by the Houston Texans with the first overall pick of the 2002 NFL Draft.
David Carr. Al Bello/Getty Images

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Fresno State

Drafted by: Houston Texans

Career earnings: $40,000,000

One thing to know: David Carr was the first-ever draft pick of the expansion Houston Texans. As a starter, Carr was never able to lead the Texans to a winning record, but that wasn't entirely on him — in three of his first four seasons, Carr was the most sacked quarterback in the NFL. Carr still holds the record for taking the most sacks in a single season, having been brought to the ground a whopping 76 times in his rookie year.

17. Joe Burrow - 2020

Joe Burrow calls a play against the Chicago Bears.
Joe Burrow. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Position: QB

Drafted out of: LSU

Drafted by: Cincinnati Bengals

Career earnings: $26,727,373

One thing to know: The Bengals drafted Burrow with their first overall pick in 2020, then took his college teammate Ja'Marr Chase to catch passes from him in the first round the following year. Burrow and Chase linked up for 20 touchdown passes en route to a national championship with LSU in 2019. Back together in the NFL, they're set to smash that number.

16. Jameis Winston - 2015

Jameis Winston points to the sky before a game against the Washington Football Team.
Jameis Winston. AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Florida State

Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Career earnings: $52,780,894

One thing to know: In 2019, his final season as the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jameis Winston led the NFL in both passing yards (5,109) and interceptions (30). No stat will ever better exemplify the Jameis Winston experience.

15. Jadeveon Clowney - 2014

Jadeveon Clowney is selected as the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.
Jadeveon Clowney. AP Photo/Gregory Payan

Position: DE

Drafted out of: South Carolina

Drafted by: Houston Texans

Career earnings: $70,773,336

One thing to know: Jadeveon Clowney has had a solid, but not spectacular NFL career. He cleared 9 sacks in both 2017 and 2018 with the Houston Texans, but other than that has not dominated the way he did in college, which made him the first overall choice in a draft that included the likes of Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald.

14. Jake Long - 2008

Jake Long walks onto the field for the Miami Dolphins.
Jake Long. AP Photo/Hans Deryk

Position: OT

Drafted out of: Michigan

Drafted by: Miami Dolphins

Career earnings: $71,120,003

One thing to know: Jake Long was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. After than initial stretch of brilliance, injuries nagged at Long for the remainder of his career, with stints with the Rams, Falcons, Ravens, and Vikings, before ultimately announcing his retirement in 2017.

13. Jared Goff - 2016

jared goff draft
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Images

Position: QB

Drafted out of: California

Drafted by: St. Louis Rams

Career earnings: $108,891,068

One thing to know: Jared Goff began his career with the Los Angeles Rams with Jeff Fisher as his head coach. After going 0-7 as a starter in his rookie season, Goff linked up with new Rams head coach Sean McVay and found great success, reaching the Super Bowl in 2019. Then in the 2020 offseason, Goff was traded to the Detroit Lions, where he started his new stint with six straight losses. Without McVay by his side, Goff simply has not been able to win.

12. Baker Mayfield - 2018

Baker Mayfield prepares for a game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Baker Mayfield. AP Photo/David Richard

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Oklahoma

Drafted by: Cleveland Browns

Career earnings: $33,048,675

One thing to know: Baker Mayfield famously started his college career as a walk-on at Texas Tech. After a transfer to Oklahoma, Mayfield won the Heisman, was the first overall pick in the draft, and after four years in the league, is set for a monster extension that could put him close to $200 million in career earnings. Quite a journey.

11. Myles Garrett - 2017

Myles Garrett
AP Photo/Kirk Irwin

Position: DE

Drafted out of: Texas A&M

Drafted by: Cleveland Browns

Career earnings: $68,274,426

One thing to know: Through just five seasons in the NFL, Myles Garrett has already established himself as one of the greatest defensive players in Browns history and looks on pace to set the franchise record in sacks by the end of 2023.

10. Kyler Murray - 2019

Kyler Murray applauds before a game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Kyler Murray. AP Photo/Kyusung Gong

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Oklahoma

Drafted by: Arizona Cardinals

Career earnings: $30,246,386

One thing to know: Kyler Murray is only in his third season as a starting quarterback but has already had eight games in which he's thrown for two touchdowns and rushed for another, putting him in the top 20 all-time for that specific statistic. Cam Newton is the all-time leader with 21 such games; a mark Murray could clear over the next few years.

9. Mario Williams - 2006

Mario Williams reacts after a play against the Miami Dolphins.
Mario Williams. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Position: DE

Drafted out of: North Carolina State

Drafted by: Houston Texans

Career earnings: $120,400,000

One thing to know: Mario Williams might not be remembered as fondly as J.J. Watt will be by the Houston Texans, but Williams was quite productive in his time with the franchise. Williams had a whopping 14 sacks in his sophomore season, finished his time in Houston with 53 sacks in 82 career games, and still ranks third all-time for the franchise. Williams went on to have two more extremely productive seasons in Buffalo and was named as a first-team All-Pro in 2014.

8. Eric Fisher - 2013

Eric Fisher holds a block against the Houston Texans.
Eric Fisher. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Position: OT

Drafted out of: Central Michigan

Drafted by: Kansas City Chiefs

Career earnings: $79,373,459

One thing to know: When you draft an offensive tackle first overall, what you are looking for is consistency, and Eric Fisher has been nothing but consistent during his time in the league. Fisher was named to the Pro Bowl as a starter for the Chiefs when they won the Super Bowl in 2018 and received Pro Bowl honors again in 2020. In the first six years of his career, Fisher missed just two games. He was released by the Chiefs at the end of the 2020 season and signed a one-year deal with the Colts.

7. Carson Palmer - 2003

Carson Palmer makes a throw against the Baltimore Ravens.
Carson Palmer. AP Photo/Nick Wass

Position: QB

Drafted out of: USC

Drafted by: Cincinnati Bengals

Career earnings: $174,148,722

One thing to know: Carson Palmer never won a playoff game for the Bengals, but he did help turn things around in Cincinnati for a time, producing winning seasons for the franchise in 2005 and 2009. Before drafting Palmer, the Bengals hadn't witnessed a winning season since 1990.

6. Alex Smith - 2005

Alex Smith is drafted with the first overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
Alex Smith. Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Utah

Drafted by: San Francisco 49ers

Career earnings: $189,725,000

One thing to know: Alex Smith lived as full a football life as any player in history.

Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, Smith battled through injuries and a constantly changing front office until the team finally found its form in 2011, leading the team to a 13-3 record. The following year, Smith was usurped for the starting job by Colin Kaepernick and was later traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Smith again found success with the Chiefs before eventually losing the starting job to Patrick Mahomes, prompting another move to Washington.

In the nation's capital, Smith was once again putting in a good season when he suffered a devastating leg injury that looked to be career-ending. Smith rehabbed and fought his way back onto the field, and in 2020, he was able to start six games after Washington's scheduled starter Kyle Allen went down with an injury of his own. Smith went 5-1 in six starts in 2020 and was named Comeback Player of the Year.

5. Michael Vick - 2001

Michael Vick escapes a tackle against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Michael Vick. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Virginia Tech

Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons

Career earnings: $115,952,908

One thing to know: Michael Vick is one of the most dynamic players in NFL history, with game-breaking speed and a cannon arm to match. At the height of his career, he was untouchable, writing the model for how mobile quarterbacks of the current generation would come to dominate in their own way. He might not be the top-ranked first overall pick, but he was likely the most revolutionary.

4. Matthew Stafford - 2009

Matthew Stafford motions against the Chicago Bears.
Matthew Stafford. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Georgia

Drafted by: Detroit Lions

Career earnings: $246,506,037

One thing to know: Matthew Stafford spent 12 years with the Detroit Lions, putting up stellar numbers for a team that just couldn't win. Paired with Calvin Johnson for the first half of his career, Stafford was a force, including a 2011 season where he threw for 5,083 yards and 41 touchdowns. Now with the Rams, Stafford is leading a Super Bowl contender.

3. Andrew Luck - 2012

Andrew Luck is selected with the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
Andrew Luck. AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Stanford

Drafted by: Indianapolis Colts

Career earnings: $109,107,998

One thing to know: Before he announced his sudden departure from the NFL, Andrew Luck was one of the best passers in the NFL. After a string of injuries interrupted the latter half of his career, Luck announced his retirement suddenly during the middle of a preseason game just before the 2019 season.

2. Cam Newton - 2011

Cam Newton celebrates after a touchdown in 2015.
Cam Newton. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Auburn

Drafted by: Carolina Panthers

Career earnings: $129,045,071

One thing to know: Cam Newton was, for a time, the most unstoppable player in football. In 2015, Newton led the Panthers to a 15-1 regular-season record, throwing for 35 touchdowns and rushing for 10 more. The 2015 Panthers would ultimately fall short in Super Bowl 50, losing to the Denver Broncos 24-10.

1. Eli Manning - 2004

Eli Manning lifts the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLVI.
Eli Manning. Larry French/Getty Images

Position: QB

Drafted out of: Ole Miss

Drafted by: New York Giants

Career earnings: $252,280,004

One thing to know: Eli Manning won two Super Bowls, beating Tom Brady not once, but twice in the title fight. Along with his brother Peyton and former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, Eli Manning is one of just three quarterbacks in NFL history to have beaten Brady twice in the playoffs.

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