The NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the top pick is more than likely going to be a quarterback. Which one still remains to be seen, and it’s still a hot topic for debate, but this gives us a chance to look back on some of the great (and not so great) signal callers that have gone No.1 overall in recent years. Here they are, ranked from worst to first.
- 12. JaMarcus Russell (2007)
Career: 52.1Cmp%, 4083Yds, 18TD, 23Int, 7-18 Record
Russell is often up there with Ryan Leaf in the discussion of biggest busts in NFL history. When looking back on his career with the Oakland Raiders, it isn’t hard to see why. Russell struggled to remain in football shape throughout his career in Oakland, and was often criticized for his work ethic, (or lack thereof). His tremendous arm strength and ideal size made scouts drool coming out of college, but those attributes alone weren’t enough to save him. In the end, he simply lacked the passion and desire necessary to be a successful NFL quarterback. He played three seasons with the Raiders before being released in 2009, effectively ending his career.
- 11. David Carr (2002)
Career: 59.7Cmp%, 14452Yds, 65TD, 71Int, 23-56 Record
Many people forget Derek Carr had an older brother, which should probably tell you something about his career. The elder Carr was the Houston Texans top pick as an expansion team in 2002. He played five mediocre years there before bouncing around in Carolina, New York, and San Francisco as a backup. He retired after the 2012 season.
- 10. Sam Bradford (2010)
Career: 62.5Cmp%, 19049Yds, 101TD, 57Int, 34-45-1 Record
If you were going to sum up Bradford’s career in one word, that word would be injuries. He has missed a total of 41 games due to injury, and in his 8-year career, has only played in 16 games twice. When he does play, he is sometimes brilliant, other times forgettable, or worse. Bradford had injury concerns coming out of college, having missed his final season at Oklahoma with a shoulder injury. The Rams decided to look the other way, but no matter how hard he tried, he could never buck the injury bug that has always plagued him. Even when healthy, he never achieved the consistency expected of a franchise quarterback, much less a no.1 pick.
- 9. Jared Goff (2016)
Career: 59.8Cmp%, 4893Yds, 33TD, 14Int, 11-11 Record
Rating Goff on this scale may seem premature given he has only been in the league two seasons, but I think it’s easy to see where his career is headed. Goff is unquestionably on the rise after a strong sophomore performance that followed a disastrous rookie campaign. Of course, he has help from Todd Gurley and a strong supporting cast that now includes Brandin Cooks. The Rams had to have been worried about Goff after his rookie season, but after last year, it’s safe to say those concerns have been alleviated.
- 8. Jameis Winston (2015)
Career: 60.8Cmp%, 11636Yds, 69TD, 44Int, 18-27 Record
Winston’s career has been a bit of a mixed bag. There were concerns over his turnover issues coming out of college, and those issues have followed him, but he was the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards in his first two seasons in the league. There were also concerns over his character, and although those weren’t completely unwarranted, he has done little to suggest it will be that much of an issue going forward. A shoulder injury threw Winston off his game a bit last season, and he will be looking to rebound this year.
- 7. Alex Smith (2005)
Career: 62.4Cmp%, 31888Yds, 183TD, 96Int, 88-62-1 Record
Smith’s career got off to a rather pedestrian start. He spent seven seasons in San Francisco before getting injured and losing his starting job to Colin Kaepernick. Once he was traded to Kansas City however, things began to pick up for him. He led the team to their first playoff victory in over 20 years, and has had a winning record in each of his five seasons there, making the playoffs in four of them. Smith might not be the most glamorous guy out there, but he gets the job done, and finding a guy who can do that is a lot harder than people think.
- 6. Carson Palmer (2003)
Career: 62.5Cmp%, 46247Yds, 294TD, 187Int, 92-88-1 Record
Palmer’s career began with a lot of promise. He led the NFL in touchdown passes in 2005, and looked on track to join the league’s elite tier of quarterbacks. Unfortunately, he suffered a devastating knee injury in the playoffs that season, and was never quite the same after that. He played eight up-and-down seasons in Cincinnati before demanding a trade after the 2010 season. He then spent a few years in Oakland before landing in Arizona, where he would briefly revitalize his career under then Head Coach Bruce Arians. He retired at the end of last season, and will be remembered by most as a good QB who could have been great if a few things had gone differently.
- 5. Matthew Stafford (2009)
Career: 62.0Cmp%, 34749Yds, 216TD, 118Int, 60-65 Record
Stafford was the Lions top pick after going 0-16 in 2008. While he has put together some great statistical seasons and won quite a bit of games, there is little remaining enthusiasm surrounding him. Once considered to be the city’s savior, Stafford is now seen as another Tony Romo. Someone who will put up big numbers, and win some games for you, but will rarely deliver when it counts. Like Romo, the biggest knock against Stafford is his lack of postseason success. He has just three playoff appearances and no victories.
- 4. Andrew Luck (2012)
Career: 59.2Cmp%, 19078Yds, 132TD, 68Int, 43-27 Record
Luck’s career started off with a bang. He made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, reaching the AFC championship in 2015, and led the NFL in touchdown passes in 2014. For a while, it looked as if the void left by Peyton Manning in Indianapolis could be filled after all. However, Luck began to struggle with injuries in the 2015 season, and hasn’t really played like himself since then. He will be looking to get back on track this year, while also trying to restore the Colts to playoff contender status.
- 3. Michael Vick (2001)
Career: 56.2Cmp%, 22464Yds, 133TD, 88Int, 61-51-1 Record, 6109 Rush Yds, 36 Rush TD
Vick was one of the most electrifying players of his era, and in the entire history of the NFL. The Falcons traded up four spots to select him with the first pick, and he was worth every penny during his six seasons in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the prime of his career was cut short due to the notorious dogfighting scandal. Vick rebounded and spent four seasons with the Eagles, which redeemed his public image a bit. Still, he will always be remembered for his insane highlight reels and the way he transformed the quarterback position.
- 2. Eli Manning (2004)
Career: 59.8Cmp%, 51682Yds, 339TD, 228Int, 111-103 Record
Eli Manning is an interesting enigma. On one hand, he is the only player on this list to win a Super Bowl, (two of them, in fact). On the other hand, his play has been consistently mediocre aside from those two magical runs. Manning was originally selected as the top pick by the Chargers, but he refused to play for them, and was traded to the Giants for Philip Rivers, who many would argue is the better quarterback despite not having nearly as much postseason success. Manning played his best when the lights shined brightest, which was always his brother Peyton’s biggest weakness, but he also denied himself many opportunities to reach those bright lights in the first place. He should hope more people remember the former when he is being considered for a spot in Canton.
- 1. Cam Newton (2011)
Career: 58.5Cmp%, 25074Yds, 158TD, 94Int, 62-45-1 Record, 4320 Rush Yds, 54 Rush TD
A lot of people would argue Eli should be number 1 on this list, with Newton at 2, but Newton gets the nod here, not only because he is the only one on this list to win an MVP, but also because he is far from finished. Newton brings a dominating physical presence to the position that few others have matched. Built like a linebacker, he can run over, as well as around, most defenders. His running ability, coupled with his exceptional arm talent has helped him lead the Panthers to four playoff appearances, three division titles, and one Super Bowl. If he can stay healthy enough, he should have Panthers fans cheering for years to come.