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NFL Draft: How have No. 1 QBs fared?

How often are quarterbacks taken with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft? The likely choice of USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the first selection of the 2024 NFL Draft this April will make it 20 quarterbacks taken with the top overall pick in the past 30 drafts. The results, though, have been decidedly mixed. Here’s a closer look at the last 19 quarterbacks taken atop the NFL draft . . .

2023 – Bryce Young – Carolina Panthers

The jury is obviously still out on Young, as it’s been just one season since he was selected first overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, that one season was ugly, with a 2-14 record, just 11 touchdown passes in 16 games, and a passer rating of 73.7. Second overall pick C.J. Stroud of the Texans is already looking like the superior selection, with 23 touchdowns and a playoff victory.

2021 – Trevor Lawrence – Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence went from 3-14 in his first season with the Jaguars in 2021 to 17-16 (with a playoff victory and a Pro Bowl selection in 2022) over the past two seasons, including 46 touchdown passes against 22 interceptions. Plus, the next two picks in the 2021 draft were quarterbacks Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. That has the Jaguars pretty confident they made the right choice with Lawrence.

2020 – Joe Burrow – Cincinnati Bengals

With Burrow having already made one Super Bowl and two AFC Championship Game appearances it’s obvious that the Bengals have been happy with this selection – even if his 2023 campaign was cut short due to a wrist injury. After going 2-7-1 in his rookie season Burrow has gone 27-15 since then during the regular season, and he’s picked up five postseason victories so far in his career.

2019 – Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals

Murray threw for 20 touchdowns and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year in his first season, went 17-13 and led the Cardinals to a 2021 playoff berth over his next two seasons, but has managed to play just 19 games and pick up six wins over the past two years. Murray will be looking to get back to full health for 2024 and prove he belongs in the discussion with the league’s top QBs.

2018 – Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns

Mayfield showed flashes over his four seasons with the Browns – especially during his 2020 campaign when the team went 11-5 and played a pair of playoff games. But a regression by Mayfield in 2021 led to Cleveland trading for Deshaun Watson and sending Mayfield to Carolina. Mayfield split 2022 between the Panthers and Rams, then took the Buccaneers to the playoffs last season.

2016 – Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams

Goff spent five seasons with the Rams and led them to three playoff appearances, but just one of them produced any results as they advanced to the Super Bowl in 2018 (losing to the Patriots and scoring just three points in the process). Prior to the 2021 season Goff was dealt to the Lions, and he managed to lead Detroit to an NFC Championship Game berth against the Niners last year.

2015  – Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston played five seasons with the Buccaneers, making zero playoff appearances and getting a reputation as an interception machine – he threw for an incredible 30 interceptions in his final season in Tampa Bay in 2019, against 33 touchdowns. Moving on to the Saints for the past four seasons, Winston started just 10 games over that stretch and threw just one postseason pass.

2012 – Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts

Luck burst out of the gates for the Colts, throwing for over 4,300 yards as a rookie and leading the team to 11-5 records in each of his first three seasons – capped by an AFC Championship Game appearance in 2014 after he threw 40 touchdown passes during the regular season. In 2019, though, Luck shocked the league by announcing his retirement, citing his history of injuries.

2011 – Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers

Newton threw for over 4,000 yards and rushed for 14 touchdowns as a rookie for the Panthers in 2011, and led the team to the Super Bowl (which they lost to the Broncos) in an MVP campaign in 2015 in which he threw for 35 touchdowns and the team went 15-1. Newton also holds the NFL record for rushing TDs by a quarterback (75), in a career that was up-and-down for team success.

2010 – Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams

Bradford underwhelmed in his five seasons with the Rams, going 18-30-1 and ending his tenure with the team with a pair of ACL injuries in 2013 and 2014. He resumed his career in 2015 with the Eagles, then played a pair of seasons for the Vikings and another season for the Cardinals in 2018 – his last games in the NFL. The next six players taken after Bradford in 2010 made the Pro Bowl.

2009 – Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions

Stafford is one of only four quarterbacks on this list to win the Super Bowl – but he did it with the Rams, not the Lions, after he was traded prior to the 2021 season for Goff and three draft picks. Overall Stafford is just 98-107-1 in his NFL career during the regular season, and his only four playoff wins came in that Super Bowl year with the Rams, but he’s had a long run as a starting quarterback.

2007 – JaMarcus Russell – Oakland Raiders

Russell held out through training camp in his first season with the Raiders, and Oakland fans probably look back at that time with more fondness than the rest of his career with the team – which lasted just three seasons and he was then out of football. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson and offensive tackle Joe Thomas, both Hall of Fame players, were the next two players taken that draft.

2005 – Alex Smith – San Francisco 49ers

Smith might be best remembered for the gruesome leg injury he suffered late in his career with Washington, and he also missed the entire 2008 season with the Niners with a shoulder injury. Still, Smith managed to play 14 seasons in the NFL for San Francisco, Kansas City, and Washington, winning 99 regular-season games. Aaron Rodgers went with the No. 24 pick in the draft that year.

2004 – Eli Manning – San Diego Chargers

Eli Manning was technically drafted by the Chargers, but since he had declared he would not sign with that franchise he was sent to the Giants in a pre-arranged deal involving fellow 2004 quarterback draft pick Philip Rivers. Eli Manning would go on to win two Super Bowl championships with the Giants over his 16 years with the team, also winning the Super Bowl MVP award twice.

2003 – Carson Palmer – Cincinnati Bengals

Despite being a first overall pick Palmer didn’t see the field during his rookie season in 2003. Taking over as the team’s starting quarterback in 2004, Palmer had some regular season success but zero playoff success with the Bengals, going 0-2 in two postseason games over eight years. Palmer then played a couple of seasons with the Raiders and finished out his career with five years in Arizona.

2002 – David Carr – Houston Texans

Carr is surprisingly the third of four quarterbacks on this list to be a Super Bowl champion, but he got his ring with the Giants for a 2011 season in which he played zero snaps behind Eli Manning. Carr’s five years with the Texans saw him put up a dismal record of 22-53, and he started just four more games after that while bouncing around from the Panthers, Giants, Niners, and Giants again.

2001 – Michael Vick – Atlanta Falcons

An incredible talent, off-the-field issues obviously derailed Vick’s career and put an abrupt end to his time with the Falcons – in his final season with Atlanta in 2006 he threw for 20 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,000 yards. Vick came back to the NFL after two years away in 2009 to join the Eagles before ending his career with one-year stints with the Jets and the Steelers in 2014 and 2015.

1999 – Tim Couch – Cleveland Browns

Couch lasted only five seasons with the Browns (and five seasons in the league in total), posting a career passer rating of 75.1 as he dealt with injuries and a lack of talent on then-expansion Cleveland’s roster. Even worse, the Eagles drafted quarterback Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick in 1999, and he went on to have a solid career for Philadelphia over 13 total seasons.

1998 – Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning is the most accomplished member of this list by far, winning the Super Bowl twice (once with the Colts, once with the Broncos), earning NFL MVP honors five times, going to the Pro Bowl 14 times, and being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Peyton Manning went 186-79 over his 17-season NFL career, throwing for over 500 touchdowns (539) and over 70,000 yards.

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With zero championships between his MLB, NHL, and NFL teams over the last 30 years, Dave keeps one foot in the past while shaking his fist at the present. Having provided content to all manner of sports websites over a 20-year career in the industry, Dave brings to Attiq an eye for all things editorial and a disdain for all things New York Yankees. Click here for Dave's posts.