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NFL Draft: Power Ranking All 75 No. 1 Overall Draft Picks in NFL History

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIIJanuary 8, 2017

NFL Draft: Power Ranking All 75 No. 1 Overall Draft Picks in NFL History

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    In the history of the National Football League, there have been 76 players taken number one overall in a draft.

    These 76 players have been counted on to not only win games but to lead a poor franchise into a long stretch of winning. Many succeeded and over a dozen have become Hall of Fame players. Still many more were Pro Bowl selections throughout their careers.

    But not every player succeeded. Many failed, and will forever be known and remembered as NFL busts. 

    The following list ranks all 75 number one overall draft picks in league history, from worst to best. (Cam Newton was not included because he has not yet had an opportunity to play.)

75. JaMarcus Russell, Quarterback, Oakland Raiders, 2007

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    JaMarcus Russell is the worst number one overall pick in the history of the National Football League.

    In three seasons, he completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 4083 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. His passer rating was 65.2 and he won seven of 25 starts. He had a terrible work ethic and horrendous conditioning and reportedly weighed close to 300 pounds near the end of his playing career.

    After he was released by the Raiders, Russell was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. His life coach, former NBA player John Lucas, recently severed all ties with Russell and told him to leave the Houston area, citing his poor work ethic as the reason.

74. Harry Babcock, Offensive End, San Francisco 49ers, 1953

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    Babcock played three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

    In his professional career, he caught 16 passes for 181 yards and zero touchdowns.

    What he lacked as a receiver he failed to make up for as a kick returner, returning two kicks for three yards.

73. Frank Dancewicz, Quarterback, Boston Yanks, 1946

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    Dancewicz played three seasons with the Boston Yanks, completing 96 of 238 passes (40.3 percent) for 1551 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions.

    He and his 40.1 career passer rating were out of the league by 1949. 

72. George Cafego, Halfback, Chicago Cardinals, 1940

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    The 5'10, 169-pound Cafego played quarterback for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Washington Redskins, and Boston Yanks for four seasons, missing the entire 1941 and 1942 seasons because he was serving in the army.

    In his career, Cafego completed 47.8 percent of his passes, to go with five touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He rushed 155 times for 77 yards (0.5 average) and one touchdown. 

71. Terry Baker, Quarterback, Los Angeles Rams, 1963

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    Baker was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback but was a bust in the NFL because the Rams were unable to appreciate his dual threat abilities.

    He was mostly played at running back, carrying 59 times for 210 yards (3.6 YPC) and one touchdown in his career. He also caught 30 passes but as a quarterback, he threw just 21 passes, none for a touchdown, in his three-year career.

70. Bobby Garrett, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns, 1954

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    Garrett was drafted to be the eventual replacement for future Hall of Famer Otto Graham but never played for the Browns after they discovered his severe stuttering problem, which made calling plays very difficult.

    The Browns traded Garrett to the Packers without notifying them of his stuttering problem. Garrett played nine unsuccessful games for the Packers in 1954, throwing for 143 yards and zero touchdowns. 

69. Randy Duncan, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers, 1959

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    Duncan chose to play in the CFL after he was drafted because he was offered a lot more money. He later played briefly for the Dallas Texans, throwing for 361 yards and one touchdown, but retired when the Texans traded for Len Dawson.

    He was out of football by the age of 24.

68. Ki-Jana Carter, Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals, 1995

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    Carter was recommended by Penn State head coach Joe Paterno to enter the NFL draft after his junior year. But he tore his ACL on his third carry of the preseason and carried just 91 times for 264 yards (2.9 yards per carry) as a rookie.

    He never recovered from his injury, and, despite playing until 2004 (he missed all of the 2000 and 2002 seasons), carried just 319 times for 1144 yards (3.6 YPC) and 20 touchdowns in his career.

    He spent four unproductive seasons with the Bengals, one with the Washington Redskins, and two with the New Orleans Saints. 

67. Sam Francis, Fullback, Philadelphia Eagles, 1937

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    Francis never played for the Eagles, even though he was drafted by the team. He spent four seasons in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Brooklyn Dodgers, playing in 40 games but starting just 10.

    He carried 253 times for 873 yards (3.5 average) and five touchdowns. He was out of the NFL by age 27. 

66. Bob Fenimore, Halfback, Chicago Bears, 1947

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    Fenimore played just one season in the National Football League, appearing in 10 games with the Bears in 1947.

    He rushed 53 times for 189 yards and a touchdown, and caught 15 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns.

    He retired from football after the 1947 season at the age of 22.

65. Jay Berwanger, Halfback, Philadelphia Eagles, 1936

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    Berwanger won the Heisman Trophy in 1935 and was selected as the first pick in the NFL's first ever draft.

    After drafting Berwanger, the Eagles traded his negotiating rights to the Chicago Bears. But Berwanger chose not to play in the NFL and opted to become a sportswriter and later a manufacturer of plastic car parts.

    (Why was Berwanger ranked higher than some players who actually played? Because those players hurt their team by playing. That's how bad they were.)

64. Ernie Davis, Running Back, Washington Redskins, 1962

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    Davis became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy and the first African-American to be selected with the first overall pick of the NFL draft.

    His rights were immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns for future Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, and a first-round draft pick.

    However, Browns fans never experienced the thrill of seeing Davis in the same backfield as Jim Brown, as the 23-year old Davis died from leukemia in May of 1963. He never played in the NFL. 

63. Steve Emtman, Defensive Tackle, Indianapolis Colts, 1992

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    Emtman spent six injury-plagued seasons in the NFL, recording just eight sacks and 121 tackles in his career. His career highlight was a 90-yard game-winning interception touchdown in the final minute of play in a game against the Dolphins in his rookie season.

    He played three years with the Indianapolis Colts, two with the Miami Dolphins, and one with the Washington Redskins.

    He blew out his left knee in 1992, tore his patellar tendon in his right knee in 1993, and ruptured a disk in his neck in 1994. He was the first NFL player to continue his NFL career after tearing his patellar tendon.

62. Corbett Davis, Fullback, Cleveland Rams, 1938

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    Davis spent four ineffective seasons with the Rams, averaging a pathetic 2.7 yards per carry. He retired with 382 career rushing yards.

    Davis also punted a little and kicked occasionally.

61. Angelo Bertelli, Quarterback, New York Yanks, 1944

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    Bertelli served for two years in the US Army after he was drafted. He threw 127 passes as a rookie but retired after three seasons having thrown just 166 passes, eight touchdowns, and 19 interceptions in his career.

    He played for the Los Angeles Dons in 1946 and the Chicago Rockets in 1947 and 1948

60. Courtney Brown, Defensive End, Cleveland Browns, 2000

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    Brown played six seasons, five with the Browns and one with the Denver Broncos, before retiring from the NFL.

    He recorded just 156 tackles and 19 sacks in his career, becoming the second straight number one overall pick by the Browns to turn into a bust.

59. George Shaw, Quarterback, Baltimore Colts, 1955

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    Throughout his career, Shaw lost his starting job to two future Hall of Famers: Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts and Fran Tarkenton of the Minnesota Vikings.

    Shaw played for eight seasons but threw for just 41 touchdowns and 63 interceptions. He posted an 11-16-2 record as a starting quarterback.

58. Walt Patulski, Defensive End, Buffalo Bills, 1972

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    Patulski played four unsuccessful seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

    He suffered a career-ending knee injury in 1976 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

57. David Carr, Quarterback, Houston Texans, 2002

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    Carr was put into a no-win situation. He was selected by the expansion Houston Texans and was sacked 76 times in his rookie season, an NFL record.

    He started for five seasons, throwing 59 touchdowns against 65 interceptions. He posted a 75.5 passer rating and never won more than seven games in a season.

    He has been a backup for the past four seasons, with the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. He'll likely be out of the league in a year or two.

56. Kenneth Sims, Defensive End, New England Patriots, 1982

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    Sims earned the nickname "Game Day" by his teammates when he explained that he hated practice but he would always be ready on game day.

    Unfortunately he wasn't. He played eight unsuccessful seasons, posting just 17 career sacks.

55. Harry Gilmer, Quarterback, Washington Redskins, 1948

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    Gilmer's stats are unimpressive, even for a quarterback in the 1940s. He threw 23 touchdowns and 45 interceptions in his career, with a passer rating of 48.0. He also has a 0-10 record as a quarterback, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

    But he earned two Pro Bowl selections, one as a quarterback and one as a halfback. He retired after eight seasons in the league.

54. Aundray Bruce, Linebacker, Atlanta Falcons, 1988

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    Bruce played 11 seasons with the Falcons and the Raiders but never lived up to expectations. He started just 42 games, 29 of them in his first two seasons.

    He played a little bit of tight end in 1991. Bruce retired with 264 tackles and 32 sacks.

53. King Hill, Quarterback, Chicago Cardinals, 1958

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    Hill played 12 seasons in the NFL, mostly as a backup quarterback. He threw just 37 touchdowns and 71 interceptions during his career, posting a passer rating (49.3) that was barely better than his completion percentage (48.7).

    He became a very successful scout after his career.

52. Tim Couch, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns, 1999

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    Couch played five disappointing seasons with the Cleveland Browns before retiring after the 2003 season with 64 career touchdown passes. He attempted a comeback with the Green Bay Packers in 2004 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007 but was cut both times.

    Couch holds the distinction of being the only quarterback in NFL history to throw two walkoff touchdown passes of over 50 yards. He also led the "Kardiac Kids" to a 9-7 record, including five wins in the final two minutes, and a playoff appearance in the 2002 season.

51. Tom Harmon, Halfback, Chicago Cardinals, 1941

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    After winning the Heisman Trophy in 1940 and being selected with the number one overall draft pick in 1941, Harmon chose to play in the rival American Football League with the New York Americans. He then spent a few years in World War II.

    Harmon played in the NFL in 1946 and 1947, averaging 5.1 yards per rush and over 14 per punt return. But injuries in the war ended his career after just two seasons. He later became a very successful sports broadcaster.

50. Tom Cousineau, Linebacker, Buffalo Bills, 1979

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    Cousineau signed with the Canadian Football League after he was drafted because they offered twice as much money as the Bills. He was the MVP of the CFL in his rookie season. Cousineau joined the NFL before the 1982 season, where his rights were traded to the Cleveland Browns for a first-round pick, which was used on future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim kelly.

    Cousineau played six seasons in the NFL and was named Second-Team All-NFL twice.

49. Alex Smith, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers, 2005

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    Smith still has time to prove himself before he is labeled as a complete bust, but it's not looking good for him right now.

    He's thrown 51 touchdowns and 53 interceptions in his six seasons, including a one-touchdown, 11-interception performance as a rookie, while posting a very mediocre 72.1 passer rating. He's won just 16 of his 40 starts and spent a lot of 2010 alternating starts with Troy Smith.

    Smith might have a year or two left to prove himself.

48. Gary Glick, Defensive Back, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1956

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    Glick was a star quarterback in college but he made the switch to safety in the National Football League.

    He intercepted 14 passes in his eight-year career with the Steelers, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Colts, and San Diego Chargers.

47. Tucker Frederickson, Running Back, New York Giants, 1965

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    Frederickson rushed for 659 yards and five touchdowns on 3.7 yards per carry in 1965, yet somehow earned a spot in the Pro Bowl.

    He played six seasons, rushing for 2209 yards, before a knee injury forced his retirement at the age of 28.

46. Bubba Smith, Defensive End, Baltimore Colts, 1967

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    Smith played five seasons with the Colts, two with the Oakland Raiders, and two with the Houston Oilers.

    The two-time Pro Bowler led the Colts to a victory in Super Bowl V, but stated that he will not wear the ring because of the overall sloppiness of the game.

45. Ricky Bell, Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1977

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    Bell was drafted in 1977 with the purpose of turning the Buccaneers franchise around. In 1976, the team lost all 14 games in its first year of existence.

    He struggled as a rookie, had a mediocre season in 1978, and helped lead the team to a postseason berth in 1979, rushing for 1263 yards and seven touchdowns.

    But he was out of football just three years and 206 carries later. He tragically died from heart failure in 1984.

44. John Matuszak, Defensive End, Houston Oilers, 1973

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    Matuszak had a decent NFL career, playing nine seasons for the Oilers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Oakland Raiders. He won two Super Bowl titles with the Raiders.

    His playing career was overshadowed by his off-the-field antics. He ranked ninth in the World's Strongest Man competition in 1978. He became a well-known actor after his career.

    In his autobiography, he revealed that he was a major abuser of drugs during his playing career. He died of heart failure at age 38.

43. Jeff George, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts, 1990

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    Jeff George had an up and down 12-year career with the Colts, Falcons, Raiders, Vikings, and Redskins. He led the league in passing yards in 1997 and retired with over 27,000 passing yards and 154 touchdown tosses.

    But he wasn't a winner. He went 1-15 with the Colts in 1991 and 4-12 with the Raiders in 1997. He won 46 of 124 career starts.

    Despite not throwing a pass after the 2001 season, he was still under contract with the Seattle Seahawks in 2002, the Chicago Bears in 2004, and the Oakland Raiders in 2006.

    As late as 2010, he stated that he can still play in the NFL.

42. Matthew Stafford, Quarterback, Detroit Lions, 2009

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    Stafford has only started in 13 games during his two seasons in the league. 

    He made 10 starts as a rookie, throwing 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. His highlight was a five-touchdown performance against the Cleveland Browns, which included a walk-off touchdown pass to win the game on the final play of regulation despite a severely separated shoulder.

    He made just three starts in 2010 but injured his right shoulder twice. Health problems are definitely a concern for the Lions' quarterback, who is already being labeled by some as a bust.

    This pick is based on my projection for his career. 

41. Leon Hart, Offensive End, Detroit Lions, 1950

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    Hart played his entire eight-season career with the Lions. He was named an All-Pro in 1951, catching 35 passes for 544 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    He retired with 2499 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. 

40. Ki Aldrich, Center, Chicago Cardinals, 1939

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    Aldrich played seven seasons with the Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins. He helped the Washington Redskins win the NFL championship in 1942.

    He was named to two Pro Bowls in his career. 

39. Vinny Testaverde, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1987

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    Testaverde had a very unusual up and down 21-season career.

    The lows included leading the league in interceptions four times, including a ridiculous 35 in 1988; only four winning seasons and the NFL record for most losses by a starting quarterback (123); and a passer rating (75.0) that was below league average for his career.

    The highs included two Pro Bowl selections; a 12-1 record with the Jets in 1998; and top ten career rankings in completions, attempts, yards, and touchdowns. 

38. Carson Palmer, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals, 2003

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    Despite eight relatively successful seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals' starting quarterback, Palmer hasn't been able to lead the Bengals to a deep playoff run, or even a postseason victory. The team reached the playoffs in 2005 and 2007.

    Palmer was named a Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006. He has thrown 154 touchdowns against just 100 interceptions in his career, for a passer rating of 86.9. 

    However, he has talked his way out of Cincinnati and will be playing elsewhere next season, unless he chooses to retire.

37. Dan Wilkinson, Defensive Tackle, Cincinnati Bengals, 1994

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    Except for hitting his girlfriend in 1996 and calling Bengals fans racist in 1997, Wilkinson had a pretty successful career.

    He played 13 seasons with the Bengals, Redskins, Lions, and Dolphins, totaling 54.5 career quarterback sacks. He was named an All-Pro once, at the age of 31, in 2003.

36. Frank Sinkwich, Halfback, Detroit Lions, 1943

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    Sinkwich originally chose to join the United States Marines Corps after a standout four-year career at the University of Georgia that included a Heisman Trophy. But he received a medical discharge due to his flat feet.

    He chose to play football instead. He played four seasons with the Detroit Lions, New York Yankees, and Baltimore Colts. In 1944, he was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player after throwing for 1060 yards and 12 touchdowns, rushing for 563 yards and six touchdowns, intercepting three passes, kicking two field goals and 24 extra points, punting 45 times, and returning 11 punts and six kicks.

    He retired in 1947 with 1090 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, and 1913 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air. 

35. Billy Wade, Quarterback, Los Angeles Rams, 1952

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    Wade had successful multi-year stints with the Rams and the Chicago Bears. He was traded from the Rams to the Bears after Chicasgo realized that they needed more offense to compete with Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. Wade promptly led the Bears to a title in 1963.

    Wade threw 124 touchdown passes during his career. He was named to the All-NFL team twice.

34. Dave Parks, Offensive End, San Francisco 49ers, 1964

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    Parks turned in a solid 10-year career with the 49ers, Saints, and Oilers.

    In 1965, the 24-year old Parks led the league in all three receiving categories, catching 80 passes for 1344 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    He retired with 360 catches for 5619 yards and 44 touchdowns, an average of almost 16 yards per reception.

33. Jim Plunkett, Quarterback, New England Patriots, 1971

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    Plunkett played five seasons with the Patriots and two with the 49ers before he was cut in 1978, seemingly ending his career.

    He joined the Raiders and was named the starter halfway through the 1980 season. He led the Raiders to a Super Bowl title in 1980 and 1983, winning MVP honors in the '80 game.

    Plunkett retired after 16 seasons with 164 touchdowns, 198 interceptions, and a subpar 67.5 passer rating. However he is one of just ten quarterbacks to win two Super Bowls.

32. Bo Jackson, Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1986

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    The Buccaneers forced Bo to choose between football and baseball when they drafted him. Bo picked the Kansas City Royals.

    He was re-entered into the NFL draft and was selected in the seventh round of the 1987 draft by Al Davis and the Raiders. Davis supported Jackson's MLB career, signing Bo to a contract typical for a starting running back, with the condition that Bo didn't have to report to football until the baseball season had ended.

    Jackson played four seasons in the NFL, rushing for 2782 yards on 515 carries (5.4 YPC), plus 16 touchdowns. He rushed for touchdowns of 92, 91, and 88 yards. He also turned in one of the most memorable Monday Night Football performances in history, rushing for 221 yards against the Seattle Seahawks in 1987, including a two-yard touchdown in which he literally ran over Seattle linebacker Brian Bosworth, who had insulted Jackson before the game.

    There is probably not a football player in league history with more physical talent than Bo Jackson. Had he chosen to focus just on football, he could have broken every league rushing record.

31. Kyle Rote, Halfback, New York Giants, 1951

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    Rote played 11 seasons in the NFL, earning four Pro Bowl selections.

    He was a member of the 1956 Giants' championship team and retired with 300 catches for 4797 yards and 48 touchdowns. 

30. Russell Maryland, Defensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboys, 1991

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    Maryland was a key member of the Cowboys' dynasty in the 1990s, earning three Super Bowl rings.

    In 10 seasons, Maryland was named a Pro Bowler once and recorded 375 tackles and 24.5 career sacks.

29. Tommy Mason, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings, 1961

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    Mason was selected as the first pick in Vikings history.

    He was named to three Pro Bowls in his first four seasons and ranks in the top ten in Vikings' history in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He retired after 11 seasons in the NFL.

28. Eli Manning, Quarterback, New York Giants, 2004

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    Traded to the New York Giants immediately after he was drafted, Eli has thrown 156 touchdowns against 113 interceptions in his seven-year career. He was named a Pro Bowler in 2008.

    Manning has never missed a start due to injury in his career. He has led the Giants to at least eight wins in all six full seasons as the team's quarterback.

    In 2007, Manning led the Giants to a Super Bowl title, completing an improbably postseason run by defeating the undefeated New England Patriots on a late 83-yard game-winning touchdown drive. He was named MVP of the game.

27. Steve Bartkowski, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons, 1975

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    Bartkowski played 10 of his 11 seasons with the Falcons, leading the team to the postseason in 1978, 1980, and 1982.

    The two-time Pro Bowler threw for 30 touchdowns in consecutive seasons (1980 and 1981) and topped the NFL in passer rating in 1983. 

26. Sam Bradford, Quarterback, St. Louis Rams, 2010

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    Bradford started all 16 games for the Rams in the 2010 season, leading the Rams to seven wins, a six-win improvement from the previous year.

    He tossed 18 touchdowns against 15 interceptions, while throwing for 3512 yards, and a rookie-record 354 completions. 

    He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    This pick is based purely on projection.

25. Drew Bledsoe, Quarterback, New England Patriots, 1993

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    Bledsoe receives a lot of flack from Patriots fans because he wasn't Tom Brady, and from Cowboys fans, who only remember the end of his career. He also played poorly in his only Super Bowl appearance, throwing two touchdowns but four interceptions.

    But Bledsoe was a pretty good NFL quarterback in the first half of his career. The four-time Pro Bowler was forced to throw the ball over 600 times in four seasons, including a record 691 in 1994. He topped 4000 yards passing three times.

    When he retired, he ranked in the top ten in career pass attempts, completions and passing yards. 

24. Michael Vick, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons, 2001

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    Vick might be the most exciting quarterback to ever play in the National Football League.

    He led Atlanta to the postseason twice in his six years with the team, and became the first quarterback to run for 1000 yards in a year (1039 in 2006).

    After spending two seasons in prison, he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2010, he revived his career, throwing for 21 touchdowns, rushing for nine more, and winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

23. George Rogers, Running Back, New Orleans Saints, 1981

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    Rogers rushed for a rookie-record 1674 yards, plus 13 touchdowns, in 1981. He played four seasons with the Saints, helping to being the team out of their perennial cellar position.

    With the Washington Redskins, Rogers rushed for 18 touchdowns in 1986. He retired the next year as a Super Bowl champion.

22. Mario Williams, Defensive End, Houston Texans, 2006

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    The 6'7", 295-pound Mario Williams was shockingly selected over Reggie Bush with the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft. Amazingly, the Houston Texans made the better decision.

    In five seasons, Williams has been named to two Pro Bowls. He has 48 career sacks, including a career-high of 14 in 2007.

    He's missed just three games in five seasons and is one of the ten best defensive ends in the league.

21. Billy Sims, Running Back, Detroit Lions, 1980

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    Sims won the Heisman Trophy in 1978 and was selected by the Lions before the 1980 season. As a 25-year old rookie, he rushed for 1303 yards and 13 touchdowns, winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

    Sims earned three Pro Bowl selections in five seasons but was forced to retire after a knee injury suffered against the Minnesota Vikings in 1984.

    He earned the nickname "Kung Fu Billy Sims" by ESPN's Chris Berman. In a game versus the Houston Oilers, he jumped and kicked a potential Oilers tackler in the head while running with the football.

20. Keyshawn Johnson, Wide Receiver, New York Jets, 1996

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    All Keyshawn asked was that you gave him the "damn ball." In 11 seasons with the Jets, Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Panthers, Johnson caught 814 passes for 10571 yards and 64 touchdowns. He helped the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.

    Johnson reached 600 receptions faster than all but one player in NFL history. He missed just three of 145 games during his NFL career.

19. Billy Cannon, Halfback, Los Angeles Rams, 1960

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    The versatile Cannon played five seasons at halfback for the Houston Oilers before the Oakland Raiders converted him to tight end. He was an All-Star at both positions.

    In 1961, he helped the Oilers score a ridiculous 513 points by leading the league in rushing and scoring 15 total touchdowns.

    When he retired, Cannon was regarded as one of the best ever at both halfback and tight end. He played in six championship games during his career, winning three.

18. Bill Dudley, Halfback, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1942

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    Dudley is probably the most versatile player the league has ever seen. He has played quarterback, halfback, defensive back, kick returner, punt returner, kicker, and punter.

    He turned in an MVP season in 1946, leading the NFL in carries (146) and rushing yards (604), interceptions (10 for 242 yards and a touchdown), fumble recoveries (7), and punt returns (27 for 385).

    Dudley retired after nine seasons with the Steelers, Lions, and Redskins, and was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1966.

17. Too Tall Jones, Defensive End, Dallas Cowboys, 1974

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    Jones played his entire 16-year career with the Dallas Cowboys and was one of the most intimidating defensive linemen in the league, thanks to his 6'9 frame.

    He was remarkably durable, playing in every game from 1975 to 1987. The three-time Pro Bowler helped the Cowboys win the Super Bowl in 1977 and reach the NFC championship game from 1980 to 1982.

16. Irving Fryar, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots, 1984

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    Fryar was the first wide receiver selected with the number one overall pick.

    He played 17 highly successful seasons with the Patriots, Dolphins, Eagles, and Redskins, earning five Pro Bowl selections.

    He retired with 851 receptions for 12785 yards and 84 touchdowns. He holds an NFL record by catching a touchdown from 19 different quarterbacks. 

15. Lee Roy Selmon, Defensive End, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1976

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    Selmon is the player most responsible for turning the Buccaneers from a laughingstock into a playoff team.

    He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979 and earned six Pro Bowl selections in his career.

    Selmon's career was cut short after nine seasons with a back injury but he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

14. Jake Long, Offensive Tackle, Miami Dolphins, 2008

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    Just three offensive tackles have been selected as the number one overall pick in a draft: Ron Yary, Orlando Pace and Jake Long. Yary is in the Hall of Fame, Pace will be inducted in his first year of eligibility and Long will probably join them one day.

    In three seasons, Long has established himself as one of the elite offensive linemen in the NFL. He's made all 48 starts and has been selected to three Pro Bowls.

    He was named a Second-Team All-Pro in 2009 and a First-Team All-Pro in 2010. He was rated as the second best offensive linemen in the league after his second season. 

    This pick is based on my projection for his career.

13. Tommy Nobis, Linebacker, Atlanta Falcons, 1966

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    Nobis had the greatest rookie season by a defensive player in NFL history not named Lawrence Taylor or Dick Butkus. He recorded 294 tackles in 1966, still the record for one season.

    He was named to five Pro Bowls in his 11 seasons and is considered one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame.

    Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka had the following to say about Nobis: "I'd rather play against Butkus than him."

12. Charley Trippi, Halfback, Chicago Cardinals, 1945

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    Trippi was one of the most versatile players in league history, playing halfback, quarterback, punter, punt and kick returner, and defensive back.

    The two-time Pro Bowler is one of three players in NFL history to total 1,000 yards passing, rushing, and receiving during his career, and the only to reach the Hall of Fame.

    He played all nine years with the Chicago Cardinals. In 1947, he led the Cardinals to the championship game, where he wore basketball shoes for traction during the game. He scored on a a44-yard run and a 75-yard punt return, as Chicago won 28-21.

11. Troy Aikman, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys, 1989

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    Aikman lost all 11 starts he made as a rookie. Three years later, he was a Super Bowl champion, his first of three rings.

    Aikman wasn't a numbers guy, throwing for just 165 touchdowns against 141 interceptions in his NFL career. But the six-time Pro Bowler was remarkably consistent and retired with 94 wins in 165 starts.

10. Terry Bradshaw, Quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970

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    Bradshaw was never dominant statistically, although he did win the NFL's Most Valuable Player award in 1978.

    But he was one of the winningest quarterbacks in NFL history. He led the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles, throwing a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of all four games.

    He retired with 212 career touchdown passes, good for ninth among retired quarterbacks.

9. Ron Yary, Offensive Tackle, Minnesota Vikings, 1968

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    Yary was the first lineman to be selected with the number one overall pick. He was a fixture on a Vikings squad that won 11 division titles and appeared in four Super Bowls over the next decade.

    He was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was named the NFLPA Offensive Linemen of the Year three times.

    The 6'5, 255-pound right tackle possessed remarkable strength and quickness and played through a broken right foot in 1980.

8. Paul Hornung, Halfback, Green Bay Packers, 1957

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    Hornung produced one of the best seasons in NFL history in 1960, rushing for 671 yards and a league-leading 13 touchdowns. He also kicked 15 field goals and 41 extra points. His 176 points scored set a single-season record.

    In 1961, he earned MVP honors when he scored 10 touchdowns and scored a league-leading 146 points.

    The two-time Pro Bowler was a key member of four Packers championship teams. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.

7. Earl Campbell, Running Back, Houston Oilers, 1978

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    Campbell's first three seasons were the among the best ever for a running back. He averaged 348 carries, 1694 yards, and 15 touchdowns per season. He was named the Rookie and Offensive Player of the Year in 1978, the MVP in 1979, and the Offensive Player of the Year in 1980.

    Campbell's career lasted just eight seasons, the majority with the Houston Oilers. He rushed for 9407 yards and 81 touchdowns in his pro career. 

6. Orlando Pace, Offensive Tackle, St. Louis Rams, 1997

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    Greg Trott/Getty Images

    Pace was the first offensive linemen drafted number one overall in 29 years.

    All he did was become the second most important member (behind running back Marshall Faulk) of The Greatest Show On Turf, which scored over 500 points for three straight seasons and won Super Bowl XXXIV. Behind his blocking, Faulk turned in arguably the greatest three-year stretch of any running back in league history, earning NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors all three years.

    Pace was named to seven Pro Bowls and will go down as one of the ten best offensive linemen in NFL history. 

5. OJ Simpson, Running Back, Buffalo Bills, 1969

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    OJ will always be remembered as one of the most exciting players in league history (both on and off the field).

    He was the first player to rush for 2000 yards, rushing for 2003 and winning MVP honors in 1973. Two years later, he rushed for 1817 yards and 16 touchdowns. He retired with 11,236 career rushing yards, which was then the second highest total in history. 

4. John Elway, Quarterback, Baltimore Colts, 1983

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    Elway was traded to the Denver Broncos when he threatened to play for the New York Yankees instead of quarterbacking the Colts.

    In 17 seasons, Elway led the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances, winning his final two. He earned a reputation as one of the greatest clutch quarterbacks in league history (see: The Drive, 1986 AFC championship game).

    Elway retired as the all-time leader in passing yards (51475). His 300 touchdown passes trailed just Fran Tarkenton.

3. Bruce Smith, Defensive End, Buffalo Bills, 1985

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    Smith holds the NFL record for career sacks (200). He topped double-digits 13 times, including a career-high of 19 in 1990.

    The 11-time Pro Bowler was the most important member of a Buffalo Bills team that reached the Super Bowl in back-to-back-to-back-to-back seasons in the early 1990s.

2. Chuck Bednarik, Linebacker/Center, Philadelphia Eagles, 1949

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    Bednarik will always be remembered (and loved by Philly fans) for being the last player to start on offense and defense, as he played center and linebacker.

    He delivered arguably the most famous hit in NFL history, knocking Giants' running back Frank Gifford unconscious in a 1960 game. That same season, Bednarik made a game-saving tackle of Packers' running back Jim Taylor in the closing seconds of the 1960 championship game.

    The eight-time Pro Bowler is regarded as one of the toughest players in NFL history, and probably the best player in Philadelphia Eagles' history.  

1. Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts, 1998

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Manning is arguably the greatest statistical quarterback in NFL history and will either rank first or second in every major passing category when he retires.

    Manning has never missed a game in his 13 seasons. He has led the Colts to the postseason on 11 occasions, including a victory in Super Bowl XLI.

    He previously held the single-season record for touchdown passes (49) and passer rating (121.1) and was named the league's Most Valuable Player four times.

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