NFL's Best No. 1 Overall Picks by Position
Seventy six players have been drafted No. 1 Overall since the first NFL Draft back in 1936. That lists includes a lot of Hall-of-Famers, a lot of guys who everybody forgets about and the busts who wish they were forgotten about, but aren't.
This list will pick the Ultimate Team of players who have been drafted No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. This team will not be complete, as only so many qualified individuals at so many positions have been selected No. 1 overall, but this list will still feature two quarterbacks, two running backs, three wide receivers, three offensive linemen, four defensive linemen and one linebacker.
Let's begin with the offense.
Quarterback No. 1: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts, 1998
Thirteen years later, I still find it fascinating that Ryan Leaf was almost picked ahead of Manning in the 1998 NFL Draft.
Manning, since his debut 13 years ago, has been nothing less than one of the three greatest quarterbacks of all-time. In just 13 completed seasons, Manning already has 54,828 passing yards, 399 touchdowns and 141 wins as a starting quarterback, which averages out to 4,218 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 wins per year. In addition, he's taken a team that had just five winning seasons in the 20 before he arrived, and turned them into a perennial Super Bowl contender every year by HIMSELF.
If Manning can stay healthy for the next several seasons, he could break every major career passing record by the time he retires.
Quarterback No. 2: John Elway, Baltimore Colts, 1983
Yes, you read that right. John Elway was drafted by the Baltimore Colts, NOT the Denver Broncos in 1983. Rather than join the Colts, Elway, a fantastic baseball player in his own right, threatened to join the Yankees, citing the Colts' inability to win and their harsh head coach Frank Kush as reasons. Eventually, the Colts traded Elway to the Broncos, where he went on to have the career everybody knows.
In 16 seasons in Denver, Elway threw for 51,475 yards and 300 touchdowns, completing 57 percent of his passes. Elway showed his ability to scramble as well, rushing for 3,407 yards as well.
Elway took the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning Super Bowls 32 and 33, his last game as a professional. Elway was a nine-time Pro Bowler and one of the greatest team leaders of all-time.
Running Back No. 1: O.J. Simpson, Buffalo Bills, 1969
People can say anything they want about what the guy did off the field long after his career was over, but that doesn't change what the guy did on the field during his career.
Over 11 seasons in what was then a 14 game regular season, Simpson rushed for 11,236 yards, second all-time at the time of his retirement, now 18th, scored 75 touchdowns and won the 1973 NFL MVP Award, a season in which he became the first person to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
Over his career, Simpson led the league in rushing four times, yards from scrimmage three times, made six Pro Bowls and was a five-time First Team All-Pro.
Running Back No. 2: Paul Hornung, Green Bay Packers, 1957
One of the greatest multi-position players in NFL history, Paul Hornung is Running Back No. 3 on this list.
Playing kicker and running back over his 10 year career, Hornung rushed for 3,711 yards, had 1,480 receiving yards and scored 62 touchdowns, leading the Green Bay packers to three NFL Championships in the pre- Super Bowl era.
Hornung was a two-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First Team All-Pro, and was the 1961 NFL MVP.
Running Back No. 3: Earl Campbell, Houston Oilers, 1978
It's a shame to see that Earl Campbell retired so young and now lives with severe arthritis in his joints, because he could have been one of the greatest.
In a career that only lasted eight seasons, Campbell still managed to rush for 9,407 yards and score 74 touchdowns. In Campbell's first three seasons in the league, Campbell rushed for 5,081 yards and scored 45 touchdowns, an average of 1,694 yards and 15 touchdowns per year, winning the NFL MVP Award in 1978 and 1979 and the Offensive Player of the Year in 1980.
A five-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro, Campbell provides one of the great "what-if" scenarios of all-time.
Wide Receiver No. 1: Irving Fryar, New England Patriots, 1984
Wide Receiver might not have the star quality that Quarterback and Running Back have, but the talent is definitely there, and it starts with Fryar.
Over a solid 17 year career, Fryar caught 851 passes for 12,785 yards and 84 touchdowns. A five-time Pro Bowler, Fryar leads the respectable corp of No. 1 overall wide outs.
Wide Receiver No. 2: Keyshawn Johnson, New York Jets, 1996
A two-time All-American at Southern Cal, Johnson became the first wide receiver selected No. 1 overall since Fryar in 1984, and didn't disappoint over a very good career.
In 11 seasons in the league, Johnson caught 814 passes for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns. He helped take the Jets to the 1999 AFC Championship Game, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Johnson would make a solid No. 2 wide receiver.
Wide Receiver No. 3: Dave Parks, San Francisco 49ers, 1964
Failing to reach the career of Johnson or Fryar, Parks still makes the cut as a decent enough talent in a time where passing was less valued than it is today.
In a 118 game career, Parks caught 360 passes for 5,619 yards and 44 touchdowns. In 1965, Parks led the league in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Parks' career included three Pro Bowls and one First Team All-Pro selection.
Offensive Lineman No. 1: Ron Yary, Minnesota Vikings, 1968
By a hair, Ron Yary is the No. 1 lineman of No. 1 picks.
Over his 15 year career, Yary started all 172 games that he played in over a 12 year span from 1970 to 1981. He went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 1971 to 1977 and was a six-time First Team All-Pro.
Offensive Lineman No. 2: Orlando Pace, St. Louis Rams, 1997
One of several highly touted players from a mid- 1990's Ohio State football team that also included Heisman winner Eddie George and wide receiver Terry Glenn, Pace comes in JUST behind Yary on this list.
Pace was the left tackle that protected Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger as the Rams went from having the second worst record of the 1990's to a team that made five playoff appearances, won the NFC West three times, went to two Conference Championship games and two Super Bowls between 2000 and 2005, winning Super Bowl 34 against the Tennessee Titans.
Over Pace's 13 year career, he went to seven Pro Bowls in a row from 1999 to 2005, and was a three time First Team All-Pro.
Offensive Lineman No. 3: Jake Long, Miami Dolphins, 2008
Jake Long has not been in the NFL for long, but he's been nothing short of spectacular.
Long has started all 48 games for the Dolphins in his three seasons in the league and been selected to the Pro Bowl in every season, as well as being named a First Team All-Pro for the 2010 season.
Defensive Lineman No. 1: Bruce Smith, Buffalo Bills, 1985
The most dominant defensive player of all-time.
In 19 seasons, Smith recorded 200 sacks, the one and only man in history to do so. Thirteen times, he recorded 10 or more sacks in a season. He was the key piece of a Bills' defense that went to four straight Super Bowls from 1991-1994. He made over 1,000 tackles and forced 43 fumbles.
He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, 11-time Pro Bowler and an eight-time First Team All-Pro.
Defensive Lineman No. 2: Lee Roy Selmon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1976
The first truly great player on a team with the worst beginning in NFL history comes in at No. 2 for defensive linemen.
In just nine seasons with the Bucs, Selmon recorded 78.5 sacks (The sack was not counted as an official statistic until 1982; this is a figure of how many sacks Selmon would have had) and 742 tackles. He was selected to six straight Pro Bowls from 1979-1984, was a one-time First Team All-Pro and the 1979 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Not bad for a guy who played for a team that went 44-88-1 in his nine years there.
Defensive Lineman No. 3: Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Dallas Cowboys, 1974
One of the tallest NFL players ever, 'Too Tall" Jones comes in as the third defensive lineman.
In his 16 seasons in the league, Jones recorded 106 sacks (The sack was not counted as an official statistic until 1982; this is a figure of how many sacks Jones would have had) and twice in his career started 60 or more games in a row. In addition, he was a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro. He was also a Super Bowl Champion, as the Cowboys beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 12.
Defensive Lineman No. 4: Mario WIlliams, Houston Texans, 2006
The Texans got a lot of heat at the time for not drafting Heisman winner Reggie Bush at the time of the draft, but who looks like the smart ones now? Bush isn't only a bust, he isn't even a "Heisman Winner" anymore.
In five seasons in the league, Williams has recorded 48 sacks and 182 tackles. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First Team NFL All-Pro for the ever improving Texans.
Linebacker No. 1: Chuck Bednarik, Philadelphia Eagles, 1949
One of the most feared tacklers of all-time, Bednarik is the No. 1 linebacker on this list.
Though his career sack and tackle totals are difficult to calculate given when he played, he did have 20 career interceptions and is considered the last great two-way player, playing both defense and offense (center).
He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and made NFL First team All-Pro 10 times in his 14 year career. He is also a member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team.