Congratulations, your team has the #1 pick in the draft. You’re on top of the world. You’re giving strangers nicknames, wearing sunglasses indoors, ordering guac when you know it costs extra. You have it all. After a season (or likely many) seasons of futility, the clouds have parted, the rain has stopped and there’s a bright future ahead.
At least that’s what you want (have) to believe, right?
So, what are fans to do when their team is about to be on the clock first? It’s important to recognize three tiers of how this can go:
- Best of the Best – the players taken #1 you hope your team’s pick will become
- Worst in Show – the players you dread your top pick ends up like
- Mean Men – the players who represent the average performance of top picks
It’s these Mean Men who are the most interesting as they represent the floor for fans’ hopes with the #1 pick. If your team’s top pick performs at that level, then you really can’t complain too much.
Sure, you want the transcendent talent, but it’s still a positive if your top pick doesn’t appear in articles listing the biggest bust #1’s of all-time.
Let’s begin our work with the NFL Draft, and focus specifically on one position. From 1983-1999, seven quarterbacks were taken #1 overall. Since 2000, there have been 15 taken with Trevor Lawrence likely being #16 this year (and it’s his jersey number, neat!).
Best of the Best
- Peyton Manning (1998 #1 pick, Hall of Fame, 5 MVPs, 2 Super Bowl Rings)
- John Elway (1983 #1 pick, Hall of Fame, 1 MVP, 2 Super Bowl Rings)
- Troy Aikman (1989 #1 pick, Hall of Fame, 3 Super Bowl Rings)
This is clearly the pinnacle of the mountain. A guy who spends a decade or more on your team, winning individual glory and bringing home championships. Also, Manning is the only QB taken #1 since 1980 to make an All-Pro team.
Worst in Show
- JaMarcus Russell (2007 #1 pick, 7-18 as a starter, 18 TDs, 23 INTs)
- Tim Couch (1999 #1 pick, 22-37 as a starter, 64 TDs, 67 INTs)
Not what you’re looking for from a franchise savior. Luckily for the Browns, they had 3 more #1 picks in the 2000s, with their last two (Myles Garrett in 2017 & Baker Mayfield in 2018) looking to work out much better than this.
Before sharing the Mean Men for NFL QB #1 picks, it’s important to look at the average stat line for these picks when you consider the QBs taken from 1983-2010 (anyone picked after 2010’s career is too fresh to include).
- 79-73 as a starter
- 211 yards per game
- 214 TDs
- 147 INTs
Which #1 pick QBs most closely resemble this stat line? Who should Jacksonville look to and say “Well, if Trevor is as good as these guys then I can’t really complain”?
- Alex Smith (2005 #1 pick, 99-67 as a starter, 205 ypg, 199 TDs, 109 INTs)
- Matthew Stafford (2009 #1 pick, 74-90 as a starter, 273 ypg, 282 TDs, 144 INTs)
Nothing wrong with either of these two as Smith made it to an NFC Championship Game with San Francisco and has been a consistent winner, while Stafford has so far been the prize of the 2021 offseason. These guys are likely not Hall of Famers and only have four Pro Bowl appearances between them, but if you’re a Jacksonville fan, things could go a LOT worse than this.
While the #1 pick is exciting and promising, it’s very far from a guaranteed step on the path to a championship, or even winning seasons. The top pick might be a generational Hall of Famer, and it could be a guy who’s out of the league in a few years and appears on “Biggest Busts Ever” lists forever. Join us next time when we look into the top picks in recent MLB Drafts.
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