The No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft carries a ton of pressure with it. There is pressure on the player to perform. There is pressure on the team that drafts that player, hoping that they didn’t waste a golden opportunity.
Peyton Manning is clearly a top NFL draft pick that worked out. JaMarcus Russell obviously did not. 1989 No. 1 NFL draft pick Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls in the 1990s with the Dallas Cowboys. The top pick a decade later, Tim Couch, fizzled out after only a few seasons.
The NFL draft always brings drama. Who will work out? Who won’t? What we do know is that being the No. 1 overall pick doesn’t guarantee success. So how many top picks in the Super Bowl era have gone on to win a championship?
So many overall No. 1 picks haven’t worked out
While Joe Burrow certainly has plenty of talent, so have many other No. 1 overall picks, which is why they were top picks in the first place. But the NFL is so much different than the college game, and some guys simply can’t handle it.
Like Joe Burrow, JaMarcus Russell had a solid career at LSU, throwing for 6,625 yards in three seasons, more than 2,000 yards more than what he threw in the NFL. Russell played just 31 games in three seasons with the Raiders and has been out of the league for more than a decade.
In 1999, the Cleveland Browns had a chance to take Donovan McNabb, who would later lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl. Instead, they chose Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch, who put up huge numbers as a two-year starter for the Wildcats. But once he got to the NFL, he could never adjust. In five seasons with the Browns, he threw 64 touchdowns but also threw 67 interceptions and was never given another chance anywhere else.
Stories like these happen all the time. But so do the success stories.
The No. 1 picks who have won a Super Bowl
While the NFL draft bust stories are undoubtedly interesting, the success stories are always better. These are the top picks that have gone on to win championships, even if they weren’t the main reason. Take David Carr, for instance. He didn’t have the most remarkable career in some people’s eyes but still played 10 years in the league and made millions upon millions of dollars. He also was the backup quarterback for the New York Giants when they beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 and got himself a Super Bowl ring.
But most of the names you’ll see on the list below did make an impact. Here’s the complete list of No. 1 NFL draft picks that went on to win a Super Bowl. Please note that the first two names on the list were drafted before the first Super Bowl took place but were still on the team when they won the title. This list does not include NFL championships before the Super Bowl was introduced in 1967.
- Paul Hornung (1957) – Won Super Bowl 1
- Bubba Smith (1967) – Won Super Bowl 5
- Terry Bradshaw (1970) – Won Super Bowl 9, 10, 13, 14
- Jim Plunkett (1971) – Won Super Bowl 15, 18
- John Matuszak (1973) – Won Super Bowl 11, 15
- Ed “Too Tall” Jones (1974) – Won Super Bowl 12
- George Rogers (1981) – Won Super Bowl 22
- John Elway (1983) – Won Super Bowl 32, 33
- Troy Aikman (1989) – Won Super Bowl 27, 28, 30
- Russell Maryland (1991) – Won Super Bowl 27, 28, 30
- Drew Bledsoe (1993) – Won Super Bowl 36
- Keyshawn Johnson (1996) – Won Super Bowl 37
- Orlando Pace (1997) – Won Super Bowl 34
- Peyton Manning (1998) – Won Super Bowl 41, 50
- David Carr (2002) – Won Super Bowl 46
- Eli Manning (2004) – Won Super Bowl 42, 46
- Matthew Stafford (2009) – Won Super Bowl 56
- Eric Fisher (2013) – Won Super Bowl 54
There have been plenty of Hall of Fame players that have been the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft but never won a Super Bowl, such as Bruce Smith, Earl Campbell, and, yes, O.J. Simpson.