The No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft carries with it a ton of pressure. There is pressure on the player to perform. There is pressure on the team that drafts that player as they’re obviously hoping that they didn’t waste a golden opportunity.
Peyton Manning is obviously 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 10 years 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?
Joe Burrow is the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NFL draft
As expected, Joe Burrow was the top overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Burrow is coming off a national championship at LSU and will undoubtedly face a lot of pressure this upcoming season.
The Miami Dolphins were trying desperately to trade up to get Burrow but the Bengals were never going to give up the top choice. As soon as it was known that Cincinnati had the top pick in the draft, everyone knew what would happen. Bengals president Mike Brown had already sent a welcome letter to Burrow and also sent a No. 9 jersey to him and his parents.
Not a single No. 1 overall NFL draft pick has ever led his team to a Super Bowl the same year in which he was drafted and that certainly won’t happen in 2020 as Cincy still has plenty of problems to deal with. But could Burrow join that elite list of top picks to win a Super Bowl someday?
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, which is 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 certainly 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 greatest career in the eyes of some people 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 full 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 I
- Bubba Smith (1967) – Won Super Bowl V
- Terry Bradshaw (1970) – Won Super Bowl IX, X, XIII, XIV
- Jim Plunkett (1971) – Won Super Bowl XV, XVIII
- John Matuszak (1973) – Won Super Bowl XI, XV
- Ed “Too Tall” Jones (1974) – Won Super Bowl XII
- George Rogers (1981) – Won Super Bowl XXII
- John Elway (1983) – Won Super Bowl XXXII, XXXIII
- Troy Aikman (1989) – Won Super Bowl XXVII, XXVIII, XXX
- Russell Maryland (1991) – Won Super Bowl XXVII, XXVIII, XXX
- Drew Bledsoe (1993) – Won Super Bowl XXXVI
- Keyshawn Johnson (1996) – Won Super Bowl XXXVII
- Orlando Pace (1997) – Won Super Bowl XXXIV
- Peyton Manning (1998) – Won Super Bowl XLI, 50
- David Carr (2002) – Won Super Bowl XLVI
- Eli Manning (2004) – Won Super Bowl XLII, XLVI
- Eric Fisher (2013) – Won Super Bowl LIV
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.