NFL Draft Trivia: Which Team Has Made the First Overall Pick the Most Times?
Being first on the clock is a first for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’re hoping to choose wisely in the 2021 NFL draft of April 29 and avoid the ignominy of possessing the No. 1 pick again any time soon.
A quarterback – Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Joe Burrow – has been the first overall pick in the last three drafts. The assumption all along has been that the Jaguars, who earned the top pick by logging the league’s worst record in 2020, will select Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence as their ticket out of having to worry about picking first on the again for another decade or so.
Other NFL teams haven’t been so fortunate in that respect. Five of them have picked first four or more times since the AFL and NFL completed their merger in 1970.
3. (tie) Three NFL teams with four first overall picks
Drew Bledsoe didn’t win a Super Bowl for the New England Patriots after they took him first in the 1993 NFL draft, but he set up Tom Brady’s half-dozen championships there in more ways than one. Just months after signing a 10-year, $103 million contract for helping lift New England back to competitiveness, Bledsoe was hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. The blow sheared a blood vessel in the QB’s chest. Brady stepped in to replace him, and Bledsoe never started another game for the Patriots.
New England’s other No. 1 picks: Jim Plunkett (1971), Kenneth Sims (1982), Irving Fryar (1984).
The Jacksonville Jaguars would be lucky to have their No. 1 quarterback pan out the way the Cincinnati Bengals’ QBs panned out. Carson Palmer (2003) spent seven of his 14 NFL seasons there, twice going to the Pro Bowl. Joe Burrow (2020) was putting together a sound rookie season, despite a lack of talent around him, before suffering a season-ending injury.
Cincinnati’s other No. 1 picks: Dan Wilkinson (1994), KI-Jana Carter (1995).
The Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only NFL teams to have drafted first in back-to-back years, and each has had the dubious honor twice.
Cleveland’s No. 1 picks: Tim Couch (1999), Courtney Brown (2000), Myles Garrett (2017), Baker Mayfield (2018).
1. (tie) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, five first overall picks
The 1986 NFL draft was the epitome of how everyone plays the system. The No. 1 pick in 1985 belonged to the Buffalo Bills (they took Bruce Smith). By rule, the Bills also owned the No. 1 pick if anyone entered the supplemental draft. Desperate to grab quarterback Bernie Kosar when he declared after the regular draft, Cleveland traded a slew of picks to Buffalo to move up.
By signing Kosar, the Browns forfeited the first pick in 1986, which they acquired in the Bills deal. That allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to move up to the first position, where they selected Bo Jackson, Auburn’s two-sport star. However, Jackson refused to sign with the Bucs and went back into the 1987 draft. With Jackson having already embarked on a baseball career with the Kansas City Royals, the Raiders made him the 183rd pick in 1987 and convinced him to become a two-sport pro.
Tampa Bay’s other No. 1 picks: Lee Roy Selmon (1976), Ricky Bell (1977), Vinny Testaverde (1987), Jameis Winston (2015).
1. (tie) Indianapolis Colts, five first overall picks
The Indianapolis Colts have generally subscribed to the theory that they might as well scoop up the best prospect at the most important position as long as they’re going first overall in the NFL draft.
Other than defensive end Steve Emtman in 1992, all of their No. 1’s have been invested in quarterbacks. That includes 1990, when the Dallas Cowboys used their pending No. 1 pick on Steve Walsh in the supplemental draft to move the Colts into the first spot.
The Colts’ No. 1 quarterbacks: John Elway (1983), Jeff George (1990), Peyton Manning (1998), Andrew Luck (2012).