Best First Overall Picks In NFL Draft History

An NFL logo and stage is shown before the first round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall, Thursday, April 22, 2010, in New York.

With the conversation hotting up around who will be the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft from college football, we’ve decided to look back at some of the best picks in  that position in recent history.


Although many college players have proved you don’t need to be first overall in the draft to have a great career in the NFL, the honour of being the opening player off the board can never be taken away.


Here are three players from the modern era which stand out and have rewarded that trust placed upon them by their respective franchises.

Troy Aikman

After transferring from Oklahoma to UCLA, Troy Aikman (left) was the first overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. A Hall of Fame career followed. ]AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File]


The Dallas Cowboys were one of the dominant teams in the 90s in the NFL and so much of their success came on the back of drafting Troy Aikman in the 1989 Draft.

America’s Team selected their new franchise QB from UCLA and it proved to be one of their best decisions in the history of the franchise. He ended his career as a three-time Super Bowl winner, six-time Pro Bowler, the Super Bowl XXVII MVP and is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


A lot of pressure is on the backroom team when it comes to drafting a franchise quarterback in this position. With the choice of all the eligible players available, it can often be a tough decision. In 1989, it was quite clear that Aikman was the best of the pack. He went on to have a fantastic career, playing 12 consecutive seasons for Dallas as the starting QB.

Myles Garrett


Audrey, Myles and Lawrence didn’t have to wait long
Brandon Wade/AP


The most recent player to make this list is not a QB. Myles Garrett was taken by the Cleveland Browns in 2017 and he is proving to be one of the best defensive players in the game today. Cleveland have got so many of their first round picks wrong over the last decade, but this is certainly one where they got their scouting right.


Garrett was unstoppable in college football for Texas A&M. He made it a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks as he seemed to get to them with absolute ease. Although things are much tougher in the NFL, he is continuing his success in the pro ranks.


The Cleveland player is on course for his best season since entering the NFL. He has had 9.5 sacks and 31 total tackles across his opening nine matches in 2020. Garrett has had to miss the last few games but is scheduled to return for their next game against the Indianapolis Colts, which is a big boost to his team who are +200 in the NFL weeks 13 odds to win that game. The best odds on the moneyline for that game can be found on an odds comparison site if you do think the Browns’ fantastic start to the season will continue.

Peyton Manning

18 Apr 1998: First overall pick Peyton Manning shows off his jersey after being selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York. Mandatory Credit: Ezra C. Shaw /Allsport


In 1998 the Indianapolis Colts had the luxury of the first overall pick in the draft and they ended up taking one of the best quarterbacks to ever feature in the NFL in Peyton Manning.


Manning had just led the Tennessee Volunteers to the 1997 SEC Championship Game and although his potential was clear, Indianapolis could never have imagined that he would go on to win the NFL MVP award five times.


Nicknamed ‘The Sheriff’, Manning had broken so many NFL records before retiring in 2015, after winning the Super Bowl for the second time in his career with the Denver Broncos. He has the most touchdowns in one season (55) and the most passing yards in a campaign (5,477).


Before he arrived in Indianapolis, the Colts were struggling as a franchise. Manning transformed them from the worst to one of the best in the NFL. The Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008, is still described today as ‘the house that Manning built’.


Hopefully whoever has the honor of being the first pick in 2021 goes on to have a great career in the NFL like the above three players.

Keith Richards
About Keith Richards 73 Articles
Keith Richards is an IT Professional by day and a sports junkie by night (and day for the most part as well). A southern boy living in the mountains of Denver, Keith recently graduated with his BS in Business Administration from CSU-Global Campus. He enjoys spending time with this family and speaking sports truth on Twitter and Crossing the Line.

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