The History of QBs taken 1st overall in the NFL

by BlueMark18

Whether you were rooting for them to win or lose – yes, some “fans” were actually pulling for their team to lose the game- against the Jags, the Colts finally secured the 1st overall pick in the 2012 draft.

For this draft, we have the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning himself: Andrew Luck from Stanford.

Draft experts said he was going to be the 1st overall pick in 2012 and his season confirmed that. Heck, he was supposed to be taken 1st overall had he entered the 2011 draft.

Problem is, the team with the 1st pick already has its franchise QB. And he’s a pretty good one.

Past/Present and Future?

The speculation about the Colts taking Luck in the draft started from Week 1, when we found out Peyton would most probably miss the entire season.

Many experts have said that Luck is a safe bet, and that he would give the Colts 10-15 years of great success.  Several stories saying the Colts should move on from Manning started to pop up from the media, that Jim Irsay should start thinking about the future and say goodbye to the 35-year-old Manning who’s also battling a really serious neck injury.

Apparently, for those experts, the safe thing to do is take a rookie (who’s supposed to be the next big thing) over one of the greatest QBs of all time.  If Peyton Manning is healthy, does that make any sense? Not to me, but that’s a different story.

Guys like Bob Kravitz are obsessed with Andrew Luck. He’s SO confident that Luck will bring 10-15 years of greatness to the lucky team that takes him. How does he know that? Beats me.

For a moment, let’s assume the Colts actually decide to take Luck. Is he a safe bet? That’s IMPOSSIBLE to know. He could very well be the next big thing or the biggest bust of all time.

We can only look to the past and see how well QBs taken 1st overall have done and see if things look good for Andrew or not.

This piece will only consider QBs taken during the Super Bowl era. Of course the hype with all them was tremendous. They were all supposed to be franchise QB and destined to win multiple SBs.

1970 – Terry Bradshaw (PIT):

Won 4 SBs: ’74, ’75, ’78, ‘79

Played with Pittsburgh from 1970 to 1983.

3× Pro Bowl selection (1975, 1978, 1979)

1978 NFL MVP


1971 – Jim Plunkett (Patriots):

Won 2 SBs (none with NE) : ’80 (Raiders), ’84 (Raiders)

Only played with the Patriots from 1971 to 1975.

Plunkett was traded to the 49ers in 1976. He would join the Raiders in 1978.

1975 – Steve Bartkowski (Falcons):

Never won a SB.

Played with the Falcons from 1975 to 1985.

1975 NFL Rookie of the Year

2× Pro Bowl selection (1980, 1981)

1983 – John Elway (Colts – Traded to Broncos):

Won 2 SBs: ’97, ‘98

Played with the Broncos from 1983 to 1998.

Reached his first SB (out of 5) in 1986. Also had SB appearances in 1987 and 1989.

1987 NFL MVP.



1987 – Vinny Testaverde  (Buccaneers):

Never won a SB.

Played with the Buccaneers from 1987 to 1992.

Played for 6 other teams from 1993 to 2007.

1989 – Troy Aikman (Cowboys):

Won 3 SBs: ’92, ’93, ’95.

Played with the Cowboys from 1989 to 2000.

6x Pro Bowl (‘91-‘96)


1990 – Jeff George (Colts):

Never won a SB.

Played with the Colts from 1990 to 1993.

Played for 7 other teams from 1994 to 2002.

1993 – Drew Bledsoe (Patriots):

Won the SB in ’01 as a BACK UP.

Played with the Patriots from 1993 to 2001.

4× Pro Bowl selection (1994, 1996, 1997, 2002)

Played for 2 other teams from 2002 to 2006.

1998 – Peyton Manning (Colts):

Won the SB in 2006

3 AFCCG appearances (’03, ’06, ’09)

2 SB appearances (’06, ’09)

11× Pro Bowl selection (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)

4x NFL MVP (’03, ’04, ’08, ’09)

1999 – Tim Couch (Browns):

Never won a SB.

Played with the Browns from 1999 to 2003 (wouldn’t play again in the NFL).

2001 – Michael Vick (Falcons):

Never won a SB with the Falcons.

Played with the Falcons from 2001 to 2006.

4× Pro Bowl selection (2002, 2004, 2005, 2010)

2002 – David Carr (Texans):

Never won a SB with the Texans.

Played with the Texans from 2002 to 2006.

Played for 4 other teams from 2006 to 2011.

Still active in the NFL.

2003 – Carson Palmer (Bengals):

Never won a SB with the Bengals.

Didn’t start his rookie season.

Played with the Bengals from 2003 to 2011.

2x Pro Bowl (’05, ’06)

Division Champion in ’05 and ’09.

Still active in the NFL.

2004 – Eli Manning (Chargers- Traded to the Giants):

Won the SB in 2007

2x Pro Bowl selection (’08, ’11)


2005 – Alex Smith (49ers):

Hasn’t won a SB with the 49ers.

Still remains with SF.

2007 – JaMarcus Russell (Raiders):

Never won a SB with the Raiders.

Played with the Raiders from 2007 to 2009.

He is currently retired from the NFL.

2009 – Matthew Stafford (Lions) 

2010 – Sam Bradford (Rams)

2011 – Cam Newton (Panthers)

All 3 are starters for their respective teams.

There have been 19 QBs taken 1st overall in the draft. However, last three are excluded (way too soon to evaluate) so only 16 are considered for the following summary. Out of those 16:

–       Only 7 have won the SB*.

–       Between those 7, they accumulate 14 SB wins.

–       Only 5** (Bradshaw, Elway, Aikman, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning) of them won the SB as the starting QB for the team that selected them in the draft.  (Bledsoe won it as a back up)

–       Between those 5, they accumulate 11 SB wins.

–       Only 3 are HOFers (Bradshaw, Elway and Aikman).

–       5 of them lasted 5 years or less with the team that selected them.

*Bledsoe was a back-up QB.

**Elway and Manning demanded a trade from the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers respectively.


As we can see, most of them never fulfilled expectations. It’s really a 50/50 situation. If you nail it, then you have a great QB that will definitely define the franchise for the next 10+ years.

Bradshaw won 4 SBs, Troy Aikman won 3 and John Elway won 2 but played in 5 of them. All of them are Hall of Famers.

Peyton Manning so far has one SB ring and has played in 2 of them. He’s also a 4 time NFL MVP. He’s also considered to be one of the greatest QBs of all time and will be a 1st ballot Hall of Famer.

Eli Manning has one SB and still has a long way to go so he will have plenty of opportunities.

Among the rest, Plunkett didn’t win with the team that drafted him and Bledsoe didn’t start in SB XXXVI.  Together with Bartkowski, they weren’t busts but never really fulfilled the expectations of those that took them 1st overall. They had decent careers but that was it. Not enough for a 1st overall pick.

Guys like Vick, Palmer and Smith still have a chance to win something but they have all been disappointments. Whether they faced jail, injuries or just awful play.

Some, like George, Couch and Russell are considered to be among the biggest busts of all time. They all had short, forgettable careers. The Browns and Raiders have struggled a lot for the last decade and still haven’t found their own franchise QB.

If a QB is a potential 1st overall pick, it’s because he can be a franchise QB, no less. Even so, there’s no such thing as a safe bet. Of course there are guys that are safer bets than others but it’s impossible to predict that a QB will give you 10-15 years of success.

Andrew Luck is a great QB and great prospect. He definitely looks ready to start and will probably have a nice NFL career. He has the accuracy, arm, intelligence and skill to make it.

His value is so big that he’s considered to be worth 3 or more 1st round picks. Sounds like a great deal when the team with the 1st overall pick has his franchise QB already. Still, experts say the Colts MUST take Luck.

Is Luck worth it though? Is he worth dumping a Hall of Famer and quite possibly the Greatest QB of all time? The very same QB who defined the franchise and the NFL for the past decade?

If Peyton isn’t healthy for 2012, the Colts must take him.

If #18 is healthy (big if), it’s absolutely ridiculous to take a rookie over Peyton Manning. On a hit or miss situation, it’s definitely not worth it.

If the Colts take him, then God bless them.

He might be the next big thing. He might be the biggest bust.

It’s all about Luck.


One comment on “The History of QBs taken 1st overall in the NFL

  1. Just want to point that Elway and Eli actually demanded the trade and not played for the “worst” team that drafted them. They are the most recent #1 overall QBs that actually won the SuperBowls, other than Manning, and they both demanded trades.
    Most people believe Eli will win another ring, more than Peyton does. Seems like he made the right choice of demanding the trade and not play for the Chargers. interestingly also, Drew Brees got dropped by the Chargers and now he is the Champ (much to my dismay). Some teams just cannot put it together…… with or without a franchise QB.

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