It’s widely expected that Kyler Murray will end up being the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. While time will tell if the Arizona Cardinals made the right decision, there’s no doubt that some of the best players to ever play this game have ended up being the first selection. Let’s take a quick look at the top-10 first overall picks in NFL history.
1. Peyton Manning, QB - Arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Peyton Manning is second with 71,940 passing yards and first with 539 touchdown passes. Manning has a record 14 seasons with 4,000-plus passing yards and is the only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different franchises. Numbers wise, it doesn’t get much better than Manning.
2. Bruce Smith, DE - Bruce Smith is widely considered the best pass-rusher of all time and currently holds the NFL record with 200 career sacks. Smith is eighth in NFL history with 43 forced fumbles and was a key part in the Buffalo Bills making four straight Super Bowl appearances. Smith also has 14.5 playoff sacks, which is second only behind Willie McGinest (16).
3. John Elway, QB - John Elway is a two-time Super Bowl champion and retired with 148 career victories, which at the time was an NFL record. Random stat: Elway is the only quarterback to have a rushing touchdown in four different Super Bowls. Elway is also ninth all time in passes completed, ninth in passing yards, 11th in touchdown passes, and he’s sixth all-time in rushing yards for a quarterback.
4. Terry Bradshaw, QB - Terry Bradshaw led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles within a six-year span and won the MVP in two of those games. Bradshaw spent his career calling his own plays, and he’s one of 42 players with 200-plus touchdown passes.
5. Earl Campbell, RB - Earl Campbell didn’t have the longest career due to a physical running style that took a toll on his body, but his first three seasons produced a combined 5,081 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns. For the brief time Campbell was in the league, he was as productive and dominant as any running back in history.
6. Orlando Pace, OL - While Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and others get the credit for one of the most exciting periods in league history with the St. Louis Rams, it was Orlando Pace who allowed the magic to happen. Pace started all 16 games eight times in his career and was the key blocker for a franchise that produced three straight MVPs. A Super Bowl champion and seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Pace is one of the best offensive lineman the game has ever seen.
7. O.J. Simpson, RB - O.J. Simpson is the first player to ever rush for 2,000 yards, and he did so when the league was under a 14-game regular season format. Simpson led the league in rushing in four of his 11 seasons and won the MVP award in 1973. Averaging 143.1 rushing yards per game in one season is an NFL record that may never be broken.
8. Troy Aikman, QB - Troy Aikman was the winningest quarterback in the 1990s with 90 victories, and he’s a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys. Aikman is a six-time Pro Bowl selection and is currently 28th all-time with 2,898 passes completed.
9. Ron Yary, OL - Ron Yary made the Pro Bowl seven consecutive years and was a six-time first-team All-Pro selection. One of the toughest players you’ll come across, Yary only missed two games in his career due to injury and even played through a broken bone in his foot. They don’t make them like Yary anymore.
10. Eli Manning, QB - Eli Manning may not be doing himself many favors now by hanging on and driving New York fans nuts, but the guy won two Super Bowls against Tom Brady and was the MVP in both games. Manning is also top-10 all-time in career passing yards, passes completed and passing touchdowns. The numbers don’t lie, folks, there will be another Manning in the NFL Hall of Fame.