Many people shook their heads in disbelief when the Texans drafted Williams over Vince Young in 2006. However, history proves that this was a smarter decision than everybody expected. Young became one of the worst draft busts in history while Williams had a solid career. He’s not the most spectacular number-one draft pick ever but he was decent.
Williams set the world on fire during his time with NC State. Then he became an All-Pro selection in the NFL in 2015 with the Bills. He was one of the most consistent pass rushers in the sport for a decade. It’s difficult to impress when playing for a trashcan fire like the Texans but he achieved it (via Democrat and Chronicle).
Some might say that Luck deserves to be higher on this list. But his story is one of unfulfilled potential because he retired in his prime. The Colts gave up Peyton Manning after his injury-struck year because Luck fell into their laps. It was incredibly lucky because the Stanford star was brilliant (via The New Yorker).
The four-time Pro Bowler won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2018. He led the league in passing touchdowns in 2015 as the Colts rubbed their hands together gleefully. But he stepped away after seven seasons because of his injury record. Arguably, the Colts never saw the best of him and that’s a shame because they never protected him.
Palmer is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL history. The three-time Pro Bowler had a phenomenal 2005 season. He led the league in passing touchdowns as he showed his lethal accuracy. Meanwhile, he turned the Bengals into a winning team before his injury against the Steelers.
The quarterback deserves immense credit because he managed to maintain his place in the league. 2015 was arguably his most successful season because he helped the Cardinals to the NFC Championship game. He wasn’t the flashiest number-one draft pick ever but he had a decent career (via NBC Sports).
Yes, it’s very early to say for sure, but there’s a good reason why Lawrence is already high on this list. It’s amazing how quickly the Jaguars’ fortunes turned around with the former Clemson star under center. He was the most-coveted college quarterback since Andrew Luck when Jacksonville made him the first overall draft pick.
However, his rookie season was a nightmare because the Jags appointed Urban Meyer as head coach. This disastrous move set them back but they bounced back in his sophomore year. Doug Pedersen’s guidance transformed Lawrence’s confidence and he helped the franchise back into the playoffs (via The Athletic).
Garrett is one of the best defensive players in the NFL today. Arguably, only Aaron Donald and T.J. Watt have been more impressive than Garrett at his peak. There were indeed initial doubts about him but Garrett squashed these. Yes, he occasionally blows up as Mason Rudolph discovered, but he’s an animal on his day.
Those days come very often because Garrett is a four-time Pro Bowler as well as a two-time All-Pro selection. He even performs well when the Browns don’t produce good results as we saw in 2022. The defensive end was the first overall draft pick in 2017 and now he is going from strength to strength (via Cleveland.com).
Stafford spent a decade in with Detroit as one of the league’s most underrated quarterbacks. It says a lot about his talents that Lions fans mourned when he left but they also gave him their blessings. The Rams brought him to the West Coast in 2021 as they attempted to buy a Super Bowl (via L.A. Times).
They recognized that Stafford wasn’t the flashiest quarterback in the NFL but he was consistent. In the end, he did enough to help win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Lions made Stafford the first overall draft pick in 2009 after he impressed for Georgia. He’s undeniably one of the best number-one draft picks of the century so far.
Burrow shows exactly why franchises desperately pursue elite college quarterbacks. He arrived in the NFL after one of the best college seasons ever with LSU. The Bengals made him the first-overall draft pick and dropped him in the deep end. His first season was a mixed bag because he played well but took too many sacks (via Sporting News).
In the end, an ACL year cut his rookie year short. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise because it took him off the front line. Then the Bengals began to protect him properly and he helped them to a rare Super Bowl appearance. His bond with Ja’Marr Chase is one of the most exciting in football today. Now the Bengals are a serious proposition because of his influence.
Yes, Newton’s career suffered a major nosedive but it’s wrong to ignore everything he achieved before this. The former Panthers star had an amazing 2015 season as he won the MVP award. He helped the franchise to a Super Bowl appearance and was one of the most exciting quarterbacks of the decade.
Sadly, injuries slowed him down but he had an amazing impact on Carolina’s fortunes. Newton threw for a ludicrous 4000 yards in his rookie year and rushed like a bull. He also made three Pro Bowl appearances and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2015. There’s no denying that he was a special player in his prime (via NFL.com).
There’s no doubt that Manning was the most successful top overall draft pick since 2000. Some people question his Hall of Fame credentials and if he was an elite quarterback. None of that matters to the New York Giants because he helped them to two Super Bowl victories. Manning also came up clutch in both of those games as he proved his winning mentality.
No, he didn’t have his older brother’s natural talent but he still has two Super Bowl rings, and over the Patriots. He also did more in those games to earn them than Peyton did. It’s funny that in another life he could have played for the Chargers. San Diego had the number one draft pick but Manning refused to go there after the Ryan Leaf debacle (via Forbes).