As the 2017 NFL Draft creeps closer, the pressure continues to build for the team in charge of making the correct choice with the first overall selection. The Cleveland Browns own this year’s No. 1 pick and it will be the third time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 that the Browns have had the draft’s very first selection.
Cleveland last had the first pick in the draft back in 2000 when they chose Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown. The year before, the Browns opted to go with Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch with the draft’s No. 1 overall selection.
Neither choice worked out for Cleveland and there is no guarantee that their choice this year will lead them to success either. Especially with the amount of bad luck the Browns have experienced during their existence as an NFL franchise.
As surprising as it may be, Cleveland does not hold the record for the most No. 1 draft selections since the merger. Oddly enough, however, the three teams that have picked first the most have also been able to capture a Vince Lombardi trophy for their franchise.
So who are these three teams that have managed to experience being both the absolute worst team in the league and the only team left celebrating at the end of the season during their history of existence?
3. New England Patriots – Four
1971: Jim Plunkett, QB – USC
Plunkett did not end up being the quarterback the Patriots were hoping for until he left town and joined the Oakland Raiders in 1979.
With New England from 1971 to 1975, the quarterback’s play was about as bad as it could get. In 61 games with the Patriots, Plunkett threw 25 more interceptions than touchdowns (87 to 62) and managed to only complete 48.5 percent of the passes he threw.
New England only won 38 percent of the games he started and the team was likely ecstatic when the quarterback helped lead the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins in 1980 and 1983.
1982: Kenneth Sims, DE Texas
Despite appearing in 74 games for the Patriots from 1982 to 1989, Sims failed to make any sort of significant impact during his time with the team.
He finished his career with a grand total of 17 sacks, including a single-season high of 5.5 in 1985. Precisely the kind of production New England had in mind when they selected him first overall.
1984: Irving Fryar, WR – Nebraska
Another player’s career who did not really blossom until he left the Patriots for another team.
In nine seasons with New England, Fryar only managed to end a year with over 1,000 receiving yards once. During his next eight seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins he had four years in which he finished with at least 1,000 receiving yards.
Fryar did at least have a knack of finding the end zone as a member of the Patriots. While in New England, the receiver managed to score a total of 42 touchdowns.
1993: Drew Bledsoe, QB – Washington State
Arguably the most successful of the Patriots’ No. 1 picks (okay, maybe there is not much of an argument), Bledsoe helped lead the team to double-digit wins in three of his first five seasons with the team.
During a 32-game span from 1996 to 1997, the quarterback threw for 7,792 yards, 55 touchdowns, and just 30 interceptions. With Bledsoe leading the way, New England made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 1996.
The quarterback’s career with the Patriots would go on to last until 2001 after the team decided to go with some guy named Tom Brady under center instead.
1. (tie) Indianapolis Colts – Five
1983: John Elway, QB – Stanford
Back when they were still located in Baltimore, the Colts opted to go against Elway’s wishes and took the future Hall of Fame quarterback with the number one pick.
He never ended up playing a down for the Colts as the team decided to trade the quarterback to the Denver Broncos for offensive lineman Chris Hinton, quarterback Mark Herrmann, and the Broncos’ 1984 first-round pick. Elway’s career ended up being pretty decent.
1990: Jeff George, QB – Illinois
The Colts obviously saw something special in George when they decided to trade up in the 1990 draft in order to land the quarterback. Their thoughts proved to be nothing more than a hilarious dream as George struggled during his four seasons with Indianapolis.
In 1991, the quarterback started all 16 of the Colts’ games and led them to just one win. Indianapolis decided it was better off without George and traded to the quarterback to the Atlanta Falcons in 1994.
1992: Steve Emtman, DE – Washington
Indianapolis’ bad luck with having the top pick in draft certainly continued with the selection with Emtman. After a great career at the University of Washington, the Colts figured Emtman could continue his success in the NFL.
But the defensive end could not kick the injury bug and only managed to start 14 games in three seasons with Indianapolis. After refusing to re-negotiate his contract, the Colts decided to release Emtman and his five career sacks in 1995.
1998: Peyton Manning, QB – Tennessee
Not only did Manning turn out to be the best number one selection made by Indianapolis in franchise history, he arguably had the best career of any former number one NFL draft pick ever.
In 13 seasons with the Colts, the quarterback was named league MVP four times, voted to the Pro Bowl 11 times, and was a First-Team All-Pro five times. Oh yeah, and he led Indianapolis to a Super Bowl win in 2006.
2012: Andrew Luck, QB – Stanford
After a few seasons, Luck seemed like he was on a path similar to Manning’s. But the quarterback has come back down a bit closer to earth in the last two years as he and the Colts have not played in a playoff game since 2014.
However, not many are doubting Luck’s chance of still becoming one of the best quarterbacks to ever set foot on an NFL field. His 86 touchdown passes in his last 38 games may have something to do with that.
1. (tie) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Five
1976: Lee Roy Selmon, DE – Oklahoma
Even if his play on the field did not translate to the Bucs’ success in the standings, Selmon had himself a pretty nice NFL career.
In 1979, he was voted to his first Pro Bowl, named a First-Team All-Pro, and earned that season’s Defensive Player of the Year award. He went on to make five more Pro Bowls before his career came to an end in 1986 due to a back injury.
1977: Ricky Bell, RB – USC
Adding Selmon in 1976 certainly was not enough to prevent Tampa Bay from losing all of their games that season and landing the draft’s top selection for the second straight year. With their offense lacking playmakers, the Bucs decided to choose Bell with their first draft pick in 1977.
Bell was not much help during his first two seasons in Tampa but in 1979, he ran for a team-high 1,263 yards and scored nine touchdowns. His success that year proved to be short-lived as Bell only lasted two more seasons with the Bucs before the team traded him to the San Diego Chargers in 1982.
1986: Bo Jackson, RB – Auburn
When most think of Jackson’s career in the NFL, they see him running past people in a Raiders jersey. But the running back was actually drafted by Tampa Bay first.
After the Bucs drafted him first overall in 1986, Jackson never signed with the team. Mainly because he felt Tampa’s ownership tried to sabotage his chance at a professional baseball career.
1987: Vinny Testaverde, QB – Miami
After a 2-14 season in 1986, the Bucs decided to trade quarterback Steve Young to the San Francisco 49ers and invest their first-round pick in Testaverde.
The quarterback was never really known for his success in the NFL and it was no different during his six seasons with Tampa Bay. Testaverde led the league in interceptions in both 1988 and 1989 and the Bucs never won more than six games in a single season with him starting under center.
His time in Tampa ended after he signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free-agent in 1993.
2015: Jameis Winston, QB – Florida State
Time will tell, but Winston has a chance to go down as the best Bucs quarterback in the team’s history. In just his second season last year, he set the franchise’s record for passing yards and touchdown passes in a single-season.
At 23-years-old, Winston has plenty of time to own all of Tampa’s all-time passing records. Maybe he can even set a few league records too?