In mere hours, somebody — most likely somebody named Josh, Sam, Baker or Saquon — will be selected first overall in the NFL Draft. Whoever it is, he’ll look to become just the fourth No. 1 overall pick this century to be honored as a first-team All-Pro, joining Jake Long, Mario Williams and Cam Newton.
It’s been a tough run for top picks, starting in 1999 with Tim Couch and 2000 with Courtney Brown. Those picks were technically made last century, but that was the beginning of a bust-filled stretch for No. 1 overall selections.
With that in mind, let’s rank the 17 players who have been picked first this century.
1. QB Eli Manning (2004): Manning hasn’t lived up to expectations on paper in terms of individual accomplishments, but he’s won two Super Bowl MVP awards and has earned four Pro Bowl nods over a long career with the Giants.
2. QB Cam Newton (2011): Newton has been to three Pro Bowls and is the only first overall pick this century to be named NFL MVP. He hasn’t been consistent enough to be on a Hall of Fame track, but that’s still within reach if he gets hot on the back nine.
3. QB Michael Vick (2001): The first No. 1 overall pick of the 21st century had a rocky career on and off the field, but like Newton he was one of the most uniquely talented and feared players in NFL history. He and three other top picks earned four Pro Bowl nods. None this century have earned more than that.
4. QB Alex Smith (2005): Smith has been a hyper-efficient, above-average starting quarterback for over a decade. He’s also made three Pro Bowls and is coming off a season in which he was the league’s highest-rated passer.
5. QB Matthew Stafford (2009): He’s only made one Pro Bowl, but the 30-year-old has consistently been one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the game. He’s coming off three superb seasons in his prime, and you wonder if an MVP-caliber campaign is on the horizon.
6. DE Mario Williams (2006): Williams isn’t going to the Hall of Fame, but 97.5 sacks and four Pro Bowls in 11 seasons ain’t shabby.
7. DE Jadeveon Clowney (2014): The jury remains out, but Clowney is just 25 years old and is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. He looks as though he could wind up making a bigger impact than Williams.
8. QB Jared Goff (2016): The 23-year-old is coming off a monster sophomore season with the Rams. The future looks extremely bright, but one good year isn’t enough.
9. DE Myles Garrett (2017): The jury is also very much out in this case, but the 22-year-old Garrett didn’t disappoint with seven sacks in 11 games as a rookie. Now he’ll just have to prove he can stay on the field.
10. QB Andrew Luck (2012): Luck was on track to become something special before a poorly-handled shoulder problem screwed up three prime years of his career. Still, he’s only 28 and has three Pro Bowls under his belt. He’s got a very good chance to move way up this list over the course of the next decade.
11. OT Jake Long (2008): Long also failed to become a Canton-worthy player, but the left tackle was often dominant during his first four seasons with the Dolphins.
12. QB Carson Palmer (2003): Palmer was on a Hall of Fame track real early, but he was never the same after suffering that brutal knee injury in the first playoff game of his career. He was rarely better than average the rest of his career in Cincinnati, Oakland and Arizona.
13. OT Eric Fisher (2013): The steady 27-year-old hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season, but he’s also yet to make a Pro Bowl.
14. QB Sam Bradford (2010): The 30-year-old has won just 34 career games and is joining his fourth team. Can’t stay healthy.
15. QB Jameis Winston (2015): Still haven’t seen enough to convince me he was worthy of the top pick. Too many turnovers, not rising to enough occasions. That said, he’s only 23 so he’s not a bust yet.
16. QB David Carr (2002): Carr was a starter for just five miserable seasons in Houston. He was a career backup after that.
17. QB JaMarcus Russell (2007): One of the most infamous busts in NFL history won just seven games in three seasons with the Raiders and never again appeared on an NFL field after that.