Since the year 2000, we’ve seen some pretty darn good quarterbacks get drafted and bring their team Super Bowl rings in a short period of time. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and even Drew Brees who was signed by the Saints in 2005 and won the title four years later all fit that profile. But none of them was the 1st overall pick in the draft.
Being the #1 selection in the NFL draft comes with a lot of pressure and usually means that player is going to a losing team. Peyton Manning is a perfect example. Peyton needed a year under his belt in Indianapolis in order to get on the road to the Hall of Fame. After surrounding Manning with some talent, he was able to ride the Colts to a championship back in the 2006 season. As a matter of a fact, the only QB picked #1 overall to win a Super Bowl since Manning was Manning. Eli that is! And he did it to his brothers arch nemesis, the New England Patriots the following season in 2007 and again in 2011. Then Peyton got jealous and tied his brother with his second Super Bowl win with Denver in 2015.
So being the first overall selection as a quarterback certainly doesn’t guarantee a championship. Since the turn of the millennium, the NFL has had some excellent quarterbacks taken with the first pick in the draft. Starting in 2001 Michael Vick was picked first by the Atlanta Falcons. Following Vick are some other very good QB’s taken number one. Guys like Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston and most recently Jared Goff have been chosen to take their teams to the promised land. None of them have so far except Eli Manning.
Cam Newton is the only quarterback on this list who’s made it to the big game but was on the losing end of it. Kind of hard to win titles when Brady and Peyton were dominating the league. It’s as if they made an agreement 17 years ago and decided to switch on and off of who gets to go to the Super Bowl and who goes to the Pro Bowl.
Not every team can win the Super Bowl. One of the best quarterbacks of all time reached the title game in his second season only to lose to the 49ers. Dan Marino never made it back to the championship. Point being is that you don’t need to win the Super Bowl or multiple in order to be considered a great quarterback. Jim Kelly took the Bills to four straight Super Bowls and lost every one of them. Does that make Marino and Kelly failures?! Absolutely not! Marino put up numbers 30 years ago in an era when you were actually allowed to make contact with the receiver. No quarterback other than Kelly has led their team to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
Football is the ultimate team sport and not even a QB alone can do it by themselves. This isn’t the NBA or NHL where one player can dominate the game and its result. You can’t even compare a pitcher in baseball to a quarterback in the NFL. In the great sport of football, you need to rely on your teammates to do their job or you can’t-do yours.
So after all that, my question is simple. Out of all the quarterbacks drafted with the first overall pick since 2000, which one would you start your team with knowing what you know now? For argument’s sake, let’s just say all these QB’s were drafted by the same team so there are no outside variables and each quarterback would be starting in their prime. This includes Eli Manning who won 2 titles, but as we know, winning the Super Bowl doesn’t automatically make you the best of the bunch. Not that it hurts though! Here’s a brief synopsis for each quarterback to help your decision.
Michael Vick: We all knew Vick would be the #1 pick back in 2001. He rejuvenated the Falcons franchise with his amazing athletic ability and incredible arm strength. Once he entered the league the Michael Vick Experience began. This kid was the human highlight reel. He even became the first QB in NFL history to defeat the Packers at Lambeau in the postseason. It seemed Sports Center would lead off with “what did Michael Vick do this Sunday afternoon?!” As much athletic and playmaking ability Vick had, he just never became that pure pocket passer which led to his shortened career among other things as we all know! Vick was a running back in quarterbacks clothing. But what an arm this kid had. His best season wasn’t even with Atlanta. It was after he was released from prison and ended up with the Eagles and in 2010 he was an MVP candidate and led Philly to the playoffs. Possibly the most fun player to watch in league history.
Carson Palmer: Heisman winner for the USC Trojans back in 2002, the Bengals couldn’t pass on Palmer knowing he can pass the ball as well as any QB in the league. Before his horrific injury in Cincinnati, the Bengals knew they found their quarterback for the next 10 years. The NFL knew that Palmer was becoming a top-tier quarterback. After his injury, he eventually found his way to Arizona where he resurrected his career helping to make the Cardinals legit contenders over the past few years. If not for tearing up his knee on a low hit during a playoff game against Pittsburgh, Palmer could have been one of the greats!
Eli Manning: Two Super Bowl championships help Eli’s career status. No doubt Eli has proven to be clutch in the biggest moments. He’s a no fear quarterback who are consistently asked to shoulder the load. My issue with him is his inconsistency from season to season. He throws too many interceptions and makes plays that make you scratch your head. It’s safe to say that if the G-Men didn’t have that NASCAR defense years ago, they likely wouldn’t be Super Bowl champs. The best play Eli ever made was allowing his father Archie to manipulate the 2004 draft and get his son in New York as opposed to San Diego where Phillip Rivers ended up.
Alex Smith: A couple of seasons after the 49ers took Smith with the 1st pick, Aaron Rodgers chants began to ring throughout the stadium. During Alex Smith’s first few years the Niners were absolutely awful. Smith always had talent but he isn’t the big-armed quarterback most teams were drafting. It wasn’t until Jim Harbaugh came to town and transformed Alex Smith into a Pro Bowl type quarterback. If not for his injury in 2012, it may have been Smith leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl instead of Colin Kaepernick. Now in Kansas City, Smith once again has his team at the top of the league.
Matthew Stafford: If you look up arm strength and 4th quarter comebacks on Google you’d see Stafford’s mug as one of the top searches on the internet. Stafford has matured as a quarterback over the years. He was drafted in 2009 and in his 3rd season had a breakout year throwing for over 5,000 yards, 41 TD’s and only 16 interceptions. The former Georgia QB was asked by the Lions organization to pass the ball more than any other QB during his first 5-6 seasons. Since 2015 we’ve seen significant improvement in Stafford’s stats as he’s thrown 63 TD’s to only 14 picks. His completion percentage has gone up dramatically since Jim Caldwell took over the head coaching position. Possible correlation? I believe so with a large dose of NFL experience and the freedom to call and change plays as he sees fit on the field.
Sam Bradford: He was a stud in college at Oklahoma and a Heisman Trophy winner entered the 2010 draft with the Rams having the first pick. Bradford set the rookie record for completions in a rookie season and won the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. Injuries have always been Sammy’s Achilles Heel like right now where on his 3rd team in the league (Vikings) Bradford has missed the past two games after looking like Dan Marino in the Monday Night opener over the Saints. He was considered a bust for his first few seasons with all the injuries and poor play at times. But when he’s healthy Bradford can play like a top-level quarterback. He just needs to stay on the field.
Cam Newton: Cam had some of the highest expectations as the #1 overall pick than most in recent history. Newton won on every level he’s played in from High School to College and now in the NFL where he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl a few seasons ago. They lost to Denver but Cam put himself on the map and earned league MVP honors. In fact, Cam is the only QB on this list to win the MVP. He became the ultimate dual threat throwing the ball like Stafford and running it like Vick. Defenses had nightmares knowing that Carolina was coming to town and unlike Santa, Cam wasn’t bringing opposing teams any gifts.
Andrew Luck: Luck was being compared to guys like John Elway, Big Ben, and even Peyton Manning who he had replaced in Indianapolis after Peyton’s 4th neck surgery. Luck came out like a house on fire lighting up the scoreboard and playing with a never say die attitude. Luck entered the NFL as pro-ready as any quarterback in recent memory. At the moment his stock is falling after a rough 2016 campaign and coming into 2017 with a nasty shoulder injury which will keep Luck out until at least Week 6. But beware! When he comes back I expect to see the Andrew Luck we all saw before his injury.
Jameis Winston: Our last and most recent Heisman winner was drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs after leading his Florida State Seminoles to a National Championship in 2014 as a Freshman. Winston’s off-field issues were outweighed by his talent and he was coveted as the best player in the 2015 NFL draft. Winston has shown the ability to adjust to the pro level quickly and has that natural born leadership his teammates follow. Now in his 3rd season, we need to see Jameis take that next step and lead the Bucs to the playoffs. Bucs and playoffs aren’t synonymous these days but Winston has the tools and personnel around him to get the job done.
So here are the quarterbacks drafted 1st overall since the 2000 season. It’s a pretty darn good list but only one of them has won a championship in the pros and only one other has even made the title game. Most of these guys are young and still have plenty of time to get that coveted Super Bowl ring. But the question is; if you had to start your team with any of these quarterbacks in their prime, knowing what we know now, which QB would you take? Remember this hypothetical scenario means all of these QB’s are being drafted by the same team so we can’t use their teammates as part of the barometer. This is the eye test and your opinion of who you believe is the best on this list.