Quarterbacks selected No. 1 have had mixed NFL success

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Joe Burrow
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

What does history suggest for Joe Burrow as a pro?

Burrow, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft Thursday night, is the 25th quarterback to be chosen first overall in the common draft era (since 1967).

Quarterbacks going No. 1 has become much more common of late. In the first 20 years of the common draft, only four quarterbacks were picked No. 1 – Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, Steve Bartkowski and John Elway. Since 1987, the top choice has been a quarterback 21 times.

The careers of those top picks have ranged everywhere from Louisiana’s own Peyton Manning and Bradshaw, who won a combined six Super Bowls, to former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who was out of the league in three years.

Leaving out the six No. 1 picks who were active last year and are expected to be on a roster in 2020, the average career is nearly 13 years, with 3.2 Pro Bowl appearances (12 of the 18 made at least one Pro Bowl appearance) and a little less than one Super Bowl title.

Three quarterbacks picked No. 1 are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – Bradshaw, John Elway and Troy Aikman. Peyton Manning is a lock to join them a year from now, while others like Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck and perhaps Matthew Stafford will be in the discussion when the time comes.

How successful will Burrow be? A lot will depend on what the Bengals put around him and the stability of his environment. Bradshaw, Elway and Aikman, remember, played their entire career for just one franchise.

Here’s a look at all of those quarterbacks picked No. 1 and a snapshot of their careers.

Year Player College Drafted By Seasons Pro Bowls Titles* MVPs HOF
1970 Terry Bradshaw LA Tech Steelers 14 3 4 1 Y
1971 Jim Plunkett Stanford Patriots 16 0 2 0 N
1975 Steve Bartkowski California Falcons 12 2 0 0 N
1983 John Elway Stanford Colts 16 9 2 1 Y
1987 Vinny Testaverde Miami Buccaneers 21 2 0 0 N
1989 Troy Aikman UCLA Cowboys 12 6 3 0 Y
1990 Jeff George Illinois Colts 14 0 0 0 N
1993 Drew Bledsoe Washington State Patriots 14 4 0 0 N
1998 Peyton Manning Tennessee Colts 18 14 2 5
1999 Tim Couch Kentucky Browns 5 0 0 0 N
2001 Michael Vick Virginia Tech Falcons 15 4 0 0
2002 David Carr Fresno State Texans 11 0 0 0 N
2003 Carson Palmer USC Bengals 15 3 0 0
2004 Eli Manning Ole Miss Chargers 16 4 2 0
2005 Alex Smith Utah 49ers 15 3 0 0
2007 JaMarcus Russell LSU Raiders 3 0 0 0 N
2009 Matthew Stafford Georgia Lions 11 1 0 0
2010 Sam Bradford Oklahoma Rams 9 0 0 0
2011 Cam Newton Auburn Panthers 9 3 0 1
2012 Andrew Luck Stanford Colts 7 4 0 0
2015 Jameis Winston Florida State Buccaneers 5 1 0 0
2016 Jared Goff California Rams 4 2 0 0
2018 Baker Mayfield Oklahoma Browns 2 0 0 0
2019 Kyler Murray Oklahoma Cardinals 1 0 0 0
2020 Joe Burrow LSU Bengals
*as starting QB
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Lenny Vangilder

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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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