“With the First Overall Pick in the NFL Draft…”
Those words can change a life.
Only 80 people in the history of the world have been given membership to the exclusive First Overall Pick club, and in approximately two weeks someone will join that illustrious group.
There is more than enough speculation these days about who that lucky gentleman will be, but this week I’ve been focusing on the past here at Inside The Star. Earlier this week I took a glance at the Free Agents who left the Cowboys a year ago to see where they are now. Today… we’re talking First Overall Picks.
So about that List of 80 – that’s a lot of times the NFL Draft kicked off with one player. Each and every time that First Overall Pick has had the pressure of living up to his Draft Day stock… a burden most fail to carry victoriously.
What exactly comes with that burden? Obviously one is expected to be a great player, sure. What else, though? Typically quarterbacks taken First Overall are expected to deliver that franchise a Super Bowl. That’s why we play this game, right? To win Championships.
In looking at the List of 80 there are obviously names that stand out, players that did just fine, and guys who completely flopped. There is one name that stands out among the rest. One name is most identifiable among the First Overall Picks with bringing glory to the team that took a chance on them – Troy Aikman.
Let me show you why.
I understand that you’re quite busy, so I’m not going to bore you with the entire List of 80. It’s a fair assumption that to be considered the greatest First Overall Pick ever you would probably end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, right?
A lucky 13 of the 80 players selected First Overall have a bust in Canton, Ohio:
|Year Taken #1 Overall||Player||Position|
|1976||Lee Roy Selmon||DE|
There is one First Overall Pick not on this list that will join them in five years, his name is Peyton Manning.
As these are the 13, 14 including Peyton, best First Overall Picks it makes sense that the best would come from this crop.
Why do we play this game? For championships, remember? Super Bowls are the measuring stick of greatness. Let’s examine this list again with World Championships included:
|Year Taken #1 Overall||Player||Position||NFL Championships/Super Bowls|
|1976||Lee Roy Selmon||DE||0|
|1999 (Not in HOF)||Peyton Manning||QB||2|
Once you add World Titles to the mix it becomes quite obvious that this is a four man race between Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Troy Aikman, and Peyton Manning. Paul Hornung was an incredible football player and First Overall Pick, but unfortunately just didn’t have the same level of influence as these other four due to the nature of his position.
Terry is one of only three men to ever grace the face of the Earth to quarterback his team to four Super Bowl victories (Joe Montana and Tom Brady are the other two). One would concur that this immediately makes him a lock for this prize, but I wouldn’t go that far.
Bradshaw had Hall of Famers literally all around him. His Head Coach (Chuck Knoll), Running Back (Franco Harris), Wide Receivers (Lynn Swann and John Stallworth), Center (Mike Webster), Defensive Tackle (Joe Greene), Linebackers (Jack Ham and Jack Lambert), and Cornerback (Mel Blount) are all in the Hall of Fame with him.
With that much talent around him it’s hard to give the nod to Terry here. He was a phenomenal quarterback and great investment at #1 Overall, but he isn’t the best.
The most iconic #7 that the NFL has ever seen would be a lock for this title as well… if he had played his Hall of Fame career for the team that actually drafted him.
Elway was infamously drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1983 and later traded to the Denver Broncos. Yes, he put together quite the career there. Yes, he set numerous passing records. Yes, he took them to five Super Bowls as a player.
You know what, though? John Elway could never deliver Denver the Lombardi Trophy until he got an elite run game from Terrell Davis. He could not do it alone. There’s no shame in that, it’s just the truth. Sorry Johnny, you’re out.
Peyton redefined the way that quarterbacks assess the field pre-snap and arguably meant more to the NFL as a whole than he ever did to the Indianapolis Colts or Denver Broncos.
Manning helped catapult the NFL to the forefront of sports in America during the early 2000s when technology really took off with how we consume entertainment in general. He overcame the notion that Indianapolis was a basketball and NASCAR town when he brought the city it’s first Super Bowl after the 2006 season.
Peyton didn’t do it alone, though. His Indy Head Coach and primary receiver, Tony Dungy & Marvin Harrison, will join the hallowed halls of Canton this summer when they are enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While Peyton might be the most iconic First Overall Pick ever, he sadly isn’t the best.
Imagine if a franchise fired the only coach that it had ever known (a time spanning 29 years) and that you were the person they brought in to be the future of the new generation. Only Troy Aikman knows what that is like.
As the First Overall Pick in 1989 Troy Aikman not only faced the pressure that all #1 picks do, but he faced the insurmountable task of redefining the Dallas Cowboys. America’s Team!
While Aikman had help from his Triplet counterparts (Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin) he did not have a Hall of Fame Head Coach like Bradshaw and Manning. It only took Troy four seasons deliver the expectation of a Super Bowl victory, and it took him a total of seven seasons to deliver three.
Troy Aikman accomplished the most for his franchise and helped redefine them in a time of absolute need. No one on this list even comes close to that type of accomplishment.
Two weeks from now a young man is going to be selected First Overall in the NFL Draft. He will be expected to deliver a lot to the franchise that invests that much in him. He will be expected to win, and to be the best. That’s the pressure that comes with being the First Overall Pick.
Whoever he is he’ll have to deliver more than Troy if he wants to be the best, because Troy Aikman is the Greatest First Overall Pick in NFL History.