On April 24, 2020, quarterback Joe Burrow became the first player to be drafted via videoconference. Commissioner Roger Goodell, broadcasted the Cincinnati Bengals’ No. 1 overall pick from his home in Bronxville, New York. And at that moment the LSU quarterback joined the long line of superstars who have come before him.
But will he line up with legends of the past? And there have been a lot of them, so coming up with this list was difficult. Here are our top 4 No. 1 picks in NFL Draft history. Sure, you may disagree, but there’s no doubt that each and every one of them deserves their spot in the Hall of Fame.
Joe Burrow: Future Hall of Famer?
Let’s start this list in an unorthodox way, with a prediction. Joe Burrow will be a Hall of Famer and will deliver a Super Bowl title. Yes, it’s bold, but we said it.
The kid has all of the hallmarks of a superstar. The record-breaking QB was described as a no-brainer pick by most experts. He’s been compared to Tom Brady. He has a stadium named after him. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2019.
He’s been featured in every newspaper, every magazine, YouTube Channel, sports website, you name it. World Sports Network (WSN) covers the latest NFL news, for example, and they wrote quite a few articles about him. ESPN’s sports coverage was starting to look like the Joe Burrow Show. You couldn’t get away from the guy. He even landed on the front cover of Sports Illustrated multiple times, despite not having played a single NFL game.
The guy is legit and as close as you can get to a sure thing. But he’s not there yet. The four guys on this list, however, have the track records to prove they deserve their spot on the list.
Drafted in 1970, many claim that Terry Bradshaw is the top No. 1 pick in the history of the NFL. Brought in by Pittsburgh, the Blond Bomber had an arm that was full power. He also called his own plays, reflecting his cerebral approach to the game.
Bradshaw was known for his clutch performances, throwing for 300 yards in three classic playoff performances. His efforts brought the Steelers four championship trophies in the 1970s.
He also enjoyed several individual accolades. He won the Super MVP title twice, was voted to the Pro Bowl three times, and also won the Most Valuable Player trophy in 1978. There’s no surprise that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as soon as he was eligible.
If it’s not Bradshaw, it has to be Peyton Manning. He had a stellar career at Tennessee, so everyone expected Archie’s son to eclipse his dad’s solid NFL career. But no one could have predicted just how disgustingly successful he would become.
He was fantastic from the start, taking the Colts from also-rans to Super Bowl winners for just the second time in their history in 2006. He won back-to-back MVP titles in 2003 and 2004. When he was 37, he threw a jaw-dropping 5,477 yards. That landed him his fifth MVP award.
When he retired in 2015, he led the all-time passing yards list with a ridiculous 71,940. He can also boast the best record for passing touchdowns in a single season with 55, as well as the all-time record with 549. This guy is a living legend, no doubt about it.
Elway was such a fantastic athlete that he excelled in two sports during his time at Stanford. In fact, in 1979 many scouts thought that baseball was his best sport. Considering the course of his NFL career, that’s a frightening proposition.
Broncos fans must be thanking the Gods that he decided to stick with football, rather than try his luck with the NY Yankees. He won the team back-to-back Super Bowl rings, and delivered victory after victory in both the regular season and the playoffs. He was also great to watch, being the only QB to notch rushing touchdowns in four Super Bowls.
Elway’s career is essentially storybook. He won nine Pro Bowl Selections. 1987 regular season MVP. Hall of Famer since 2004. He said farewell to the NFL by being named MVP of the 1998 Super Bowl, even scoring a rushing touchdown as his Broncos defeated the Falcons 34-19. There’s really no better way to experience your swansong…
Before you bring out the pitchforks, hear us out. Yes, he’s a bad guy. But when it comes to sheer talent and performance, The Juice was a worth No. 1 draft pick. The Heisman Trophy winner lived up to all the hype, and then some.
The Buffalo Bills reaped the benefits from the pick right from the start. He rolled up 1040 combined yards in his first season, which spanned 13 games. He scored five touchdowns, all for a struggling team. In 1972, he led the league in rushing.
He’s a bonafide Hall of Famer, a 5x All-Pro selection, and even won the Most Valuable Player accolade in 1973. The downside? His performances didn’t lead to much success in the postseason, with only a single playoff appearance coming in 1974.
Joe Burrow? Draft Hindsight is 20/20
Let’s finish by circling back to Burrow. We said he’s a lock, but there’s also every chance that he’ll fall flat. It happens. There have been more NFL draft pick busts than we care to mention (JaMarcus Russell, anyone?). The guys we’ve mentioned in this list had glittered careers full of glory, records, and Super Bowl rings, but nothing is guaranteed. Will Burrow join the list of superstars, or will he be yet another Russell? Ultimately, we don’t have a crystal ball, but we’re certainly going to enjoy the ride.