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History of the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft

We discuss the history of the number one draft pick in the NFL Draft.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 25: Kyler Murray Oklahoma poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was picked #1 overall by the Arizona Cardinals during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Finishing with the NFL’s worst regular season record can be an eyesore for franchises and their fandom, but a worthwhile consolation is being granted the opportunity to select first overall in the subsequent NFL Draft. Many teams at this spot are more or less in rebuilding mode, which means adding the most talented collegiate player in a prospect class can turn around a franchise’s fortune.

Through last year’s NFL Draft, 87 players have been selected first overall, with the most recent being Travon Walker of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Of those players, 43 have been selected to a Pro Bowl and of those 43, twelve have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Let’s run through a brief history of the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Which team has held the most No. 1 picks in NFL Draft history?

The Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams have made the most first overall selections in history with (7), followed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, and Arizona Cardinals with (5). The Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, and Denver Broncos are the only franchises to have never drafted first overall.

No team that has held the first overall pick has gone on to win the Super Bowl in the same season, nor appear in the big game.

What position has been drafted the most at No. 1 overall?

Of the 87 players selected with the top overall pick, 43 of them have been quarterbacks, with the most recent selection coming in 2021 (Trevor Lawrence). Running back is the next highest position at 23, followed by defensive linemen in third place with 16 selections.

Only one defensive back has been selected first overall (Gary Glick, 1956) and no special teams player has ever been taken with the first overall selection.

Which school holds the most No. 1 overall selections?

That honor is currently shared between Notre Dame, USC, Oklahoma, and Georgia who each have (5) top overall selections in NFL history. Auburn and Stanford each have (4), while LSU, Texas, and Ohio State each have (3).

Only two schools have had consecutive No. 1 overall picks in back-to-back years, with USC achieving the feat with Ron Yary (1968) and O.J. Simpson (1969). Oklahoma is the only other school, which did so with two quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield (2018) and Kyler Murray (2019).

Who are some of the greatest No. 1 draft picks in NFL history?

We’ll save the discussion for “greatest No. 1 pick in NFL history” for another day. Rather, there should be no debate when it comes to mentioning the handful of players considered to be among the best hearing their names called first on draft night. These include Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts, 1998), John Elway (Baltimore Colts, 1983), Bruce Smith (Buffalo Bills, 1985), Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970), and Troy Aikman (Dallas Cowboys, 1989).

While being selected first overall by no means guarantees success for the franchise drafting, these players went on to have historically great careers and more often not shared that success with their respective teams.