First there are the playoffs, and then of course, the Super Bowl. The winner is showered with confetti as 100 million adoring fans look on from all corners of the globe. There are trips to Disney World, interviews on television, radio and in print, lucrative contracts to sign and legends cemented in stone.
After that, however, the eyes of the football world turn to the downtrodden. We look upon the have-nots of the NFL and wonder: How can that franchise, who only scored two wins or three wins the season before, turn it around?
How can they compete against the teams that have, or are hoping to, hoist the Lombardi Trophy in the near future?
Of course, there are several avenues to take in order to turn around a beleaguered organization. Several teams every year opt to bring in fresh new coaching staffs and every team looks to build through free agency and the NFL Draft.
But not every team has the No. 1-overall pick. Awarded every year by the league to the absolute worst team (think a Biblical, “the last shall be first” sort of thing), a team can be made or broken by making either the right or the wrong pick with the cameras turned on them and a roaring crowd in Radio City Music Hall.
Just ask the Cleveland Browns how well their franchise has been served, repeatedly choosing busts over BAMFs in the top spot. But that’s the thing: No matter how much poking, prodding and digging teams do into these players’ physical attributes and personal lives, there simply is no telling how a player is going to perform once he makes the leap to the professional level.
Thus, in an effort to truly understand exactly how ‘feast’ or ‘famine’ the top slot in the Draft is, we have ranked every single pick by how many Pro Bowls they have appeared in.
Four quick notes: First, is this ranking an inexact science? Of course — but so is everything else about the annual crapshoot that is the NFL Draft. Second, we are only going back to 1970, when the NFL and AFL merged to form what is roughly the league as we know it to be today. Third, I have chosen to include the most recent few top picks, even though their careers are far from over, simply for the sake of comparison. Finally, an (*) denotes an NFL Hall of Famer.
Zero Pro Bowls
1971 – Jim Plunkett, QB, Stanford to New England Patriots
1972 – Walt Patulski, DT, Notre Dame to Buffalo Bills
1973 – John Matuszak, DE, Tampa to Houston Oilers
1977 – Ricky Bell, RB, Southern Cal. to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1979 – Tom Cousineau, LB, Ohio State to Buffalo Bills
1982 – Kenneth Sims, DT, Texas to New England Patriots
1988 – Aundray Bruce, LB, Auburn to Atlanta Falcons
1990 – Jeff George, QB, Illinois to Indianapolis Colts
1992 – Steve Emtman, DT, Washington to Indianapolis Colts
1994 – Dan Wilkinson, DT, Ohio State to Cincinnati Bengals
1995 – Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Penn State to Cincinnati Bengals
1999 – Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky to Cleveland Browns
2000 – Courtney Brown, DE, Penn State to Cleveland Browns
2002 – David Carr, QB, Fresno State to Houston Texans
2005 – Alex Smith, QB, Utah to San Francisco 49ers
2007 – JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU to Oakland Raiders
2009 – Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia to Detroit Lions
2010 – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma to St. Louis Rams
One Pro Bowl
1986 – Bo Jackson, RB, Auburn to Tampa Bay Buccaneers (But it’s Bo; again, this is an inexact science)
1991 – Russell Maryland, DT, Miami, (Fla.) to Dallas Cowboys
2011 – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn to Carolina Panthers
2012 – Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford to Indianapolis Colts
Two Pro Bowls
1975 – Steve Bartkowski, QB, California to Atlanta Falcons
1981 – George Rogers, RB, South Carolina to New Orleans Saints
1987 – Vinny Testaverde, QB, Miami, (Fla.) to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2003 – Carson Palmer, QB, Southern Cal. to Cincinnati Bengals
2004 – Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss to New York Giants (via San Diego)
2006 – Mario Williams, DE, N. Carolina State to Houston Texans
Three Pro Bowls
1970 – *Terry Bradshaw, QB, Louisiana Tech to Pittsburgh Steelers
1974 – Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones, DE, Tennessee State to Dallas Cowboys
1980 – Bill Sims, RB, Oklahoma to Detroit Lions
Four Pro Bowls
1993 – Drew Bledsoe, QB, Washington State to New England Patriots
2001 – Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech to Atlanta Falcons
2008 – Jake Long, OT, Michigan to Miami Dolphins
Five Pro Bowls
1978 – *Earl Campbell, RB, Texas to Houston Oilers
1984 – Irving Fryar, WR, Nebraska to New England Patriots
Six Pro Bowls
1976 – *Lee Roy Selmon, DE, Oklahoma to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1989 – *Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA to Dallas Cowboys
Seven Pro Bowls
1997 – Orlando Pace, OT, Ohio State to St. Louis Rams
10 Pro Bowls
1983 – *John Elway, QB, Stanford to Denver Broncos (via Baltimore Colts)
11 Pro Bowls
1985 – Bruce Smith, DE, Virginia Tech to Buffalo Bills
12 Pro Bowls
1998 – Peyton Manning, QB, Tennessee to Indianapolis Colts
What do you make of this list? Any patterns you feel teams should be aware of? As always, sound off in the comments below!