We Rank the Best No. 1 NFL Draft Pick Quarterbacks of All Time

John Elway, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton.
John Elway, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton.
Graphic: AP (Getty Images)

Quarterbacks have had a pretty significant impact on the history of the NFL. They are often the most important players on the field on any given Sunday.

As a result of that, NFL teams have used the top overall pick in the draft to select a quarterback 25 times in the Super Bowl era.

We saw a couple of byproducts of those decisions Thursday night.

Two No. 1 overall pick QBs battled against each other in Cleveland when the 2018 top pick of the Browns, Baker Mayfield, squared off against the Bengals’ 2020 No. 1 pick, Joe Burrow.

So, we decided to rank our top 10 best quarterbacks who were taken with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Check it out.

Just missing cut:

Vinny Testaverde

Carson Palmer

Drew Bledsoe

Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.

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10. Jim Plunkett

10. Jim Plunkett

Jim Plunkett was drafted by Pats but found success in Oakland.
Jim Plunkett was drafted by Pats but found success in Oakland.
Photo: AP

There was a time when the New England Patriots weren’t good, and that was when they selected Jim Plunkett with the No. 1 pick of the 1971 draft. Plunkett, a Heisman Trophy winner at Stanford, languished for years with bad Patriots and 49ers teams before moving on to Oakland at age 33. He led the Raiders to an upset victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl XV, and won another Super Bowl with the Raiders after they moved to Los Angeles in 1983.

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9. Matthew Stafford

9. Matthew Stafford

Lack of winning seasons with lousy Lions hurts Stafford’s standing.
Lack of winning seasons with lousy Lions hurts Stafford’s standing.
Photo: Getty

Since he was drafted in 2009, Stafford’s arm talent has never been questioned. In 12 NFL seasons, the former Georgia Bulldog has thrown for more than 41,000 yards and nearly 260 touchdowns with an average completion percentage of 62.4 percent. If it wasn’t for the Lions’ continued incompetence as an organization to build a winning team, Stafford would likely be viewed as one of the best quarterbacks of his era. Stafford was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2014 and he was the fastest NFL quarterback since the merger to reach the 30,000 and 40,000 yard milestones.

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8. Eli Manning

8. Eli Manning

Eli is not the last Manning on this list.
Eli is not the last Manning on this list.
Photo: Getty

While Manning’s individual career accolades may leave a lot to be desired, his place as one of the best playoff performers in NFL history is indisputable. Manning’s Super Bowl victories over Tom Brady’s then-unbeaten New England Patriots in 2007, and again in 2011, gave us some of the most memorable Super Bowl moments ever. Manning won Super Bowl MVP in both of those contests. The former Giants quarterback is a four-time Pro Bowler and will likely be Inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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7. Cam Newton

7. Cam Newton

Cam Newton would take Carolina to a Super Bowl ... and lose to someone else on this list.
Cam Newton would take Carolina to a Super Bowl ... and lose to someone else on this list.
Photo: AP

Newton is arguably the most physically gifted player to ever line up under center. At his best, he was a matchup nightmare for defenses due to his size and speed. Newton led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2015, and named MVP that same season. In all, Newton is a three-time Pro Bowler and was named first-team All-Pro once. His swagger and bravado along with his talent make him one of the most unique players to ever play in the league.

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6. Andrew Luck

6. Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck saw his career cut short by injuries.
Andrew Luck saw his career cut short by injuries.
Photo: AP

Luck was one of the most promising No. 1 picks to ever enter the league. In his first three seasons he led Indianapolis to three 11-5 seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl in each of those years. He was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2018, but his career was cut short by an accumulation of injuries. Luck announced his retirement right before the start of the 2019 season after only being in the league for seven seasons.

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5. Mike Vick

5. Mike Vick

Mike Vick went to prison, which cut his career into two acts.
Mike Vick went to prison, which cut his career into two acts.
Photo: AP

Vick is one of the most electrifying talents to ever step foot on a football field. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, and the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He is one of the most impactful players ever in the league and left a blueprint for the explosive dual-threat talents we see all over the league today. Vick’s career was halted in 2007 after he pleaded guilty for running a dogfighting ring called Bad Newz Kennels on his Virginia property, and served 21 months in federal prison. Upon release from prison, Vick resurrected his career in Philadelphia and became an MVP candidate in 2010.

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4. Troy Aikman

4. Troy Aikman

Troy Aikman was the perfect QB for a dynastic Cowboys team.
Troy Aikman was the perfect QB for a dynastic Cowboys team.
Photo: AP

The last great move made by Tex Schramm was telling Jerry Jones to take Troy Aikman with the No. 1 pick of the 1989 draft. Jones bought the Cowboys, and hired Jimmy Johnson as coach soon after. Johnson, who had been turned down by Aikman while recruiting him for the University of Miami, took Steve Walsh in the supplemental draft, as insurance and leverage in case Aikman wanted too much money. Aikman and the Cowboys went 1-15 in his first year, but soon became a dynasty, winning three Super Bowls behind the arm of Aikman, the legs of Emmitt Smith and the hands of Michael Irvin. A trio that would be known as “The Triplets.”

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3. Terry Bradshaw

3. Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw’s arm was the force behind a Steelers side known for defense.
Terry Bradshaw’s arm was the force behind a Steelers side known for defense.
Photo: AP

Like many No. 1 picks, Bradshaw struggled with a bad Steelers team. But the Louisiana kid eventually became the face of one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties, winning four Super Bowls in the 1970s, twice named MVP of the Big Game. Bradshaw was a good scrambling QB, rushing for over 200 yards six times, scoring 32 TDs on the ground in his career. But it was his rifle arm that could place the ball into the arms of receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth 60 yards downfield that he is best remembered for.

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2. John Elway

2. John Elway

John Elway took Denver to five Super Bowls, winning two.
John Elway took Denver to five Super Bowls, winning two.
Photo: AP

After a great career at Stanford, Elway was the consensus No. 1 pick of the 1983 draft and one of the highest-rated QB prospects of all time. But he made it clear he would not play for the Baltimore Colts, who owned the No. 1 pick. As a prospect of the New York Yankees, Elway threatened to play baseball instead of football. He was drafted by Baltimore but then sent to Denver, and led the Broncos to five Super Bowls. Elway and the Broncos got shellacked in the first three, but they won Super Bowls in Elway’s final two seasons, winning the Super Bowl MVP award that final trip.

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1. Peyton Manning

1. Peyton Manning

The other Manning would win Super Bowls with two different teams: the Colts who drafted him and then the Broncos.
The other Manning would win Super Bowls with two different teams: the Colts who drafted him and then the Broncos.
Photo: AP

Manning is arguably the most accomplished quarterback to ever play in the NFL. He’s a 14-time pro bowler, 7-time first-team All-Pro, 5-time MVP and 2-time Superbowl Champion. He lifted the Colts out of the gutter and made them an AFC powerhouse for more than a decade. He will be a first ballot hall of famer, and is in the conversation as one of the best commercial-making athletes in history.

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Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.