Weighing the value of the top 2 draft picks
Posted Feb. 25 at 11:33 AM
Is the first pick of the draft actually worth more than the second? Every team would love to select No. 1, of course, but do those players actually wind up being better than the guys selected after them?
If you get out the numbers, that seems to be the case. Since the merger in 1970, there have been 42 drafts. In 22 of those drafts, the No. 1 pick definitely went on to have a better career than the next player chosen. In only 11 of those drafts did the No. 2 player definitively wind up being better than the top guy.
In our eyes, there’s eight drafts where there’s some uncertainty involved. The players either look very similar, or one player wins by just a small amount – and maybe it would have been different if they’d been selected by different teams or put in different systems.
If you want to think of those in terms of wins and losses, that converts to a record of about 22-11-8 (8 ties). No. 1 definitely beats No. 2.
Drafts vary, of course. There are some years where everyone agrees on who that No. 1 should be. That’s where we’re at this year, with Andrew Luck. There are other years where there’s little perceived difference, and a player who’s more of simply a good first-rounder gets thrust into that No. 1 spot – think Jake Long, Courtney Brown, Alex Smith and Mario Williams.
FIRST TWO PICKS IN EACH DRAFT, 1970
1st Pick: QB Terry Bradshaw, Pitt.
2nd Pick: DT Mike McCoy, G.B.
Verdict: Bradshaw won four Super Bowls. Few even recall the name Mike McCoy.
1st Pick: QB Jim Plunkett, N.E.
2nd Pick: QB Archie Manning, N.O.
Verdict: Tough call. Plunkett won two Super Bowls with Raiders; Manning might have been much better on another team.
1st Pick: DE Walt Patulski, Buff.
2nd Pick: DE Sherman White, Cin.
Verdict: Both Patulski and White were gone from these teams after four seasons.
1st Pick: DE John Matuszak, Hou.
2nd Pick: QB Bert Jones, Balt.
Verdict: Matusak won two Super Bowls with Oakland but was an off-field nightmare. Jones had a promising career shortened by injuries. In hindsight, all teams would take Jones.
1st Pick: DE Too Tall Jones, Dall.
2nd Pick: RB Bo Matthews, S.D.
Verdict: Too Tall by a mile.
1st Pick: QB Steve Bartkowski, Atl.
2nd Pick: DT Randy White, Dall.
Verdict: Bartkowski had an outstanding career. White is a Hall of Famer, but at a less valuable position.
1st Pick: DE Lee Roy Selmon, T.B.
2nd Pick: DT Steve Niehaus, Sea.
Verdict: Niehaus joins Mike McCoy as second No. 2 overall tackle from Notre Dame to crap out in the '70s.
1st Pick: RB Ricky Bell, T.B.
2nd Pick: RB Tony Dorsett, Dall.
Verdict: Dorsett had the better career (and I'll give him the edge), but what if they'd been on different teams?
1st Pick: RB Earl Campbell, Hou.
2nd Pick: DE Art Still, K.C.
Verdict: Campbell easy. (Campbell was third tailback selected with a top 2 pick in two years; will we ever see that again?)
1st Pick: LB Tom Cousineau, Buff.
2nd Pick: DE Mike Bell, K.C.
Verdict: Cousineau signed with CFL; Bell never made a Pro Bowl but at least played for 12 years.
1st Pick: RB Billy Sims, Det.
2nd Pick: WR Lam Jones, NYJ
Verdict: Sims was phenomenal in an injury-shortened career. Jones didn't pan out.
1st Pick: RB George Rogers, N.O.
2nd Pick: LB Lawrence Taylor, NYG
Verdict: Rogers is above-average in comparison to other No. 1s, but LT was a game-changing Hall of Famer
1st Pick: DT Kenneth Sims, N.E.
2nd Pick: LB Johnie Cooks, Balt.
Verdict: Edge to Cooks. He was a big disappointment, but Sims was simply a bust.
1st Pick: QB John Elway, Balt.
2nd Pick: RB Eric Dickerson, Rams
Verdict: Dickerson was great, but edge definitely to Elway.
1st Pick: WR Irving Fryar, N.E.
2nd Pick: OT Dean Steinkuhler, Hou.
Verdict: Fryar was the better of these two Huskers.
1st Pick: DE Bruce Smith, Buff.
2nd Pick: OT Bill Fralic, Atl.
Verdict: Smith is the clear winner.
1st Pick: RB Bo Jackson, T.B.
2nd Pick: DT Tony Casillas, Atl.
Verdict: Jackson never played for Bucs but was a lot more talented than Casillas.
1st Pick: QB Vinny Testaverde, T.B.
2nd Pick: LB Cornelius Bennett, Ind.
Verdict: Testaverde didn't work well for Bucs but finished career 5th all-time in passing yards.
1st Pick: LB Aundray Bruce, Atl.
2nd Pick: DE Neil Smith, K.C.
Verdict: Bruce was one of the biggest No. 1 busts ever.
1st Pick: QB Troy Aikman, Dall.
2nd Pick: OT Tony Mandarich, G.B.
Verdict: Mandarich went before Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders and Derrick Thomas. Ouch.
1st Pick: QB Jeff George, Ind.
2nd Pick: RB Blair Thomas, NYJ
Verdict: George alienated coaches and teammates but at least had some success.
1st Pick: DT Russell Maryland, Dall.
2nd Pick: DB Eric Turner, Clev.
Verdict: Slight edge for Turner, who made two Pro Bowls.
1st Pick: DT Steve Emtman, Ind.
2nd Pick: LB Quentin Coryatt, Ind.
Verdict: We'll call it a wash. Neither player worked out. Emtman's career marred by injuries.
1st Pick: QB Drew Bledsoe, N.E.
2nd Pick: QB Rick Mirer, Sea.
Verdict: If Patriots hadn't drafted Tom Brady, Bledsoe might have won a Super Bowl.
1st Pick: DT Dan Wilkinson, Cin.
2nd Pick: RB Marshall Faulk, Ind.
Verdict: Faulk, easy.
1st Pick: RB Ki-Jana Carter, Cin.
2nd Pick: OT Tony Boselli, Jac.
Verdict: Carter blew out his knee before his first regular-season game.
1st Pick: WR Keyshawn Johnson, NYJ
2nd Pick: LB Kevin Hardy, Jac.
Verdict: Johnson wasn't great but was better than Hardy.
1st Pick: OT Orlando Pace, Rams
2nd Pick: DT Darrell Russell, Oak.
Verdict: Pace by a mile.
1st Pick: QB Peyton Manning, Ind.
2nd Pick: QB Ryan Leaf, S.D.
Verdict: Leaf at one time looked like a Bledsoe-type prospect.
1st Pick: QB Tim Couch, Clev.
2nd Pick: QB Donovan McNabb, Phil.
Verdict: Going to an expansion team may have hurt Couch, but edge to McNabb.
1st Pick: DE Courtney Brown, Clev.
2nd Pick: LB LaVar Arrington, Wash.
Verdict: Arrington made three Pro Bowls.
1st Pick: QB Michael Vick, Atl.
2nd Pick: OT Leonard Davis, Ariz.
Verdict: Chargers traded away No. 1 pick and wound up with Tomlinson and Brees.
1st Pick: QB David Carr, Hou.
2nd Pick: DE Julius Peppers, Car.
Verdict: Other teams also didn't have success with Carr.
1st Pick: QB Carson Palmer, Cin.
2nd Pick: WR Charles Rogers, Det.
Verdict: Rogers looked like bust even before career derailed by drug use.
1st Pick: QB Eli Manning, S.D.
2nd Pick: OT Robert Gallery, Oak.
Verdict: If Chargers had stuck to their guns on Manning, Giants would have had Philip Rivers.
1st Pick: QB Alex Smith, S.F.
2nd Pick: RB Ronnie Brown, Mia.
Verdict: Smith might still develop into a viable starting quarterback.
1st Pick: DE Mario Williams, Hou.
2nd Pick: RB Reggie Bush, N.O.
Verdict: Charlie Casserly makes controversial choice but gets it right.
1st Pick: QB JaMarcus Russell, Oak.
2nd Pick: WR Calvin Johnson, Det.
1st Pick: OT Jake Long, Mia.
2nd Pick: DE Chris Long, Rams
Verdict: We'll call this one a wash. Matt Ryan should have gone No. 1.
1st Pick: QB Matthew Stafford, Det.
2nd Pick: OT Jason Smith, Rams
Verdict: Stafford seems to be the real deal.
1st Pick: QB Sam Bradford, Rams
2nd Pick: DT Ndamukong Suh, Det.
Verdict: Suh looks very good, but most teams (we think) would select (or trade) Bradford
1st Pick: QB Cam Newton, Car.
2nd Pick: LB Von Miller, Den.
Verdict: Newton looks like he might be special.
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