The following is a breakdown of the 14 quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall since 1970 and what kind of careers they had or are having. Of those 14, two are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Terry Bradshaw and John Elway) with two more (Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning) certainly on the way. While a number of the signal callers below might not have lived up to expectations, Tim Couch is the only one of the group that would be characterized as a bust.
The trend toward drafting QBs No. 1 overall has been a fairly recent one. From 1970 to 1997 only eight quarterbacks were selected with the top pick. However, in the last seven years (starting with Peyton Manning in 1998), six passers have gone No. 1 overall.
Hall of Famers
While Bradshaw's numbers don't put him on any all-time lists, his Hall of Fame career is defined by his four Super Bowl rings. In a six-year stretch, from 1974 to 1979, the Steelers won four Super Bowls and Bradshaw (MVP in Super Bowl XIII and XIV) led the way. He was named the NFL's MVP in 1978 by the Associated Press. Enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 1989.
Career stats: 168 games, 2,025 of 3,901 for 27,989 yards, 212 TDs and 210 INTs; 444 rushing attempts, 2,257 yards, 32 TDs
1983 (Colts) -- John Elway, Stanford
Drafted by the Colts and traded immediately to the Broncos, Elway played his entire 16-year career in Denver and finished as one of the most storied QBs in NFL history. He led the Broncos to six AFC championship games, five Super Bowl and two Super Bowl championships (XXXII and XXXIII). He was named to nine Pro Bowl teams, won the NFL's MVP in 1987 and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII. He still ranks No. 2 overall in passing yards, No. 4 overall in touchdown passes and No. 3 overall in completions. Enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2004.
Career stats: 234 games, 4,123 of 7,250 for 51,475 yards, 300 TDs and 226 INTs; 774 rushing attempts, 3,407 yards, 33 TDs
On the way to Canton
Eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 2006, Aikman will make it on the first ballot. Started the season opener as a rookie and played in 11 games for a Cowboys team that finished the season 1-15. In his fourth season in Dallas, Aikman led the Cowboys to the Super Bowl XXXVII championship and was named MVP. He led the Cowboys to two more Super Bowl titles (XXVIII and XXX). During his 12 seasons, Aikman was named to six Pro Bowl teams and established franchise career records for completions, passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage. His career was cut short following the 2000 season when he was forced to retire due to concussions.
Career stats: 165 games, 2,898 of 4,715 for 32,942 yards, 165 TDs and 141 INTs
1999 (Colts) -- Peyton Manning, Tennessee
In just six-plus seasons in the NFL, Manning is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He has started every game (105) since arriving in Indianapolis, throwing 26 or more TDs in every season (including this one which is just nine games old). He's already thrown more TD passes than Aikman and could move into the top 20 all time (212) by the end of the season. If he keeps up his current pace he'll break Dan Marino's record for TD passes in a season (48 in 1984) and would come up just short of Marino's record for passing yards in a season (5,084 in 1984). But until he wins a Super Bowl, the knock against Manning always will be that he doesn't win big games.
Career stats: 105 games, 2,325 of 3,679 for 27,634 yards, 198 TDs and 116 INTs
Solid NFL careers
Drafted No. 1 overall by the Patriots, Plunkett made his real mark with the Raiders. Plunkett never put up prolific numbers (his highest finish in passing yards was No. 2 in 1973 and his highest finish in touchdown passes was a tie for No. 2 in 1971), but he won two Super Bowls with the Raiders, and that's ultimately how quarterbacks are judged. Ironically, Plunkett didn't begin either Super Bowl season as the Raiders starting quarterback. He was the AFL Rookie of the Year in 1971 and the Super Bowl MVP in 1981. Also won the 1970 Heismann Trophy after his final season at Stanford.
Career stats: 157 games, 1,943 of 3,701 for 25,882 yards, 164 TDs and 198 INTs; 323 rushing attempts, 1,337 yards, 14 TDs
1975 (Falcons) -- Steve Bartkowski, California
Bartkowski played 11 of his 12 seasons with the Falcons. He began his career by cracking Atlanta's starting lineup and earning rookie-of-the-year honors. During his 11 seasons in Atlanta, he was named to the Pro Bowl team twice (1980 and 1981) and was the NFL's MVP in 1980, throwing for 3,544 yards and 31 TDs. He led the Falcons to three playoff appearances and still holds franchise records for passing yards (23,468) and touchdown passes (154).
Career stats: 129 games, 1,932 of 3,456 for 24,124 yards, 156 TDs and 144 INTs
1987 (Bucs) -- Vinny Testaverde, Miami
Currently in his 18th season, Testaverde has had a solid NFL career with a few spectacular seasons mixed in. His career got off to a rough start in Tampa, where he endured six straight losing seasons before being traded to the Browns. He was selected to two Pro Bowl teams (1996 and 1998) and currently ranks in the top 10 all time in yards (No. 6), touchdowns (No. 8) and completions (No. 6). He also won the 1986 Heisman Trophy following his senior season at Miami.
Career stats: 210 games, 3,519 of 6,218 for 43,248 yards, 262 TDs and 246 INTs
1993 (Patriots) -- Drew Bledsoe, Washington State
After taking over the starting in his first game as a rookie, Bledsoe played nine seasons with the Patriots, finishing as the teams all-time leader in passing yards. His injury in the second game of the 2001 season allowed Tom Brady to take over and lead the Patriots to their first Super Bowl championship. His career in New England came to an end the following offseason when he was traded to the Bills for a future first-round pick. Bledsoe currently ranks in the top 10 all time in the NFL in passing yards (No. 10) and completions (No. 8).
Career stats: 165 games, 3,329 of 5,839 for 38,427 yards, 210 TDs and 175 INTs.
1990 (Colts) -- Jeff George, Illinois
Turbulent would be a good word to describe George's career. During his career, which spanned more than 12 years, George spent time with six teams -- Indianapolis (1990-93), Atlanta (1994-96), Oakland (1997-98), Minnesota (1999), Washington (2000-2001) and Seattle (2002). While George is still interested in playing in the NFL, he hasn't thrown a regular-season pass since the second game of the 2001 season with the Redskins, after which he was released. George led two teams to the playoffs (the Falcons in 1995 and the Vikings in 1999) and threw for over 3,700 yards in a season three times (1994,1995 and 1997). He's perhaps best remembered for a sideline dust up with then-Falcons coach June Jones in 1996, after which he was suspended by the team. He never played for Atlanta again.
Career stats: 133 games, 2,298 of 3,967 for 27,602 yards, 154 TDs and 113 INTs
On the way to stardom
As talented a player as there is in the NFL, Vick is on his way to being a star -- as long as he can stay on the field. After starting just two games as a rookie, Vick took the NFL by storm in his second season, leading the Falcons to the playoffs and a first-round win over the Packers at Lambeau Field. It was the first playoff loss ever for Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Vick was voted to the Pro Bowl, throwing for 2,936 yards and rushing for 776. But just when it seemed Vick was ready to join the NFL's elite, his 2003 season was cut short by a broken leg in Atlanta's first preseason game. He didn't return to the lineup until Week 13. Now in his fourth season, Vick has struggled a bit in Atlanta's new West Coast offense. But despite those struggles, he has the Falcons back on the winning track and on the way to a playoff berth.
Career stats: 37 games, 441 of 824 for 5,843 yards, 29 Tds and 21 INTs; 254 rushing attempts, 1,867 yards and 11 TDs
2002 (Texans) -- David Carr, Fresno State
While the last two weeks have been a little bumpy, Carr has enjoyed a breakout season. He currently ranks eighth in the AFC in passer rating (87.1) and sixth in completion percentage (62.5). As a rookie QB of an expanstion team, Carr took his lumps early -- he was sacked an NFL-record 76 times his first season. His second season was interrupted by a shoulder injury that saw him miss four games and struggle in others. With Carr under center and second-year wide receiver Andre Johnson developing into one of the game's best catchers, the future looks bright for the Texans.
Career stats: 37 games, 582 of 1,030 for 6,982 yards, 27 Tds and 36 INTs
Of the quarterbacks on this list, Couch is clearly the biggest disappointment. Taken first in 1999 in what was projected as one of the best QB drafts ever, Couch never lived up to expectations in Cleveland. During his five seasons the Browns only made the playoffs once (2002), and that was with Kelly Holcomb as the starting quarterback. Released by the Browns this offseason, Couch was picked up and released before the season by the Packers. Couch auditioned for the Bears in late October, but is currently out of football trying to recover from soreness in his right arm which plagued him during training camp with the Packers. Couch is now the third QB taken in the first round of the 1999 draft who is out of football (Cade McNown, Akili Smith).
Career stats: 62 games, 1,025 of 1,714 for 11,131 yards, 64 TDs and 67 INTs
Too soon to tell
After not playing a single down as a rookie behind Jon Kitna, Palmer has had an up-and-down first season as a starter. Because of the Bengals' improvement last season (from 2-14 to 8-8) and Kitna's success (3,591 yards, 26 TDs and 15 INTs), a lot of eyebrows were raised when Marvin Lewis named Palmer his starter. Those concerns were magnified when the Bengals started 1-4. But since then, Cincy has won three of four games and Palmer has settled down some. The jury is obviously out on Palmer and with other young QBs (Byron Leftwich, Ben Roethlisberger) playing well, he'll be under the microscope.
Career stats: 9 games, 181 of 318 for 1,897 yards, 7 TDs and 12 INTs
2004 (Giants) -- Eli Manning, Mississippi
While he has taken a few snaps this year, the official Eli Manning-era begins Sunday against the Falcons, when he gets his first NFL start. He'll have his work cut out for him, playing behind an offensive line that has given up 24 sacks in the last four games. Add in the fact that at 5-4 the Giants are fighting for a playoff spot and the pressure will be on Manning.
Career stats: 2 games, 3 of 9 for 66 yards