The Bengals' selection of Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft kicked off a new decade of pick analysis, draft grades and prognostications. But before we flip the page onto the next generation of top guys, I thought it'd be fun to look back at each of the No. 1 overall selections of the past decade to see how well they stack up against one another.
Using a completely subjective system that weighed career production, peak performance and my own personal preference, I ranked the first overall picks of the 2010s from 10 to 1.
The task was particularly tricky to complete considering how unusual the past 12 months have been for the former top picks of the decade: Two are no longer in the league, another two surprisingly remain free agents, and yet another is (wildly) rumored to be on the trade block.
So here's an arbitrary ranking you didn't even know you wanted that begins with a career you probably haven't thought about in a minute ...
10. Sam Bradford
Drafted: St. Louis Rams, 2010
We lead off with the man who boasts the highest career earnings on this list (for now). Plagued with injuries and inconsistent supporting talent, the twice-traded Bradford (once for a first- and fourth-rounder!) made a living off of promise rather than production. He finished his nine-year career with 103 touchdown passes (tied with Blake Bortles for 24th since 2010) and without a single winning record in any given season (sorry, Bradford Stans, I'm not counting his 2-0 start to the 2017 campaign). Other than winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Bradford's best effort came with the Vikings in 2016, when he led the league in completion percentage (71.6%) and posted a 20:5 TD-to-INT ratio. And yet Minnesota still went 8-8 and finished third in the NFC North.
9. Eric Fisher
Drafted: Kansas City Chiefs, 2013
One of only two first-rounders from the 2013 NFL Draft who's still playing for the team that originally selected them, Fisher has come a long way in his up-and-down seven-year career. The left tackle out of Central Michigan struggled to adapt to the pro game in Year 1, allowing more hurries (35 to 33) and the same number of QB pressures (47) as draft classmate D.J. Fluker (No. 11 overall), despite playing 108 fewer pass-blocking snaps, per PFF. But since grading out as PFF's 97th-best player at his position as a rookie, Fisher has improved steadily season after season -- even earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2018. Although he missed eight games last year because of injury, he showed up when Kansas City needed him most, playing 100 percent of the team's offensive snaps from Week 11 through the Super Bowl, according to Next Gen Stats.
8. Jameis Winston
Drafted: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2015
Winston's reckless regard for protecting the football has made him one of the most entertaining players in the NFL, if not the most frustrating. Last year, he became just the eighth NFL quarterback ever to top 5,000 passing yards in a season. And yet that feat was overshadowed by the fact that he also had 35 giveaways and became the lone member of the notorious 30-30 club (30 TD passes, 30 INTs). Since entering the league in 2015, he has 20 more giveaways than the next closest player (Philip Rivers at 88). Twenty! That number alone is three season's worth of Aaron Rodgers turnovers. Signing with the Saints this offseason could prove to be the reset Winston needs to resurrect his career. If first-hand lessons from an offensive guru and a five-time alum of the 5,000-yard club don't do the trick, will anything?
7. Baker Mayfield
Drafted: Cleveland Browns, 2018
I know I wasn't alone in chugging the Kool-Aid on the Browns' offense last summer, expecting the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr. to boost Baker to new heights after his historic rookie season. So much for that prediction ... Well, perhaps positive reinforcement was a mistake on my part. I needed to take a leadership note from the G.O.A.T. and go hard on the 25-year-old. So while I ripped Baker a few times in our weekly QB Index, just know that I was only trying to be like Mike. It was tough love -- a well-meaning push to help the Heisman Trophy winner reach his true potential. I still believe Mayfield has the arm, accuracy, athleticism and relentless confidence to be a winning QB for the Browns. How he rebounds in Year 3, with a new coach and an improved supporting cast, should tell us whether he's more like No. 23 or Scotty B.
6. Jadeveon Clowney
Drafted: Houston Texans, 2014
Clowney has been as disruptive a run defender off the edge as anyone we've seen over the past half-decade, but his inability to unleash that same level of chaos against the pass has muddied his overall value in today's NFL. Over the last five seasons, Clowney has graded out 10th or better against the run among edge defenders, per PFF, but ranked 16th in total pressures (250), 17th in hurries (169), 11th in hits (50) and tied for 36th in sacks (31). As fun as his highlights against the run are to watch, crushing running backs isn't what gets you paid in this league -- one of the reasons (in addition to his numerous injuries) the No. 3 overall free agent on NFL.com's Top 101 list hasn't quite found the market he was expecting. Don't get me wrong, the three-time Pro Bowler is still a plus player who has plenty to offer basically any defense in the league. But he ranks in the middle here because he might not even be the fourth-best pass rusher in his draft class.
5. Jared Goff
Drafted: Los Angeles Rams, 2016
Where do you rank a guy like Goff, a two-time Pro Bowler who already has a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, but who seemed to regress this past season as the shine wore off of Sean McVay's offense? I have him just ahead of Clowney on this list simply because a possible franchise QB is a more valuable asset than a non-pass-rushing pass rusher. Even with last year's subpar showing, Goff has enough pro tape to prove he can make all the difficult throws and be the primary reason the Rams win games -- even if he hasn't always had to be. But with Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks gone (though, if we're being honest, they were barely present in 2019), the bulk of the Rams' offensive burden now rests on the former Cal passer's shoulders. Luckily for him, he has about $50 million in fully guaranteed money still owed to him to help manage the added scrutiny.
4. Kyler Murray
Drafted: Arizona Cardinals, 2019
Although I personally thought Josh Jacobs deserved to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, Murray taking home the prize was more like No Country for Old Men versus There Will Be Blood than it was The King's Speech over The Social Network. (Still such a disgrace.) Murray's uneven Year 1, while littered with growing-pain performances, mostly left me mesmerized by his ability to process information, execute throws and innovate under duress. He already has as many turnover-free starts as Baker Mayfield (8) and as many full seasons with a passer rating of 87 or better as Sam Bradford. Murray played some of his best ball in his two games against the 49ers' stingy defense, notching five total touchdowns against zero turnovers, while completing at least 70 percent of his passes in both contests. With a premier WR coming on board via trade (DeAndre Hopkins) and a first-round-caliber offensive tackle added in the draft (Josh Jones), the soon-to-be 23-year-old has all he needs for a breakout sophomore season. But as you're well aware of by now, I've been let down by a Heisman-winning Oklahoma QB before.
3. Myles Garrett
Drafted: Cleveland Browns, 2017
Garrett is a tremendous talent who made an indefensible and dangerous mistake last season that has undoubtedly left a stain on his reputation. How he responds going forward will determine whether the mark is indelible or impermanent. Garrett was putting together a Pro Bowl-worthy campaign prior to his season-ending suspension, ranking in the top 10 among all defenders in hurries (26) and disruptions (40), while tallying the third-most sacks (10) through Week 10, per NGS. I'm of the mindset that Garrett hasn't even come close to reaching his apex, so his spot on this list reflects a healthy dose of past performance and expected production.
2. Andrew Luck
Drafted: Indianapolis Colts, 2012
It's hard to believe that Luck played just five and a half seasons in the NFL, considering his impact on the game and the league as a whole. His 33 wins in his first three years -- despite inheriting a flawed team that went 2-14 the season before he arrived -- are as many as Jameis Winston and Sam Bradford had combined during the same span to start their careers. Luck's toughness and big-play ability in the most desperate of moments helped cement his own legacy in The House that Manning Built. Now that we're further removed from the QB's shocking retirement -- and the hysteria his decision incited -- it's a bit easier to appreciate the totality of what he accomplished in such a short amount of time: Four Pro Bowls, four playoff appearances, 2018 Comeback Player of the Year, 2014 passing TDs leader, celebrated teammate and respected opponent. Had he continued on last year and managed to stay healthy, I thought we might see him capture the league MVP, which would've made the decision at No. 1 here even more challenging.
1. Cam Newton
Drafted: Carolina Panthers, 2011
Newton authored one of the most dominant seasons I've ever seen by any football player, when he combined for 45 total TDs (35 passing, 10 rushing) against just 14 giveaways in 2015 to blow away the competition for MVP and lead the Panthers to their first Super Bowl appearance in 12 years. I know many soured on the QB after his lack of urgency during that pivotal fumble and his petulant interview postgame, but those few moments don't define an entire season's (and nine-year career's) worth of highlight reels and gasp-inducing performances. While Newton certainly struggled with injuries and faulty mechanics in the 2010s, when healthy, there were years when no other player came close to matching his unique skill set. He gets the nod over Luck in part due to the MVP but also because the top free agent available (I'm amazed by this) still has plenty of time for a second act. I can't wait to see him cash in his receipts.