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NFL Draft History: Top Three Picks Helping Teams to a Super Bowl

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Pete Rozelle, NFL commissioner, right, began the 54th annual draft of collegiate talent. His final draft, by announcing the selection of UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman left, as the first pick of the NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, April 23, 1989 in New York. Aikman already has signed a six-year, $11.2 million contract wih the Cowboys.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The New England Patriots currently hold the third overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. It is the highest selection for the franchise since 1993 when Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe went to New England with the first overall pick. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have been a total of 162 players selected with a top-three pick in the draft. However, the odds of those picks helping their drafting team to win a Super Bowl is less likely than many might assume.

Of those 162 players selected in the top three of the NFL Draft since the merger, only 15 players to date have won a Super Bowl with their drafting team. Some have had a significantly greater contribution than others. In the past 25 years the likelihood of this happening has decreased.

High Standard Set by Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers set unrealistic expectations for such picks out of the gate. Bradshaw was the first overall selection by the Steelers in the 1970 NFL Draft. He would go on to help Pittsburgh win four Super Bowl titles (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979). Of course, having 14 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees on those squads (including Bradshaw) didn’t hurt.

Terry Bradshaw. Scanned from page 378 of “The 1967 Laguiappe” Louisiana Tech yearbook by Michael Holley. Public Domain No Copyright Notice

Of the 30 players to be selected in the top three in the 1970s only three others won a Super Bowl with the team that drafted them. It was a trio of teammates on the 1977 Dallas Cowboys. Ed “Too Tall Jones, Randy White, and Tony Dorsett were all players who fit into this elite group. Four was more than there would be from the 1980s, a decade that produced only three such picks.

New York Giants linebackers Lawrence Taylor (1981) and Carl Banks (1984) won a pair of Super Bowls in 1986 and 1990. Troy Aikman was the only other player selected in the top three that decade to win a championship with their drafting team. Dallas drafted Aikman first overall in 1989. The quarterback would help lead the Cowboys to Super Bowl wins in the 1992, 1993, and 1995 NFL seasons. Aikman’s teammate on those title teams was Russell Maryland, whom Dallas selected first overall in 1991.

Nobody Else Has Won More Than One Super Bowl

Following the 1991 draft, no other top-three pick has won more than one Super Bowl with the team drafting them. Orlando Pace (Rams) and Peyton Manning (Colts) were the first overall selections in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Both players had Hall of Fame careers. Each helped bring one Lombardi Trophy home to their original NFL homes.

The Patriots drafted Drew Bledsoe with the first pick of the 1993 NFL Draft. Bledsoe led the 1996 New England Patriots to a Super Bowl appearance, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers. Bledsoe did win a Super Bowl as a member of the 2001 Patriots but did not play in the Super Bowl. He lost his starting job while injured to Tom Brady.

New England Patriots Tom Brady and Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (AP Photo/ Charles Krupa, File)

Carson Wentz is the most recently drafted player in this group. Wentz was selected second overall in 2016. Like Bledsoe, he was a spectator when his team won the Super Bowl. Wentz watched his injury-replacement, Nick Foles, help the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles win the franchise’s first Super Bowl.

The only top three NFL Draft pick from 2000-to-2009 who won a Super Bowl with their drafting team was Reggie Bush. The running back helped the 2009 New Orleans Saints win it all. Bush was third on the team in rushing yards (390) and sixth in receiving yards (335) on the Saints that season.

Denver selected Von Miller third overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Miller would help the 2015 Broncos win the championship, taking home Super Bowl MVP in the process. Offensive tackle Eric Fisher of the Kansas City Chiefs was taken first overall in 2013. Fisher became the fifteenth and most recent member of this group after helping the 2019 Chiefs bring home the title.

Two Quarterbacks With an Asterisk

Neither John Elway (1983) nor Eli Manning (2003) are counted among this group. Both refused to play for the team that drafted them, forcing trades. Elway went from the Baltimore Colts to the Denver Broncos. Manning went from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants. Both played no games for their drafting team. The two quarterbacks ended up playing their entire careers for the teams that they were traded to. And both helped those franchises to two Super Bowl victories.

John Elway and Eli Manning are not included in the group of players who helped their drafting team win a Super Bowl here. If others feel the desire to include them, certainly one’s prerogative to do so. Instead of 15 of 162 in this group, it would become 17 of 162, which bumps the percentage above 10%.

Possible New Member This Season

The remaining NFC teams this season have players who could join this group with a Super Bowl win. The San Francisco 49ers took Nick Bosa with the second pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. Three years later the Detroit Lions selected Aidan Hutchinson in the same spot. Neither the Baltimore Ravens nor Kansas City Chiefs have any such players on their rosters.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles from San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Dec. 25, 2023. Baltimore took over the top spot in this week's NFL Power Rankings (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Nick Bosa (97) in pursuit of Lamar Jackson (8). (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Tempering Expectations for the New England Patriots Pick

New England fans would certainly love the next pick by the Patriots to win a handful of Super Bowls for the franchise. But realistically, the odds of that happening are minuscule. Not since the 1991 NFL Draft has a top-three pick won multiple Lombardi Trophies for the franchise that drafted them. So whether the New England Patriots make Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, Marvin Harrison Jr., or Joe Alt the next face of the franchise, expectations should be tempered. Bringing one banner back to Foxboro during their career would be a success. Patience is a virtue, and one both the franchise and their fans should be prepared to embrace.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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