With the first pick in the NFL draft…
It’s a phrase that some teams have longed to hear. A No. 1 draft pick can change the entire trajectory of a franchise – often for the better, but sometimes for the worse.
Thirty teams have made the first overall pick at the NFL draft since the inaugural event in 1936. Some organizations have only kicked off the draft once, while others have repeatedly been on the board at No. 1.
Here is a look through which teams have made the most No. 1 picks and which ones have still never owned it:
Which NFL team has owned the No. 1 pick the most?
The Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams are the two franchises that have made the most No. 1 picks.
The Colts made the top selection three times when the franchise was still in Baltimore. They took quarterback George Shaw in 1955, defensive end Bubba Smith in 1967 and one of the NFL’s all-time greats in 1983, who we will get to in a bit.
Once the team moved to Indianapolis, it made the first overall pick four more times. Jeff George (1990) and Steve Emtman (1992) were not notable selections, but the Colts landed franchise cornerstones with their next two No. 1 picks in Peyton Manning (1998) and Andrew Luck (2012).
The Rams also made their No. 1 picks across multiple cities. They drafted Corbett Davis to the Cleveland Rams in 1938 before moving to Los Angeles, where they landed Bill Wade in 1952, Billy Cannon in 1960 and Terry Baker in 1963. The franchise made its next two No. 1 picks in St. Louis, selecting Hall of Famer Orlando Pace in 1997 and Sam Bradford in 2010. The Rams were back in Los Angeles in 2016 when they traded up to take Jared Goff.
Have any NFL teams never had the No. 1 pick?
The Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos have never been on the clock to start the draft, but one of them still landed a No. 1 pick for the player's entire career.
Baltimore’s highest picks came at No. 4 in 1996 and 1997, the first two years of the franchise’s existence. The team made the most of those selections, reeling in Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden before taking a four-time Pro Bowler in Peter Boulware.
Seattle has gotten all the way up to No. 2 twice. The team drafted defensive tackle Steve Niehaus in 1976 and quarterback Rick Mirer in 1993. The two players combined to play just seven seasons with the Seahawks.
Though the Broncos have never made the first selection, they got one of the best No. 1 picks in NFL history in 1983. The Colts took John Elway first overall that year, but the Stanford phenom and his father wanted him closer to the West Coast. Less than a week after the draft, the Colts sent Elway to Denver in exchange for quarterback Mark Herrmann, offensive tackle Chris Hinton and a 1984 first-round pick, which turned into guard Ron Solt.
By contrast, the Chargers made the No. 1 pick one time but didn’t hang onto the player. Like Elway, Eli Manning did not want to be a part of the team that selected him at the top of the draft in 2003, so the Chargers shipped him from San Diego to New York in a trade with the Giants. In return, the Chargers got Philip Rivers, the No. 4 overall pick that year, and three future draft picks.
As for teams that are no longer in the NFL, the Boston Yanks are the only defunct team to get the No. 1 pick. They took two quarterbacks in a three-year span, selecting Angelo Bertelli in 1944 and Frank Dancewicz in 1946.
How many times has each NFL team had the No. 1 pick?
Here is a look at how many times each team has made the No. 1 pick:
- Indianapolis Colts – 7
- Los Angeles Rams – 7
- Arizona Cardinals – 5
- Cleveland Browns – 5
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 5
- Atlanta Falcons – 4
- Buffalo Bills – 4
- Cincinnati Bengals – 4
- Detroit Lions – 4
- New England Patriots – 4
- Chicago Bears– 3
- Dallas Cowboys – 3
- Houston Texans – 3
- Philadelphia Eagles – 3
- Pittsburgh Steelers – 3
- San Francisco 49ers – 3
- Boston Yanks – 2
- Green Bay Packers – 2
- Jacksonville Jaguars – 2
- Minnesota Vikings – 2
- New York Giants – 2
- Tennessee Titans – 2
- Washington Commanders – 2
- Carolina Panthers – 1
- Kansas City Chiefs – 1
- Las Vegas Raiders – 1
- Los Angeles Chargers – 1
- Miami Dolphins – 1
- New Orleans Saints – 1
- New York Jets – 1
When is the 2023 NFL Draft?
The next No. 1 selection will be made on April 27 when the 2023 NFL Draft commences in Kansas City, Mo.