2007 – WR Calvin Johnson, Jets. The first pick ever in the RZL was an amazing one. Johnson is, and perhaps always will be the greatest WR in RZL history. Johnson has recorded 1,116 receptions for just shy of 20,000 yards and 123 touchdowns. He twice went over 2,000 yards receiving. And he’s still playing! With the Jets.
2008 – HB Darren McFadden, Raiders. The first picks overall are 2-for-2! McFadden is the league’s all-time leading rusher with 13,674 and still counting. McFadden’s best season came in 2015 when he rushed for 1,906 yards and 14 TDs. After spending 10 years with the Raiders and 1 with the Texans and Bucs, he’s sure to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
2009 – MLB James Laurinaitis, Chiefs. Laurinaitis has been a force since being drafted first overall, anchoring the defense for 11 years in Kansas City, before spending the last two in Denver. In those 13 seasons Laurinaitis accumulated 1,140 tackles, second all-time. His best season came in 2018 when he managed 115 tackles.
2010 – CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Buccaneers. DRC is one of the league’s best defensive backs of all-time. Over the course of his career he’s intercepted 41 passes , tied for 7th all-time. He’s also deflected the second most passes all-time.
2011 – CB Marcus Brown, Seahawks. Brown by no means was a bust, but he’s not had the impact that most expected of him. In Brown’s first four years he only picked off 2 passes. The backend of his career has been more respectable, intercepting 19 passes over the past 5 years with the Titans and the Jets.
2012 – QB Matthew Stafford, Chiefs. Stafford was perhaps the best QB prospect ever, but threw a staggering 29 interceptions his rookie year. The first five seasons in the league were mixed, throwing for a ton of yards, but also bunches of picks. In the second half of his career, Luck has turned into one of the league’s best QBs.
2013 – CB David Cox, Broncos. Cox was the consensus number one coming out in 2013 and remains one of the best pass defenders on paper with mind blowing attributes. Cox’s best year came in 2015 when he stole 5 balls, including two for touchdowns. Still, Cox has averaged 3 picks a season in his career in Denver and Dallas, leaving a sense of missed opportunity.
2014 – DT Francisco Gerard, Eagles. Gerald was something of a controversial pick in 2014, but the Michigan grad has lived up to his billing. A rare combination of size and speed, Gerald has notched 52 sacks in his career with Philadelphia and Dallas, including a 12 sack campaign in 2015.
2015 – MLB Austin Spitler, Saints. Spitler has a crazy combination of speed and strength and has had a solid career. However, even with all the variety of defenses that the Saints run, you’d expect a MLB with these skills to reach 89 tackles a season more than once in his career. That being said, Spitler is certainly a complete player, recording 19 sacks and 14 interceptions since joining the league.
2016 – MLB Jerricho James, Buccaneers. James is one of the league’s most complete linebackers and has the production to prove it. In his 6 seasons in the league James has averaged double-digit tackles for loss and picked off 13 passes.
2017 – CB Matthew Howard, Texans. Howard has crazy speed and in his 5 seasons with the Texans has developed into a sturdy defensive back. Averaging 4 picks a year, Howard’s best season came in 2018.
2018 – MLB Justin Houston, Jaguars. Houston has had one of the most disappointing careers of the former first picks over all, but may have found a home in the middle for Seattle. In his 3 seasons in Jacksonville, Houston managed a respectable 12 total sacks and 3 picks, but these kind of totals don’t warrant the top pick in the draft.
2019 – QB Andrew Luck, Jets. When Luck was taken it had been 6 years since a QB was taken first overall. From the get-go Luck looked up to the challenge and has a great 2:1 TD to interception ratio. The only concern for Luck’s long-term success is his injury risk, but if he can stay healthy, he has the potential to be a great one.
2020 – CB Morris Claiborne, Packers. The jury is still out on this LSU product who picked off 3 passes in his rookie year. This season hasn’t been as productive as Claiborne hasn’t had an interception yet. But Claiborne is likely to be a force for many years to come.
2021 – CB Marion Jackson, Broncos. With a rare combination of speed and size, Jackson also looks like he could have a solid career. Jackson has intercepted 3 picks so far, including one returned for a touchdown.