History of the Third Overall Pick in the NFL Draft

The Houston Texans are one of eight NFL teams to have the good fortune (resulting from some regular season bad fortune) of having multiple first round picks in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. They have the 3rd overall pick and the 13th overall pick. Here are the other seven teams with multiple first round picks:

DETROIT LIONS — 2nd and 32nd overall
NEW YORK JETS — 4th and 10th overall
NEW YORK GIANTS — 5th and 7th overall
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — 15th and 18th overall
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — 16th and 19th overall
GREEN BAY PACKERS — 22nd and 28th overall
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — 29th and 30th overall

If you’re wondering about the history of the Texans’ two draft slots, that’s smart. You should be concerned with that. We’ve already gone over the somewhat surprising success rate of 13th overall selections over the last decade. What is equally surprising is the lack of success of 3rd overall picks in the NFL Draft. Behond, the 3rd overall picks in the NFL Draft since 2011:

2011: DT Marcel Dareus, BUF
With two Pro Bowls (2013, 2014) and one first team All Pro berth (2014), Dareus is one of the more successful third overall picks in the recent history of the draft. Dareus would go on to a nine-year career that peaked as a member of the Jaguars team that made the AFC title game in 2017.

2012: RB Trent Richardson, CLV
A juggernaut for Alabama’s 2011 national championship team, Richardson was traded part way through his second year in the league, for a first round pick, to the Indianapolis Colts. It was a complete failure, as Richardson was out of the league by the end of 2014.

2013: OLB Dion Jordan, MIA
Jordan was a workout warrior who was drafted by the Dolphins. He failed miserably as a Dolphin, getting suspended for the entire 2015 season for failing a drug test. Somehow, he managed to hang around the league for another five seasons after this. Jordan is a cautionary tale.

2014: QB Blake Bortles, JAC
This pick came out of nowhere, as the Jaguars shocked the world, taking a quarterback with the third overall selection. They should have pivoted in a different direction. The only thing keeping Bortles from being the worst decision of the first round of this draft was the fact that the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel with the 2nd overall pick.

2015: OLB Dante Fowler, JAC
Fowler wasn’t a Bortles-level bad pick for the Jaguars, but he was not far off. After missing his rookie season with an injury, he peaked as a Jag with eight sacks in 2017, and was gone by the trade deadline in 2018. He had 11.5 sacks for the Rams in 2019, so that’s something, I guess.

2016: DE Joey Bosa, LAC
Bosa was the rare recent third overall pick who made out good for his new employer. Bosa has made four Pro Bowls in six seasons, had four double digit sack seasons, and got a monster second contract after his rookie deal ended. It’s not exactly Reggie White or J.J. Watt, but compared to these other guys in this post, he’s a Hall of Fame.

2017: DE Solomon Thomas, SF
In a draft with Patrick Mahomes (10th overall) and Deshaun Watson (12th overall), the Niners decided to take Thomas, who has settled into a surefire career as a journeyman, following up his rookie contract with a one year deal to become a New York Jet.

2018: QB Sam Darnold, NYJ
Hey, speaking of the Jets, the Jets moved up from the sixth overall pick to the third overall pick, forfeiting some serious draft capital in the process, to take Darnold as their future franchise quarterback. All you need to know is he is a Carolina Panther now, and they hate him in Charlotte, too.

2019: DT Quinnen Williams, NYJ
Hey, speaking of the Jets AGAIN, Williams has been a far better find than Darnold was, which isn’t saying much, but at least he’s been moderately productive, with 13 sacks over the last two seasons on a bad defense.

2020: CB Jeffrey Okudah, DET
It’s been a rough first couple seasons for the Ohio State product, with availability being the main issue. Okudah has played in ten games over his first two seasons.

2021: QB Trey Lance, SF
The Niners gave up multiple first round picks to move up to the third pick to select Lance as their quarterback of the future. He started two games in 2021, including a win over the Houston Texans in Week 17.

NOTABLE HISTORICAL No. 3 PICKS prior to 2011: Matt Ryan ‘08, Joe Thomas ‘07, Vince Young ‘06, Larry Fitzgerald ‘04, Andre Johnson ’03, Simeon Rice ‘96, Steve McNair ‘95, Cortez Kennedy ‘90, Barry Sanders ‘89, Ray Childress ‘85, Anthony Munoz ‘80

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