With the top pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Miami Dolphins team officials will open themselves up to praise or ridicule in future years as they learn whether they selected a franchise player who can help turn their club around, or a player who leaves them wondering how they could have possibly missed the mark so badly in sizing up his potential versus actual ability to succeed in the NFL.
The number one overall pick from the past five seasons -- Oakland's JaMarcus Russell, Houston's Mario Williams, San Francisco's Alex Smith, New York's Eli Manning and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer -- are still on the roster of the teams who originally drafted them, which is at least a start.
Manning became a Super Bowl MVP after an erratic start in New York, Williams has silenced critics who mocked the Texans for passing on running back Reggie Bush, and Palmer has become the franchise quarterback that Cincinnati desperately needed.
But Smith hasn't convinced too many onlookers that he was worthy of his draft-day status, while it's simply to early to tell where Russell will land as the Raiders continue to revamp their roster in hopes of turning around their franchise's losing ways.
Looking back at the picks from six to 10 years ago, they've certainly traveled divergent paths since that proud day when their names were called out before all other college football players from their draft class.
QB David Carr had no idea of the difficult years that were looming when he was selected with the top overall pick on Draft Day, 2002.
AP Photo/Ed Betz
Former Texan quarterback David Carr was the top pick in 2002, and after surviving 249 sacks in Houston he spent a forgettable season in Carolina despite having the opportunity to step up and start when Jake Delhomme was lost for the season after just three weeks of action. Carr now heads to New York to play for the defending World Champions where he'll likely be exposed to his harshest critics yet if he has to step in for Manning and falters.
Michael Vick was 2001's top pick, and while he had wowed NFL fans with his mobility he only completed 53.8 percent of his passes during his six seasons prior to landing in prison for his role in dog-fighting activities. Although his overall athleticism helped him earn three Pro Bowl selections, his NFL future is cloudy at best. Any team that signs him after he serves his sentence could face a substantial public relations backlash and risks investing in a quarterback who's skills will have eroded during his absence from the playing field.
The Browns misfired in consecutive seasons with their 1999 NFL Draft selection of Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch and 2000 pick of Penn State's Courtney Brown, both of whom are no longer in the league. Brown landed on the injured reserve list five times during his six-year career, although three of those instances were during the final month of the season. The only year that he started all 16 games was during his rookie season when he made 69 tackles and was credited with 4.5 sacks. Meanwhile, Couch hasn't been able to latch on with another NFL team after sputtering in Cleveland for five seasons. He's been out of the league since 2003.
That leaves just the 1998 top overall pick, the Colts' Peyton Manning, as the sole top draft pick during that five-year stretch as the one who truly became the kind player that clubs hope for when they send that first name up to the podium.
But don't forget, when the Colts selected Manning some draft prognosticators and GMs were touting the physical abilities of Washington State's Ryan Leaf, who the Chargers selected with the second pick of the draft, over the former University of Tennessee quarterback. While Leaf may have looked the part, he crumbled under the weight of the NFL spotlight and the speed of the game. He was cut in 2001 and then tried to find a new home during short stints with the Buccaneers, Cowboys and Seahawks prior to his retirement in 2002.
It's also interesting to note that Manning and Palmer are the only top picks in the past ten years other than Vick to be selected for at least one Pro Bowl appearance. The Colts quarterback has made the trip to Hawaii eight times while Palmer's been there on two occasions.
It's likely you'll see at least Mario Williams and Eli Manning make it at least once before their careers are over. And it's simply too early to tell how JaMarcus Russell will fare.
With eight of the last ten top picks used on quarterbacks and the other two used on defensive ends, it's likely that the trend will continue with Miami in need of talent at both positions. And unless the Dolphins trade down, Virginia defensive end Chris Long is still the odds-on favorite to be their pick.
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