After leading LSU to a dominating 41-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl as a junior, Russell rode the wave of momentum into the NFL Draft and went to the Raiders with the first overall pick. But Russell wouldn't see the field until December after missing training camp thanks to a lengthy contract holdout.
2 of 20David Bergman/SI, Bob Rosato/SI
Houston passed over universally popular choice Reggie Bush with the first pick, selecting the freakishly athletic defensive end from N.C. State instead. The controversial selection didn't pay immediate dividends, with Williams logging a modest 47 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a rookie. But his sophomore campaign demonstrated dramatic improvement: 59 tackles, 14.0 sacks, a pair of forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
3 of 20Chris Trotman/Getty Images, Peter Read Miller/SI
Smith became the first quarterback to lead a non-BCS school to a victory in a BCS bowl during the '04 season, spiriting Utah to a 12-0 record capped by a dominating performance against Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. But since joining the 49ers as the top pick in the '05 draft, Smith's inconsistency under center has proven maddening to Bay Area football fans.
4 of 20David Bergman/SI, Chris Trotman/Getty Images, Al Tielemans/SI
The Chargers chose the Ole Miss signal-caller with the first overall pick despite admonitions from Manning's agent, who insisted the quarterback wouldn't sign with San Diego due to the franchise's reputation for not paying well. The Giants chose Philip Rivers with the second pick and brokered a trade with the Chargers: the rights to Manning in exchange for the rights to Rivers, a 2005 first-rounder (Shawne Merriman), a 2004 third-rounder (Nate Kaeding) and a 2005 fifth-rounder (traded to Tampa Bay). Manning overcame early struggles and intense media scrutiny to lead the Giants to a near-miraculous victory in Super Bowl XLII.
5 of 20Delane Rouse/Icon SMI, Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
The Bengals tabbed Palmer as their quarterback of the future after the Fresno native won the Heisman Trophy during his senior year at USC. Palmer has enjoyed a decorated career despite a horrific knee injury suffered during the 2005-06 postseason, setting a number of franchise passing records, making a pair of Pro Bowls and leading Cincinnati to its first division title since 1990.
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One of the most prolific passers in college football history, Carr threw for 7,849 yards and 70 touchdowns during a four-year career at Fresno State. But Houston's first overall pick in franchise history, Carr couldn't handle the pressure -- literally. Carr set the single-season record for sacks taken (70) during his rookie season and struggled mightily throughout his five-year stint in the Lone Star State. The Giants signed Carr in March as a back-up to Eli Manning.
7 of 20David Bergman/SI, Allen Kee/WireImage.com
Atlanta selected Vick with the first overall pack following an electric collegiate career at Virginia Tech. The multi-talented quarterback made three Pro Bowls and led the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game in 2004 while finishing second in the MVP voting. But a 2007 indictment on federal dog fighting charges led to a 23-month prison sentence, which Vick is currently serving at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
8 of 20AP, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
A rare combination of speed, strength and athleticism, Brown went first overall in the '00 draft to the Cleveland Browns. But after totaling 70 tackles and 4.5 sacks during a promising rookie campaign, injuries took a toll with Brown playing just 26 games from 2002 through 2004 (and amassing a modest eight sacks). After a minor resurgence in Denver during the 2005 regular season and playoffs, a torn ACL in his left knee during 2006 preseason effectively ended his pro career.
9 of 20Manny Millan/SI, John Biever/SI
Couch's place at the head of the Quarterback Class of 1999 didn't translate add up to much in the NFL. Instead of following in the footsteps of classmates Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper, Couch went the way of historical footnotes Akili Smith and Cade McNown. Attempted comebacks with the Green Bay Packers (2004) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (2007) proved futile.
10 of 20John Iacono/SI, Al Tielemans/SI
Few first overall picks have realized the hype more impressively than Manning, a two-time MVP who's made eight Pro Bowl appearances while leading Indianapolis to a victory in Super Bowl XLI.
11 of 20Bob Strong/AFP/Getty Images, David E. Klutho/SI
After not allowing a quarterback sack during his final two years at Ohio State, the brawny left tackle became the first offensive lineman in 29 years to go first overall in the draft. Pace has made seven Pro Bowls (and counting) and helped the Rams to the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl victory while blocking for Kurt Warner during the `99 season.
12 of 20Manny Millan/SI, Lou Capozzola/SI
Johnson solidified his draft standing with a magnificent performance for USC in the Rose Bowl, setting a game record with 216 receiving yards in a 41-32 victory over Northwestern. But while Johnson never quite lived up to his considerable hype, the L.A. native still made three Pro Bowls during an 11-year career and helped Tampa Bay to its first Super Bowl title in 2002.
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After helping Penn State to an undefeated record and finishing second in the Heisman voting as a senior, Carter went first overall to the Bengals in the '95 draft. But the Ohio native tore an ACL on the third carry of his first preseason game and ended up rushing for just 1,144 yards in 10 seasons.
14 of 20David Liam Kyle/SI, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Wilkinson played four seasons with the Bengals after Cincinnati took the Ohio State product with the first overall pick, recording 25.0 sacks and missing just three games. The Bengals sent Wilkinson packing after the defensive end called Cincinnati a "racist" city, and the Dayton native spent the remaining seven years of his career playing for the Redskins, Lions and Dolphins.
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After going to the Patriots with the first pick of the '93 draft, Bledsoe spent the remainder of the decade as the face of the franchise. He broke a number of team passing records, made three Pro Bowls and led New England to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXI. Bledsoe made a fourth Pro Bowl during the first of three years with the Bills and finished up his career in Dallas under former New England coach Bill Parcells.
16 of 20AP, Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Injury-plagued practically from the start, the defensive end blew out his knee just nine games into his rookie season and finished each of his first three years with Indianapolis on injured reserve. Emtman bounced around the league but never approached the dynamic form displayed during a brilliant collegiate career at Washington. In 1997, Emtman retired from the Redskins at 27 years old.
17 of 20V.J. Lovero/SI, John Biever/SI
Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson used draft picks acquired in the legendary Herschel Walker trade to deal with New England for the No. 1 overall selection in the '91 draft. With the choice, the Cowboys took Maryland -- and the University of Miami product started on the defensive line for three Super Bowl champions during the early 1990s.
18 of 20Damian Strohmeyer/SI, Al Messerschmidt/WireImage.com
Despite having one of the strongest arms of his generation, George never quite harnessed his natural gifts -- a 4,000-yard season with the Falcons in 1995 notwithstanding -- and spent his career as a journeyman signal-caller. The Illinois product played for seven different NFL teams throughout a 15-year career.
19 of 20Peter Read Miller/SI
After finishing 3-13 during the 1988 season, the Cowboys made Troy Aikman the franchise's first pick of the post-Landry era. Dallas stumbled to a 1-15 mark during Aikman's rookie year, with the UCLA product going 0-11 as a starter. But things would turn around quickly, with Aikman winning his third Super Bowl title by his seventh NFL season.
20 of 20Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
Touted as the next Lawrence Taylor, the underwhelming Bruce started just 42 games during an 11-year career with the Falcons and Raiders.
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