Which Schools Have the Most No. 1 Overall Picks in the NFL Draft?

by Mike Ferguson

Photo courtesy of USC athletics

On Thursday night, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow became the third Tiger ever selected No. 1 overall when he was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Burrow joins fellow quarterback Jamarcus Russell and running back Billy Cannon among LSU players to be selected first overall. With a third No. 1 overall selected, LSU moves into a tie with Texas and Ohio State for seventh all-time in that category.

Below is a look at the schools with the most:

T-1. Notre Dame (5)

First Overall Selection: Angelo Bertelli, QB (1944, Boston Yanks)
Most Recent: Walt Patulski, DE (1972, Buffalo Bills)
Others: Frank Dancewicz, QB (1946, Boston Yanks); Leon Hart (1950, Detroit Lions); Paul Hornung, RB (1957, Green Bay Packers);
Overview: Notre Dame remains atop the list despite not having a No. 1 overall pick in nearly a half-century. Of the five selected, none made the Hall of Fame. Paul Hornung and Leon Hart — the two Notre Dame running backs to go first overall — did make the Pro Bowl.

T-1. USC (5)

First Overall Selection: Ron Yary, T (1968, Minnesota Vikings)
Most Recent: Carson Palmer, QB (2003, Cincinnati Bengals)
Others: O.J. Simpson, RB (1969, Buffalo Bills); Ricky Bell, RB (1977, Tampa Bay Buccaneers); Keyshawn Johnson, WR (1996, New York Jets)
Overview: USC’s track record when it comes to No. 1 overall picks is pretty good. Both O.J. Simpson and Ron Yary were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Simpson was the first player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Keyshawn Johnson and Carson Palmer each made three Pro Bowls.

T-1. Oklahoma (5)

First Overall Selection: Lee Roy Selmon, LB/DE (1976, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Most Recent: Kyler Murray, QB (2019, Arizona Cardinals)
Others: Billy Sims, RB (1980, Detroit Lions); Sam Bradford, QB (2010, St. Louis Rams); Baker Mayfield, QB (2018, Cleveland Browns)
Overview: With two selections coming in the last two years prior to this one, the verdict is still largely out on Oklahoma players. So far, the Sooners taken No. 1 overall have fared very well. Lee Roy Selmon is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Billy Sims was a 3-time Pro Bowler. Kyler Murray is the reigning NFL Rookie of the Year.

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T-4. Auburn (4)

First Overall Selection: Tucker Frederickson (1965, New York Giants)
Most Recent: Cam Newton, QB (2011, Carolina Panthers)
Others: Bo Jackson, RB (1986, Tampa Bay Buccaneers); Aundray Bruce, LB (1988, Atlanta Falcons)
Overview: Of the schools on the list, Auburn may have had the most athletic selections in Bo Jackson and Cam Newton. Jackson’s career was cut short by injury, but he still managed to make the Pro Bowl in his final NFL season. Newton is a 3-time Pro Bowl selection and was the league’s MVP in 2015. Aundray Bruce and Tucker Frederickson never made the Pro Bowl, but had decent careers.

T-4. Georgia (4)

First Overall Selection: Frank Sinkwich, QB (1943, Detroit Lions)
Most Recent: Matthew Stafford, QB (2009, Detroit Lions)
Others: Charley Trippi, RB (1945, Chicago Cardinals); Harry Babcock, WR/DE (1953, San Francisco 49ers)
Overview: After having three No. 1 overall picks in 11 years, Georgia went 56 years without one before Matthew Stafford went first overall to the Detroit Lions in 2009. Stafford has passed for at least 4,000 yards seven times in his career with one Pro Bowl appearance. Among the four on the list, only Charley Trippi is in the Hall of Fame.

T-4. Stanford (4)

First Overall Selection: Bobby Garrett, QB (1954, Cleveland Browns)
Most Recent: Andrew Luck, QB (2012, Indianapolis Colts)
Others: Jim Plunkett, QB (1971, Boston Patriots); John Elway, QB (1983, Baltimore Colts)
Overview: All four Stanford players selected No. 1 overall were quarterbacks. The two most successful were drafted by the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts. John Elway spent his entire career with the Denver Broncos after being drafted by the Baltimore Colts. A 2-time Super Bowl champion, Elway was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. Andrew Luck was a 4-time Pro Bowler before his recent retirement. Jim Plunkett quarterbacked the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders to two Super Bowl victories.

Mike Ferguson is the associate editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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