Whether it be through finishing the previous season as the second-worst team in football or trading up to secure the number two spot, congratulations! You’ve been rewarded with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft and have the opportunity to change the fate of your franchise forever by making the right selection. Some of these picks have done just that, others not so much! This article will assess how well each of the NFL Draft’s second overall picks from 2010-2019 panned out — which teams received a bona fide generational talent due to excellent scouting, and which organisations would love to be able to choose a different college prospect instead!
2010 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle, Nebraska (Selected By Detroit Lions)
One of the most dominant defensive tackles of the modern era, Ndamukong Suh was the hottest prospect ahead of the 2010 NFL Draft. Five seasons at Nebraska (the first of which as a medical redshirt) racking up 215 tackles, 49.5 tackles for loss and 24 sacks in just 38 starts as an interior lineman, an excellent combine performance where he ran a sub-five second 40-yard dash at 307 pounds and the versatility to fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense made Suh a sure-fire selection for Detroit once Sam Bradford was picked first-overall by St. Louis. And what a decision it turned out to be. The Cornhusker-turned-Lion's unbelievable rookie season saw him lead the Lions, all rookies and all defensive tackles in sacks with 10, earning him a well-deserved inclusion in the 2010 All-Pro team which was simply a sign of what was to come. Though Suh has had his fair share of on-field behavioural issues ever since he entered the pros, his pass-rushing prowess cannot be denied. Five Pro Bowl appearances, five All-Pro team inclusions and a spot on the NFL 2010s All-Decade team makes the 34-year-old a serious contender for the Pro Football Hall of Fame — a case that would certainly be strengthened if Suh can earn his first Super Bowl ring on a Buccaneers team still in the hunt at the time of writing.
2011 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Von Miller, Linebacker, Texas A&M (Selected By Denver Broncos)
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Von Miller’s decision to stay at Texas A&M for his senior season is the best one he has ever made. Had he entered the draft after his junior year, it would’ve seen the linebacker projected as a second-round pick, but that final year as an Aggie where Miller totalled 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in 13 games along with back-to-back first-team All-American inclusions made Broncos general manager Brian Xanders’ decision all the easier. With Newton off the board at number one and headed to Carolina, Denver received one of the greatest pure pass rushers in NFL history by taking Miller second overall — they just didn’t know it yet. Forcing a fumble in his very first NFL career play from scrimmage against the Raiders, the outside linebacker was simply setting the tone for what would become a decade of sheer dominance that would culminate in an MVP performance against the formidable 17-1 Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Nine years of filling up box scores with seven double-digit sack seasons — making Miller just the 33rd player in NFL history to record 100 career sacks and the fourth fastest to do so at the time — has equated to a Super Bowl ring, eight Pro Bowl appearances, seven All-Pro team inclusions, a unanimous place on the NFL 2010s All-Decade team and a spot in the Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible. Easily the most unquestionable draft pick pay-off on this list.
2012 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor (Selected By Washington Redskins)
The first ever Baylor player to win the Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III graduated from college having broken nearly every single school record — elevating his draft value from outside of the first round to the consensus second-best quarterback in the entire class in the process. A junior season spent throwing nearly 4,300 yards and 37 touchdowns with only six interceptions, Griffin gave Washington’s general manager Bruce Allen little choice but to take the Bears passer at number two overall, as Andrew Luck was already packing his bags for Indianapolis. And initially, it seemed to be a very wise decision. With 3,200 yards and 20 passing touchdowns and a further 815 yards and seven scores on the ground, RGIII earned the coveted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team and an appearance in the 2012 Pro Bowl, followed up by a similarly successful sophomore season statistically speaking. However, Griffin’s story would soon become one of a pro career plagued by injuries as the quarterback’s subsequent stops in Cleveland and now Baltimore — unable to muster any sort of consistency nor stay on the field — have left the veteran bench-bound. Now 30 years of age and having been placed on injured reserve once again last month, it seems as though Griffin’s best days in the league are unfortunately behind him.
2013 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M (Selected By Jacksonville Jaguars)
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One of the many draft gaffes in the history of the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s no hot take to say that Luke Joeckel never lived up to the expectations he had created for himself as a college star. Protecting the blindside of freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel during his Heisman Trophy-winning season, the Aggie declared for the 2013 NFL Draft with his stock as high as ever, leaving Kansas City the seemingly difficult decision of selecting either Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan, or Joeckel from Texas A&M with the first overall pick. Siding with the former — the better decision in hindsight — the Chiefs allowed Dave Caldwell in his first season in Duval to make the Outland Trophy winner the latest addition to Jacksonville’s offensive line. However, things certainly didn’t go as smoothly for Joeckel in the NFL as they did in the NCAA. A collegiate sophomore season spent breaking records compared very unfavourably to number 76’s sophomore season in the pros, where PFF described him as one of the worst offensive tackles in the entire league. Joeckel’s durability was a key hindrance to his NFL career, which — having not seen the field for three seasons now where he started 11 games in Seattle on the sixth-worst offensive line in football — seems to be well and truly over. This one certainly didn’t turn out as the Jaguars had hoped it would.
2014 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn (Selected By St. Louis Rams)
Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports
Becoming the highest Auburn Tigers offensive lineman ever selected in the NFL Draft — displacing Ken Rice who went eighth overall some 53 years earlier — Greg Robinson must have felt honoured to hear Commissioner Roger Goodell call his name on May 8th, 2014 and joined a Rams team set to play their penultimate season in St. Louis, Missouri. But the move to Los Angeles in 2016 ended up being as exciting as Robinson’s Rams career got. Forty-six games of uninspiring play protecting a plethora of quarterbacks ultimately resulted in the front office declining the offensive lineman’s fifth-year option on his contract, catalyzing the Tiger’s trade to Detroit some six weeks later. But that wasn’t the end of Robinson’s woes as further frustration was to come. An injury on the Lions and then back-to-back seasons on two uncompetitive Browns sides was followed by an arrest due to possession of 156.9 pounds of marijuana; the highly touted tackle prospect went from starting in the National Championship Game and being taken second overall in the NFL Draft, to now facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Given Robinson’s mediocre level of play in the pros and legal troubles that seem to have all but ended his NFL career, this selection was a categorical bust.
2015 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon (Selected By Tennessee Titans)
Taken second in the 2015 NFL Draft to Jameis Winston, this wasn’t the final time these two quarterbacks would be said in the same breath. In fact, their respective careers almost seem to parallel each other to the present day. And while it was Winston who was headed to Tampa Bay having won the favour of Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, it was actually Mariota who'd had the better 2014 season at college. Nearly 4,500 yards and 42 passing touchdowns with just four interceptions and a further 770 yards and 15 scores on the ground earned Mariota the Heisman Trophy. Having put up a portfolio of impressive film throughout his time at college, the Oregon signal-caller was expected to raise the level of play of his surrounding talent which — aside from soon-to-be serial Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker — was an incredibly limited offensive roster, soon exposed by the more competitive outfits across the league. Without a division title since 2008, the Titans would never once reach those heights with Mariota under center as they finished the passer’s rookie year with a woeful 3-13 record. After that, Mariota led the Titans to four straight 9-7 records before the second overall pick was sent packing to Las Vegas to fill the role of Derek Carr’s backup. And while Mariota averaged over 3,000 yards per season in Tennessee and led his team to four out of five winning seasons, the Titans never represented true contenders with the Duck filling the team’s most important position. Mariota may not be a draft pick pay-off but moving on from him could just prove to be the best decision the organisation has ever made.
2016 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Carson Wentz, Quarterback, North Dakota State (Selected By Philadelphia Eagles)
Carson Wentz’s career trajectory since being drafted second overall in 2016 by the Philadelphia Eagles might just have both the highest peak and the lowest trough of any one passer in the entire league. Five straight FCS titles and a terrific display at the NFL scouting combine was enough to sway de facto Eagles general manager Howie Roseman into taking the Bison with the second overall pick where he would go on to showcase just how high a ceiling he possessed as well as how low a floor. Completing a full 16-game season as the rookie starter in 2016 — leading Philadelphia to a 7-9 record and a shockingly rock-bottom finish in a then-stronger NFC East division — his sophomore campaign as a pro is where Wentz really shined. Consistent play at an MVP level with nearly 3,300 yards and 33 touchdowns in just 13 starts was unfortunately followed by an ACL tear in Week 14 against the Rams, where he was replaced by backup Nick Foles who went on to complete the sheer impossible by handing the city of Philadelphia their first ever Lombardi trophy. A further two solid years of play in 2018 and 2019 — sandwiched by an exorbitant four-year, $128 million contract extension — was then followed up by an utterly dismal 2020 campaign finishing 30th on PFF’s final quarterback rankings after the Eagles front office had already gone searching for a new man under center. Wentz led the league in interceptions (15), total turnovers (19) and sacks taken (50) despite only playing in 12 games this season, and his days in Philadelphia may just be numbered at this point with rookie Jalen Hurts outplaying him this past season. Let’s see who the new head coach — who is yet to be confirmed at the time of writing — favours, and perhaps more importantly, whether or not the second overall pick will be happy being resigned to the Eagles bench.
2017 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Mitchell Trubisky, Quarterback, North Carolina (Selected By Chicago Bears)
For the rest of time, Bears fans will forever be reminded about the fact that they selected North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick in 2017 when Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and three-time Pro Bowler Deshaun Watson were still on the board, falling to the Chiefs at number 10 and Texans at number 12 respectively. And adding more fuel to the fire, Chicago traded up to get him! The Bears’ scouting department — evidently infatuated by the Tar Heels tosser’s junior season — were certain they’d secured their franchise quarterback when selecting Trubisky, but after four underwhelming seasons (particularly striking when compared to the corresponding prowess of Mahomes and Watson) Ryan Pace and the rest of the front office have already begun to move on. Achieving just one winning season with the passer under center in 2018 where the team was more so carried by their number-one ranked defense, Trubisky’s on-field incompetence and the organisation’s awareness of such was never more conspicuous than last offseason where Chicago brought in 31-year-old veteran Nick Foles and hosted an “open competition” for the starting spot according to general manager Ryan Pace, before declining Trubisky’s fifth-year option some 32 days later. Having played his most recent game against the Saints in a 21-9 loss on Nickelodeon with SpongeBob superimposed between the uprights, it seems as though the second overall pick is headed straight to the Bikini Bottom of the depth chart, potentially even playing elsewhere in 2021 — all that’s certain is that passing on both Mahomes AND Watson, while giving up draft capital in the process, will go down in infamy as one of the worst decisions in franchise history. This pick certainly didn’t pay off.
2018 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State (Selected By New York Giants)
Evan Pinkus/New York Football Giants
One of the most exciting running back prospects to declare for the NFL draft in years, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley’s elite-level college play had already given him an incredible highlight reel by the time he turned just 21 that most rushers would be proud of. Juking defenders out of their cleats, Saquon racked up 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns on the ground with a further 1,195 yards and eight scores through the air in just 38 games. Come the 26th April 2018 with Baker Mayfield already Cleveland-bound after the Browns selected him first overall, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman made no mistake in snapping up Saquon to head New York’s backfield for the long-term future — and it didn’t take long for the decision to pay off, even with a poor offensive line in front of him, Barkley topped 2,000 yards from scrimmage in his rookie season with 15 touchdowns to boot, earning him Pro Bowl, NFL Rookie of the Year, NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and PFWA All-Rookie Team honours, nearly replicating the same production in a sophomore campaign that would be cut short by injury. And unfortunately, that was very much the case in 2020 too as the former Nittany Lion was carted off of Soldier Field in excruciating pain in a Week 2 matchup against Chicago that would soon be confirmed as a torn ACL, sending Saquon to injured reserve and ending his season. Though both Barkley and his pro career are young, I fear this may already be a case of what could have been as the running back’s durability remains a huge question mark going forward — but showing no signs of this at college, how were the Giants’ front office to know? Nothing would make me happier (except my Jaguars winning the Super Bowl) than Saquon Barkley proving us all wrong in 2021 by returning to the league and playing at an All-Pro level like the generational talent we all know he is, it’s simply a question of whether or not his body can take it at this stage. It’s too early to determine whether or not this pick paid off, but one you certainly can’t destroy Dave Gettleman for.
2019 NFL Draft’s Second Overall Pick - Nick Bosa, Defensive End, Ohio State (Selected By San Francisco 49ers)
Looking to enter the NFL and prove that his brother Joey wasn’t the only elite pass rusher in the family, Nick Bosa joined a San Francisco 49ers team that was about to receive so much more than just a dominant defensive end. Number 97 represented a change in fortune for the NFC West franchise that went from the second-worst team in the league to the second-best in a single season — flipping their record from 4-12 to 13-3 and making it all the way to Super Bowl LIV as conference champions. And it all started up front on Robert Saleh’s number-one ranked pass defense. Kwon Alexander, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas and of course rookie Nick Bosa. The former Ohio State Buckeye’s 29 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in a 29-game college career that saw a junior season cut very short by injuries instilled enough confidence in John Lynch’s mind that the second Bosa brother was the real deal. And prove that he did. Nine sacks, 47 tackles (16 for loss), 25 quarterback hits, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and an interception in just 14 regular season starts — plus a further 15 tackles (three for loss), five quarterback hits, four sacks and a forced fumble in the playoffs showed that the second overall pick could do it on the biggest stage — had immediately vindicated the 49ers front office’s decision to take the Ohio State defensive end. But just as Saquon had, Bosa also suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season which placed him on injured reserve and ended his season too — unfortunately missing out on a year of invaluable experience at the pro level so early on in his career. Now returning to a San Francisco defense no longer headed by Robert Saleh, who departed to fill the head coach vacancy on the Jets, things will look a little different at Levi’s Stadium in 2021 and beyond. But one thing’s for certain, from the way he represents a positive turn of fate for the franchise and a new era of 49ers football — taking the team to just their second Super Bowl in 25 years — this draft pick has already paid off.
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