No. 1 QBs Who Found Success With Other NFL Organizations

The writing appeared to be on the wall for Baker Mayfield’s time in Cleveland following the Browns’ acquisition of Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson. While Mayfield remains on the club’s roster and Watson’s status tenuous, many still believe the former Oklahoma Sooner will be dealt or cut before the start of training camp (if not sooner).

Despite the difficult circumstances, this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Mayfield’s time as a starter, as several quarterbacks drafted first overall have found success in other organizations. Here are five names the former Heisman Trophy winner can look to for motivation.

1) Jim Plunkett

If there was ever a quarterback who personified the word ‘resilient,’ it’s Jim Plunkett. Plunkett revitalized his career with the Oakland Raiders after failed stints with the New England Patriots (selected the Heisman Trophy winner No. 1 in 1971)  and San Francisco 49ers. Filling in for injured starter Dan Pastorini during the 1980 season, the former Stanford great led Oakland to a victory in Super Bowl XV, earning MVP honors. Plunkett would lead the Raiders to another Lombardi Trophy two years later and is one of just 12 quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowl titles.

2) Matthew Stafford

After he was selected No. 1 overall in 2009, the Georgia product toiled away in Detroit for the better part of 12 seasons. The best quarterback in Lions history was finally afforded an opportunity to win when Matthew Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in the spring of 2021. Stafford proved to be LA’s missing piece, throwing 41 touchdowns during the regular season en route to leading the Rams to their second Super Bowl title in franchise history.

3) Peyton Manning

A true legend of the sport, multiple neck surgeries left Peyton Manning’s playing days in serious jeopardy. After being forced to sit out the entire 2011 campaign, the Colts released their franchise icon (No. 1 pick in 1998) during the 2012 offseason, ushering in the Andrew Luck era. Despite the uncertainty surrounding his return, the Denver Broncos took a chance on Manning and reaped immense benefits. The Hall of Famer guided the Broncos to two Super Bowl appearances (winning one) while throwing an NFL record 55 touchdown passes in 2013. Denver’s 606 points that season remains the highest-scoring output of any team in NFL history.

4) Michael Vick

The franchise selected the Hokie as the city’s savior with the first pick of the 2001 NFL draft. Having revolutionized the quarterback position during his time with the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick’s NFL career came to a dramatic halt upon pleading guilty to charges of operating an illegal dogfighting ring, ultimately serving a 21-month prison sentence. Following his release, Vick was let go by the Falcons, eventually signing a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in August of 2009. The four-time Pro Bowler became the club’s starter the following season, racking up 30 total touchdowns and earning Comeback Player of the Year honors in the process.

5) Carson Palmer

Following a messy divorce from the Cincinnati Bengals, who made the USC product the top pick in 2003, Carson Palmer spent two underwhelming seasons in Oakland before winding up with the Arizona Cardinals. It was with the Cardinals where Palmer enjoyed a career resurgence, tossing a career-high 35 touchdown passes in 2015, including a spot in that year’s NFC Championship Game.