clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Throwback Thursday: Top Overall Picks

The Colts have held the first overall pick seven times in the draft. This week, Ben Lamers reviews all of the Colts first overall selections.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

After a two week hiatus where I was off the grid (i.e. away from a computer to post from) Throwback Thursday makes its triumphant return today!

Training Camp has started, which means football is, more or less, here to stay until early February. What a great time of year! Plus, in 10 days the Colts open up the pre-season slate against the revamped Eagles.

However, this week's Throwback will have nothing to do with Training Camp (sorry). Instead, I'll be writing about something I should have done back in late April, but didn't think of it. The Colts have had seven number one overall picks, the most in the NFL. This week, we'll be reviewing all of them.

So let's jump back to 1955, the first time the Colts held the top overall pick. Going into their third year, Weeb Ewbank's squad desperately needed a quarterback, so they took George Shaw out of Oregon with the top pick.

As a side note, the team also selected Alan Ameche with the third overall pick that year.

Shaw was the Colts starter in 1955, and the beginning of the 1956. However, after suffering a broken leg in the early part of 1956, Shaw was sidelined as his backup, a kid by the name of Johnny Unitas, took the field. Shaw remained in Baltimore for two more years, but needless to say he didn't see the field much.

He was traded to the Giants in 1959, but was the back-up to Charlie Conerly in New York. After two seasons with the Giants, he was moved to the fledgling Vikings franchise, where he was again named the starter. However, just like in Baltimore, he was injured, and replaced by his backup. This time, his backup QB was none other than Fran Tarkenton. Bad luck for Shaw again.

Shaw would play one more season in the AFL with the Broncos before retiring.

In 1967, a year after nearly reaching the NFL Title Game, the Colts moved up in the NFL Draft, trading to get the top overall pick from the Saints. In hindsight, the trade as immensely one sided, and in favor of the Colts.

The Colts received the top pick, Bill Curry, a third round pick, and a 1969 seventh round pick. In exchange, the Colts traded backup QB Gary Cuozzo, Buford Allison, and a 17th round pick.

Oh, and the Colts used that top pick on Bubba Smith. From 1967 through 1972 Smith was an integral part of the Baltimore defense. Smith played in two Super Bowls with the Colts, winning one, was a two time Pro Bowler, and an All-Pro in 1971.

I didn't realize before writing this, though, that Smith only played in Baltimore for five seasons before being traded to the Oakland Raiders. After two seasons in Oakland, Smith was traded to the Houston Oilers where he finished his career.

It would be 16 years before the Colts again held the first overall pick. We'll fast forward to the infamous 1983 draft for the Colts.

The Colts held the top pick, and everyone knew that the top player in the draft was a quarterback from Stanford.

John Elway.

Before the draft, Elway had stated that he did not want to play in Baltimore, citing both his desire to play on the West Coast, and that he did not want to play for Frank Kush. He said that he would play baseball for the Yankees if not traded.

According to the ESPN documentary Elway to Marino (which you should take the time to watch if you haven't already), the Colts had plenty of suitors for the right to select Elway including the 49ers, Chargers, Raiders, and Patriots.

The Colts ended up selecting Elway anyway, and immediately Elway stated he would be playing baseball in New York. However, a few days later the Colts would trade Elway to the Broncos for Chris Hinton, Mark Herrmann, and a first round pick (Ron Solt).

Hinton would be the longest tenured Colt out of this trade, and was named to six Pro Bowls and two All Pro teams in Indianapolis. He was traded to the Falcons after the 1989 season.

Herrmann would be a backup QB in Indianapolis, and was traded two San Diego after two seasons. He would eventually return to Indianapolis in the early 1990s, again in a backup role.

Solt would play four years in Indianapolis (being named to the Pro Bowl once) before being traded to the Eagles. Much like Herrmann, Solt would return to the Colts in 1992 to finish his career.

And of course, we all know how Elway's career turned out in Denver.

In 1990 the Colts again made the move to trade for the top overall pick. This time, it didn't work out as well as the Bubba Smith trade.

The Colts sent Hinton, Andre Rison (whom they had drafted a year earlier), a fifth round pick, and a 1991 first round pick to the Atlanta Falcons. In exchange, the Colts received the top overall pick in 1990 and fourth round pick.

With the top overall pick, the Colts selected hometown hero Jeff George. After four seasons, 46 interceptions, and 35 losses, George was traded to (ironically) the Falcons. In exchange, the Colts received the seventh overall pick in the 1994 draft, and a second round pick in 1996.

George would go on to have an up and down career with the Falcons, Raiders, Vikings, and Redskins.

In 1992, the Colts again held the first overall pick (and the second overall pick). This time, the team opted for defense as they took defensive line behemoth Steve Emtman with the first pick.

It's difficult to say what impact Emtman could have had for the Colts, as he only played 18 games in three seasons, and ended each year on the injured reserve list. After three injury marred years with the Colts, Emtman played two seasons in Miami and one in Washington before retiring at the age of 27.

Only six years later, the Colts again held the first overall pick, for the third time in eight years. This time, they again targeted a quarterback. This time, the Colts got the pick right.

The Colts selected Peyton Manning with the top overall pick. Needless to say, the pick was a homerun. From 1998 until 2011, Manning led the Colts to wins, division titles, and Super Bowls, while rewriting the NFL record book along the way.

After being injured for the duration of the 2011 season, the Colts released Manning, and he would sign with the Broncos. A big reason for that was that in the 2012 NFL draft, the Colts again would be selecting first.

The Colts held the top pick, and everyone knew that the top player in the draft was a quarterback from Stanford.

Sound familiar?

This time, the Colts got their man and selected Andrew Luck with the first overall pick. In his first three seasons, Luck has led the Colts to 33 regular season wins, three playoff wins, and a berth in the AFC Title Game. This year, Luck is a big reason the Colts are poised to make a legitimate Super Bowl run.

The Colts held the top overall pick seven times, and took a QB five of those times. In my opinion, only three of these really worked out (Manning, Luck, and Smith). As always, I would be remiss if I didn't include a poll at the end.

Who do you think was the best first overall selection for the Colts?