Best NFL First-Round Picks by Draft Slot

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Text: Chris Burke, Photo: Al Tielemans(3), John Biever, Bill Frakes, Simon Bruty, David E. Klutho/SI; Rob Tringali/SportsChrome

Peyton Manning

1998, Indianapolis Colts

These are the best first-round draft picks since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

Like John Elway in Denver, Manning will first and foremost be remembered as an Indianapolis Colt. His move to Denver last season, though, produced one of his finest statistical seasons -- no small feet for a player who made his 12th Pro Bowl appearance in January and has nine All-Pro nods, four NFL MVPs, plus a Super Bowl win and game MVP. Manning's incredible ability to read defenses and make adjustments at the line led to the Colts giving him more control of the offense than just about any quarterback has ever had. It can be argued that the NFL may have seen greater players than Manning, and possibly even greater quarterbacks. No player taken No. 1 overall since 1970, however, has been better than Manning.

Runner-ups: John Elway (1983, Colts) and Bruce Smith (1985, Bills)

Honorable Mention: Mario Williams (2006, Texans); Eli Manning (2004, Chargers); Michael Vick (2001, Falcons); Orlando Pace (1997, Rams); Drew Bledsoe (1993, Patriots); Troy Aikman (1989, Cowboys); Bo Jackson (1986, Buccaneers); Earl Campbell (1978, Oilers); Lee Roy Selmon (1976, Buccaneers); Terry Bradshaw (1970, Steelers)

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