The NFL draft has given avenue to a selection of several promising college talents who went on to become legends in the league. The annual process, where NFL teams select eligible college football players to their roster, is one of the most anticipated off-season events.
The first overall pick in the draft is highly coveted. They are considered the best of the best, with high expectations placed on them from the start. While many of them struggle to adapt to life in the NFL, there are a few that have hit the ground running since day one.
In this article, we take a look at six first-overall picks who not only lived up to their potential and hype, but went on to win the NFL Rookie of the Year award. It is worth noting that each of the six players are also Heisman Trophy winners.
#1. Earl Campbell - Houston Oilers (1978)
Nicknamed Tyler Rose due to his running style, Campbell was a dominant force the moment he entered the NFL in 1978. Drafted from the Texas Longhorns football program, the running back was selected by the Houston Oilers, who signed him to a six-year contract.
Across 15 games in his rookie season, the 1977 Heisman Trophy winner impressively had 302 carries for 1,450 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Campbell won several awards for his performances and his emergence contributed to the "Luv Ya Blue" movement.
#2. Billy Sims - Detroit Lions (1980)
Sims wasted no time in bursting onto the scene in his rookie season. The running back was drafted from the Oklahoma Sooners football program by the Detroit Lions, where he spent the entirety of his short professional career.
The St. Louis-born Sims, who entered the NFL as a Heisman Trophy winner, had 313 carries for 1,303 yards and scored 16 touchdowns across 16 matches in his rookie season. This announced him to the whole of the league and got him his first Pro Bowl selection.
#3. George Rogers - New Orleans Saints (1981)
Rogers famed himself as a bruising running back when he entered the NFL in 1981. His powerful running style helped him break tackles and gain tough yards. Drafted by the New Orleans Saints, Rogers made an immediate impact in his rookie season.
The former South Carolina Gamecocks talent recorded 378 carries for 1,674 yards and scored 13 touchdowns across 16 games if his rookie season. The performance of the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner earned him his first Pro Bowl.
#4. Sam Bradford - St. Louis Rams (2010)
After the first three had won theirs in the span of four years, it took 29 years before Bradford broke the jinx. Bradford was a highly-touted quarterback prospect coming out of the Oklahoma Sooners football program in 2010.
He was the first No. 1 draft pick out of Oklahoma football since Billy Sims. Winning the Heisman Trophy in 2008, Bradford quickly showed his talent with the Rams his rookie season, throwing for 3,512 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions across 16 games in 2010.
#5. Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers (2011)
Newton took the NFL by storm with his dynamism in 2011. Having won the Heisman Trophy with the Auburn Tigers in 2010, the Atlanta-born quarterback was drafted by the Panthers, signing a four-year contract worth over $22 million.
With an impressive ability to use the arm and legs, Newton threw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns while also rushing for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns. His impressive start to life in the NFL earned him a Pro Bowl and made him a fan favorite.
#6. Kyler Murray - Arizona Cardinals (2019)
Murray is the latest first-overall draft pick to claim the NFL Rookie of the Year award. Coming out of the Oklahoma Sooners football program, Murray was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, where he proved his talent in his rookie season.
The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner ended his rookie season with 3,722 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The quarterback also recorded 544 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns on 93 carries.