BOSTON (CBS) — After decades of having a sixth-round selection leading them to glory, the New England Patriots are now turning to a former No. 1 overall pick. With their reported signing of quarterback Cam Newton, the Patriots have added the top pick to their roster for just the seventh time in franchise history.
Most of those top overall picks joined the Patriots because, well, the Patriots weren’t very good the season prior and earned themselves the top overall pick. In Newton’s case, he enjoyed a nine-year career as the face of the Carolina franchise before the organization opted to move on from the quarterback, with New England giving him a chance to show the NFL that he is still a viable option under center.
Here’s a look at all of the No. 1 overall picks to play for the Patriots — whether it was the New England version or the one started it all as the Boston Patriots — and a look at their success with the team.
Ron Burton, RB
Burton was drafted by the Boston Patriots with the top pick in the first ever AFL draft in 1960. He rushed for 1,536 yards and also caught 111 passes for 1,205 yards, scoring 19 touchdowns in his six seasons with the Pats. He was the first Patriots player to ever rush for over 100 yards in a game, logging 127 yards against the Broncos on Oct. 23, 1960. Injuries cut his career short, but he was a force in the New England backfield for six seasons.
His legacy lives on in New England through the Ron Burton Training Village, a year-round training program designed to develop and strengthen our youth both on and off the football field.
Jim Plunkett, QB
The top overall pick by New England in 1972, he played QB for five seasons with the Patriots. Plunkett went 23-38, throwing 62 touchdowns and 87 interceptions before moving on to the San Francisco 49ers (two seasons) and Oakland Raiders (eight seasons).
Kenneth Simms, DE
Spent his entire eight-year career in New England after the Patriots drafted him first overall in 1982. Had 17 sacks and 5.5 forced fumbles in his career.
Irving Fryar, WR
In need of another playmaker to pair with Stanley Morgan, the Patriots used the top overall pick in 1984 on wide receiver Irving Fryar, just the second receiver to ever go first overall. He caught 38 touchdowns in his nine seasons with the Patriots, and had the team’s only touchdown in New England’s Super Bowl XX loss to the Chicago Bears. Fryar was one of the lone bright spots of a 1-15 season in 1990, leading the team with 54 receptions and 856 receiving yards to go with his four touchdowns. He had his only 1,000 receiving yard season with the Patriots in 1991.
Fryar went on to have successful stints with the Dolphins, Eagles and Redskins after his days with the Patriots, finishing his NFL career with 851 receptions and 84 touchdowns in 255 games.
Vinny Testaverde, QB
The No. 1 pick in 1987, Testaverde spent the penultimate season of his 21-year career with the Patriots. He played in three games in 2006, throwing a touchdown to Troy Brown in Week 17 to give him at least one touchdown pass for the 20th straight season — extending his own NFL record.
Drew Bledsoe, QB
Bledsoe was the face of the franchise after the team took him with the No. 1 pick in 1993. He put up some monster numbers in his nine seasons with the Patriots, leading the NFL with 4,555 passing yards in just his second season (along with 27 interceptions). He threw for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns as he led the Patriots to an 11-5 record and a spot in Super Bowl XXXI in 1996.
Then Mo Lewis came along and changed history for Bledsoe, the Patriots and the NFL early in the 2001 season, paving the way for Tom Brady to take over and lead a 20-year dynasty in New England. Overall Bledsoe went 63-60 in his career with the Patriots, earning a Super Bowl ring as Brady’s backup in 2001 before being traded to the Buffalo Bills.
Bledsoe finished his career 98-95 for New England, Buffalo and Dallas, throwing 251 touchdowns and 206 interceptions.
Cam Newton, QB
Newton was the top pick by Carolina in 2011 after winning the Heisman Trophy and leading Auburn to a 10-0 record as a junior. He threw for a career-best 4,051 yards as a rookie while adding another 706 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns (to go with his 21 touchdown passes) to earn Rookie of the Year honors, but Carolina went just 6-10 in 2011.
Newton had the Panthers in the playoffs his third NFL season, leading the team to a 12-4 record and a first-round bye in 2013, scoring 30 total touchdowns (24 passing, six rushing), but the team fell to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round at home. He got his first career playoff win the following season, throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns in a Wild Card Round victory over the Arizona Cardinals, but fell to the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round the following weekend.
Though injuries slowed him in 2014, Newton was back big in 2015, winning NFL MVP after throwing for 3,837 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, and rushing for 636 yards on the ground and 10 additional touchdowns. The Panthers went 15-1 that season and Newton led them to Super Bowl 50, where they fell to the Denver Broncos, 24-10. Newton was sacked six times by Denver’s vaunted defense, and didn’t make much of an effort to recover the ball when he was stripped in the fourth quarter with Carolina down just 16-10 and only four minutes left on the clock. Unfortunately for Newton, that is the play many point to as the defining moment of his career.
And Newton’s career hasn’t been the same since that Super Bowl loss, though he was looking strong in 2018 before a shoulder injury kept him from being Cam Newton. He played just two games in 2019 due to a foot injury, and when the Panthers couldn’t find a trading partner over the offseason, was released from the only franchise he’s ever played for.
Now we’ll wait to see what Newton can do in a revamped Patriots system in 2020.