Looking out for former No. 1s

As the 49ers inch closer to the overall No. 1 pick in the April draft, <i>SFI</i> takes a look back at previous No. 1 overall selections during the past decade. Some of them have made it in the NFL and some of them haven't.

2004: QB Eli Manning (San Diego). Peyton's younger brother landed in New York via trade after telling Chargers he had no intention of playing for them. The Giants forced Manning into the starting lineup at midseason - to the detriment of the team's playoff hopes - but the experience probably hastened his development and will help him reach his potential sooner than if he'd sat the entire season behind Kurt Warner.

2003: QB Carson Palmer (Cincinnati). Sat behind Jon Kitna during his entire rookie season, but took over as Bengals starting quarterback last year and had some success that suggests a brighter future for a team that has had big problems developing quarterbacks.

2002: QB David Carr (Houston). Being thrown to the wolves as a rookie starter for an expansion franchise in 2002 - when he was sacked 76 times - didn't hurt his development. Carr continued to blossom last season with 3,531 yards passing and a 83.5 quarterback rating.

2001: QB Michael Vick (Atlanta). The Falcons made the right move in going after Vick in a huge trade of draft picks with San Diego that ultimately benefited both teams. This special talent continues to develop as a passer and presents a rushing dimension unmatched by any other quarterback in NFL history.

2000: DE Courtney Brown (Cleveland). Was a can't-miss prospect coming out of college, but a series of significant injuries have derailed his career. Brown has missed 33 games over the past four seasons with injuries, producing just 17 sacks in 47 games in a career that no longer seems destined for greatness. He was released by Cleveland on Monday so that the Browns didn't have to pay him a roster bonus.

1999: QB Tim Couch (Cleveland). Never developed into a top-flight quarterback after a promising rookie season and eventually lost starting job to journeyman Kelly Holcomb before being released. His career is now in jeopardy due to arm and shoulder problems.

1998: QB Peyton Manning (Indianapolis). As he grows into one of the game's greatest quarterbacks ever, it's safe to say the Colts made the right choice in selecting Manning over Ryan Leaf. Manning's record-shattering 2004 season could be replicated several times in Indy's high-powered offense before his career is over.

1997: OT Orlando Pace (St. Louis). A great player whether he's pass-blocking or run-blocking, Pace has lived up to his vast potential as one of the most dominant linemen in the game. May have plateaued a bit last season, but is still playing at a very high level.

1996: WR Keyshawn Johnson (New York Jets). Is not a dominant receiver at this stage of his career, but has been very productive since entering the league. Has seven seasons of 70 receptions or more and a 13.2 average on 673 career catches.

1995: RB Ki-Jana Carter (Cincinnati). A severe knee injury before his rookie season doomed Carter's career before it even got started. In 10 years with three NFL teams, Carter never has gained more than 464 yards rushing in a season. He still was trying to hang on in 2004 with the New Orleans Saints, where his season totals amounted to 10 carries for 17 yards rushing.


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