First Round Quarterbacks – Chapter One

Back on 16 March 2016, a reader signed in as “david” suggested – in a comment – that I do a review of quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft who did little or nothing for the team that took them. Here is his comment in full:

“You should do a piece on first round qb’s that have bombed out after confuting little or nothing to the team that drafted them. It would be an interesting trip down memory lane!”

That sounded like a good idea – and a lot of research work. So, I thought about how to do something meaningful along those lines while committing myself to a reasonable expenditure of effort. I knew from the outset that I was not going to go back to the mid-1930s and look at every NFL Draft in history. I will leave that sort of thing to the team of Mel Kiper, Sr. and Mel Kiper, Jr.

Here is what I decided to try to do. I would look at all of the NFL Drafts back to 1980 and specifically look at each QB taken in the first round year by year. I will categorize those quarterbacks in 4 groupings:

    Franchise Player
    Good Player
    Straphanger
    Bust

I would then try to point out QBs who went below Round 1 who turned out – possibly – to fit in either of the top two categories here and I will look to see if any great players at other positions were taken a pick or two below any of the Round 1 QBs who were a Bust. The reason for that sort of “piling on” is to demonstrate what benefit may have accrued to the team making the bad selection.

So, with those ground rules, let me begin this trip down Memory Lane in 1980:

    Overall #15: Marc Wilson – Oakland Raiders: He was with the Raiders for 8 years and then the Pats for another 2 years. The fact that he lasted 10 years in the league means he could not have been a Bust but he was nothing more than a Straphanger. Over his career he threw 86 TDs and 102 INTs. Meh!

    Overall #28: Mark Malone – Pittsburgh Steelers: He lasted 7 years with the Steelers and then 1 year each with the Chargers and the Jets. Like Wilson, he was a Straphanger based on longevity in the league. For his career, he threw 60 TDs and 81 INTs.

    Probably the best QB taken that year below the first round was Eric Hipple in the 4th round by the Detroit Lions.

In 1981:

    Overall #6: Rich Campbell – Green Bay Packers: He was with the Packers for 4 seasons starting 0 games and appearing in only 7 games. I think you would have to say he was a Bust taken with the #6 pick in the first round.

      Two picks later, the Niners took Ronnie Lott who managed to go on to a Hall of Fame career…

    In later rounds in that draft, Neil Lomax went in the 2nd round and Wade Wilson went in the 8th round. They were probably the cream of the QB crop that year.

Moving ahead to 1982:

    Overall #4: Art Schlichter – Baltimore Colts: If I have to justify to you why I put Schlichter in the “Bust” category, you probably should not read on much further.

      Just 4 picks later, the Houston Oilers took Mike Munchak who was a Hall of Fame quality OL for 12 years and just 6 picks later the LA Raiders took Marcus Allen who too went on to a Hall of Fame career.

    Overall #5: Jim McMahon – Chicago Bears: He won a Super Bowl with “Da Bears” and was in the NFL for 15 seasons with 6 different teams. He was certainly a Good Player.

    In the later rounds of that draft, there were no good QBs taken; perhaps the best of that lot was Mike Pagel – also taken by the Colts in Round 4.

Let me just say that the 1983 NFL Draft was a vintage year for QBs:

    Overall #1: John Elway – Baltimore Colts traded to Denver Broncos: Clearly a Franchise Player and a Hall of Fame inductee, John Elway is certainly one of the Top Ten QBs ever to play in the NFL – and maybe one of the Top Three.

    Overall #7: Todd Blackledge – KC Chiefs: I would have to put Blackledge in the “Bust Category” given where he was taken and which other QBs were still on the board when the Chiefs took him. He hung around for 7 seasons but only appeared in 46 games. For his career, his completion percentage was only 48.1%

      Just 2 picks later, the Houston Oilers took Bruce Matthews who merely spent the next 19 seasons as an anchor of the Oilers’/Titans’ offensive lines and made it to the Hall of Fame.

    Overall #14: Jim Kelly – Buffalo Bills: He may never have won a Super Bowl but he was the QB of a team that went there 4 years in a row and he is in the Hall of Fame. Obviously, he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #15: Tony Eason – New England Patriots: He had an 8-year career and was the starting QB for the Pats in the Super Bowl against the Bears – which did not end well for the Pats. Nonetheless, I would have to categorize him as a Straphanger.

    Overall #24: Ken O’Brien – NY Jets: He had a 10-year career, 9 of which were with the Jets. He threw 128 TDs in his career against 98 INTs. I would put him on the list of Good Players.

    Overall #27: Dan Marino – Miami Dolphins: He is very deservedly in the Hall of Fame and therefore fits in here as a Franchise Player.

    In the later rounds of the 1983 NFL Draft, the next QB taken was not until the 5th round. Babe Laufenberg was taken in Round 6 and became “famous” in DC as an “Exhibition Game Wonderboy” and Gary Kubiak was taken in Round 8 and went on to a long backup-QB career and now a Super Bowl winning coach.

After the bonanza of QBs the year before, here is what happened in 1984:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

    The first QB taken was in the 2nd round with the 38th pick; it was Boomer Esiason by the Cincy Bengals. Jeff Hostetler and Jay Schroeder were both taken in Round 3 that year.

In 1985:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the NFL Draft once again.

    The first QB taken was in the 2nd round with the 37th pick; it was Randall Cunningham by the Philly Eagles.

    Way down in Round 11 with the 285th overall pick, the LA Rams took Doug Flutie…

Now on to 1986:

Overall #3: Jim Everett – Houston Oilers: Everett spent most of his 11-year career with the LA Rams. He was a Good Player; for his career he threw 203 TDs to 175 INTs and completed 57.7% of his passes for his career.

Overall #12: Chuck Long – Detroit Lions: He was in the NFL 6 years but only appeared in 26 games. He started 21 games and the team record in those games was 4-17. His stats are underwhelming and even giving him some leeway because he played for the Lions, I have to categorize him as a Bust.

    Surprisingly, since the Lions are as hexed a franchise as there is, they did not miss out on any Hall of Fame quality players near their pick of Chuck Long in the 1986 draft. John Williams was available; he went to the Seahawks where he had a 10-year career with 2 Pro Bowl years.

In the later rounds of the 1986 draft, Bubby Brister went in the 3rd round to the Steelers. Mark Rypien went in the 6th round to the Skins; he had one GREAT year and won a Super Bowl with the Skins.

In 1987:

    Overall #1: Vinny Testaverde – Tampa Bay Bucs: Simply based on the fact that he played NFL football for 21 years – he started 6 games for the Panthers in 2007 at age 44 – I have to categorize him as a Good Player.

    Overall #6: Kelly Stouffer – St. Louis Cardinals: He played parts of 4 seasons for the Seahawks and for his career he threw 7 TDs and 19 INTs. I think you have to call him a Bust.

      Three picks after Stouffer, the Eagles picked Jerome Brown who had an excellent career cut short by a fatal traffic incident and four picks after Stouffer the Steelers took Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson.

    Overall #13: Chris Miller – Atlanta Falcons: He was in the NFL for 10 seasons – 7 of which were with the Falcons. He threw 123 TDs and only 102 INTs but unless you are one of the Falcon Faithful, I suspect you cannot recall any critical moment in his career. He was a Straphanger.

    Overall #26: Jim Harbaugh – Chicago Bears: He was in the NFL for 14 years started in 5 playoff games; threw more TDs than INTs and completed 58.8% of his throws. He was a Good Player.

    In the later rounds of the 1987 draft, the New England Patriots took Rich Gannon in Round 4. He was a 4-time Pro Bowl selection and was All Pro 3 times in his career and he was the QB for the Raiders in the Super Bowl. In Round 10, the Green Bay Packers took Don Majkowski whose “claim to fame” is that when he was injured, the guy who took over his job was someone named Bret Favre…

Moving ahead to 1988:

    There were no QBs taken in Round 1 in 1988. In fact, there were no QBs taken in Round 2 that year either.

    The first QB taken was in Round 3; it was Tom Tupa taken by the Phoenix Cardinals. Tupa would have a much longer career as a punter in the NFL than as a QB.

    Perhaps the best QB in this draft was Stan Humphries taken in Round 6 by the Skins. Humphries was the QB of the Chargers’ team that was the AFC Champion in 1994.

The 1989 NFL Draft was a good one overall if not rich in QBs:

    Overall #1: Troy Aikman – Dallas Cowboys: He is a multiple Super Bowl winner and a member of the Hall of Fame. Clearly, he is a Franchise Player.

      The pick after Aikman was monumental bust, Tony Mandarich.

      However, after Manderich, the next 3 players taken all wound up in the Hall of Fame – Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

    In the later rounds, the QB who had the “best” NFL career was Rodney Peete.

In 1990:

    Overall #1: Jeff George – Indiana Colts: From his right shoulder to the fingertips on his right hand, Jeff George was a great QB. His problem is that he wore out his welcome on 5 teams between 1990 and 2001. His physical skills are too great to call him a Bust but his behavior demands that he be nothing more than a Straphanger.

    Overall #7: Andre Ware – Detroit Lions: He was on the Lions’ roster for 4 seasons. In that time, he started 6 games and produced no stats that made anyone sit up and take notice. He was a Bust.

      10 picks later in the 1990 NFL Draft, the Cowboys took Emmitt Smith who had more than an excellent career in the NFL.

    In the later rounds, Neil O’Donnell went to the Steelers in Round 3. Scott Mitchell went to the Dolphins in Round 4. John Friez went to the Chargers in Round 6.

If the 1990 draft looked like slim pickings at QB, just wait until you see 1991:

    Overall #16: Dan McGwire – Seattle Seahawks: One of his claims to fame is that he is Mark McGwire’s brother. He was on the Seahawks’ roster for 4 years and then he played 1 game for the Dolphins. He appeared in 13 games and started 5. I cannot convince myself that he was anything other than a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Cincy Bengals took DE, Alfred Williams who registered 59.5 sacks over his career.

    Overall #24: Todd Marinovich – LA Raiders: He was on the Raiders’ roster for 2 years and did nothing notable on the field. Off the field, he had more than a few substance abuse issues. He was clearly a Bust.

      One pick after Marinovich was taken, the Niners took DL Ted Washington who was an anchor at that position for years.

    In the later rounds of the 1991 draft, the Atlanta Falcons took Brett Favre in the 2nd round and then traded him away to Green Bay a year later.

The QB drought continued into 1992:

    Overall #6: David Klingler – Cincy Bengals: In six years in the NFL, Klingler started 24 games and his record in those games was 4-20. Need I say more…? He was a Bust.

      Two picks later the Atlanta Falcons selected Bob Whitfield who was an excellent OT over a career that spanned 220 games.

    Overall #25: Tommy Maddox – Denver Broncos: He did nothing for the Broncos, the Rams or the Giants before being ushered out of the NFL for about 5 years. He was a star QB in the XFL and then played for the Steelers for a couple of years. His best season was in 2002 when he started 11 games and led the Steelers to a 7-3-1 record in those games. Overall, I would call him a Bust as a first round pick.

      Six picks later, the Bengals took Carl Pickens who was a stalwart WR over a 129 game NFL career.

    In the later rounds of the 1992 draft, the QBs who had the “best careers” were probably Craig Ericson and/or Jeff Blake. See what I mean about a QB drought…?

Moving on to 1993:

    Overall #1: Drew Bledsoe – New England Patriots: Over a 14-year NFL career, Bledsoe averaged 230 yards per game passing and threw 251 TDs as opposed to 206 INTs. He once threw for 4555 yards in a single season. He led the Pats to the Super Bowl against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. I would say he was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #2: Rick Mirer – Seattle Seahawks: He spent 4 years with the Seahawks and one year with the Bears before bouncing around to several other teams. His 50 TDs compared to 76 INTs is not very good; his 24-44 record in games that he started at QB is not very good either. Had he played a bit longer, I would have called him a Straphanger but with his short career and his being the overall #2 pick, I have to label him a Bust.

      Six picks after the Seahawks took Mirer, the New Orleans Saints selected OT Willie Roaf who was a dominant OT for 189 games and is now a member of the Hall of Fame.

    In the later rounds of the 1993 draft, the Packers took Mark Brunell in the 5th round; that was a “value pick”. In the 8th round, the Chargers took Trent Green.

Turning the page to 1994:

    Overall #3: Washington Skins – Heath Shuler: He was a Bust – plain and simple as that. Too add insult to injury, several years after the NFL bid him goodbye, Shuler returned to DC as a member of the US Congress whereupon he reprised his non-performing behavior.

      With the next pick after Heath Shuler, the New England Patriots took Willie McGinnest. He was anything but a Bust…

    Overall #6: Trent Dilfer – Tampa Bay Bucs: He was neither great nor awful for the Bucs over the first 6 years of his career. In 2000 he stepped in for an injured Tony Banks at QB and the Ravens went on to win Super Bowl XXXV. He was a backup in Seattle for 4 seasons and then was the starter for Cleveland for most of 2006. Overall, I would label him a Straphanger.

    In the later rounds that year, the next QB taken went in the 4th round. His name was Perry Klein and he went to the Falcons. If his name rings no bells for you, that might be because he never completed a pass in an NFL game. Probably the most accomplished QB in the late rounds of the 1994 draft was Gus Frerotte taken by the Skins in the 7th round. This was not a good year to find a QB in the draft…

In 1995:

    Overall #3: Steve McNair – Houston Oilers: Over his long career, he threw 174 TDs and only 119 INTs. He was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #5: Kerry Collins – Carolina: He had an 18-year career in the NFL with 6 teams. He led the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game and the Giants to the Super Bowl game against the Ravens. I would call him a Franchise Player. If you were to argue vehemently that he should be “downgraded” to a Good Player, I would offer token resistance.

    In the later rounds of the 1995 draft, Todd Collins went to the Bills in the 2nd round and Kordell Stewart went to the Steelers in the 2nd round.

Moving on to 1996:

    There were no QBs taken in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft.

    In the later rounds, Tony Banks was the first QB taken; he went in the 2nd round to the St. Louis Rams. Banks was the most accomplished QB in this year’s draft. Probably the second most accomplished QB was Danny Kannel who went in the 4th round to the Giants. Once again, this was not a good year to find a QB in the draft…

In 1997:

    Overall #26: Jim Druckenmiller – SF 49ers: He appeared in all of 6 games in his career throwing 1 TD and 4 INTs. I think he is a Bust.

      About 10 picks later, the NY Giants selected Tiki Barber who had a more than adequate NFL career before going on to have a less than adequate broadcasting career.

    In the later rounds, the Arizona Cardinals took Jake Plummer in the 2nd round. Plummer was probably the only QB in this draft of any consequence – unless you count Koy Detmar who as a 7th round pick appeared in 104 NFL games.

QBs were at the top of the draft list in 1998:

    Overall #1: Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts: He is a Franchise Player; there is no need to discuss that further.

    Overall #2: Ryan Leaf – San Diego Chargers: He is a Bust; there is no need to discuss that further.

      Two picks after Ryan Leaf, the Oakland Raiders selected Charles Woodson who is not yet in the Hall of Fame but will be soon enough.

    In the later rounds, the Lions took Charlie Batch in the 2nd round and the Broncos took Brian Griese in the 3rd round. However, the biggest “value pick” that year was the Packers selection of Matt Hasselbeck late in the 6th round.

QBs were once again at the top of the draft list in 1999:

    Overall #1: Tim Couch – Cleveland Browns: He started 59 games for the Browns over 5 seasons and his record in those games was 22-37. Even factoring in that he was taken by an expansion franchise, he was a Bust.

    Overall #2: Donovan McNabb – Philly Eagles: He led the Eagles to the playoffs 7 times and to the Super Bowl once. He was a Franchise Player.

    Overall #3: Akili Smith – Cincy Bengals: He started 17 games over 4 seasons with the Bengals. His record in those games was 3-14. He was a stone-cold Bust.

      Two of the three QBs taken here were Busts so let us look at what was available soon after these three picks. Well, the next 4 picks in this draft were:

        Edgerrin James
        Ricky Williams
        Tory Holt
        Champ Bailey

      ‘Nuff said…

    Overall #11: Duante Culpepper – Minnesota Vikings: He was a Good Player until he encountered a horrific knee injury.

    Overall #12: Cade McNown – Chicago Bears: He lasted 2 years with the Bears and started 15 games with a record of 3-12. He was a Bust.

      Three picks after McNown, Booger McFarland went to the Bucs and the pick after that was Jevon Kearse who went to the Titans.

    In the later rounds this year, Shaun King was taken in the 2nd round by the Bucs and Aaron Brooks was taken in the 4th round by the Saints. They had the best careers of any other late round QBs in this draft. While neither King nor Brooks had good careers, they were more valuable than Couch, Smith and McNown who were in that first round tsunami of QBs.

Only 1 QB went in the first round in 2000:

Overall #18: Chad Pennington – NY Jets: He had an 11-year career with the Jets and Dolphins. Overall as a starter, he was 44-37. He was a Good Player.

In the later rounds this year, Tom Brady famously went to the Patriots in the 6th round with the 199th overall pick. The only other late-round QB who had any sort of career other than stop-gap was Marc Bulger taken in the 3rd round.

Only 1 QB went in the first round in 2001: (Is there an echo here?)

    Overall #1: Michael Vick – Atlanta: Before his conviction involving the dogfighting business, which cost him two years for “violation of the league personal conduct policy” because he was in jail, Vick had 6 productive seasons with the Falcons. Overall, he was a Good Player even though for part of his career he was not a “Good Person”.

    In the later rounds, the Chargers took Drew Brees with the first pick of the 2nd round and Brees continues to have an excellent career through today. Of the other QBs taken, AJ Feeley – taken in the 5th round by the Eagles – probably had the best career.

In 2002:

    Overall #1: David Carr – Houston Texans: He did not have a long or a distinguished career but part of that “failure” has to be attributed to the fact that he played behind a terrible expansion-team offensive line. In his first 4 seasons with the Texans, he was the most-sacked QB in the league for 3 of those seasons; in 2002, he was sacked 76 times in 16 games. As an overall #1 pick, I have to categorize him as a Bust.

      The player taken immediately after David Carr was Julius Peppers by the Carolina Panthers.

    Overall #3: Joey Harrington – Detroit Lions: Clearly, he was a Bust. What surprised me in checking his stats is that he started 76 games in the NFL. If I had guessed prior to peeking at the stats, I would have guessed 30.

      Two picks later, the Chargers selected Quentin Jammer who was a good DB for about 10 years.

    Overall # 32: Patrick Ramsey – Washington Skins: He played on some bad teams; but, importantly, he did not make them much better. He was a Bust.

      The Skins had the rest of the draft to select from instead of Ramsey but did not because – according to Danny Boy Snyder – he had “found” Ramsey at Tulane so the Skins traded up into the first round to get him for the “Owner/Scout”.

    In the later rounds of the 2002 draft, the QB pickings were slim. Josh McCown went in Round 3 to the Arizona Cardinals; while he is not any sort of “difference-maker”, he has had a longer and significantly better career than any of the first-round QBs from this year. David Garrard was taken by the Jags in Round 4; he was the only other QB in this draft of note.

After the bleak results of 2002, things improved – sort of – in 2003:

    Overall #1: Carson Palmer – Cincy Bengals: He is still going strong with the Cardinals; when I look at his career as a whole, I would call him a Franchise Player.

    Overall #7: Byron Leftwich – Jax Jaguars: He was in the NFL through 2012; however, in his 10-year career, he only played in 60 games. He threw 58 TDs and only 42 INTs in his career. He was a Straphanger.

    Overall #19: Kyle Boller – Baltimore Ravens: I remember one of the talking heads saying that Boller could throw a football through the uprights from 50 yards away with one knee on the ground. Wonderful – – except QBs never do anything like that. He was Bust.

      Two picks later, the Browns took Jeff Faine who was one of the best centers in the league for about 10 years.

    Overall #22: Rex Grossman – Chicago Bears: I read recently that Grossman is technically not yet retired even though he has not been on an NFL team since 2013. In his 11 seasons, he has led a team to a Super Bowl game (Bears in 2006) but he has only appeared in a total of 54 games in his entire career. I will categorize him as a Straphanger because of that one season in Chicago, but if you want to call him a Bust, be my guest.

    In the later rounds, Seneca Wallace taken by the Seahawks in Round 4 had the most distinguished career.

Things improved significantly for QBs in 2004:

    Overall #1: Eli Manning – San Diego Chargers traded to the NY Giants: He has won 2 Super Bowls; he has thrown 294 TDs and only 199 INTs and is still playing well. He is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #4: Philip Rivers – NY Giants traded to the San Diego Chargers: He has thrown 281 TDs and only 135 INTs and is still playing well. He is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #11: Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers: Come on now, of course he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #22: JP Losman – Buffalo Bills: He only played in 45 games in the NFL and in my less-than-kinder moments I sometimes referred to him as “JP Loser-man”. He was a Bust.

      Two picks later, the St. Louis Rams took RB, Steven Jackson, who has gained a total of 11,438 yards to date.

    In the later rounds in 2004, the Falcons took Matt Schaub in the 3rd round. He was the only QB in the later rounds who did anything of note in the NFL.

In 2005:

    Overall #1: Alex Smith – SF 49ers: He is the Rodney Dangerfield of QBs; he is a lot better than his critics make him out to be. As a starter, he is 68-52-1; he has thrown 142 TDs with only 83 INTs. I think he is a Franchise Player. If you think he is a Good Player, I will argue that he is a Very Good Player…

    Overall #24: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers: Without question, he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #25: Jason Campbell – Washington Skins: The Skins traded up to get him and all they got was a Straphanger.

    In the later rounds, Kyle Orton went in the 4th round to the Bears, Derek Anderson went in the 6th round to the Ravens and Matt Cassel went in the 7th round to the Pats. Of the late round selections this year, Ryan Fitzpatrick went in the 7th round to the Rams and I was surprised to see that he has thrown for more than 23,000 yards in his career.

After two productive years, things were a bit lean in 2006:

    Overall #3: Vince Young – Tennessee Titans: He only played in 60 games and threw more INTs than TDs. He was a Bust.

      The next pick in this draft was D’Brickashaw Ferguson by the Jets. Ferguson has been a bellwether left tackle through last season.

    Overall #10 Matt Leinart – Arizona Cardinals: Plain and simple, he was a Bust.

    Overall #11 Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears: I was never a Cutler fan coming out of college. The player he reminds me of the most is Jeff George; Cutler has an outstanding arm and for some reason the rest of his being falls short. I will temporize here and declare him a Good Player – and I do not wish to argue about that.

      The Cardinals taking a Bust at #10 missed out on Hlati Ngota taken at #12. Ngota went to the Pro Bowl as a DT 5 times in 10 seasons.

    In the later rounds, Kellen Clemens went to the Jets in Round 2; Tarvaris Jackson went to the Vikes at the end of Round 2; Charlie Whitehurst went to the Chargers in Round 3 and Bruce Gradkowski went to the Bucs in Round 6.

QB pickings did not get much better in 2007:

Overall #1: JaMarcus Russell – Oakland Raiders: I have referred to him as JaCarcass Russell. He was a mortal-lock Bust.

    The next two players taken after Russell were Calvin Johnson (by the Lions) and Joe Thomas (by the Browns). Johnson will go to the Hall of Fame; Thomas is way under-appreciated because he has played for bad teams.

Overall #22: Brady Quinn – Cleveland Browns: He only played in 24 games in a career that lasted until 2012. He was a Bust.

    Six picks later, the Niners took OT Joe Staley who was a critical player on a solid OL and is still a good player.

In the later rounds, you tell me who was the pick of this litter:

    Kevin Kolb – Round 2 to the Eagles
    Drew Stanton – Round 2 to the Lions
    Trent Edwards – Round 3 to the Bills
    Troy Smith – Round 5 to the Ravens
    Tyler Thigpen – Round 7 to the Vikes.

Things got slightly better in 2008:

    Overall #3: Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons: I think he is a Good Player but I realize that many folks think he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #18: Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens: He has a Super Bowl ring and he earned it. He is another guy I could put in the Franchise Player category or the Good Player category. I lean toward Good Player.

    In the later rounds in 2008, only Chad Henne (Round 2 to the Dolphins) and Matt Flynn (Round 7 to the Packers) ever did much of anything in the NFL.

In 2009:

    Overall #1: Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions: Playing for the Lions is the NFL version of the Sisyphus Myth. Every season, they start to roll the rock up the hill only to have it roll down and crush them by December – at the latest. Stafford has played very well for very bad teams. He has thrown 163 TDs and only 98 INTs. I think he is a Franchise Player.

    Overall #5: Mark Sanchez – NY Jets: He was the QB for a defense-led team that made it to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row. He was also the author/creator of the “butt-fumble”. He is not a Bust but he is surely no better than a Straphanger.

    Overall #17: Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Bucs: Sorry, I think he was a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Eagles took WR Jeremy Maclin and 4 picks later the Browns took Alex Mack. ‘Nuff said…

    In the later rounds, Keith Null (Round 6 to the Rams) has probably been the most productive QB taken. Yowza!

In 2010:

Overall #1: Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams: He has a good TD/INT record with 78 TDs to only 52 INTs. He seems “injury-prone” and for an overall #1 pick he has been a disappointment. I think he is a Straphanger.

Overall # 22 Tim Tebow – Denver Broncos: To my mind, Tim Tebow is a better running version of Mark Sanchez but a poorer throwing version of Mark Sanchez. The NFL is a passing league and Tebow is not a passer. He made the most of his opportunities but he just does not have the “skill-set” that the NFL of today demands. I will call him a Straphanger knowing full well that many will argue that he is a Bust.

In the later rounds of the 2010 draft, Jimmy Claussen went to the Panthers in the 2nd round; Colt McCoy went to the Browns in the 3rd round and John Skelton went to the Cardinals in the 5th round. Pickings were slim for QBs in 2010.

At this point it starts to get more difficult to assign categories to players other than ones who have already shown that they cannot play dead in a Western movie. Players taken from 2011 through 2015 are still adding to their bodies of work. I will continue to make category assignments, but I reserve the right to change them in a few years after more precincts report in. With that as preamble …

In 2011:

    Overall #1: Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers: I think he is a Franchise Player and could be on a career trajectory aimed at Canton, Ohio.

    Overall #8: Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans: Perhaps due to injury or perhaps due to insufficient talent, he is a Bust.

      The next player taken in this draft was Tyron Smith who has been an All-Pro selection and a 3-time Pro Bowl selection at OT for the Cowboys.

    Overall #10: Blaine Gabbert – Jax Jaguars: He was on some horrid teams in Jax behind some porous OLs. I will be generous and label him a Straphanger.

    Overall #12: Christian Ponder – Minnesota Vikes: He did not play in 2015 but I was surprised to learn that he is not yet retired. In any case, he is a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Rams took DE, Robert Quinn who has been to the Pro Bowl twice already.

    In the later rounds, Andy Dalton went to the Bengals in the 2nd round and Colin Kaepernick went to the Niners in the 2nd round. Neither Dalton nor Kaepernick compare to Cam Newton, but each is better than the other guys taken in the first round. Tyrod Taylor went to the Ravens in Round 6 and may have found a home in Buffalo as a starting QB.

In 2012:

    Overall #1: Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts: I think Luck is a Franchise Player who needs the “luxury” of playing with a competent OL and even a half-decent running game.

    Overall #2: Robert Griffin III – Washington Skins: He was great as a rookie and suffered an injury in a playoff game. Since that moment, he has stunk; there is no polite way to say that. The film from that great rookie year will keep giving him opportunities in the NFL – barring another catastrophic injury – and I think he is destined to be a Straphanger. [Aside: He will play behind a horrid OL in Cleveland this year so my mention of “catastrophic injury” here is not something that is out of the question.]

    Overall #8: Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins: I think he is on the cusp between a Straphanger and a Good Player. For now, I lean toward Straphanger but I can be convinced to change my mind here.

    Overall #22: Brandon Weeden – Cleveland Browns: Someday, he may rise up and qualify as a Straphanger; as of now, I think he is a Bust.

      Two picks later, the Steelers took OG, David DeCastro who has already been an All-Pro selection.

    In the later rounds, the Broncos took Brock Osweiler in Round 2; the jury is still out on him. The Seahawks took Russel Wilson in Round 3; he looks like a Franchise Player. The Eagles took Nick Foles in Round 3 and the Skins took Kirk Cousins in Round 4. Overall, 2012 was a good year for QBs…

In 2013:

    Overall #16: EJ Manuel – Buffalo Bills: He has thrown more TDs than INTs but his average passing yards per game is down around 150 yards per game. Maybe I am getting soft in my advanced age, but I will call him a Straphanger for now but can easily see him descending to Bust one of these days.

    In the later rounds, the Jets took Geno Smith in Round 2. The Bucs took Mike Glennon in Round 3; believe it or not, he has thrown 29 TDs against only 15 INTs; when his rookie contract is up, he can leave Tampa and the shadow of Jameis Winston and get a job somewhere else.

In 2014:

Overall #3: Blake Bortles – Jax Jaguars: He needs an OL in front of him; he has been sacked 106 times in his two years in the NFL. I think he is a Good Player.

Overall #22: Johnny Manziel – Cleveland Browns: This guy’s life is a mess; he is as big a Bust as the one on Dolly Parton.

    The Browns traded up to get Manziel; they could have taken Kelvin Benjamin with that pick and done a lot better.

Overall #32: Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikes: I think he will become a Good Player over the course of his career.

In the later rounds of the 2014 draft, the Raiders took Derek Carr in the 2nd round; the Patriots took Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2nd round and we may well get to see what he has in his arsenal in the first 4 games of the 2016 season if Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension stands. The Bengals took AJ McCarron in the 5th round and he played well when Andy Dalton got hurt last season.

And finally, in 2015:

    Overall #1: Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Bucs: He is a Good Player and he may advance from that status in the future.

    Overall #2: Marcus Mariotta – Tennessee Titans: He is a Good Player and he may advance from that status in the future.

    None of the other QBs taken in the 2015 draft have played sufficiently in the league to draw any conclusions.

So, these are the fruits of my labor in response to reader “david”. However, it would not be satisfying to leave it here. After all, this just represents a counting exercise with a tad of judgment added on top to give a breakdown. I think there is more to think about here – and I know that this is already longer than most folks would have wished for.

Therefore, there shall be a “Chapter Two” to follow this essay where I make some comments regarding first-round QBs and why – perhaps- we see the data distribution that we see here. Come back tomorrow…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

6 thoughts on “First Round Quarterbacks – Chapter One”

  1. One more categorization for you that I think your analysis “begins” to reveal – the whole draft apparatus (all the scouts, all the draft talking heads, all the time and all the money…) qualifies as a BUST! I am more than confident that you, Curmudgeon, could do better year-in and year-out with nothing more than your computer and a TV! And for the record, I would surmise that baseball does even worse…

    1. Pete:

      My record using only my TV and my computer is not all that enviable – – although I do not put in nearly the hours of “research” that the scouts and data analysts do. Frankly, I think teams greatly over-analyze their draft “strategies” and wind up putting themselves into a sort of “herd-mentality”.

      Baseball drafting is getting a lot better over the last several years or so – – at least for the Blue Chip selections such as Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant and the like.

  2. I did note how many times the words “competent OL” (or some variant thereof) would appear. Add to that the hazards of working for the various owners (RG3’s problems started with D-BS insistence he play injured) and some revision may be necessary for the “QB’s contribution” versus the “ambient football environment” factor.

    One can also eventually find football Nirvana, for example, Jim Plunkett (sadly, a Stanford man but a completely class act nonetheless) was drafted with his favorite receiver by an awful Pats team in ’71 and was a bust until arriving at the Raiders. Likewise, Steve Young suffered through the Bucs and the USFL and holding Montana’s clipboard until he got his chance with the 49ers.

    Then again…. Ryan Leaf and Todd Marinovich thought very highly of themselves (something in common with Manziel) before they ever played a down in the NFL.

    I for one think Goff could have used another season at Cal because while he was generally competent against the tough and athletic defenses (USC, Stanford, Oregon and UCLA in no particular order), he generally didn’t beat them like he must do in the NFL.

    1. rugger9:

      I believe that the way to build a successful NFL team that will persist over more than one season where it caught lightening in a bottle is to build the OL and the DL first – – and then get the so-called “skill position players”. Finding the right fit is important for NFL QBs and often putting a college QB on a BAD NFL team does not help the team or the player in the long run.

      Leaf, Marinovich, Schlichter and Manziel had what I call “between-the-ear issues” and those are not curable by NFL coaching. Those take long-term therapy with a professional in the mental health “industry”.

      I think Goff benefits from the trade that keeps him away from an awful NFL team and puts him on one that may not be a top shelf team but is not a basket-case team either.

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