Everybody is talking about quarterbacks, with the NFL draft starting on Thursday.
In recent weeks, both the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles paid a steep price to move up to 1 and 2. The expectations are that Cal QB Jared Goff and North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz will go with the top two picks, although their draft order is still up in the air.
If things go well with those two picks, the Rams and Eagles will be set up for the long term with above average quarterbacks. If things go poorly with those two picks, the Rams and Eagles will be steady, consistent losers until the next time they draft a QB in the first round. In fact, that’s exactly where the Rams have just been since picking Sam Bradford No. 1 overall back in 2010.
The advanced metric pundits are all screaming “bad deal” for the two teams that traded up, and “great deal” for the two teams that traded down (Tennessee and Cleveland). And the history of QB’s going 1 and 2 in the draft hasn’t seen two above average QB’s in those spots since 1971. Here’s the list:
2015: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota (jury’s still out on these two)
2012: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin
1999: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb
1998: Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf
1993: Drew Bledsoe, Rick Mirer
1971: Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning
Tim Couch was taken ahead of Donovan McNabb in 1999, but that’s about the only instance of a 2 drafted QB outshining the guy at 1. That list does not make the Eagles trade look particularly prescient.
The reality is that half the league – at least – would upgrade their QB if they could. Brock Osweiler just got $72 million from the Texans. RG3 got $15 million from the Browns. Remember when the sports universe went abuzz because Andy Dalton signed a $96 million dollar deal to stay in Cincinnati?
Any warm body that can throw the football even a little bit is a valued commodity. The secret truth about the NFL in 2016 is there are no quarterbacks.
Look at the serviceable QB’s drafted over the last 10 years. These are not the top draftees (that list looks much worse), just the ones who have gotten some playing time. The five QB’s on the list from the last two seasons all get “incomplete” grades – too soon to tell. But the aggregate result of the rest of this list isn’t very pretty!
2015: Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston.
2014: Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater.
2013: EJ Manuel, Geno Smith.
2012: Andrew Luck, RG3, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Brock Osweiler, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins.
2011: Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick.
2010: Sam Bradford.
2009: Matthew Stafford, Marc Sanchez.
2008: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chad Henne.
2007: JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Kevin Kolb
2006: Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, Charlie Whitehurst.
Look at that list closely. Over the last 10 years, there have been a grand total of three legit superstar quarterbacks to come out of college: Luck, Newton and Wilson.
It gets worse. Over that same span, other than the three superstar QB’s, there have only been three other “Well Above Average” QB’s drafted: Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. The scary thing is the next tier guys on the list – the Jay Cutler’s, Matthew Stafford’s and Ryan Tannehill’s of the world – look good by comparison, even though none of those three appear primed to ever lead their team to a Super Bowl.
So, we’ve got three elites, three well above average QB’s, and a handful of serviceable guys coming out of the NFL draft over the last 10 years. But when it comes to first round QB’s drafted, there’s been more busts than anything: JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, EJ Manuel, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Tim Tebow, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel.
Each was a “set your franchise back at least two or three years” type of bust, and there were more of those guys than anybody else.
That being said, the first rounders sure were better than the second rounders, unless you think Jimmy Clausen, Pat White, Brian Brohm, John Beck or Tavaris Jackson enjoyed productive careers.
Most of the top remaining QB’s have played at least a dozen previous seasons in the NFL. We just lost Peyton Manning. The likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer are all in or fast approaching “past their prime” territory. And there just aren’t a new crop of QB’s ready to replace them.
Say you’re an NFL GM. The history of recent quarterbacks drafted is nothing short of hideous. The top free agent this offseason was Osweiler, and he got a $72 million deal. Chase Daniel got $21 million. Who knows how much Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to command on the open market, or Brian Hoyer, the “Top 2” remaining free agent QB’s? Neither guy has much “Super Bowl” upside. And don’t expect next year’s free agent class to look much better.