Quarterbacks are always such a hot commodity in the NFL Draft, to the point where quarterback selections end up making or breaking General Managers down. The problem is that the last few years or so, in which the idea of being a first-round selected quarterback can be just as much a curse as it is glamorous.
The general consensus is that the #1 overall pick will be Cam Newton of Auburn.
In the last ten years, first round quarterbacks have been an interesting development. Within this post, I’m going to grade each quarterback selected, the crop of players in each first round, and how these picks will influence the quarterbacks taken in the 2011 NFL Draft. Also, as an added bonus, I will also comment if each player participated in a major Bowl game as a junior or senior, and reflect on how I see their career now.
So, without further delay…
2001 NFL Draft
Michael Vick – #1 overall – Atlanta Falcons
2001 wasn’t even really a quarterback-rich draft through all seven rounds, but the only first-rounder was Vick. He came out swinging in the NFL and very quickly played into the “scrambling” quarterback motif popularized by Steve Young, Mark Brunell, and Kordell Stewart. Vick hated the pocket, and had an outstanding ability to extend plays. He is actually second all-time in rushing yards by a quarterback.
But why is he a C+?
Because of his diminished talent (he’s not as explosive as he used to be), and the fact he’s not really a quarterback anymore. He, like his contemporary Stewart, has become a “slash” player, and frequently seen in Wildcat formations or lined-up as a receiver in shotgun sets that feature four or five wide receivers.
2002 NFL Draft
David Carr – #1 overall – Houston Texans
Joey Harrington – #3 overall – Detroit Lions
Patrick Ramsey – #32 overall – Washington Redskins
I don’t remember there being a time when any of these three were formidable quarterbacks. Carr, selected by the expansion team Houston was outed from his position before he got the talent that Houston has now. Harrington, who was very small for his position, and the game as a whole, busted after a half-season when he realized he couldn’t contend in the NFL at his size. Ramsey… I actually don’t remember him aside of a couple of flashes of him getting leveled by Dat Nguyen.
2003 NFL Draft
Carson Palmer – #1 overall – Cincinnati Bengals
Byron Leftwich – #7 overall – Jacksonville Jaguars
Kyle Boller – #19 overall – Baltimore Ravens
Rex Grossman – #22 overall – Chicago Bears
2003 has one elite quarterback, and that’s Carson Palmer. He’s spent his entire career in Cincinnati, with all the ups and down the team has given him, but has managed to have a Pro Bowl career and, in some instances, only one or two small factors prevented him from making a legitimate playoff run. Leftwich, Boller, and Grossman, currently are basically journeymen.
However, Grossman would be 2003’s “Flash in the Pan” guy. The 2006-07 season saw Grossman and the Bears make it to the Super Bowl, only to be beat by the Colts in what is, arguably, the sloppiest Super Bowl I’ve ever seen. After that, he was benched for Kyle Orton, then pulled off the bench to replace Orton. We had like two seasons of this. Finally, Orton was dealt to Denver for 2006 first rounder Jay Cutler and Grossman would end up a backup in Houston, behind Matt Shaub.
2004 NFL Draft
Eli Manning – #1 overall – San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers – #4 overall – New York Giants
Ben Roethlisberger – #11 overall – Pittsburgh Steelers
J.P. Losman – #22 overall – Buffalo Bills
First, let’s just eliminate Losman from the conversation. It’s not even worth touching.
Eli Manning, the younger brother of Hall-of-Fame bound Payton Manning has a Super Bowl win, when he and the Giants upended the “perfect season” of the New England Patriots in 2008. However, I feel that despite his ring and his name, Eli Manning just doesn’t have the prowess to make another run to the Super Bowl. He’s not as coordinated as he should be. He doesn’t have the recognition skill he should. To be quite honest, he never has a consistent team around him. Eli Manning, in reality, is only a good quarterback, like Vinny Testeverde was. He’s hit his peak already.
Philip Rivers is a beast, hands down. Accurate passer. Great pocket presence, and the ability to escape if necessary. The only problem is that he plays in the AFC, where the likes of Ben, Brady, and Payton play. Had the trade between the Giants and the Chargers never happened, Rivers would have been playing with a team loaded with receiving threats and a defense who can stop opponents from scoring. The Giants could have maybe won a couple of Super Bowls in the last few years if they kept Rivers.
Big Ben. Two-time Super Bowl winner. Huge guy. Extends plays. This is what you want in a quarterback. Ben has a rocket arm that’s accurate, strong legs, and he’s a big dude. You can’t bring him down with an arm tackle. Despite the loss in February, it was Ben’s 3rd Super Bowl appearance in seven seasons. That’s an amazing number.
2005 NFL Draft
Alex Smith – #1 overall – San Francisco 49ers
Aaron Rodgers – #24 overall – Green Bay Packers
Jason Campbell -#25 overall – Washington Redskins
I don’t even want to talk about Alex Smith, aside of the fact he’s probably the biggest quarterback bust of the last ten years. He’s Ryan Leaf-esque.
Jason Campbell took too long to develop, and had a pretty horrible team around him. His personal flaws include a lack of sustainable mobility, a lack of presence, and a lack of accuracy. Anyone can throw the ball hard, but Campbell lacks any sort of accuracy to his passing.
Aaron Roadgers. Fresh off a Super Bowl win and an alleged trip to Disney World. His legacy goes back to the 2008-09 season. Brett Favre, legend, retires, putting the ball in Rodgers’ hands. After OTA’s, Favre decides to come back and after a lot of spatting, is dealt to the New York Jets. Rodgers has a relatively decent year, but can’t make that push into elite status yet. He develops his stuff over the season, gaining some invaluable experience. The next year, Favre is in Minnesota and, through two division games against his protege, made him look terrible. Then, 2010-11 rolls around, and Rodgers, with a BRUISED, BATTERED, AND INJURED team, wins the Super Bowl. Rodgers was ice cold the whole season, and proved that he no longer stood in the shadow of Brett Favre.
2006 NFL Draft
Vince Young – #3 overall – Tennessee Titans
Jay Cutler – #11 overall – Denver Broncos
Matt Leinart – #12 overall – Arizona Cardinals
Leinart and Young are busts. Leinart kind of knows it, Young doesn’t necessarily. Cutler is the one who has made the playoffs, especially last year when he and his Bears got locked into a brutal fight in Green Bay. The 2006 class was hyped like I had never seen a draft class hyped before. Yet, the biggest story was the Texans, selecting first in the draft, forgoing Vince Young (the projected #1 overall pick) and grabbing DE Mario Williams.
Not surprisingly, Williams is the stud of the 2006 draft.
2007 NFL Draft
JaMarcus Russell – #1 overall – Oakland Raiders
Brady Quinn – #22 overall – Cleveland Browns
I don’t even feel this year is worth discussion…
2008 NFL Draft
Matt Ryan – #3 overall – Atlanta Falcons
Joe Flacco – #18 overall – Baltimore Ravens
Ryan and Flacco are beasts, playing for good teams, and legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They have great squads around them, that help out with the quarterbacks’ natural productions of accurate passing and calmness in the pocket. Both guys can run, absolutely, and have a certain mentality not seen too much anymore in NFL quarterbacks. I think one day, we’ll see these two contend for the championship… against each other.
2009 NFL Draft
Matthew Stafford – #1 overall – Detroit Lions
Mark Sanchez – #5 overall – New York Jets
Josh Freeman – #17 overall – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mark Sanchez is awesome. Everyone knows that. Matt Stafford isn’t all that awesome. Everyone knows that.
But, who in the hell is Josh Freeman?
He went under every one’s radar when drafted by the Bucs, and even written off as a guy who will be sitting in a year or two. Well, 2009, he didn’t play much, which is understandable. However, in 2010, he lit up the league. A statistical anomaly. The only thing that could have made his 2010 better would have been a playoff berth, but I have a feeling 2011 will bring that glory and that maybe, just maybe, Josh Freeman’s name will be alongside Sanchez’s one day.
2010 NFL Draft
Sam Bradford – #1 overall – St. Louis Rams
Tim Tebow – #25 overall – Denver Broncos
Given the circumstance, Sam Bradford should have been Rookie of the Year in 2010. He’s solid and has a future.
However, everyone talked about Tim Tebow. Everyone thought Tim Tebow was the immaculately conceived football player who was going to advent the NFL and become a god amongst men. As it turns out, just because you have athletic ability, doesn’t mean you’re a position player. Tebow is heading down the same road that claimed Kordell Stewart a decade ago. He’s a player who doesn’t excel in any one position. His arm strength is mediocre, his accuracy is borderline-terrible, and he is ALL HYPE. I give Tebow three seasons, before he’s released and ducked into free agency, inevitably becoming a journeyman depth-filler, possibly as a tight end.
So, ten years worth of first round quarterbacks. While some have emerged as contenders and have even won championships, others have fallen. To select a player in the first round is a gamble, and here are the numbers to back up the claim.
Number of first round quarterbacks (2001-10): 27
Number of first round quarterbacks who:
- Have won a playoff game: 11
- Have won a Conference Championship: 4
- Have won a Super Bowl: 3
- Have made a Pro Bowl roster: 8
#1 overall selections also seem to be a doomed position. Of the eight quarterbacks selected, only 3 have appeared in a playoff game (Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Michael Vick), and only one has contended in a Super Bowl (Manning). Granted, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford probably shouldn’t be thrown into the equation, but given the successes of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, who made the playoffs, and won playoff games, in their rookie seasons, nonetheless, there isn’t really a large window in which to start establishing yourself as a playoff personality. The leash on quarterbacks, especially young ones, is a lot shorter nowadays.
So, what does all this mean for the 2011 NFL Draft?
If Cam Newton goes #1 overall, he joins a distinct group of busts and underachieving players, and as such, historically, is doomed to fail. Most first round quarterbacks selected are doomed to fail, but I think 2011 may have a slightly different pull on the situation.
Baine Gabbert will most likely go between picks 5 and 8, which could land him in Arizona, Cleveland, San Francisco, or Tennessee. I feel I should remove Cleveland from this equation since they are pretty much banked on last years selection of Colt McCoy to be the franchise’s future signal-caller, and he is very qualified for the job. Arizona is still feeling the sting of Kurt Warner’s retirement, and Tennessee is still reeling from the Vince Young fiasco of the past couple of seasons. I don’t see Tennessee making a first round quarterback pick, especially since, in my eyes, Gabbert will be picked either 5th and go to Arizona, or 7th and play for head coach Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. Either way, he gets to play in the mudhole that is the NFC West.
But this could be the best thing to happen for the guy…
Another quarterback I’m looking at is Jake Locker, but, at best, he’ll be a late first round selection. The problem is that of the teams who made the playoffs last year, the only one who could even, as a long shot, select a quarterback would be Seattle. Although Matt Hasslebeck is good, he’s only a shell of his former self and quickly on the decline.
I also want to make a quick nod to Tyrod Taylor, who I think, with some work and a good system, could be a steal in the 2nd or 3rd round.
So, 2011 sports two pretty- much confirmed first round selections (Newton and Gabbert), so that means statistically, one will fail and one will succeed. Gabbert gets a pretty good deal. He’ll play in a weak division, for stable, offensive-minded Head Coaches, and have a dangerous receiving threat (either Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona or Michael Crabtree in San Francisco). Newton, who is projected to be picked #1 by Carolina, gets an unstable franchise, a snot-nosed prima donna named Steve Smith, who drops just as many, if not more, than he catches, and a division that includes the Saints, Falcons, and Buccaneers.
Really quick side note: The NFC South will be hella-competitive next year. Calling it now.
Of course, all of this is contingent on the NFL actually playing next year.
But, I digress. This years draft will follow the standard set by the drafts of the last decade – about half succeed, and half fail miserably. Newton, if selected #1, is going to have his career shanked from the get-go, and Gabbert is being put in a beautiful situation. Hell, if Seattle takes the gamble, Locker may even be in a pretty good situation.
There is also the possibility that the teams mentioned as candidates for Blaine Gabbert (Arizona, San Francisco), if they miss out this year, can make a run for Andrew Luck in 2012.