As football fans across the globe cast their longing eyes in the direction of the April draft, I decided now might be a good time to reflect on draft classes of the last 10 years.
Too often in this business, we rush ahead to the next big event without taking pause to evaluate the past and learn from it. In a way, this study will still be a celebration of the coming 2009 draft as I believe it will shed some light on certain overlooked trends that no one ever stops to consider.
I will begin with a class by class showdown of sorts at the quarterback position over the last 10 drafts. This is part III in the series:
A) 13 quarterbacks selected in the draft, with four in the first round (the most since 1999).
B) Of those 13 quarterbacks, 10 are currently still in the league in some capacity.
C) Of those 10 still in the league, one merits a level five rating (franchise quarterback), five merit a level three (solid backup), and four merit a level one (barely in league).
D) Here is the quarterback class of 2003:
1. Carson Palmer—Selected first overall out of USC. The former Heisman winner looked every bit a franchise quarterback in his first few seasons, single-handedly making the hapless Bengals an offensive force.
Unfortunately, injuries have plagued him over the last few years, but there is little doubt that he is still “the guy” in Cincinnati.
2. Byron Leftwich—Selected seventh overall out of Marshall. Leftwich was given every opportunity to succeed in Jacksonville, but was ultimately outplayed by his backup, David Garrard.
It’s a little harsh to call him a complete bust—as he has proven to be a serviceable enough quarterback—but he clearly lacks first round talent. His brief career revival in Pittsburgh (in relief of the injured Roethlisberger) has him asking teams to give him another shot as a starter. We will see if anyone does.
3. Kyle Boller—Selected 19th overall out of Cal, Boller is clearly a bust. While some of the failure could be attributed to his being thrown to the lions his rookie year, Joe Flacco more recently was in the same position and succeeded.
Perhaps some of the blame lies with the old coaching regime that has now been supplanted by John Harbaugh’s more QB-friendly system.
4. Rex Grossman—Selected 22nd overall out of Florida. One of the most frustrating quarterbacks to be drafted in the last 10 years, due to his incredible lack of consistency. Took a Bears team to the Super Bowl, but most of that credit goes to the Chicago defense.
Finally lost his starting job to Kyle Orton last offseason and is now a free agent—so it will be interesting to see who takes a chance on this guy.
5. Dave Ragone—Selected in the third round out of Louisville. No longer in league. Played his last season in 2003, now hosts a radio show.
6. Chris Simms—Selected in the third round out of Texas. Has had a tough career in the pros. Took Tampa Bay to the playoffs—only to suffer a ruptured spleen. Made an admirable comeback, but was never given fair chance to reclaim starting position.
Formerly the best third-string backup in the league at Tennessee, but just signed with Denver.
7. Seneca Wallace—Selected in the fourth round out of Iowa State. Despite obvious talent, lack of size relegated him to backup duties. When Matt Hasselbeck went down in 2008, Wallace tried to make the most of the opportunity, but this was no easy task with the majority of his receivers injured and a weak running game.
8. Brian St. Pierre—Selected in the fifth round out of Boston College. Career third-stringer, currently signed by Arizona.
9. Drew Henson—Selected in the sixth round out of Michigan. Barely still in the league. Given several opportunities to be a starter, but frequently displays poor vision and holds onto the ball too long.
10. Brooks Bollinger—Selected in the sixth round out of Wisconsin. A weak backup or a strong third-stringer. Was actually the second best quarterback on the Cowboys roster in 2008.
11. Kliff Kingsbury—Selected in the sixth round out of Texas Tech. No longer in league. Played his last season in 2005.
12. Gibran Hamdan—Selected in the seventh round out of Indiana. Career third-stringer. Currently in Buffalo.
13. Ken Dorsey—Selected in the seventh round out of Miami (Fl.). Has actually started games in his career—although he’s definitely more of a weak backup/strong third-stringer.
Currently a free agent, look for him to be added to some roster for training camp in 2009.
E) Overall analysis: This is a tricky set of quarterbacks. Though the majority of the class is still playing in the NFL, there were still several large busts in the early rounds and only one true franchise quarterback emerged.
One quarterback has been to the Super Bowl, but—again—we’re talking about Rex Grossman here. For the most part, this was a class of mid-level backups.
F) Grade: C
A) 17 quarterbacks selected in the draft (the most in the last 10 years), with four in the first round.
B) Of those 17 quarterbacks, only seven are currently still in the league.
C) Of those seven still in the league, one merits a level six rating (Hall-of-Famer), two merit a level five (franchise quarterback), one merits a level four (starter), two merit a level three (solid backup), and one merits a level two (risky backup).
D) Here is the quarterback class of 2004:
1. Eli Manning—Selected first overall out of Mississippi. It’s amazing what a Super Bowl victory can do for a career. Unlike Rex Grossman, Eli actually won the game (literally and figuratively).
He’ll still take criticism for his lack of leadership and occasional erratic tendencies, but he isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
2. Philip Rivers—Selected fourth overall out of North Carolina State. Has really come on strong the last couple of years. Statistically, one of the best quarterbacks in the league last year. Multiple playoff victories, but no Super Bowl appearance—yet.
Definitely franchise QB material.
3. Ben Roethlisberger—Selected 11th overall out of Miami (OH). Doesn’t always have showy numbers, but he does already own two Super Bowl rings. He's kind of player that just finds ways to win games for you.
Next to Tom Brady, he is the quarterback most likely to be elected to the Hall of Fame that has been drafted in the last ten years.
4. J.P. Losman—Selected 22nd overall out of Tulane. Buffalo really wanted him to be their franchise QB, but it never panned out. Thus, another bust. At best, he’s now a solid backup option.
5. Matt Schaub—Selected in the third round out of Virginia. After a rough start in Houston, really played well down the stretch in 2008. If 2009 is indeed the year that the Texans finally surprise people, he’ll be a large catalyst.
6. Luke McCown—Selected in the fourth round out of Louisiana Tech. A solid backup who is crossing his fingers that he’ll get to start for Tampa Bay in 2009. Time will tell.
7. Craig Krenzel—Selected in the fifth round out of Ohio State. No longer in league. Played his last season in 2004.
8. Andy Hal—Selected in the sixth round out of Delaware. No longer in league. Played his last season in 2005.
9. Josh Harris—Selected in the sixth round out of Bowling Green. No longer in league. Never played a down.
10. Jim Sorgi—Selected in the sixth round out of Wisconsin. Technically, Peyton Manning’s backup...if he ever needs one.
11. Jeff Smoker—Selected in the sixth round out of Michigan State. No longer in league. Never played a down.
12. John Navarre—Selected in the seventh round out of Michigan. No longer in league. Played his last season in 2005.
13. Cody Pickett—Selected in the seventh round out of Washington. No longer in league. Played his last season in 2005.
14. Casey Bramlet—Selected in the seventh round out of Wyoming. No longer in league. Never played a down.
15. Matt Mauck—Selected in the seventh round out of LSU. No longer in league. Played his last season in 2005.
16. B.J. Symons—Selected in the seventh round out of Texas Tech. No longer in league. Never played a down.
17. Bradlee Van Pelt—Selected in the seventh round out of Colorado State. No longer in league. Played his last season in 2005.
E) Overall analysis: This draft is a tale of two classes. On one hand, you have the endless stream of quarterbacks taken in the later rounds that would go on to do very little in the league.
On the other hand, you have the early round quarterbacks who have already combined for three Super Bowl victories.
If McCown’s wish is granted, this draft will have accounted for five current starting quarterbacks in the league. That’s a remarkable statistic considering the hit-or-miss nature at this position.
F) Grade: A
III. ADVANTAGE: 2004 (although 2003 tops both 2002 and 2001)