First Round QBs Are No Guarantee

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First Round QBs Are No Guarantee

The most valuable asset any NFL team can possess is a franchise quarterback—like a Terry Bradshaw or a Troy Aikman. That first-round passer that can deliver not only championships, but a dynasty.

But you better hope to God that he is at least productive and can bring the Lombardi trophy to your city. Since the suggested greatest first-round quarterback draft of Hall of Famers John Elway (1), Jim Kelly (14), and Dan Marino (27), out of the possible six taken in 1983, teams, for the most part, have struggled to find that marquee guy on the first try the next 25 times around.

With no quarterback drafted in the first rounds of ‘84 and ‘85, 1986 brought us the talented arms of Jim “Chris” Everett (3) and Chuck Long (12), producing a grand total of one Pro Bowl and a memorable interview.

1987 presented us with “his career is older than most of you” Vinnie Testaverde (1), along Kelly Stouffer (6), Chris Miller (13), and Jim Harbaugh (26), a tally of four Pro Bowls and a collegiate head coach with a big mouth.

After passers were avoided in 1988, the next year brought Jerry Jones and Dallas fans bragging rights with Troy Aikman on top of the board, hauling in an impressive six Pro Bowls, three All-Pros, three Super Bowl wins, and a Super Bowl MVP.

1990, however, was not so promising, with Jeff George (1) and Andre Ware (7) entering the league. And again, in ’91, luck was not in the cards for Dan McGwire (16) and “Robo QB” Todd Marinovich (24), noted more for his father’s strict discipline and his post-career antics. 1992 had the drafting of David Klinger (6) and Tommy Maddox (25).

’93 presented us with Rick Mirer (2) and Drew Bledsoe (1), whose Hall of Fame chances were derailed with Tom Brady, and 1994 was the year of Heath Shuler (3).

Steve McNair (3) was a highlight in ’95, while Kerry Collins (5) faltered as his career continued. Quarterbacks took a back seat to the wide receivers in 1996, and Jim Druckenmiller (26) is easily forgotten the next year (he should have done beer advertising if he had the chance).

1998 and 1999 told the tale of wisely choosing a franchise QB with the first-overall pick. The Indianapolis Colts, in ’98, had the infamous choice between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, going with the NFL quarterback pedigree, leaving Leaf (2) participating in shouting matches with the media in San Diego.  

The next year, the Cleveland Browns had multiple options of Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith, leaving the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals in the cleanup positions. With Couch going at No. 1, Eagles fans, with the second pick, wanted RB Ricky Williams more than the remaining play callers and booed on cue when Andy Reid chose McNabb.

With Smith (3), Duante Culpepper (11), and Cade McNown (12) also selected within the first 12 picks of the draft, only McNabb has had close to a Hall of Fame career.

Bill Parcells drafts Chad Pennington (18) in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft and the talented, later troubled Michael Vick became the first black QB to go No. 1 overall in 2001.

David Carr (1) and Joey Harrington (3) were chosen early, and Patrick Ramsey (32) went later in the first round in ’02; all are still playing as backup QBs for teams other than their original.

Carson Palmer was the cream of the 2003 quarterback class, signing days before the draft. Rex Grossman (22) and Kyle Boller (19) threw their way into the reserve passer roles they possess today, while Byron Leftwich (7) was cut following a disagreement with Jack Del Rio.

2004 proved to be one of the most successful drafts in selecting a quarterback, even with Eli Manning (1) refusing to sign with San Diego, resulting in a draft-day swap of Manning and Phillip Rivers (4).

Ben Roethlisberger (11) leads the class with the 2004 Rookie of the Year, a Super Bowl win, and a Pro Bowl appearance. Recently, Manning lead the Giants to an upset win in the Super Bowl over the Patriots, cinching the game’s MVP title.  

Rivers earned a Pro Bowl spot in 2006, his first year starting, and is currently the QB of the team favored to win it all J.P. Losman (22), however, is the only one yet to achieve success, as he is currently being supplanted by Trent Edwards on the Bills.

In 2005, the San Francisco 49ers had to choose between Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers, leaving the loser a free-for-all tumble into the middle of the first round. Rodgers (24) continued his wait behind Brett Favre, as Smith, through multiple offensive coordinators, has failed to become a threat, losing his job to J. T. O’Sullivan.  

Jason Campbell (25), also suffering from the same coordinator problems as Smith, has recently shown signs of progress under new Redskins Head Coach Jim Zorn.

Vince Young (3) was the 2006 Rookie of the Year, but he has struggled while leading the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs in his second season.

Jay Cutler (11) came out as the better passer of ’06's first round, but he suffered a blow both statiscally and health-wise, learning that he played most of the year while developing Type-I Diabetes.

Matt Leinart (10) has shared the quarterback position with Kurt Warner for the last two years and has recently been benched behind Warner for inconsistent play.

It’s too early to call JaMarcus Russell (1) and Brady Quinn (22) from the 2007 first round due to limited action, and one can only imagine how the 2008 class of Matt Ryan (3) and Joe Flacco (18) can perform in the NFL.

Sure, an argument can be made that many of the QBs drafted are “system quarterbacks,” beneficiaries of statistical greatness from certain college offenses that function less from reading the defense.

Perhaps some passers just were not ready for the big stage and the negatives that come with the job. All that can be said about the quarterback selection in the first rounds, even from 1983, is that it has turned out to be a crapshoot for many franchises: some went boom and other have gone bust.  

Please share your thoughts on your favorite team’s selection of quarterbacks, whether from the beginning to the end of the draft, good or bad.

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