Ranking Each Quarterback Selected in 1st Round of NFL Draft in the Last Decade

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystApril 26, 2019

Ranking Each Quarterback Selected in 1st Round of NFL Draft in the Last Decade

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    Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson
    Andrew Luck and Deshaun WatsonEric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Pick the correct quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft and you immediately become a playoff contender.

    Pick the wrong one and you'll be right back in the same spot two or three years later, hoping once again to find that franchise building block.

    Guys like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes exemplify why teams are always willing to trade up in the draft to grab the next big thing.

    But examples such as Paxton Lynch, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Johnny Manziel serve as constant reminders that not all first-round quarterbacks are created equally.

    Which category will 2019's first-round picks—No. 1 Kyler Murray, No. 6 Daniel Jones and No. 15 Dwayne Haskins—fall into a few seasons from now?

    In ranking the 30 first-round quarterbacks over the past decade, the overall pick was deemed irrelevant. Players chosen late in the first round don't get a boost just because expectations weren't as high, nor are we holding No. 1 overall picks to a higher standard. All we care about is what they have been able to accomplish in the NFL.

    Primary data points considered were passer rating, yards per game, yards per attempt, touchdowns, record as a starter, playoff appearances and Pro Bowl honors.

30. Paxton Lynch—26. Christian Ponder

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    Paxton Lynch
    Paxton LynchMatt York/Associated Press

    30. Paxton Lynch (2016 No. 26 pick—Denver Broncos)
    79-128 (61.7%), 792 yards, 4 TD, 4 INT, 76.7 Rate, 1-3 record

    In terms of both completion percentage and passer rating, Lynch wasn't that bad. In fact, he was better than eight of the other 29 quarterbacks in both of those categories. But he only played in five games over the course of two seasons before receiving his walking papers from the Broncos.

            

    29. Josh Rosen (2018 No. 10 pick—Arizona Cardinals)
    217-393 (55.2%), 2,278 yards, 11 TD, 14 INT, 66.7 Rate, 3-10 record

    When the Cardinals selected Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, it was the first time in 36 years that a franchise spent a first-round pick on a quarterback in back-to-back drafts. (The Colts took Art Schlichter and John Elway in 1982 and 1983, respectively, and got a total of 1,006 career passing yards between them.) Rosen was given 13 starts to prove himself, but his best contribution to Arizona might be playing so poorly that it was able to get the first pick.

                  

    28. Johnny Manziel (2014 No. 22 pick—Cleveland Browns)
    147-258 (57.0%), 1,675 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT, 74.4 Rate, 2-6 record

    Johnny Football will always be better remembered for his off-field antics than his on-field contributions.  Partially because the former received so much attention in the blogosphere, but largely because the latter was minimal at best. The Heisman winner was great at Texas A&M but showed nothing special during even his best days with Cleveland.     

        

    27. Blaine Gabbert (2011 No. 10 pick—Jacksonville Jaguars)
    842-1498 (56.2%), 9,063 yards, 48 TD, 47 INT, 71.7 Rate, 13-35 record

    Gabbert was handed a starting job almost immediately, but he never lived up to the hype and went 5-22 during his three seasons with the Jaguars. A decent eight-game run with San Francisco in 2015 was just about the only thing keeping him from ranking even lower than this, as Manziel, Rosen and Lynch can't point to so much as a two-game stretch of impressive play.

             

    26. Christian Ponder (2011 No. 12 pick—Minnesota Vikings)
    632-1057 (59.8%), 6,658 yards, 38 TD, 36 INT, 75.9 RAT, 14-21-1 record

    Ponder had an excellent "sophomore" season with the Vikings in 2012, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards while leading them to a 10-6 record. He was the only player to attempt a pass for the team during the regular season, but he was forced to miss their wild-card game against the Packers because of a triceps bruise. He was never quite the same and hasn't appeared in a game since 2014.

25. Tim Tebow—21. Brandon Weeden

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    Tim Tebow
    Tim TebowElise Amendola/Associated Press

    25. Tim Tebow (2010 No. 25 pick—Denver Broncos)
    173-361 (47.9%), 2,422 yards, 17 TD, 9 INT, 75.3 Rate, 8-6 record

    No matter where we rank Tebow, it's going to be controversial. Such is everything involving the current outfielder in the New York Mets farm system. But Tebow was a miracle-worker in 2011, leading the Broncos on five game-winning drives during the regular season. He also had that impressive performance in the overtime win over the Steelers in the wild-card game. That's effectively when his football career ended, though, and his completion percentage was by far the worst among this decade's first-round QBs.

             

    24. EJ Manuel (2013 No. 16 pick—Buffalo Bills)
    343-590 (58.1%), 3,767 yards, 20 TD, 16 INT, 77.1 Rate, 6-12 record

    Manuel was the only quarterback taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. He was immediately given a starting job in Buffalo and threw for a pair of touchdowns in the season opener against New England. But, between injuries and coaching changes, he was never able to cement his spot on the field. After starting 10 games in that first year, he made just eight starts over the next five.

            

    23. Josh Allen (2018 No. 7 pick—Buffalo Bills)
    169-320 (52.8%), 2,074 yards, 10 TD, 12 INT, 67.9 Rate, 5-6 record

    This ranking might look irresponsibly dumb in a few years, because Allen was solid over the final six games of his rookie season. He rushed for at least 95 yards in four of those contests and had a combined 13 passing and rushing touchdowns during that stretch, compared to just five during his first six games. Still, the overall numbers are lacking, and it bears mentioning that five of those final six games were against teams playing for draft position.

                       

    22. Jake Locker (2011 No. 8 pick—Tennessee Titans)
    408-709 (57.5%), 4,967 yards, 27 TD, 22 INT, 79.0 Rate, 9-14 record

    When he was healthy, Locker was alright. He never much looked like a franchise cornerstone, but he was the type of guy who could get you to the playoffs on a semi-regular basis. Problem is, he was never healthy. Shoulder, hip and foot injuries limited him to just 30 games played over four seasons before he retired.

              

    21. Brandon Weeden (2012 No. 22 pick—Cleveland Browns)
    559-965 (57.9%), 6,462 yards, 31 TD, 30 INT, 76.0 Rate, 6-19 record

    Weeden threw for 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns in his rookie season with the Browns, which is a whole heck of a lot better than most Cleveland quarterbacks can boast. From 1992-2017, the only other Browns QB to throw for at least that many yards in a single season was Derek Anderson in 2007. For that feat alone, Weeden deserves some credit. But it was a brief, early peak for Weeden, who only won one other game in his career.

20. Lamar Jackson—16. Blake Bortles

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    Lamar Jackson
    Lamar JacksonNick Wass/Associated Press

    20. Lamar Jackson (2018 No. 32 pick—Baltimore Ravens)
    99-170 (58.2%), 1,201 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT, 84.5 Rate, 6-1 record

    It's too early to know where to slot any of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, but especially so with Lamar Jackson. In seven starts, he never threw for more than 204 yards and didn't post a passer rating higher than 101.3. But Baltimore scored at least 20 points in all seven of those starts and won six of those games because Jackson's legs are an ever-present danger. If he can stay healthy, he might be the next Michael Vick or Cam Newton. His rushing yards per game (43.4) are right on pace with Vick and Newton's career averages (42.7 and 39.1, respectively). He also might be the next Robert Griffin III, who averaged 37.1 rushing yards per game before his career succumbed to injuries. We'll see.

              

    19. Josh Freeman (2009 No. 17 pick—Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
    1179-2048 (57.6%), 13,873 yards, 81 TD, 68 INT, 77.6 Rate, 25-36 record

    Freeman's career was like a bottle rocket. His second season in the NFL was great. He threw for 3,451 yards with 25 touchdowns against six interceptions, and he was Tebow-like in terms of fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. But that late magic turned into frequent back-breaking interceptions for the following two seasons. And, after a dreadful three-game start to the 2013 season, he was never considered long-term-starter material again.

                      

    18. Sam Darnold (2018 No. 3 pick—New York Jets)
    239-414 (57.7%), 2,865 yards, 17 TD, 15 INT, 77.6 Rate, 4-9 record

    Darnold's rookie season was a mixed bag of excellence and atrocity. He looked great in Week 1 against Detroit and had impressive showings against playoff teams in Indianapolis and Houston. But he also threw six interceptions in two games against Miami and was downright dreadful against Cleveland and Minnesota. In year two, maybe we'll get a better idea of who the real Darnold is.

              

    17. Mark Sanchez (2009 No. 5 pick—New York Jets)
    1314-2320 (56.6%), 15,357 yards, 86 TD, 89 INT, 73.2 Rate, 37-36 record

    The efficiency numbers are rather ugly for Sanchez, but he began his career by leading the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. Moreover, he was able to hang on to a full-time starting job for four years, and likely would have kept it even longer if not for a season-ending shoulder injury suffered in the 2013 preseason. If you want to rank him in the low 20s because of the butt fumble, though, we understand.

                    

    16. Blake Bortles (2014 No. 3 pick—Jacksonville Jaguars)
    1561-2632 (59.3%), 17,646 yards, 103 TD, 75 INT, 80.6 Rate, 24-49 record

    Though Bortles led Jacksonville to the 2017 AFC Championship Game, the Jaguars lost more than two-thirds of his starts over the past five seasons. That isn't all his fault, of course, but he hasn't been much more than a replacement-level quarterback. And after half a decade of being given every chance to prove he deserves to start, he's now a backup with the Rams.

15. Teddy Bridgewater—11. Ryan Tannehill

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    Teddy Bridgewater
    Teddy BridgewaterBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    15. Teddy Bridgewater (2014 No. 32 pick—Minnesota Vikings)
    565-874 (64.6%), 6,268 yards, 29 TD, 23 INT, 85.9 Rate, 17-12 record

    14. Robert Griffin III (2012 No. 2 pick—Washington Redskins)
    768-1216 (63.2%), 9,004 yards, 42 TD, 26 INT, 88.2 Rate, 15-25 record

    It only makes sense to rank and address these two guys together, because they are the "Imagine what might have been were it not for that knee injury" quarterbacks of the past decade.

    Griffin immediately got the Redskins to the playoffs, throwing for 20 touchdowns (and rushing for seven more) while only throwing five interceptions as a rookie. He made the Pro Bowl, was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year and seemed to back up Washington's decision to trade a boatload of future draft picks to get him. But after the torn ACL suffered in the 2012 wild-card game, he was never the same.

    It took Bridgewater an extra year to get Minnesota to the playoffs, but he was a Pro Bowl quarterback in his second season—albeit as more of a game-manager than the one-man wrecking crew that Griffin was. Prior to what would have been his third season, though, Bridgewater suffered a knee injury so devastating that he missed the entire 2016 season and all but two series of the 2017 season.

              

    13. Sam Bradford (2010 No. 1 pick—St. Louis Rams)
    1855-2967 (62.5%), 19,449 yards, 103 TD, 61 INT, 84.5 Rate, 34-48-1 record

    As far as Rams fans are concerned, this is way too high for Bradford. Once revered as a can't-miss prospect, Bradford sure did miss a lot of targets during his run with St. Louis. He finished his time there with a 58.6 completion percentage and without ever hitting a .500 winning percentage. But in 2015 (Philadelphia, 65.0 percent completion rate) and 2016 (Minnesota, 71.8 percent completion rate), he was much more productive as a stopgap for teams looking for the next big thing at QB.

            

    12. Mitchell Trubisky (2017 No. 2 pick—Chicago Bears)
    485-764 (63.5%), 5,416 yards, 31 TD, 19 INT, 87.7 Rate, 15-11 record

    Trubisky seemed like a colossal bust after his rookie season, throwing for just seven touchdowns in 12 starts. Last year went much better, though, including a 303-yard performance in Chicago's playoff game against the Eagles. A lot of the guys lower on this list had a great second season before flaming out in a hurry from there, but unless that happens to Trubisky, let's assume he belongs in the top half of these rankings.

                    

    11. Ryan Tannehill (2012 No. 8 pick—Miami Dolphins)
    1829-2911 (62.8%), 20,434 yards, 123 TD, 75 INT, 87.0 Rate, 42-46 record

    With all due respect to both players, Ryan Tannehill has been a poor man's Matthew Stafford. His career numbers look nice, as he had three straight seasons (2013-15) with at least 3,900 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. But he could never seem to get the Dolphins to play anything better than .500 football. And the one year that he helped get them to the playoffs (2016), he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 13.

10. Marcus Mariota

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 2 in 2015 by the Tennessee Titans

    Stats: 1015-1605 (63.2%), 12,004 yards, 69 TD, 42 INT, 89.4 Rate, 27-28 record

    As a starter in Week 1 of his rookie season, Marcus Mariota completed 87 percent of his passes for four touchdowns in a blowout win over Tampa Bay. He had a perfect 158.3 passer rating and immediately looked like a star.

    It would be unfair to call it fool's gold, because he has been a better-than-adequate quarterback throughout his four seasons with the Titans. But he hasn't had many games anywhere close to that proficiency.

    Let's put it this way: Mariota has been much more Joe Flacco than Joe Montana. Alex Smith might be the best comparison for him.

    He has been good for multiple game-winning drives in each season, and his carelessness with the ball often isn't the reason for a loss. But he only throws for 300 or more yards once every eight games, and he has only accounted for three or more combined passing and rushing touchdowns 10 times in 56 contests.

    That makes him a top-10 quarterback out of our 30 options, but he's also a far cry from the top five, since he's not the type of guy who is going to put the team on his back and carry it across the finish line.

9. Jameis Winston

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 1 in 2015 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Stats: 1183-1922 (61.6%), 14,628 yards, 88 TD, 58 INT, 87.8 Rate, 21-33 record

    In the same number of games played, Jameis Winston has 2,624 more yards and 19 more touchdowns than Marcus Mariota. The Nos. 1 and 2 picks from the 2015 draft have similar passer ratings and Mariota has a better winning percentage, but there's little question that Winston has made the bigger impact on the field.

    "Famous Jameis" had at least 4,000 passing yards in each of his first two seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors as a rookie. However, that was actually the worst of his four years as far as completion percentage, yards per game and passer rating are concerned.

    Both the completion percentage and the yards per game have increased each season. Last year, he was one of just eight players to appear in at least 10 games, complete at least 64 percent of passes and average at least 270 yards per game.

    The Buccaneers have been forced to question whether he's worth the trouble, though. There were several off-field issues during Winston's tenure with Florida State, including a sexual assault allegation, and then there was last year's three-game suspension for allegedly groping an Uber driver. Had Ryan Fitzpatrick been able to maintain his early "Fitzmagic," Tampa Bay might have stuck with the journeyman for the entire season instead of handing the reins back to Winston.

    That has no real bearing on his ranking. We're only interested in on-field performance for this list. But it's worth mentioning because it is next to impossible to discuss Winston's accolades without bringing up the baggage.

8. Carson Wentz

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 2 in 2016 by the Philadelphia Eagles

    Stats: 923-1448 (63.7%), 10,152 yards, 70 TD, 28 INT, 92.5 Rate, 23-17 record

    Now we're getting somewhere. Those bottom 22 guys might make you wonder if it's even worth investing a first-round pick in a quarterback, but starting with Carson Wentz, these top eight are proof that one pick can completely alter the trajectory of a franchise for the better.

    Prior to Wentz, the Eagles were a revolving door of quarterbacks. Michael Vick and Nick Foles split the job for two years, then it was Foles and Mark Sanchez for one. Then came Sam Bradford's pit stop in Philadelphia.

    Part of the reason Chip Kelly wasn't able to make it three full seasons as the head coach was that lack of consistency at quarterback. So the Eagles drafted Wentz and immediately handed him the keys.

    That first season was less than stellar. He threw for nearly 3,800 yards, but it was taking him almost 38 attempts per game to get there. He barely had a positive TD-to-INT ratio (16-14), and the Eagles sputtered to a 7-9 record because of it.

    In his second season, though, Wentz was an MVP candidate, throwing for 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions in 13 games before suffering a torn ACL. The Eagles had already clinched the NFC East prior to the injury, and Foles was able to carry them across the finish line to a Super Bowl victory.

    A back injury cut short his 2018 season after 11 games, but Wentz had a passer rating above 100 in each of the last two years. If he can play like that for a couple of full seasons, he'll deserve to move up several spots on this list.

7. Baker Mayfield

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 1 in 2018 by the Cleveland Browns

    Stats: 310-486 (63.8%), 3,725 yards, 27 TD, 14 INT, 93.7 Rate, 6-7 record

    It was only one season, but Baker Mayfield made the Cleveland Browns both fun and relevant. That indisputably makes him the best of the 2018 draft class and earns him a spot just behind a few guys who have thrown for over 23,000 yards and 170 touchdowns.

    This was one of the worst offenses in the league for an entire decade, especially in recent years. In the two seasons before drafting Mayfield, Cleveland went 1-31 and was outscored by a margin of 364 points. It was a "Burn it to the ground and start over from scratch" type of disaster, and it was incomprehensible that it took until Week 3 for Mayfield to even get the chance to prove his mettle.

    Once he took the field, though, it was immediately clear that Mayfield could be the guy to finally bring Cleveland out of the NFL's basement.

    In relief of Tyrod Taylor, he led the Browns to a comeback victory over the Jets. The record books don't count that as a win for Mayfield since he wasn't the starter, but it should at least go down as a save. From there, the starting job was his and he led the Browns to their best winning percentage (46.7) since 2007.

    In Browns history, there have been 37 instances of a quarterback attempting at least 300 passes in a single season. Mayfield's 93.7 passer rating ranks second on that list, trailing only 1987 Bernie Kosar (95.4). Mayfield might actually be ranked too low after accomplishing what he did with the Browns. He could flame out in 2019 and would still be one of the best Browns quarterbacks in decades.

6. Matthew Stafford

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 1 in 2009 by the Detroit Lions

    Stats: 3372-5405 (62.4%), 38,526 yards, 237 TD, 129 INT, 88.4 Rate, 66-75 record

    It's hard to rank the old guard against the newbies, but Matthew Stafford is one of the best quarterbacks who is never talked about as such.

    He has had an amazing run with the Lions, starting 128 consecutive games over the past eight seasons. He only threw for 3,777 yards last year, but he had more than 4,250 yards in seven straight seasons from 2011-17. Health permitting, he is approximately seven games away from bypassing both Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana to move into the top 20 on the career passing yards leaderboard.

    He has led Detroit on 33 game-winning drives with 26 fourth-quarter comebacks. The next-closest player on this list in either category is Andrew Luck with 20 and 16, respectively.

    Early in his career, most of his success was attributed to Calvin Johnson. The naysayers would argue that anyone with a half-decent arm could just throw the ball high in the direction of "Megatron" and end up with around 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns.

    But Stafford has continued to thrive in spite of the early retirement of his golden goose. Johnson hung up his cleats after the 2015 season; Stafford orchestrated eight of his fourth-quarter comebacks in 2016. His best passer rating (99.3) came in 2017. And after five consecutive seasons with at least a dozen interceptions, he has come in below that mark in each of the last three years.

    Perhaps most impressive of all, Detroit is 63-65 over the past eight years after a 31-97 record in the eight years before drafting Stafford. If the Lions had ever given him a respectable defense or a half-decent rushing attack, he'd be a borderline Hall of Famer.

5. Andrew Luck

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 1 in 2012 by the Indianapolis Colts

    Stats: 2000-3290 (60.8%), 23,671 yards, 171 TD, 83 INT, 89.5 Rate, 53-33 record

    When healthy, Andrew Luck has been worth every penny.

    In each of his first three seasons, he led the Colts to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Luck averaged 4,319 passing yards and 28.7 touchdowns for those three years, earning a spot on all three Pro Bowl rosters.

    He also had a spectacular comeback year in 2018, tossing 39 touchdowns and 4,593 yards after missing the entire 2017 campaign. Once again, he was named to the Pro Bowl and got the Colts to the postseason.

    But Luck missed more than half of the 2015 season because of a lacerated kidney and an abdominal injury, and that 2017 season was lost to recovery from shoulder surgery. In the season in between, he missed one game with a concussion. The Colts missed the playoffs all three of those years.

    Because of that, his value added is indisputable. In years when Luck plays at least 15 games, the Colts have averaged 410 points scored. In the other two, they were at 298. Indianapolis is a borderline Super Bowl contender when he's healthy and a candidate for a top-10 draft position when he's not.

    We're ranking a trio of fresher faces directly ahead of Luck, but there's an argument to be made that he should be No. 2 on the list.

4. Jared Goff

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 1 in 2016 by the Los Angeles Rams

    Stats: 772-1243 (62.1%), 9,581 yards, 65 TD, 26 INT, 94.7 Rate, 24-14 record

    The first year of Jared Goff's career was rather dreadful. The Rams went 0-7 in his starts, he had just five touchdowns against seven interceptions, he was sacked on more than 11 percent of dropbacks and he finished with a passer rating of 63.6.

    Had we done this exercise prior to the 2017 season, he might have been in dead last.

    But then the Rams signed Sean McVay as head coach and immediately became as elite on offense as they were during the heyday of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt.

    After scoring an NFL-worst 224 points in Goff's rookie season, Los Angeles more than doubled that and led the league in scoring with 478 points. The Rams kicked it up another notch with 527 points and a run to the Super Bowl this past season.

    Goff's leap in production was unbelievable. His interception total in year two stayed at seven, but his touchdown total more than quintupled from five to 28. Last season, he averaged 293 yards per game and upped his touchdown total to 32. In both years, his passer rating was better than 100. He was also named to the Pro Bowl in both seasons.

3. Deshaun Watson

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 12 in 2017 by the Houston Texans

    Stats: 471-709 (66.4%), 5,864 yards, 45 TD, 17 INT, 103.1 Rate, 14-8 record

    Prior to suffering a torn ACL two months into the 2017 season, Deshaun Watson was the no-brainer choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year. In four October games, Watson averaged 292.8 passing yards and 4.0 touchdowns, posting a passer rating of 116.0.

    In each of the five games before his injury, Watson led the Texans to at least 33 points. In eight of the nine games played without him, they failed to reach 17 points.

    A mere 10 months later, he was ready for Week 1 of the 2018 season, and he came back even better than before. The opener at New England was a struggle, but Watson threw for at least 310 yards in each of his next four games. His completion percentage soared from 61.8 to 68.3 percent, and he averaged almost three touchdowns per interception while guiding Houston to the playoffs.

    He also rushed for 551 yards and five touchdowns, proving that the knee injury didn't change his approach to the game.

    As is the concern with all mobile quarterbacks, though, the big question for Watson is: Can he stay healthy?

    In both height and weight, Watson's measurements are almost identical to those of Teddy Bridgewater and Robert Griffin III. Cam Newton has been a durable tank over the past eight years, but he's three inches taller and about 25 pounds heavier than Watson. It's an apples-and-oranges comparison.

    That doesn't mean Watson is doomed to a short, injury-filled career. Russell Wilson is smaller than any of the guys just mentioned and he has more than 3,600 career rushing yards and has yet to miss a single game. Watson could be one of the best to ever play quarterback if he has similar injury luck moving forward.

2. Patrick Mahomes

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 10 in 2017 by the Kansas City Chiefs

    Stats: 405-615 (65.9%), 5,381 yards, 50 TD, 13 INT, 111.7 QB Rating, 13-4 record

    It was more than a little bit tempting to put the reigning NFL MVP at No. 1 on this list.

    Patrick Mahomes threw all 50 of his career touchdowns during the 2018 season while taking the world by storm. His elusiveness and his ability to make left-handed or side-armed passes under duress ensured he was regularly appearing on highlight reels.

    The Chiefs defense was atrocious, allowing at least 23 points in 11 games. But thanks almost entirely to Mahomes, they still went 7-4 in those contests. Even in prime-time losses to the Patriots (43-40) and Rams (54-51), Mahomes stole the show with outrageous stat lines, doing everything in his power to keep them in games they had no business winning.

    Mahomes steered the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1993 and threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns against the Patriots in that game. Were it not for Dee Ford's offsides penalty and bad luck with the overtime coin toss, he would have gotten them to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969.

    Not too shabby for a guy who couldn't even get on the field until Week 17 of his rookie season. Had he been a factor as a rookie, he would have landed in the top spot. Or if his 2019 season is even 75 percent as good as 2018, he'll belong at No. 1 next year.

1. Cam Newton

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Drafted: No. 1 in 2011 by the Carolina Panthers

    Stats: 2321-3891 (59.7%), 28,469 yards, 182 TD, 107 INT, 86.4 Rate, 4,808 rushing yards, 58 rushing TD, 68-53-1 record

    If we solely focus on the passing statistics, Cam Newton is a borderline top-10 candidate. In fact, he doesn't rank in the top third in completion percentage, yards per game or passer rating, and his interception rate leaves a lot to be desired. His passing numbers are very similar to those of Ryan Tannehill.

    But factor in the rushing statistics, and Newton is an excellent candidate for No. 1.

    Newton's 58 rushing touchdowns are the most by a quarterback in NFL history. The next-closest is Steve Young with 43. And the next-closest among first-round picks in the past decade is Andrew Luck's 14.

    Likewise, Newton is more than 3,000 rushing yards ahead of the top challenger on this list (Blake Bortles has 1,775), and he is No. 3 all time behind only Michael Vick and Randall Cunninghamand he should surpass Cunningham (4,928) a few weeks into the 2019 season.

    And it's not like his passing numbers are bad. Newton has thrown for at least 3,100 yards and 18 touchdowns in each of his eight seasons. This past year, he completed a career-best 67.9 percent of pass attempts, despite a shoulder injury that often made it look like he was trying to throw with a wet noodle.

    Newton has been named to the Pro Bowl three times (2011, 2013 and 2015) and was the NFL MVP in 2015 while steering the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a trip to the Super Bowl.

    Patrick Mahomes and/or Deshaun Watson may well belong ahead of Newton once they've had a few more years to prove themselves. For now, though, the top pick of the 2011 draft is the best quarterback taken in the first round of the past decade.