Welcome to draft season, where no position gets more scrutiny and speculation than — you guessed it — quarterback. Everyone wants an elite one (and most struggle to secure one). The 2022 class, in particular, is widely considered short on can’t-miss signal-callers, but depending on who you ask, as many as five QBs could still go in the first round.
Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder and Sam Howell have all drawn interest from QB-needy teams with first-round picks, and several of them have been surefire Day One targets across the mock-verse. But what can history tell us about how many of the inevitable first-round QB investments will actually pan out? We’re glad you asked.
We also hope you brought some Pepto Bismol, because the track record of first-round QB picks is not very pretty.
In assessing the Day One QB picks of the last 10 years, we assigned each QB one of four “verdicts.” They are as follows:
- Home run: A bona fide star with championship-caliber talent, production and potential
- Asterisk: A good, maybe even great, QB who had a real impact but for whatever reason did not last
- Incomplete: A QB who’s yet to fully prove himself, for better or worse
- Miss: A clear flop as a short- and/or long-term starter
Some of the QBs straddle the lines more than others, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t partially excuse some of the misses for the situations in which they struggled (you can’t control where you’re drafted, after all). But let this recap be a reminder that, exciting as it is, drafting a QB early always comes with risk:
All these youngsters are too green to judge. Lawrence has the tools to rebound under a better teacher in Doug Pederson. Hopefully Wilson avoids the Sam Darnold trajectory of becoming a problem on an offense full of them. Lance is a total unknown but at least offers a high floor as a runner in Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers offense. Fields is the most natural playmaker here but needs more help and to make better decisions. Jones is the closest thing to a current “hit,” flashing playoff-level efficiency during a streaky debut.
Burrow and Herbert are already in the top 10 at their position. The former is fresh off an MVP-caliber Super Bowl bid, pairing poise with across-the-board production. The latter has yet to taste the playoffs but possesses one of the game’s best arms, giving L.A. a prototypical pocket passer. Tua has been just fine in Miami, where Mike McDaniel will try to elevate his impact. Love, meanwhile, is purely an idea at this point, his big arm planted on the bench behind Aaron Rodgers.
You could make the case Murray is already a home run, because when he’s healthy and at his best, he’s a top-10 dual threat, and he’s certainly made Arizona relevant. But he’s finished three straight years either hurt or in a slump, and his recent contract demands suggest friction with a team he’s yet to take past the wild-card round. Jones is much closer to being a miss, considering his penchant for turnovers, but let’s give him one more audition under Brian Daboll. Haskins flamed out almost immediately.
Mayfield is tough: on one hand, he adapted as a point guard for a run-based attack and brought admirable moxie to a city long devoid of QB stability; on the other, he’s awaiting the finalization of an ugly divorce after Cleveland’s pivot to Deshaun Watson, never quite proving reliable. Darnold is on the verge of being exiled by his second team. Allen is proof that draft-day grades are worthless, going from erratic big man to perennial MVP candidate with near-perfect size and skills. Rosen folded behind bad O-lines. And Jackson, while still seeking steadier aerial numbers and a deep playoff run, brings irreplaceable electricity.
Trubisky never got great help from his staff, but he’s better off where he is now, as a backup/spot starter. Watson has proven on the field to be a top-10 pocket passer with underrated legs, but he’s got a career losing record and, more importantly, could face serious NFL discipline while fighting 22 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct. Mahomes is consistently one of the three or four best players in football, giving the Chiefs an off-script magician capable of more title runs.
Talk about a weird one-two punch here. Goff got off to a horrendous start, then ascended to MVP consideration under Sean McVay before his limitations in the face of pressure prompted the Rams to dump him and his huge contract for Matthew Stafford. Wentz also shot to MVP-level heights in Philly, but injuries and underlying locker-room tensions led to a premature split. Both guys had a direct hand in their teams contending for — or winning — a Super Bowl, but neither proved a lasting face of the franchise.
Winston couldn’t stick because of his boom-or-bust style. Mariota couldn’t stick because of his lack of accuracy and durability. Funny enough, both veterans are entering the 2022 offseason with fresh opportunities to start elsewhere, likely as placeholders.
Yikes. Bortles’ big arm once looked just capable enough of keeping the Jags in the mix, but not for long. Manziel threw picks on and off the field. And Teddy, though well respected in Minnesota, lasted just two seasons as a conservative starter before injuries paved the path to a journeyman career.
Manuel’s career was effectively over after five years and just 18 career starts.
Luck could very well be deemed an “asterisk,” considering the way severe shoulder injuries and his abrupt retirement at age 29 sapped Indy of a potential all-time career, but that feels like too much of a slight, considering the gaudy numbers he posted during a run that included four playoff trips and an AFC Championship Game appearance. Griffin flashed early but fizzled out with injuries. Tannehill has re-emerged as a top-15 starter for the Titans, but only after a middling seven-year slog in Miami. Weeden, who entered at age 28, threw 26 picks in 20 starts.
The final results
Over the last 10 years, there have been 33 QBs selected in the first round. Here’s the final tally:
- Home runs: 6 (18%)
- Asterisks: 4 (12%)
- Incompletes: 9 (27%)
- Misses: 14 (42%)
If you combine home runs and asterisks, that’s 10 of 33 QBs (30%) who at least left some noticeable level of positive impact. As you may have guessed, it’s just a lot harder to hit on superstars under center, even in the first round:
Average home-run QB picks per year: 0.6
Average misses per year: 1.4