The perils of drafting a first-round quarterback

Published: April 28, 2016

RG3_2015_preseason_vs_Browns

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (LEFT) INDIANAPOLIS Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws the ball in a 2014 game against the Cleveland Browns, while former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III throws a pass in a 2015 game against the Browns. Luck and Griffin were taken one-two in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the former has fizzled out. Luck and RG3 are just one example of the historical drawbacks from quarterbacks who get taken one-two.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
(LEFT) INDIANAPOLIS Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws the ball in a 2014 game against the Cleveland Browns, while former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III throws a pass in a 2015 game against the Browns. Luck and Griffin were taken one-two in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the former has fizzled out. Luck and RG3 are just one example of the historical drawbacks from quarterbacks who get taken one-two.

Commentary By
LUKE KROPP

History in the National Football League tends to repeat itself. The best defensive team defeating a high scoring offensive team in the Super Bowl? That is nothing new. The Super Bowl loser missing the playoffs the following season? It used to happen every year.

Buyers beware: history also shows two phenomena that have me worried about the future of the top two quarterbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft. First, when quarterbacks are selected one-two in the draft, typically one has a successful career while the other proves to be a bust.

The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles recently pushed all their chips to the middle of the table, trading a number of draft picks to move up to the No. 1 and No. 2 overall selections, respectively, in the 2016 NFL Draft. Both teams are searching for a franchise quarterback, and both organizations have been very open about whom they plan to draft.

The two names at the top of everyone’s mock drafts are Jared Goff and Carson Wentz: two QBs with unique skillsets and completely different college football experiences. The Rams will take one and the Eagles almost certainly will take the other, marking the seventh time in the common draft era (since 1967) that QBs are selected one-two overall.

Only one of those instances has had both players sustaining success in the NFL. In 1971, the New England Patriots selected Jim Plunkett with the first pick and the New Orleans Saints took Archie Manning at two. Plunkett went on to win two Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders while Manning was the best player on terrible teams for 16 years. Since then, one quarterback would find success while the other top-two pick would struggle.

The 1993 NFL Draft: The Patriots selected Drew Bledsoe with the first pick and the Seattle Seahawks selected Rick Mirer with the second. Bledsoe is now 10th on the all-time passing yardage list while Mirer did not live up to expectations.

1998: The Indianapolis Colts chose future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, leaving the San Diego Chargers with Ryan Leaf. Manning finally retired holding a ridiculous number of passing records while Leaf is arguably the biggest draft bust of all time.

1999: The Cleveland Browns selected Tim Couch first overall and the Eagles selected Donovan McNabb. Couch became the first name in a long list of disappointing QBs for the Browns while McNabb became the face of his franchise.

2012: The Colts selected the highly touted Andrew Luck with the first pick and the Washington Redskins selected Robert Griffin III at two. Luck reached three Pro Bowls in three years while the injury prone Griffin III had to find a new team after losing his starting job. However, RG3 earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2012 and could possibly revive his career in Cleveland.

2015: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Jameis Winston first overall and the Tennessee Titans picked Marcus Mariota second. It is too early to tell which team made the better pick, but Winston did make the Pro Bowl and triple the Buccaneers’ win total from 2014 while Mariota’s impressive season was cut short due to injury.

I am not saying either Goff or Wentz will have a successful career while the other is out of the league by 2020, but history has proven repeatedly that it is most likely the case if they are drafted one-two. And, unfortunately, that is not the only circumstance that worries me.

The second concerning phenomenon is that when teams trade up into the first round of the NFL Draft to take a quarterback, the risk usually does not pay off. Teams have traded up for a top QB prospect 10 times over the last 10 years. Only three of them have sustained some kind of success in the NFL: Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco and Teddy Bridgewater. The other seven experiments blew up in their teams’ faces. I’m looking at you, Johnny Football.

The Rams made a Blockbuster trade with the Titans to move into the top spot of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Eagles then followed suit by sending the Browns the house to slide up to the second position. Two epic trades to secure the top two QBs in the draft. Is it really worth it when history shows the odds are against you?

Winning in the NFL means taking huge risks, and it makes perfect sense to take Goff and Wentz one-two. Both are well deserving of a chance to fulfill their NFL dreams. I would hate to kill the hype surrounding them, but I have a bad feeling history will repeat itself. I hope both quarterbacks find success in the NFL, especially for the prices the Rams and Eagles paid for them.
Caveat emptor.

Contact the writer: luke.kropp@scranton.edu

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