Today in the NFL, you are seeing new passing records being set left and right. The new rule changes that are in favor of the offensive players allow for quarterbacks to throw for more yards than in any era in NFL history. That trend is not going to change anytime soon.
To be competitive at the highest level in professional football, you have to be able to make accurate timely throws consistently. Circumstances around young and even veteran quarterbacks do not always allow for them to be the best of their abilities. Other instance, teams just do not have the evaluators in place to properly identify a good QB, let alone develop one.
Missing on the right QB in the NFL can have long-lasting ramifications. The way contracts are structured often that window to build a Super Bowl contender is only three to four years. The new trend in the NFL is for a team to find a QB on a rookie scale contract that can help the team win right away, then stack the team around him. Once a star QB gets to their second contract, their cap hit tends to go over $20 million, which makes it harder to construct a roster around him. When that window passes teams find themselves with expensive veteran contracts and little room a roster too talented to land a blue chip prospect.
Over the last eight years, there have been some massive swings and misses at the QB position and some others that you may have forgotten about. Here's a breakdown of 12 NFL QB flops since 2010 and who teams should have drafted instead.
24 QB Flop: Jake Locker (2011, 8th Overall)
Coming off a national championship at Auburn, Cam Newton was the big name quarterback prospect leading the draft class in 2011. The Carolina Panthers would select Newton first overall and the teams that were left still needing a new signal-caller did not have an obvious choice.
With the 8th pick in the draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Jake Locker out of Washington. Scouts loved Locker's ceiling and his ability to also make plays with his feet. As great as that skill set is, you still need to be able to throw from the pocket. Locker never figured that part out, and also had trouble staying healthy, as he retired after just four seasons.
23 Should've Drafted: Andy Dalton
The Titans were selecting a quarterback at the top of the draft no matter what (after all, they passed on names like J.J. Watt and Tyron Smith). There were not two Cam Newtons to choose from so the Titans swung for a home run. The better and safer pick may have been to instead just get on base.
Andy Dalton was a second-round pick out of TCU and has had, by far, a superior career to Locker. Even though the Bengals have not had much success in the playoffs with Dalton, there has to be some credit given for simply getting there. The Titans would love to consistently make the postseason and hope now that finally, they have their guy in Marcus Mariota.
22 QB Flop: Blaine Gabbert (2011, 10th Overall)
There may be no other draft where many quarterbacks taken early on that were just flat-out busts. It seems every other pick in 2011 was bad quarterback after bad quarterback. One thing we know is the NFL draft is no perfect science. The Jacksonville Jaguars wanted to draft a quarterback that would be able to elevate their team to competitive relevance in the AFC.
With the 10th overall pick, Jacksonville traded up and landed Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri. The problem was Gabbert was nowhere close to being a franchise quarterback. That's part of the reason the quarterback position is still the overwhelming conversation in Jacksonville after a less than stellar season this year.
21 Should've Drafted: Colin Kaepernick
Today, the argument over whether Colin Kaepernick should be on an NFL roster can go either way but that is not what we're here to discuss today. In 2011, there is no doubt about the excitement that Kaepernick brought to the San Francisco 49ers during his days under Jim Harbaugh. As a dual-threat quarterback, Colin's skill set rivaled even those of Robert Griffin III before the serious injury. The safe pick here was the non-traditional quarterback out of Nevada. During the process, draft experts drool over the height and hand size of a new QB prospect every year and this year, the Jags fell for it.
20 QB Flop: Christian Ponder (2011, 12th Overall)
There was a reoccurring theme with quarterbacks in the first round of the 2011 draft. The fourth quarterback selected with the first 12 picks was Christian Ponder to the Minnesota Vikings. Anytime you take a quarterback that high in the draft you expect that player to be with your franchise for a very long time.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, Ponder was only with the team for four seasons, starting a combined 36 games. Ponder became the punchline of every joke about below-average quarterback play during his run as the starter. On the other hand, maybe only four seasons of Christian Ponder was a good thing for the Vikings.
19 Should've Drafted: Tyrod Taylor
The NFL draft process is funny sometimes because all the experts in the media spend all these hours compiling research about which prospects are the best. For the Vikings, they were sold on the smallish quarterback from Florida State, Christian Ponder.
In reality, the Vikings should've just went with another position altogether, as most analysts had pegged Ponder as a day two draft pick. The Vikings passed on several solid players like Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan or Cameron Jordan. If the Vikings absolutely had to take a QB, believe it or not, Tyrod Taylor was the only other QB that has had a respectable career in the draft. Taylor wound up being a sixth round pick, but has had way more NFL success than the likes of Locker, Gabbert and Ponder.
18 QB Flop: Robert Griffin III (2012, 2nd Overall)
Speaking of Robert Griffin III, do you remember the haul that the Washington Redskins sent to the St. Louis Rams back in 2012? I'll refresh your memory a bit. The Rams had their quarterback after drafting Sam Bradford number one overall two years prior. The pick became the center of a bidding war for the Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III. In his first season with the Redskins, it looked like the team hit an unquestioned home run. Injuries to RGIII no doubt derailed his superstar trajectory and now he’s relegated to being the third-string QB in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco and rookie Lamar Jackson.
17 Should've Drafted: Kirk Cousins
I know, I know, right now you're wondering how Kirk Cousins can be the guy should have drafted when they did draft Kirk Cousins. The deal that landed RGIII in Washington was in exchange for three first-round picks, and a second-rounder. Peyton Manning was coming off neck surgery and the 'Skins were not going to be his next destination.
Owner Dan Snyder wanted to make a splash and sent way too much draft capital to the Rams for a quarterback that is no longer an NFL starter. A reasonable move would have been to keep building with those first round picks and take Cousins in maybe the third round to ensure they got him.
16 QB Flop: Brock Osweiler (2012, 57th Overall)
The Denver Broncos had a run with John Elway at quarterback where they were the best team in the NFL during the 1990s. It wasn't a tough a decision to bring Elway into the organization and as the general manager, he won early with Peyton Manning. Since Peyton, Elway has been searching for that next guy to lead the team.
In 2012, Elway took Brock Osweiler out of Arizona State to learn behind Manning as the successor. That plan fell flat as Brock did not develop NFL accuracy to combine with the knowledge you can learn from an all-time great like Peyton.
15 Should've Drafted: Nick Foles
The Philadelphia Eagles capitalized on a miraculous run of quarterback play from Nick Foles not once, but twice. Under Chip Kelly in 2013, Foles started nine games and was selected to the Pro Bowl after throwing 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. We all know how great Foles was in that Super Bowl run last season in place of Carson Wentz after his ACL injury. Foles was in the board, and he lacks the wow factor that Osweiler has as a 6'8 QB that can avoid batted balls and see over the protection. During his time in St. Louis, Foles was not very good under head coach Jeff Fisher, but neither was Jared Goff and look at him now.
14 QB Flop: Brandon Weeden (2012, 22nd Overall)
No one can write any list of quarterback misses without coming across picks made by the Cleveland Browns. In 2012, the Cleveland Browns lost the quarterback race as the Indianapolis Colts had the worst record in the NFL and selected Andrew Luck. Brandon Weeden played baseball as a young adult and was entering the draft at 28 years old. A 28-year old quarterback is behind the 8-ball and would be expected to come in and play right away. Weeden was a bad pick all around and there is simply no way to get around that. This was a classic case of a first-round quarterback reach.
13 Should've Drafted: Russell Wilson
After falling behind guys like Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson fell to the third round where he was selected by the Seattle Seahawks and instantly changed their fortunes. In his first three seasons, Wilson made the Super Bowl twice and was a bad red zone play call away from being a two-time Super Bowl winning QB. That is truly rare territory as a young quarterback and the Browns could've had him. It's not only Cleveland, as several teams had multiple chances. As heralded as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were as the headliners (with Luck having a pretty good, if injury-riddled career), Wilson has quietly had the more superior, and injury-free career.
12 QB Flop: Blake Bortles (2014, 3rd Overall)
You would think the Jaguars learned their lesson when they drafted Blaine Gabbert just three years prior. This time, the Jags had their pick of the litter, although there was no QB leading the draft class. The Texans drafted the freakish pass rusher prospect Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina instead of a quarterback.
Meanwhile, Bortles was the starter in Jacksonville until this season, where he was benched in favor of Cody Kessler, a former third-round pick. Kessler may not be the answer (as evidenced by the Jags going back and forth) but as the former UCF star has continued to prove since then, it may be clearer for Jacksonville that Bortles is not either.
11 Should've Drafted: Derek Carr
Coming into the draft, there were a lot of people suggesting that since the Texans could use improved quarterback play that Fresno State's Derek Carr would be an obvious candidate. Derek's older brother David Carr was the former number one overall pick in Houston and those similarities hit too close to home. Blake Bortles was the guy that experts elevated after overanalyzing Carr and how he would translate to the pros. Derek Carr has made three Pro Bowls and in 2016, Carr led the Raiders to a 13-win season. The defense in Jacksonville could have made a Super Bowl by now if Derek Carr was drafted.
10 QB Flop: Johnny Manziel (2014, 22nd Overall)
The Cleveland Browns have been desperate to find an identity for the better part of two decades. While in college, Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy and dominated in a game against the vaunted Nick Saban defense. There was a lot of flash and excitement to Manziel's play style but the question was whether he could play in the pro-structure. It turns out we never would have found the answer to that question since Manziel wasn't very interested in being a professional at all. All of the signs were there but it is hard to project a flame-out as bad as Manziel's NFL career.
9 Should've Drafted: Jimmy Garoppolo
The New England Patriots and Bill Belichick know that Tom Brady will not be around forever. There is no way that you could expect Brady to be able to still play at an elite level at his age. This is why the plan was to find and groom a replacement once he entered his late 30s. In 2014, the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois in the third round. The Cleveland Browns were in the quarterback market last season and offered to trade for Garoppolo. If the team had a general manager that could identify talent, those QB failures could be really productive positional players.
8 QB Flop: Paxton Lynch (2016, 26th Overall)
When you are looking for quarterbacks during the draft process it is easy to fall in love with measurables and get blinded by the love of your favorite mold of quarterback. Paxton Lynch played at Memphis and was a good athlete and as they say "looks like a quarterback." The intangibles are what make this position different from any other in all of sports. Paxton had the environment to be great and could not put it all together and maybe never will. Add Lynch to the growing list of QBs that John Elway has missed on not named Peyton Manning.
7 Should've Drafted: Dak Prescott
The whole argument about "prototypical quarterbacks" may be something that becomes more and more a thing of the past. You can look all around the NFL and see successful starting QBs with a wide variety of skill sets. When things are chaotic and the team is not playing well it is easy to pick apart Dak Prescott. When things are more settled, Dak has proven to be more than capable. In Denver, you don't need to play at a Pro Bowl caliber, as the Von Miller-led defense will give you all the chances you need. If Dak were in Denver, the Broncos would be a tough out for any team in the AFC.
6 QB Flop: 2017- Chicago Bears- Mitchell Trubisky
This is may be a little unfair because so far, Mitchell Trubisky has shown flashes that he can be a very good quarterback. In 2017, the Chicago Bears had the second overall pick in the draft and teams were uncertain if Chicago was looking for a quarterback. It turns out they were, and they foiled a plan Cleveland had to take Trubisky later. Deshaun Watson was a star in college football but scouts thought it may not play out the same in the professional ranks. Trubisky has had games with as many as 6 touchdowns and other games where he misses some throws. Head coach Matt Nagy is the right guy to get the best out of their young quarterback.
5 Should've Drafted: Patrick Mahomes
The favorite to win the MVP award for the better part of the first half of the season was Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes is doing things at the position for a young guy that we have never seen before. Mahomes is on pace to throw for upward of 50 TDs in his second year and has the athletic ability to escape the pocket and make throws on the run. Defensive coordinators are having many long nights trying to figure out how to stop this guy. Trubisky is a good young QB, but Mahomes is on a whole other level.
4 QB Flop: DeShone Kizer (2017, 52nd Overall)
The Browns passed on taking a quarterback at the top of the 2017 NFL draft and in fact, traded the 12th overall pick to the Houston Texans for a future draft pick. This pick was acquired from the Eagles for Wentz, another quarterback they decided to pass on. In the second round, however, the Browns were confident in selecting DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame and thought they landed a diamond in the rough.
Today, things may have worked out thanks to Baker Mayfield's arrival in 2018, but it is not common practice to trade away a QB after his rookie year. Now, Kizer is Green Bay behind Aaron Rodgers, and he'll struggle to ever see the field.
3 Should've Drafted: Deshaun Watson
This pick was perfect and the Browns front office was too bullish on acquiring assets to see their franchise quarterback staring them in the face. Watson has accuracy and an excitement factor to the way he plays the quarterback position that would have been much appreciated in Cleveland. As a rookie, Watson tore his ACL in practice and missed the second half of the season. The Browns should have drafted Watson, even with the injury in mind. Regardless of the ACL tear, Watson returned to the field earlier than expected and right in time to lead the Texans to a run to the postseason.
2 QB Flop: Eli Manning
The biggest story surrounding New York football over the last several years has been Eli Manning at the quarterback position. Benching Eli cost Ben McAdoo his job and Odell Beckham Jr. is being wasted away, with the refusal to discuss the elephant in the room. Making OBJ the highest paid WR in the NFL makes no sense if you do not have the quarterback that can get him the football. Another year of committing to the Eli Manning project has cost the Giants a pick in a large crop of projecting franchise QBs. There is no guarantee that next draft their guy will be there and could further delay the inevitable.
1 Should've Drafted: Sam Darnold
The Cleveland Browns passed on Sam Darnold and selected Baker Mayfield, which came as a surprise to many people following the process. Darnold suddenly fell into the lap of the Giants, and they were so committed to Saquon Barkley that they became a prisoner of the moment. Barkley is a fantastic player, but if they do not somehow find their future guy at QB, his impact will be limited. The other problem is that Darnold landed in New York, but he plays for the Jets. Quarterbacks get all the attention and if the Jets find success, the Giants can find themselves missing out on the younger football fans in NY that have yet to choose a side.