The NFL has been a quarterback league throughout its existence. Teams with elite quarterback play are typically at the top of the standings, and below average quarterbacks find their teams struggling to make the playoffs. Every team strives to find that franchise quarterback if they do not possess it. The easiest way to find a franchise quarterback is through the NFL draft, but not every highly touted signal caller can play the position at the professional level. Teams also can find a franchise quarterback through an alternate route in free agency.
Free agency is a much harder method to get a great quarterback, and the draft has proven to be the most successful method to finding a quarterback that can make a team competitive for many years. Some young quarterbacks that are drafted high turn out to be busts and others make their team a force to be reckoned with each and every time they take the field. Rarely do quarterbacks who are taken later in the draft pan out to be game changing players. The past five NFL drafts have provided some great talent at the top of the draft, and it has also turned out less than stellar quarterbacks.
Here is a ranking of the first three QBs taken in the past five NFL Drafts:
15 Johnny Manziel - 2nd QB, 2014
Johnny Manziel’s career has sputtered completely out of control, and no team has been willing to give him a chance to suit up for them in 2016. Manziel won the Heisman trophy in 2012 while attending Texas A&M. This led to him being a late first-round selection of the Cleveland Browns, and many were anxious to see just how effective he would be after throwing and rushing for a combined 93 touchdowns in two years at the collegiate level.
The success he achieved in college has not translated to the NFL level. In two years with the Browns, Johnny Football only threw for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions, and only started a handful of games for the team before being released after the 2015 NFL season. The main problem was his partying habits and poor work ethic displayed as an NFL quarterback.
14 Garrett Grayson - 3rd QB, 2015
Garrett Grayson is ranked low on this list not because he has shown that he is an awful quarterback, but he has not a chance to play yet at the NFL level. The fact that he backs up an elite quarterback in Drew Brees is the biggest reason behind him not seeing the field as a starter since he was drafted by the Saints. Grayson came from Colorado State where in his final two seasons he threw for 7,702 yards, and became Colorado State's all-time leader in passing yards.
His performance in college garnered him being selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft. He is now a member of the Saints practice squad, and it is unlikely that he will ever have a chance at starting in the NFL.
13 Geno Smith - 2nd QB, 2013
Geno Smith was the second quarterback selected in the weak quarterback 2013 NFL draft, and as a rookie he was thrust into the starting position for the New York Jets. The Jets have had a poor history of starting signal callers and were hoping Smith could be the dual threat that elevated the team's play. Smith struggled mightily in his first two seasons in the NFL, and he was unable to even complete 60 percent of his passes while possessing the starting job.
After breaking his jaw in a locker room incident prior to the 2015 NFL season, Smith lost his starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick and has failed to get it back since then. Smith will likely be cut by the Jets at the conclusion of the 2016 NFL season.
12 E.J. Manuel - 1st QB, 2013
E.J. Manuel was the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills out of Florida State, and many were shocked when the Bills made the selection. Manuel was not thought of as an elite prospect coming out of college. Scouts acknowledged that he had an NFL body, but his skill set did not correlate with a first round selection. This reach by the Bills did not pay off. In his rookie year he did not have a year that warranted him being selected high in the draft, and Manuel ended up having more turnovers than touchdowns in his rookie year.
He only started six more games after his rookie season. Manuel is now the backup for the Bills, and Manuel will probably never be the team's full-time starter again.
11 Mike Glennon - 3rd QB, 2013
Mike Glennon was the third quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL draft, and there was little expectation that he would be a starter in the NFL. Many thought of him as a solid backup, and he could come in during emergency situations and help manage a game for a team. Glennon has never gotten the chance to see extended time as the team’s starting quarterback after his rookie season when he made 13 starts. When the Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston with the first pick in the 2015 draft, Glennon was figured to be the team’s backup solution for the foreseeable future. In his 18 career starts, Glennon has a mediocre completion percentage of 59 percent, and his passer rating is a mere 83.7. We'll have to see if he ever becomes a starter somewhere else.
10 Jared Goff - 1st QB, 2016
Jared Goff was the number one pick in the 2016 NFL draft, but he did not start the season as the Los Angeles Rams starting signal caller. Goff finally got his chance to start when Week 11 came around and he replaced former starter Case Keenum. He has not looked great during his first few starts, as he has yet to record a victory and the Rams offense has looked stagnant.
It is still very early in the career of the first overall pick of the 2016 draft, and there is plenty of time for him to climb closer to the top of a list like this in the future. If Goff continues to complete only 53.5 percent of his passes in upcoming games he will stay towards the bottom of a list of this caliber.
9 Paxton Lynch - 3rd QB, 2016
Paxton Lynch was expected to be the next starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos after Brock Osweiler left Denver to join the Houston Texans. Trevor Siemian ended up winning the job out of training camp, and Lynch was forced to learn the NFL game from the sidelines for his rookie season. Lynch did get an opportunity to start in two games for the Broncos while Siemian was injured and did fairly well. The Broncos went 1-1 in the games in which Lynch started. In three games and two starts, the young rookie out of Memphis has thrown for 497 yards and has also thrown two touchdowns to one interception.
Paxton Lynch could be the starter for the future for the Broncos, and his play in the upcoming season will determine if he is a viable starting quarterback in the NFL.
8 Robert Griffin III - 2nd QB, 2012
Robert Griffin III was one of the most dynamic quarterbacks to ever come into the NFL. His career at Baylor was highlighted in 2011 when he was honored with the Heisman trophy for his video game-like statistics that year. He continued his impressive play in his rookie season in the NFL when he threw 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions, and more importantly led the Washington Redskins to the playoffs. Since his rookie year, RG3 has struggled on the field and has shown an inability to stay healthy.
The Redskins gave up on him after Kirk Cousins emerged as a viable starter for the team in 2015, and the Cleveland Browns were the only team that gave RG3 a chance to start again. RG3 has only started four games for the Browns because he missed 11 games due to injury.
7 Blake Bortles - 1st QB, 2014
Blakes Bortles was the first quarterback selected in the 2014 NFL draft when he was taken third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He initially was not the starter for the Jags, but early on in the season he was placed in the starting position. His rookie year saw many ups and downs, and Bortles ended the year throwing 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. In his second year Bortles vastly improved his game. The chemistry that he developed with wide receiver Allen Robinson ignited the Jags offense, and led to Bortles having a huge year in which he threw for nearly 4,500 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions.
However, 2016 has been disappointing for Bortles, and has started rumors that perhaps the Jags should look for a new quarterback. If he does not step up in 2017, those rumors may become a reality.
6 Teddy Bridgewater - 3rd QB, 2014
Teddy Bridgewater was a promising prospect coming out of Louisville. At one point he was touted to be a potential no.1 overall pick, but a bad combine saw him slide in the draft. He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings at the tail end of the first round of the 2014 draft. He has not put up flashy numbers since he entered the league, but he also has not made many glaring mistakes since becoming a pro. His completion percentage over his career is an impressive 65 percent. He has also only thrown for a little over 3,000 yards a season, which is minimal compared to other quarterbacks around the league who get close to 5,000 passing yards.
Bridgewater suffered a gruesome leg injury that has sidelined him for the entire 2016 NFL season. He was expected to take a big step forward this season, so we'll see if this injury affects his play going forward.
5 Carson Wentz - 2nd QB, 2016
Carson Wentz has had an up and down rookie year so far in 2016 after being the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. He became the Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback just eight days before the season began, and the team unexpectedly won its first three games of the season. Since the first games of the year the Eagles were only able to win three of their next 12 games. Wentz began throwing more interceptions in the process of this losing phase. His interception total for the season is at 14 through 15 games, and that is equal to his 14 touchdown passes.
Wentz has played better in the final quarter of the season, and if the Eagles provide him with some more offensive weapons he could become an elite player sooner rather than later.
4 Ryan Tannehill - 3rd QB, 2012
Ryan Tannehill was the third quarterback taken in the 2012 NFL draft after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, and was thought to be a bit of a project coming into the league. He has turned out to be a middle of the pack quarterback in the NFL thus far. The Dolphins have rewarded Tannehill with a long term contract to be their franchise quarterback, and he was having a great 2016 season before he suffered a potential season-ending injury. In 13 games he had an outstanding completion percentage of 67 percent, and had thrown for nearly 3,000 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
The Dolphins are hopeful that Tannehill can produce these numbers again in 2017. The Patriots have ruled the AFC East during the 2000s, but Tannehill will be looking to lead the Dolphins to overtake their division for next season.
3 Marcus Mariota - 2nd QB, 2015
Marcus Mariota was the Heisman trophy winner in 2014, and after having a lot of success at the University of Oregon he was selected second overall in the 2015 NFL draft. Mariota’s first year was a struggle for his team. Mariota had touchdown to interception ratio of nearly 2-1, but the Titans ended up with the worst record in the NFL. Mariota’s sophomore season brought the Titans close to winning their division crown. In the second to last game of the year Mariota fractured his fibula and the Titans' playoff hopes were shattered.
Mariota had been performing at a high level before the freak injury. Mariota was perhaps the best quarterback in the AFC South this year, throwing 26 touchdown passes and only throwing nine interceptions in 15 games in 2016.
2 Jameis Winston - 1st QB, 2015
Jameis Winston was the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, and has lived up to expectations so far. He has turned out to be a big time leader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that was not expected after a couple of off the field incidents while he attended Florida State. In his rookie year he threw for over 4,000 yards. The chemistry between Winston and stud wide receiver Mike Evans has fueled the Bucs' aerial attack. In 2016, Winston has already thrown 27 touchdown passes and nearly 4,000 yards again. As a team, the Bucs have improved their win totals in both seasons since Winston has taken over the starter's role, and in 2017 they will be a real threat to make the playoffs.
1 Andrew Luck - 1st QB, 2012
Andrew Luck was the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts, and has already become one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He missed out on the rookie of the year award after Robert Griffin III outperformed him. Since 2012 Luck has been the better of the two quarterbacks, and has led his team as far as the AFC Championship game in 2014. Luck’s best year came in 2014 when he threw 40 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
Since his breakout year he has struggled with injuries and a lack of talent around him. For a second straight year, the Colts will not be going to the playoffs. Despite his team's disappointing year Luck will more than likely throw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, and has also only thrown 12 interceptions through 15 games.
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