Top 15 NFL Quarterbacks Who Were Drafted In The Wrong Spot And Where They Should Have Gone

Drafting a quarterback is one of the most stressful things that a team can do. While football is unquestionably a team sport, there’s a very good reason why some of the greatest teams of all-time – or even just Super Bowl winners – had a great quarterback at the helm. A quarterback is more than just the leader of the offense; he’s more often than not the leader of the team. How can even the best scouts be expected to look into the world of college football and find that one quarterback that will be able to lead an NFL team to glory?

As understandably difficult as it is to find the perfect quarterback in the draft, it’s often impossible to ease the pain of fans who have to watch as their team makes the wrong quarterback pick. Of course, the real pain doesn’t come on draft day. The real pain comes months down the line when it becomes painfully obvious which quarterbacks these teams should have picked. While there’s nothing that those fans can do to wind back time and help their team make the right quarterback pick, we can still rub a little salt in those draft day wounds by looking at the top 15 NFL quarterbacks who were drafted in the wrong spot and where they should have gone.

15 2003 – Tony Romo to the Jacksonville Jaguars

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14 1999 – Donovan McNabb to the Cleveland Browns


13 2012 – Kirk Cousins to the Denver Broncos

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Denver Broncos fans will remember 2012 as the year that Peyton Manning became the leader of the team. Manning may have joined the Broncos with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he was able to eventually lead Denver to a Super Bowl while turning in a few spectacular performances along the way. While Manning deservedly captured all the headlines in 2012, the Broncos did select another quarterback that year. With the 57th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Broncos selected Brock Osweiler when, in hindsight, they probably would have been better off with Kirk Cousins.

12 2011 – Andy Dalton to the Tennessee Titans

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Dalton is too often denied the respect he deserves. While some are hesitant to call him an elite quarterback, the fact of the matter is that Dalton has been helping the Bengals overachieve ever since he joined the team in 2011. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he has A.J. Green to throw to, but Dalton is still a truly great NFL quarterback. He’s the exact kind of quarterback that the Tennessee Titans wish they could go back in time and draft. The Titans selected Jake Locker 8th overall in 2011, which many folks saw as a reach, considering Locker's stock had fallen significantly heading into the draft.

11 2014 – Derek Carr to the Houston Texans

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always fun to look back at undervalued quarterbacks and try to see why it was that teams did not believe they would be as great as they eventually were. Derek Carr seemingly fell victim to the “who did you beat?” syndrome. This is what happens when a college quarterback puts up gaudy numbers but does so without playing on one of the top teams in the nation. Carr’s college career at Fresno State led to him falling victim to this syndrome. While a few teams missed out on the Carr, the Houston Texans are the most notable name on that list.

10 1979 – Joe Montana to the Cincinnati Bengals


It’s funny to see how rarely all-time great quarterbacks are actually selected with the top picks of any given NFL Draft. There’s just something about the position that eludes even the greatest scouts in the world. For instance, in 1979, an astonishing 81 picks rolled by before anyone thought to take Joe Montana. How did that happen? Well, Montana was mostly known for leading some spectacular comebacks in college which some NFL scouts didn’t think really made him worthy of a high draft pick. Little did they know that Montana would make a Hall of Fame career out of such performances.

9 2006 – Jay Cutler to the Arizona Cardinals

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8 1973 – Ron Jaworski to the Chicago Bears


Before he became a talking head for ESPN, Ron Jaworski was a pretty great NFL quarterback. Granted, there’s a reason that he isn’t in the NFL Hall of Fame, but Jaws earned the respect of longtime Eagles fans everywhere through his surprising on the field maturity and his toughness. He made the Eagles a perennial playoff contender, if not quite a Super Bowl team.

7 2012 – Russell Wilson to the Washington Redskins

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Some people say that the reason so many great NFL quarterbacks come from the late rounds of the draft is because they so happen to be drafted by teams that are in a far better position than those who take their quarterbacks in the first round of the draft. This argument has been made to justify Russell Wilson’s success, but it feels a bit thin in the case of this particular Super Bowl winning signal caller. Wilson isn’t the type of quarterback that will light up scoreboards on a regular basis, but he’s a true leader that just about any team would love to have.

6 1998 – Matt Hasselbeck to the San Diego Chargers

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of Seattle quarterbacks, let’s talk about Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck was not the kind of quarterback that you wanted on your team if you were expecting your team’s quarterback to put the game on his shoulders and run away with it. He was, however, a pretty good leader and a great game manager that helped the Seahawks reach a Super Bowl. He’s the exact kind of quarterback that the San Diego Chargers would have loved to have had once upon a time. Having missed out on the privilege of drafting Peyton Manning in 1998, the Chargers infamously drafted Ryan Leaf with the second overall pick.

5 2005 – Aaron Rodgers to the San Francisco 49ers

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

For years, Green Bay Packers fans patiently waited to see whether or not they were going to get the chance to mock the Green Bay scout team for selecting Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005. While those fans were ready to believe that the Packers had drafted Brett Favre’s eventual replacement, they were also concerned that the team had jumped the gun on selecting the next Green Bay quarterback when they could have filled some other need.

4 1991 – Brett Favre to the Seattle Seahawks

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Sticking with Green Bay quarterbacks, we move on to Brett Favre. Brett Favre’s college career is interesting to go back and look at now that we know the type of quarterback he would become. While Favre’s college days were filled with great performances, he was most notable for his miraculous comeback from a surgery that required doctors to remove 30 inches of his small intestine. He wasn’t quite the gunslinger that would define his legacy.

3 2016 – Dak Prescott to the Los Angeles Rams

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Is it too early to make this call considering that the quarterbacks involved have barely had the chance to show how they can perform at the NFL level? Maybe, but based on the sample size we’ve seen so far, it feels like it’s time to discuss the possibility that the Los Angeles Rams may have picked the wrong quarterback. In one NFL season, Dak Prescott showcased the kind of leadership and maturity that is so often associated with the greatest to ever play the game.

2 1983 – Dan Marino to the Kansas City Chiefs


Ah, the infamous 1983 draft. ESPN produced a 30 for 30 documentary special titled From Elway to Marino all about how two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game were selected on the opposite ends of one of the most quarterback heavy first rounds in NFL Draft history. The underlying message of the story is that many teams missed out by not taking Dan Marino when they had the chance, just as the Colts messed up by burning their relationship with Elway to the ground.

1 2000 – Tom Brady to the New York Jets

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the years go on, it becomes more and more difficult to deny Tom Brady his place atop the list of all-time great NFL quarterbacks. No matter how you judge a great quarterback, you have to consider Tom Brady to be – at the very least – on the short list of the best to ever play the game. Brady’s tremendous NFL career started when the Patriots selected him in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft with the 199th overall pick, which has led many fans to wonder what would have happened if their team had been the one to put their faith in Brady.

Given that the New York Jets were the only team to select a quarterback in the first round that year, we'll go with them. They used that pick on the good, but not great, Chad Pennington, and later had to endure years playing in the same division as Brady. We feel safe in saying that they regret this missed opportunity more than most.

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Top 15 NFL Quarterbacks Who Were Drafted In The Wrong Spot And Where They Should Have Gone