It seems to be a universally accepted idea that a team needs to have an elite quarterback to win a Super Bowl. As a result, every year, teams seem to draft quarterbacks way earlier than they should, sacrificing a chance to just select the best possible player. Sure, things get easier when you have a Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton leading your team, but you can’t go out and force it either. Drafting a quarterback in the first round doesn’t make him a franchise quarterback, that can only be proven with the on-field production by the player in the pros.
Take a look at this year’s draft class for example. It’s not the most stacked draft in recent years and is especially not that strong at quarterback. Yet many mock drafts have guys like Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch going at no.2 overall to Cleveland, as the Browns are in desperate need of a quarterback due to whiffing on so many first round selections since the franchise’s return to Cleveland. In many years, Lynch and Goff wouldn’t be talked about as first-round picks. It’s not that there’s no chance of them eventually becoming star quarterbacks in the league, but it seems a lack of depth at QB in this draft has pushed them to the ceiling.
Many quarterbacks are unfairly labeled as busts after being picked so high and not performing to those expectations, but the onus is more on the teams for placing too much value on them. If you get a hamburger, you can’t go around and tell people that it’s filet mignon. It’s your fault for selling the hamburger for something it’s not, not the hamburger’s fault.
This list is for quarterbacks who should have been drafted in later rounds, but due to teams being desperate for that shiny new franchise QB, overreached for them. Some outright busts will be in here, but so will those who just never should have been drafted so high in the first place.
15) David Carr – 1st overall, 2002
This is one of those where I’m blaming the team more than the player. The Houston Texans were an expansion team going into the 2002 season and drafting a quarterback first overall, then throwing him into the fire surrounded by expansion team talent was setting a young quarterback up to fail. David Carr was sacked 76 times in his rookie year, and as a result, threw nine touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Carr would eventually have a few seasons where he threw more touchdowns than interceptions, but could never find his footing as a starter. He would play 11 seasons in the NFL, but after his five years in Houston, became a career backup.
14) Patrick Ramsay – 32nd overall, 2002
The Tulane product just barely cracked the list as a first round pick, going with the last pick of the first round in 2002 to Washington, who traded up to get him. Patrick Ramsey was brought in to replace Tony Banks, but couldn’t grasp Steve Spurrier’s “fun ‘n’ gun” offense. Spurrier’s offense in the NFL was prone to allow sacks and sure enough, Ramsey was one of the league’s most sacked quarterbacks in his 2003 season. After a couple of years under Joe Gibbs, Ramsey was demoted to a a backup role following a neck injury and was traded to the Jets in 2006. He would spend the rest of his career as a backup.
13) Rex Grossman – 22nd overall, 2003
Rex Grossman was pretty open about the fact that he wanted to be a gunslinger, akin to his idol Brett Favre. Unfortunately, the Bears were built on a strong defense and what they really needed from their quarterback was to protect the ball. Grossman had some good games in his career, but when he was bad, he was downright awful. In the Bears’ 2006 season, their run to the Super Bowl, Grossman threw 20 interceptions to go with his 23 touchdowns. This led to fans and media labeling him as either “Good Rex” or “Bad Rex” depending on how he performed in a particular game. He also proved to be very injury prone, earning him other nicknames such as “Rex Glassman” and “Wrecks Grossman.”
12) E.J. Manuel – 16th overall, 2013
Everybody and their mother knew the 2013 draft class was not a good one for quarterbacks and that there were no quarterbacks worth taking in the first round. Leave it to the Bills to go against logic. Perhaps it’s a little early to give up on EJ Manuel, but early into his second season, coach Doug Marrone benched Manuel in favor of Kyle Orton. Coming into the 2015 season after Orton’s retirement and Marrone’s departure, Manuel again lost the starting job, this time to Tyrod Taylor, who proved to be very effective as a mobile quarterback. Manuel might have been a very good pick as a third rounder, but the Bills rushed into the selection in hopes of finding their answer to Tom Brady.
11) Jake Locker – 8th overall, 2011
The Tennessee Titans had just moved on from Vince Young and coach Jeff Fisher, so they pulled a classic case of overreaching for a franchise quarterback. Funnily enough, Jake Locker was originally touted to be the first overall pick before Cam Newton took college football by storm in the 2010 season. Locker went 8th overall to Tennessee when there was still elite talent available in J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn and Tyron Smith. The Titans could have easily waited until the second round or traded back to take Locker late in the first.
Locker spent his rookie season as a backup to Matt Hasselbeck and when he became starter, could never stay healthy. His first month in, he tore his non-throwing shoulder and missed six weeks. In 2013, Locker injured his hip and leg, again in the first month of the season. After a three-week absence, Locker returned, only to suffer a Lisfranc injury, ending his season. In 2014, Locker battled injuries and eventually lost his starting job. He would retire after the season, citing a lack of desire to play any longer.
10) Kyle Boller – 19th overall, 2003
The Ravens were sick of being over-reliant on their defense to win them Super Bowls, so they looked for a viable option at quarterback, drafting Kyle Boller 19th overall in 2003. Boller set many Cal records in college but would only start all 16 games of a season once, in 2004. Boller would suffer a turf toe injury in 2005, keeping him out of action for half the season. After that season, the Ravens traded for Steve McNair, who unseated Boller as the starter due to McNair’s career credentials.
McNair battled many injuries himself, but Boller was never able to convince the Ravens he was their guy. They would draft Joe Flacco in 2008, essentially ending Boller’s career as a starter.
9) Christian Ponder – 12th overall, 2011
Just a few picks after the Titans overreached at quarterback, the Vikings did them one better, taking Christian Ponder, whom many agreed should only have gone as high as a third rounder. The Vikings were desperate for a quarterback, having begged Brett Favre to return for the 2010 season, only to see it blow up in their face.
Donovan McNabb was brought in for Ponder to sit and learn from, but McNabb was so ineffective, Ponder came in after five games and played out the rest of the season. In 2012, Ponder was a decent game manager, as Adrian Peterson was challenging for Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. The following season, Ponder was very ineffective as a starter, leading to the Vikings drafting Teddy Bridgewater 32nd overall in 2014.
8) J.P. Losman – 22nd overall, 2004
The Buffalo Bills had attempted to thwart the Patriots by getting Drew Bledsoe, the guy whose starting job was taken from him by Brady. They traded up into the first round to take Losman, who would spend his first season as Bledsoe’s backup. When Losman took over the reins in 2005, he struggled with accuracy and consistency, losing his starting job to veteran Kelly Holcomb. He showed improvement for an undermanned Bills offense in 2006, inspiring hope for 2007. Losman would get hurt in 2007, opening the door for Trent Edwards to start.
7) Brandon Weeden – 22nd overall, 2012
Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill. All four of them were first round picks in the 2012 draft, as teams were desperate for help at quarterback. Weeden was a risk as a 28-year-old rookie, but his performance at Oklahoma State, including a bowl win over Andrew Luck’s Stanford Cardinal, convinced the Browns he was worth the risk. Weeden immediately made the Browns regret their decision, throwing four interceptions in his first game and posting a 5.1 passer rating. Weeden would actually end up throwing for a Browns rookie record of 3,385 yards, but also threw 17 interceptions.
His 2013 season saw him throw nine interceptions to nine touchdowns in eight games, starting five. The Browns would release Weeden after the 2013 season. As you’ve seen with the Cowboys the last two seasons, Weeden is now relegated to a backup role, and a poor one at that.
6) Blaine Gabbert – 10th overall, 2011
Blaine Gabbert was once touted by many in the media as the guy who should have gone first overall to the Carolina Panthers in 2011 instead of Cam Newton. It was viewed as an enormous steal by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who took Weeden 10th overall after trading up with Washington. What they should have done is prevented J.J. Watt from going to Houston at no.11. Gabbert played three seasons in Jacksonville, throwing 22 touchdowns to 24 interceptions.
He lost his starting job in his third year to Chad Henne after suffering multiple injuries early in the season. The Jags moved on by drafting Blake Bortles and now Gabbert finds himself with potential to win a starting job in San Francisco.
5) Matt Leinart – 10th overall, 2006
Matt Leinart was once seen as a potential as being the best quarterback available in the 2006 draft, only to see teams like the Titans and Broncos pass up on him in favor of Vince Young and Jay Cutler. Leinart would land in Arizona. He would start 11 games in his rookie year, thorwing for 2,547 yards and 11 touchdowns, but 12 interceptions. Early in his 2007 season, Leinart was placed on injured reserve, allowing Kurt Warner to take the starting job. Warner never looked back, as he experienced a career resurgence. Even after Warner’s retirement in 2010, Leinart lost the starting job to Derek Anderson in training camp and was released. After failed stints in Oakland and Buffalo, Leinart called it a career.
4) Joey Harrington – 3rd overall, 2002
Joey Harrington was just one of many poor drafting decisions by the Detroit Lions. Unlike Leinart, Harrington actually started at least 10 games in all of his NFL seasons, but never managed to finish with a winning record. Harrington’s career numbers included 79 touchdowns to 85 interceptions in 76 career starts. Harrington, like many on this list, may have been a victim of going to a talent depleted team, with a shaky front office and coaching carousel. The Lions gave up on him after four seasons after signing veterans Jon Kitna and Josh McCown. He would finish his career with stints in Miami, Atlanta and New Orleans.
3) Tim Tebow – 25th overall, 2010
Well, truth be told, with the way the Broncos defense played this year, it’s very possible Tim Tebow could have been a Super Bowl winning quarterback if he was still their starter.
Needless to say, it was an ill advised pick by the Broncos in 2010 to take Tebow in the first round after many questioned if his style would even translate to the NFL level. Tebowmania ran wild in 2011 after an ineffective Kyle Orton was benched, the Broncos would go 7-4 under Tebow, winning many games via late fourth quarter comebacks and won the AFC West with a 8-8 record. The Broncos would fall via blowout to New England in the playoffs, leading the team to sign Peyton Manning. Since then, Tebow has yet to start a single game, after being cut by the Jets, Patriots and Eagles.
2) Johnny Manziel – 22nd overall, 2014
Johnny Manziel showed some on-field promise after a disastrous rookie campaign. His first NFL start saw him go 10-of-18 for 80 yards and two interceptions. This year, Manziel managed to see the field in 10 games, starting six. His performances weren’t all that bad, but Manziel has been nothing short of a trainwreck off the field as an NFL quarterback. There have been reports of Manziel lying to his coaches, showing up to practice hungover and more serious reports recently of striking and threatening his ex-girlfriend. The Browns have already said they will cut Manziel this offseason. This is a guy who has to get his personal life in order before even thinking about football again.
1) Jamarcus Russell
Of course, it had to be JaMarcus. Russell is just an outright bust, after being one of the most hyped quarterbacks of all time due to his unbelievable arm strength and natural talent. The problem was, he had a poor work ethic. Russell held out for a contract going into camp and was eventually given $32 million guaranteed. Russell then seemed unmotivated, going 7-18 as a starter, with an 18-23 TD-INT ratio, along with 15 lost fumbles. Russell was often cited as being out of shape and having attitude problems. The Raiders released Russell after three seasons and no team signed Russell after that.
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