NFL Draft: The Best QB in Each Class

It is highly likely that the Cincinnati Bengals will draft LSU QB Joe Burrow with their #1 pick on April 23, 2020.

That means the Bengals consider Burrow to be the best quarterback in the draft. But is it a sure thing that he maintains that position?

In the last 7 drafts (2012-2018), only once has the first quarterback taken, been the best quarterback in the draft. In the four years prior (2008-2011), the first QB taken, was in fact, the best QB, in hindsight.

Best QB in each draft

2019 – last year’s draft is too small of a sample size. You could make an easy argument that Kyler Murray is the best, but let’s see how Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock perform in year 2. After the 2018 season, you would have assumed Baker Mayfield or maybe Sam Darnold were locks to be the best, before Lamar Jackson’s major breakout MVP season. Speaking of which…

2018 – Lamar Jackson (5th QB drafted)

Mayfield was drafted first by the Browns, Darnold 3rd by the Jets. Later, Josh Allen was 7th to Bills and Josh Rosen was 10th to Cardinals. Ravens, who passed on Jackson with the 25th pick, traded back into the first round to select Jackson. Lamar, of course, won the NFL MVP award in 2019 after throwing for 3,127 yards, running for 1,206 yards and combining for 43 touchdowns (36 pass, 7 rush) and just 6 interceptions.

2017 – Patrick Mahomes (2nd QB drafted)

FACE PALM! I will never stop writing, tweeting, and speaking about the fact that Bears GM Ryan Pace traded UP from #3 to #2 to select Mitchell Trubisky. At #10, the Chiefs drafted Mahomes, who won NFL MVP in 2018 and Super Bowl MVP in 2020. Notably, Deshaun Watson was drafted third, at #12 overall. Not an MVP (yet), but a pretty good quarterback.

2016 – Dak Prescott (8th QB drafted)

Okay, this pick is controversial, but let’s first state the obvious – there is zero doubt that both Dak AND Carson Wentz are better than Jared Goff, who the Rams drafted #1. Availability is important and Prescott has started 64 out of 64 possible games, while Wentz has started 56. Wentz also started his first playoff game in 2020, after missing the previous two years with injuries. He left this game early due to injury too.

Again, you can make a case for either QB to be the best, but you can’t make a case to justify Jared Goff as the best QB of this draft.

2014 – Jimmy Garoppolo (5th QB drafted)

Three quarterbacks were picked in the first round – Blake Bortles (#3), Johnny Manziel (#22) and Teddy Bridgewater (#32). Derek Carr (#36) was a second round pick along with Garoppolo. Say what you want about Jimmy G and his tendency to be a “game manager”, but he is a winner. He has a career record of 21-5 and helped lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

2013 – Geno Smith (2nd QB drafted)

I wrote about this draft recently. It stunk. It’s probably the worst QB draft of all-time. The only first round pick was EJ Manuel at #16 to the Bills. Geno Smith, by process of everyone else being awful, is the best QB from this draft. Recommend you read the 2013 recap and see for yourself how bad it was.

2012 – Russell Wilson (6th QB drafted)

Andrew Luck went #1 and it would be fun to debate whether or not you would want to have Luck or Wilson, but following his abrupt departure and considering his overall struggles with injuries compared to Wilson’s clean slate of health and Super Bowl experience, it’s not a great debate. Luck was #1 over Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

When the first QB drafted is the best QB drafted

2015 – Jameis Winston

In hindsight, this was a pretty awful drafted for QBs. Winston went #1 to the Bucs and Marcus Mariota went #2 to the Titans. Both QBs won Heisman Trophies and competed for National Championships and entered the league with a ton of hype and buzz. Now? With both contracts up, Mariota will likely enter purgatory as a backup with a questionable future and Winston’s status moving forward is a big unknown.

Only 7 QBs were drafted. Maybe the 3rd best was Trevor Siemian, who was the 7th QB taken by the Broncos in the 7th round.

2011 – Cam Newton

Cam is the only quarterback in the last 20 years to be the #1 pick and win the league MVP award (last one was Peyton Manning, drafted in 1998). Ironically, those two QBs opposed each other in Super Bowl 50 in 2015. Newton is no longer the quarterback he once was as his body is breaking down, but for much of his career he was one of the most exciting playoffs in the NFL, due to his ability to run and force defenders to miss, while he bowls over them and his strong arm and passing ability.

2010 – Sam Bradford

Sadly, injuries held Bradford back for an even greater and special career. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2009 at Oklahoma and never started a playoff game in the NFL. His stats were fine, his career as a whole was good, if only a little underwhelming. But the next best QBs in this draft were Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow. Tebow, by the way, is the only QB drafted in 2010 to both start and win an NFL playoff game.

2009 – Matthew Stafford

Stafford is one of two active starting QBs from 2019 that has started multiple playoff games in his career and has 0 playoff wins (0-3 and Andy Dalton is the other). In some ways, Mark Sanchez has been more successful than Stafford, having led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010. But he is not a better QB than Stafford, who has had a really good, and rather underrated career, to-date.

2008 – Matt Ryan

Ryan is the only QB in this group who was not the #1 pick. He was drafted 3rd by the Falcons after the Dolphins took Jake Long #1 and the Rams took Chris Long #2. Rams would draft Bradford first just two years later and the Dolphins drafted Ryan Tannehill in the top 10 in 2012. Ryan is still with the Falcons and won NFL MVP in 2016, leading the Falcons to the Super Bowl (a loss to the Patriots). Joe Flacco was the only other QB drafted in the first round (#18) and while he did something Ryan did not (winning the Super Bowl) he is not and has not ever been a better QB, outside of that one month in 2013 where he was “elite”.

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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