While we obsess over how to rank these 2021 NFL Draft QB prospects, it’s important to remember that most of them probably won’t pan out in the pros.
Colin Cowherd shared this image on his show today:
These are the QBs selected in the top 10 of the NFL draft since 2010.
Highlighted are the names Colin considers QBs their teams were/are happy with. That’s 6 out of 23 total QBs drafted in the top 10 that Cowherd considers “hits”. That’s barely 1 in 4.
Now this is not to say the other guys are busts, only that they haven’t quite lived up to their draft hype.
You can definitely nitpick this list if you wanted. For instance, Joe Burrow got hurt halfway through the season due to the fact that his team couldn’t protect him. Jared Goff has made a Super Bowl. Blake Bortles nearly made a Super Bowl. And Carson Wentz would’ve been MVP in 2017 had he not gotten hurt. I think each of those guys’ teams got a lot of mileage out of them.
Baker Mayfield’s team is probably pretty happy with him considering he led them to their first playoff appearance since 2002.
And then on the flip side: really? Kyler Murray? He’s never made the playoffs. As a starter his record is 13-18-1. He’s never thrown for 4,000 yards, and he’s never thrown for 30 TDs. You can say his rushing ability makes up for his underwhelming passing numbers, but how long can he really sustain it? Historically, guys his size who run as much as he does have trouble staying off injured reserve.
But the overall point Colin is trying to make is that one of these five QB prospects is going to be a Josh Rosen, another one is going to be a Mariota, one’s going to be a Sam Bradford, and one’s going to be an RGIII.
If we’re lucky, two of them will pan out and become Pro Bowl-level QBs.
But chances are, at least three of these QBs will disappoint the teams that draft them. In all likelihood, four of them will disappoint.
And while you’re more likely to choose a winner if you’re drafting first overall–3 of Cowherd’s 6 hits were #1 overall picks–there is no guarantee that a guy taken #1 will pan out. For every Andrew Luck, there’s a Jared Goff. For every Cam Newton, there’s a Jameis Winston. Mitch Trubisky went #2 overall in 2017, but he was the #1 QB off the board. Prior to the draft, most of the Experts agreed that he was the best QB in the draft, too. And yet it was Mahomes and Watson, who went later in the first round, that have clearly proven to be the better QBs.
Colin says that Trevor Lawrence is a transcendent talent, so he will very likely succeed. Then, he says the only other guy that will succeed is whomever the 49ers choose at #3.
So Cowherd is implicitly saying he thinks Zach Wilson will be a failure, and his explanation is that the Jets are just too dysfunctional.
He also thinks the 49ers are “bluffing” about taking Mac Jones at #3. I could totally see that being the case, as I wrote the other day: they might’ve been able to still get Jones at #12. Unless Mac Jones is way more popular among NFL insiders than he is with the media, it just feels like Jones is a reach at #3.
So basically what Colin is saying is that Trevor Lawrence will be a smash-hit, and then either Justin Fields or Trey Lance assuming the 49ers are choosing between them.
Colin makes a good point that whether a young QB succeeds or fails has a lot to do with the team he goes to. Sometimes a guy can be thrust into a situation so bad that he can’t overcome all the dysfunction around him, and he ends up becoming a “bust,” even though it’s really not totally his fault. And this is why Colin thinks that whichever QB ends up with the 49ers will succeed: a lot of this is system-dependent.
And here’s the even scarier stat: only one QB drafted in the top 10 over the past decade has led his team to a Super Bowl victory: Patrick Mahomes. Now, if you stretch that back to 2000, it gets a little more encouraging: Joe Flacco (2008, pick 18), Aaron (2005, pick 24), Eli Manning (2004, pick 1) and Big Ben (2004, pick 11) were all first round picks who led the team that drafted them to a Super Bowl title. But still, the track record of QBs in the draft since 2010 has not been pretty.