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Friday, April 28, 2006
The Dangers of Drafting a Quarterback in the First Round--Updated!

Almost every year there is a quarterback who is touted as a "can't miss" Hall of Famer. Sometimes the draft experts are right (Troy Aikman, John Elway), sometimes they are wrong (Todd Marinovich, Ryan Leaf). I thought I'd take a quick look at ten years of quarterbacks drafted in the first round. I looked at 1983-1992, because those quarterbacks have either completed their careers or are nearing the end.

1983. The most famous quarterback draft of all time. QBs drafted in the first round and an assessment of their careers:

John Elway. A fine pick, a no questions unanswered Hall of Famer.
Todd Blackledge. A major league bust.
Jim Kelly. Fine pick. Hall of Famer.
Tony Eason. I've never quite understood what happened to Eason. In his third season he led his team to three consecutive playoff victories on the road, but was benched after throwing only 6 passes in the Super Bowl. After that his career was basically over. Obviously must be considered a bust.
Ken O'Brien. About midway through the 1986 season, the New York Jets looked like they had gotten the best player in this draft. O'Brien had won the NFL passing title in 1985, and was on his way to a possible MVP season in 1986 when his arm suddenly went dead. Not a bust, certainly, but not a jackpot either.
Dan Marino. A great pick, another Hall of Famer.

1984: Believe it or not, no quarterbacks were drafted in the first round of 1984.

1985: Ditto.

1986: There were two quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 1986 draft:

Jim Everett. Not a bust but not a great pick either. Career went downhill after he sacked himself (memorably) in the 1989 NFC Championship.

Chuck Long. Bust.

1987: There were four quarterbacks drafted:

Vinny Testaverde. Looked like a bust his first few years, but had a long career (and was still playing last season).

Kelly Stouffer. Bust.

Chris Miller. Bust.

Jim Harbaugh. Bust. Update: John Ruberry makes a good point in the comments, that Harbaugh is underrated here. Even though I was never a fan, Harbaugh was an okay player with 23,000 yards (exactly) passing and over 110 TD passes, so calling him a bust is wrong, as would be calling him a near bust.




Troy Aikman was the first pick in the draft. Jackpot for the Cowboys with three championships led by this Hall of Famer.


Jeff George. Woulda shoulda coulda. The original million dollar arm and a ten cent head to go with it. Not quite a bust, but pretty close to it.

Andre Ware. Bust.


Dan McGwire. Brother of Mark, famed baseball player. Bust.

Todd Marinovich. Famous bust.


David Klingler. Famous bust.

Tommy Maddox. Near bust who came back to have a modest career before Ben Roethlisberger came along.

So there you have it. Ten years of drafting quarterbacks. Nineteen quarterbacks drafted. Four great players, four good players (O'Brien, Testaverde, Harbaugh and Everett), two near busts (George & Maddox), and nine complete washouts. A cautionary tale for the fans of whatever team gets Matt Leinart and Vince Young tomorrow.


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