Ranking the 55 Quarterbacks Taken in the First Round Since Start of BCS Era


Here’s a ranking of all 55 quarterbacks taken in the first round of the NFL draft since the start of the BCS era. The criteria include both on-field performance and draft status. At the bottom of the list–the busts–draft status matters more because none of those players panned out or had great seasons. The bigger busts are the ones that required more investment and had more expectation. Toward the top of the list, performance mattered way more than what part of the first round a player was picked.

55. Ryan Leaf (No. 2, Chargers, 1998) — Known almost as well as a pain killer addict as the San Diego Chargers former quarterback, Leaf’s career was over in three seasons.

54. JaMarcus Russell (No. 1, Raiders, 2007) — Russell managed to stick around for 31 games instead of Leaf’s 25. Also, Russell admitted he was addicted to codeine, a painkiller. That’s a sad parallel with Leaf.

53. Akili Smith (No. 3, Bengals, 1999) — This guy was truly horrific. He had six touchdowns (5 passing, 1 rushing) in 22 games.

52. Tim Couch (No. 1, Browns, 1999) He’s the guy atop the infamous and viral jersey, which listed the Browns’ failed quarterbacks. Fittingly, he’s the headliner. He’s probably the worst pick in the history of Cleveland’s sad franchise.

51. Brady Quinn (No. 22, Cleveland, 2007) — Also on that infamous jersey. Also a terrible pick.

50. Matt Leinart (No. 10, Cardinals, 2006) — Even more so than his USC teammate Reggie Bush, Leinart was a much better college player than he was a pro.

49. Johnny Manziel (No. 22, Browns, 2014) — Yes, another Browns quarterback. At least, they don’t have the worst quarterback on this list.

48. Paxton Lynch (No. 26, Broncos, 2016) — He’s not out of the league — yet. But the Broncos may draft a quarterback at No. 5 overall. They also signed Case Keenum. They have zero respect for Lynch, who has four unimpressive starts to his name.

47. EJ Manuel (No. 16, Bills 2013) — At the time, this pick made little sense. It still doesn’t.

46. Christian Ponder (No. 12, Vikings, 2011) — In his final years in the league, he went three seasons with three different teams without recording a single statistic. Not great.

45. Cade McNown (No. 12, Bears, 1999) — Who? The quarterback busts of the late 1990s didn’t even have the luxury of inflated passing statistics like the busts which have come later. McNown averaged 170.6 passing yards per start.

44. Joey Harrington (No. 3, Lions, 2002) — It’s too bad Twitter didn’t exist when Harrington entered the league, because folks with egg avatars would’ve gone to town.

43. David Carr (No. 1, Texans, 2002) — He was always a bad pro quarterback. But somehow, he played in the NFL until he was 33.

42. Jake Locker (No. 8, Titans, 2011) — He retired at a time when he looked like a career backup.

41. Blaine Gabbert (No. 10, Jaguars, 2011) — He had two games in 2017 when he threw more touchdowns than interceptions. It was truly shocking.

40. Kyle Boller (No. 18, Ravens, 2003) — He and his rocket arm started 55 Ravens’ games, the second-most in franchise history. What a waste.

39. Tim Tebow (No. 25, Broncos, 2010) — He’ll always have this throw.

38. Byron Leftwich (No. 7, Jaguars, 2003) — His touchdown-to-interception radio is pretty good (58:42). But he averaged fewer than one passing touchdown per game. 60 games, 58 passing touchdowns.

37. Rex Grossman (No. 22, Bears, 2003) — He’s the worst first-rounder quarterback to make it to the Super Bowl. Gross, man.

36. Patrick Ramsey (No. 32, Redskins, 2002) — Carr, Harrington and Ramsey? The 2002 class stunk.

35. Brandon Weeden (No. 22, Browns, 2012) — He’s a shockingly bad quarterback, who has somehow survived six seemingly long years in the NFL (and counting).

34. J.P. Losman (No. 22, Bills, 2004) — He always felt a little hapless in the pocket — and that’s not what you want in quarterback.

33. Robert Griffin III (No. 2, Redskins, 2012) — The breakable man’s incredible rookie season only gets him so far.

32. Josh Freeman (No. 17, Buccaneers, 2009) — I’m a firm believer Freeman didn’t get the chances he was due in the NFL. He’s strikes me as player who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

31. Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32, Vikings, 2014) — A surprisingly average quarterback, who may never get the chance to prove himself after his devastating knee injury.

30. Vince Young (No. 3, Titans, 2006) — He got to Philly six years too early. The rise of run-pass-option might have helped Young excel — especially under a coach like Doug Pederson.

29. Mark Sanchez (No. 5, Jets, 2009) — Sanchez’s career will forever be remembered as one play — perhaps unfairly.

28. Patrick Mahomes (No. 10, Chiefs, 2017) — Undefeated, baby (1-0).

27. Mitch Trubisky (No. 2, Bears, 2017) — While Trusbisky’s rookie season was a mixed bag, he came one point from beating Jimmy Garoppolo. That’s the closest anyone has ever gotten.

26. Blake Bortles (No. 3, Jaguars, 2014) — Vanilla ice cream.

25. Jason Campbell (No. 25, Redskins, 2005) — He was a serviceable, efficient journeyman.

24. Ryan Tannehill (No. 8, Dolphins, 2012) — Thought to have a high ceiling coming out of college, he still has a long way to go. But it’s not clear that he can keep developing.

23. Deshaun Watson (No. 12, Texans, 2017) — We didn’t see much, but what we saw was pretty darn impressive.

22. Sam Bradford (No. 1, Rams, 2010) — Bradford is a solid quarterback when he’s on the field. It’s just that his joints have a propensity to spontaneously combust.

21. Chad Pennington (No. 18, Jets, 2000) — If it wasn’t for that shoulder injury…

20. Jay Cutler (No. 11, Broncos, 2006) — Proof that talented quarterbacks should not always be the team’s leader.

19. Jared Goff (No. 1, Rams, 2016) — One year of bad play, one year of really good play, Goff appears poised to jump up these rankings in the coming years with the help of Sean McVay.

18. Daunte Culpepper (No. 11, Vikings, 1999) — He had two incredible seasons (2004, 2000). But the rest of his career was entirely forgettable.

17. Jameis Winston (No. 1, Buccaneers, 2015) — He doesn’t seem to be making a great deal of progress as a signal-caller. But he has still managed to throw for 4,000 yards in two of his first three seasons.

16. Marcus Mariota (No. 2, Titans, 2015) — Mariota’s hamstring issues proved problematic in a season where everything else was going right for the Titans. The arrow seems to be pointing up for the Hawaiian.

15. Joe Flacco (No. 18, Ravens, 2008) — His playoff performances and Super Bowl win don’t completely outweigh his non-elite behavior outside the playoffs. Example A: he’s never thrown for more than 27 touchdowns in a season.

14. Matthew Stafford (No. 1, Lions, 2009) — When he got a new contract, there was an outpouring of praise for Stafford. He’s a very good quarterback. But if he can’t start getting to the playoffs and winning, he’ll be quickly forgotten after he retires.

13. Alex Smith (No. 1, 49ers, 2005) — Probably the best game manager in the history of the sport. And that’s a genuine compliment.

12. Carson Wentz (No. 2, Eagles, 2016) — He’s got a Super Bowl ring after just two seasons. It’s a shame he didn’t actually win it himself. What a remarkable season he was having before he tore his ACL.

11. Carson Palmer (No. 1, Bengals, 2003) — There’s something to be said for a guy who succeeded statistically in three different places.

10. Michael Vick (No. 1, Falcons, 2001) — The NFL had not seen anyone like Vick. And they haven’t seen anyone like him since.

9. Phillip Rivers (No. 4, Giants, 2004) — Rivers is a fantasy football hero. But he’s played just two playoff games in the last eight seasons.

8. Donovan McNabb (No. 2, Eagles, 1999) — McNabb was hugely prolific. But he had no Super Bowl wins. And what quarterback doesn’t know that you can tie?

7. Andrew Luck (No. 1, Colts, 2012) — Once healthy again, Luck should continue his rise to the top of the quarterback ranks. He’s got every physical and mental tool a good quarterback should have.

6. Cam Newton (No. 1, Panthers, 2011) — Between his arm strength, his size and his speed, Newton is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.

5. Matt Ryan (No. 3, Falcons, 2008) — With seven consecutive seasons passing for over 4,000 yards, Ryan has an MVP and a Super Bowl appearance to boot. Now, he’s got to win one (or two or three).

4. Eli Manning (No. 1, Giants, 2004) — Eli was a difficult quarterback to rank. He’s not the type of stat-producing quarterback teams want to build a franchise around. But then again, he’s got two Super Bowl wins.

3. Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11, Steelers, 2004) — Bad guy. Great quarterback.

2. Aaron Rodgers (No. 24, Packers, 2005) — The best thing that’s ever happened at No. 24 overall.

1. Peyton Manning (No. 1, Colts, 1998) — One of the best ever, Manning is all that anyone could ever hope for in a No. 1 overall pick.