Tonight, live from New York, the three-day celebration of hype and hope known as the NFL Draft kicks off. For most fans, the most important thing is the players their team take (note to Bears: offensive line, offensive line, offensive line). But, overall, the big story is that the two of the worst teams in the NFL are getting new QBs.
Andrew Luck, a prospect that has been drooled over for years, takes over for Peyton Manning in Indy. In three years as a starter at Stanford (he redshirted as a freshman), he finished runner-up in the Heisman race twice, brought his team to two BCS bowls, and finished with 67% completions and an 163 QB rating.
Robert Griffin III tries to save the former flagship franchise of the Washington Redskins, and while the shine is off coach Mike Shanahan, he still has a great pedigree as a QB coach. In three years as a starter at Baylor (he was hurt as a sophomore), he won the Heisman trophy, brought his team from backwater status to relevancy, and finished with 10K years passing, 2K yards rushing and an 155 QB rating.
Both look like can’t-miss prospects, and hold the long-term future of their future teams in their hands. But, the odds are good that one is a mirage.
When you draft a QB (or anybody, really) in the Top Ten, you are looking for a star. The only way the pick can be judged as successful is if: 1.) the player solidifies the position with good play for a long time, or 2.) the player has a run of greatness that a.) brings you a championship, or b.) drives ticket and merchandise sales to a significant degree. While there are obviously ranges of hits (Peyton Manning vs. Drew Bledsoe) and misses (Alex Smith vs. Ryan Leaf), using the above criteria, here are the recent results:
QBs Drafted In The Top Ten During The Past 20 Years:
1992: 0/1: David Klingler
1993: 1/2: Drew Bledsoe; Rick Mirer
1994: 0/2: Trent Dilfer, Heath Shuler
1995: 0/1: Kerry Collins
1998: 1/2: Peyton Manning; Ryan Leaf
1999: 1/3: Donovan McNabb; Tim Couch, Akili Smith
2001: 1/1: Michael Vick
2002: 0/2: David Carr, Joey Harrington
2003: 1/2: Carson Palmer; Byron Leftwich
2004: 2/2: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers
2005: 0/1: Alex Smith
2006: 0/2: Vince Young, Matt Leinart
2007: 0/1: JaMarcus Russell
2008: 1/1: Matt Ryan
2009: 1/2: Matthew Stafford; Mark Sanchez
2010: 1/1: Sam Bradford
2011: 1/3: Cam Newton; Jack Locker, Blaine Gabbert
Note: Every draft from 2008 on is obviously still undecided to different degrees. Given that some QBs from even further back (such as Carson Palmer) are borderline as hit-or-miss, I made my best judgement based on the evidence-to-date.
Unless you truly believe that Mark Sanchez has solved the Jets QB problems long-term (and if you do, I’m guessing The Dilemma would like a word), the only year that more than one star QB was drafted in the Top Ten was 2004, when Eli Manning and Philip Rivers were traded for each other.
Add to this the big risk that each team is taking. The Colts cut ties with Peyton Manning, which was the logical move but still holds the possibility of coming back to haunt them. The Redskins gave up this year’s second rounder and their next two first rounders to move up four spots to grab Griffin. Depleting your drafts to that extent doesn’t have a good track record.
Tonight, the story will be about how both the Colts and the Redskins are facing the future with franchise QBs. In a few years, at least one of these fan bases will probably be bruised and broken, quietly throwing out jerseys and talking themselves into another first round QB. The question is which.
Of course, the Dolphins might reach for Ryan Tannehill at 8, which would help them both out, odds-wise.