In fewer than 50 days, the 2023 NFL Draft is to commence, with multiple quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first round. Carolina recently traded up to the No. 1 overall selection for the right to select their quarterback of choice. Selecting the first quarterback does not necessarily mean that team will walk away with the draft’s best quarterback, however.
Situation matters; coaching and a strong supporting cast are vital for a young quarterback, as they lay a foundation for the rest of his career. Few are truly unable to carry the team out of the mud.
Here is a look at the first five quarterbacks selected in each draft class since 2010:
1. Kenny Pickett , Pittsburgh (No. 20 overall) Desmond Ridder , Cincinnati (No. 74 overall) Malik Willis , Liberty (No. 86 overall) Matt Corral , Ole Miss (No. 94 overall) Bailey Zappe , Western Kentucky (No. 137 overall)
Other notable : Sam Howell , North Carolina (No. 144 overall), Brock Purdy , Iowa State (No. 262 overall)
It is early in the career of these young quarterbacks. Pickett started 12 games and showed some promise. Howell, Ridder, Zappe and Willis combined for 10 starts; Zappe played well enough to stir a micro quarterback controversy in Foxboro. Purdy started eight games, including three in a postseason run for the 49ers .
1. Trevor Lawrence , Clemson (No. 1 overall) Zach Wilson , BYU (No. 2 overall) Trey Lance , North Dakota State (No. 3 overall) Justin Fields , Ohio State (No. 11 overall) Mac Jones , Alabama (No. 15 overall)
Other notable : Davis Mills , Stanford (No. 67 overall)
It has been a tale of two seasons for Lawrence. There were the pre- and post-Urban Meyer eras. Lawrence performed closer to the expectations of a franchise quarterback this season under the direction of head coach Doug Pederson. The season extended beyond the wild-card round with a victory over the Chargers .
Wilson has been more frustrating than exciting to this point in his career. There is too much hero ball and poor decision-making. His on-field performance likely led to the team’s pursuit of veteran Aaron Rodgers . Lance was finally handed the keys to a starting role this season but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the second game.
Fields has been a predominant runner in his fledgling career. The Bears catered the offense towards his skillset during the second half of the 2022 season and Fields showed progress. Jones was in the hunt for Offensive Rookie of the Year last season but, as noted above, found himself in more headlines than stat sheets this season trying to fend off rookie Bailey Zappe. Mills has started 26 games, which is the third-most among this quarterback class behind Lawrence (34) and Jones (31).
Lawrence is the only quarterback from this group to inspire confidence, while Fields has done enough to bring hope to the Windy City. It is still early in their respective careers, though.
1. Joe Burrow , LSU (No. 1 overall) Tua Tagovailoa , Alabama (No. 5 overall) Justin Herbert , Oregon (No. 6 overall) Jordan Love , Utah State (No. 26 overall) Jalen Hurts , Oklahoma (No. 53 overall)
Outside of Burrow’s injury, he has been the best among this quarterback class. He has led Cincinnati to consecutive AFC Championship game appearances despite unstable offensive line play. Tagovailoa has been a solid quarterback when healthy, but that is obviously going to be the predominant narrative moving forward.
Herbert is a luxury car with all of the bells and whistles that has done more residential driving than exploring the ocean shores that are the postseason. He has all the necessary tools to be the best quarterback of this group, but does not have the postseason success to stack up favorably to Burrow.
Fans may finally get an extended look at Love this coming season , as it appears Aaron Rodgers will transition from the dark green pastures of Green Bay to the hunter green pastures of New York. Hurts began his career backing up Carson Wentz but is now charging up the ranks with a runner-up finish in the Super Bowl .
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1. Kyler Murray , Oklahoma (No. 1 overall) Daniel Jones , Duke (No. 6 overall) Drew Lock , Missouri (No. 42 overall) Will Grier , West Virginia (No. 100 overall)
Other notable : Jarrett Stidham , Auburn (No. 133 overall), Gardner Minshew , Washington State (No. 178 overall)
It is not a particularly stellar quarterback class in hindsight. The first two taken have had the most productive, lucrative careers. It goes to show how situation and coaching can alter one’s perspective of a player. In 2021, New York declined Jones’ fifth-year option worth $22.3 million. Prior to the season, Giants head coach Brian Daboll himself admitted that he did not envision Daniel Jones playing himself into a position to receive the contract (4 years, $160 million) that he recently received. Daboll had Jones looking like a quality NFL quarterback and a player who the franchise felt was indispensable.
Murray has looked like a game-changer when available. When defenses feel like they have him cornered, he scampers for a first down. The issue has been consistency and off-field murmurings about Murray’s commitment to the game. The Oklahoma product signed a five-year extension worth $230.5 million last offseason. Time will tell if he is the type of quarterback who can lead his team deep into the postseason.
1. Baker Mayfield , Oklahoma (No. 1 overall) Sam Darnold , USC (No. 3 overall) Josh Allen , Wyoming (No. 7 overall) Josh Rosen , UCLA (No. 10 overall) Lamar Jackson , Louisville (No. 32 overall)
Other notable : Mason Rudolph , Oklahoma State (No. 76 overall), Mike White , Western Kentucky (No. 171 overall)
Insiders felt as though Cleveland’s choice at No. 1 overall was likely boiling down to Allen or Darnold the week before the draft. In the final 48 hours, the decision leaked, and it became clear that Mayfield would be the choice. Mayfield nearly won NFL Rookie of the Year. He was efficient and effective despite the dysfunction within the organization. Head coach Hue Jackson was fired and Freddie Kitchens was named head coach the following season. Mayfield has thrown for more than 16,000 yards in his career but has never been named to a Pro Bowl.
Darnold’s career has been worse to this point. His career began with Adam Gase, and now he is on his third team in five years. Rosen’s career has been the worst of the quarterbacks taken in the first round. He was traded after one season in Arizona and has bounced around the league ever since.
Allen is the most successful quarterback from this class thus far, despite being taken third. He has nearly 21,500 all-purpose yards for his career and 176 total touchdowns. The jury was out on Allen even two years into his career, but he blew up shortly thereafter, which is a credit to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and the two-time Pro Bowl selection. Patrick Mahomes and Burrow have been blocking his path to the Super Bowl, but Allen is annually one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Jackson is an MVP winner. He holds multiple NFL rushing records by a quarterback but also led the league in passing touchdowns in 2019. The biggest difference between Jackson and Allen has been availability and postseason success. The former has missed 12 games in his career to Allen’s five. Allen also has twice as many postseason appearances. There is no question Jackson is one of the most unique challenges for defensive coordinators when available, however.
1. Mitch Trubisky , North Carolina (No. 2 overall) Deshaun Watson , Clemson (No. 12 overall) DeShone Kizer , Notre Dame (No. 52 overall) Davis Webb , California (No. 87 overall)
Chicago traded up to select Trubisky, who is now on his third team. Mahomes has an argument as the most talented quarterback to ever play in the NFL and is the first real threat to Tom Brady’s claim as the best quarterback ever. Mahomes has led Kansas City to the Super Bowl in three of the past four seasons, winning two. The Texas Tech product showed this past season that he does not need elite pass-catching talent to achieve the ultimate team goal.
Watson is easily the second-best quarterback from this class, but a lot of work has to be done to repair his public image following allegations of sexual misconduct. Watson has thrown for nearly 16,000 yards despite playing what amounts to four seasons in six years. The quarterback was nowhere near as productive over the past five games as he had been earlier in his career.
1. Jared Goff , California (No. 1 overall) Paxton Lynch , Memphis (No. 26 overall) Christian Hackenberg , Penn State (No. 51 overall) Jacoby Brissett , NC State (No. 91 overall)
Other notable : Dak Prescott , Mississippi State (No. 135 overall)
Goff and Wentz have had years of success but have never been confused for the league’s best quarterback. Each has been to a Super Bowl, and Wentz nearly won MVP. One other commonality between the two is that they have been traded from the respective organizations that picked them in 2016.
Lynch started two games in his NFL career. Brissett has started at least one game for four different franchises, including 11 for the Browns last season. Brissett is a classic example of the quarterback capable of stepping in as a starter, but has been better served as a backup throughout his career.
It looked as though Prescott was going to be the best quarterback from this class by a wide margin. After not missing a game during his first four seasons, the Mississippi State product has now missed 16 games over the past three years. While many have the memory of the Dallas quarterback throwing back-breaking interceptions at the forefront of their minds, Prescott has been efficient throughout his career. The 29-year-old has completed 66.4% of his passes for 166 touchdowns and 65 interceptions. His career will ultimately be judged on postseason success, and he currently has just two postseason victories.
1. Jameis Winston , Florida State (No. 1 overall) Marcus Mariota , Oregon (No. 2 overall) Garrett Grayson , Colorado State (No. 75 overall) Sean Mannion , Oregon State (No. 89 overall) Bryce Petty , Baylor (No. 103 overall)
Other notable : Trevor Siemian , Northwestern (No. 250 overall)
Winston was a volatile quarterback in Tampa Bay. The range of outcomes swung too drastically on a play-by-play basis, so the Buccaneers elected not to hitch their wagon to him long-term. Winston re-signed in New Orleans this offseason as he embarks on his third season. He led the NFL in passing yards in 2019.
Mariota recently signed with his fourth NFL franchise after beginning his journey with Tennessee. Situation called for Siemian to start several games in Denver, but it did not earn him an extended look elsewhere.
1. Blake Bortles , UCF (No. 3 overall) Johnny Manziel , Texas A&M (No. 22 overall) Teddy Bridgewater , Louisville (No. 32 overall) Derek Carr , Fresno State (No. 36 overall) Jimmy Garoppolo , Eastern Illinois (No. 62 overall)
Bortles was never the reason for victory, but he did play well enough for Jacksonville to advance to the Super Bowl had it not been for a blown call. He played for five franchises over the course of eight seasons. Bridgewater was off to a promising start in his career until injuries sent him on a detour. He was never able to fully regain his abilities and has since jumped around as a spot starter and backup.
Carr is similar to Kirk Cousins in that he plays well enough for his teams to have a shot at victory but is often not the reason for victory. The four-time Pro Bowl selection has thrown for more than 35,000 yards in his career, but Las Vegas deemed it not good enough this offseason when it granted his release. He has since signed in New Orleans.
Garoppolo, ironically, just replaced Carr in Las Vegas. He was also drafted with the intent of one day replacing the ultimate draft steal: Tom Brady. Garoppolo was traded to San Francisco when Brady outlasted his contract, but he was not able to do enough to prevent the 49ers’ eyes from wandering. They selected the shiny, new rookie quarterback in 2021 (Lance) with the hope of that player eventually taking over. Garoppolo now has an opportunity to re-kindle his career with old flame Josh McDaniels.
1. EJ Manuel , Florida State (No. 16 overall) Geno Smith , West Virginia (No. 39 overall) Mike Glennon , NC State (No. 73 overall) Matt Barkley , USC (No. 98 overall) Ryan Nassib , Syracuse (No. 110 overall)
Glennon has latched on as a traveled backup quarterback, but few others have amounted to much from this class. Smith is amidst a resurgence in the pacific northwest. He signed a three-year contract with Seattle this off-season but now has to fend off the idea of taking a rookie quarterback in April’s draft.
1. Andrew Luck, Stanford, (No. 1 overall) Ryan Tannehill , Texas A&M (No. 8 overall) Brandon Weeden , Oklahoma State (No. 22 overall) Brock Osweiler , Arizona State (No. 57 overall)
Other notable : Russell Wilson , Wisconsin (No. 75 overall), Nick Foles , Arizona (No. 88 overall), Kirk Cousins, Michigan State (No. 102 overall)
Luck was viewed as one of the safest quarterback prospects to enter the draft since John Elway. He went to four Pro Bowls in seven seasons before abruptly announcing his retirement, which is certainly not something that Indianapolis could have seen forthcoming in its pre-draft evaluation, in 2018. Luck holds the NFL record for passing yards by a rookie quarterback (4,374).
Washington surrendered a massive pile of resources for the right to trade up and select Griffin. He was named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, but injuries began to pile up. The Baylor product played nine seasons in the league with three franchises. Miami essentially gave up on Tannehill and traded him to Tennessee. The Titans were able to resuscitate his career, and he is now going into his fifth season with the franchise. He has thrown for more than 33,000 yards in his career.
Weeden played seven seasons with four franchises. He had some memorable interceptions during his career. Osweiler received a rather large contract from Houston after serving as Peyton Manning’s backup in Denver. Before that contract had come to an end, the Texans shipped him and a second-round pick to Cleveland for the Browns to absorb the remainder of the contract.
The two best quarterbacks to come from this draft class were taken outside of Round 1. Wilson is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl champion. Despite his lack of traditionally ideal size, the third-round choice rose to prominence. He is now going into his 12th NFL season and second with the Broncos since being traded for a package that included multiple first-round picks. Wilson has thrown for 40,583 yards in his career.
Cousins spent the first six seasons of his career attempting to pry the starting role from Griffin. He eventually would, but it was not enough for Washington to pay him the contract he felt he deserved. The Michigan State quarterback is now entering his sixth season in Minneapolis since signing the NFL’s first fully guaranteed contract.
Foles is the other quarterback in this class to win a Super Bowl as a starter.
1. Cam Newton , Auburn (No. 1 overall) Jake Locker , Washington (No. 8 overall) Blaine Gabbert , Missouri (No. 10 overall) Christian Ponder , Florida State (No. 12 overall) Andy Dalton , TCU (No. 35 overall)
Other notable : Colin Kaepernick , Nevada (No. 36 overall), Tyrod Taylor , Virginia Tech (No. 180 overall)
Newton has been an MVP and went to three Pro Bowls. He holds an NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (75). On the field, he was one of the most challenging matchups for opposing defensive coordinators. Injuries derailed his career and prevented him from being effective late into his career.
Dalton led Cincinnati to the playoffs multiple times before becoming a well-traveled veteran quarterback. Kaepernick had some big seasons in San Francisco. Taylor has played replacement level football serving as a starter in certain situations before settling into his role as a mentor and backup.
1. Sam Bradford , Oklahoma (No. 1 overall) Tim Tebow , Florida (No. 25 overall) Jimmy Clausen , Notre Dame (No. 48 overall) Colt McCoy , Texas (No. 85 overall) Mike Kafka , Northwestern (No. 122 overall)
Bradford was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year but missed 15 games over the following three seasons. He battled injuries most of his career, but teams were always willing to take a chance on his potential when available. As a result, Bradford was traded twice during his career.
Tebow had fewer passing yards (2,422) than Clausen (2,520) but did produce a playoff victory for the city of Denver when he found wide receiver Demariyus Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown in overtime. McCoy has had the longest career in the NFL, fulfilling a role as a valuable backup and competent spot starter. He is entering his 14th season in the NFL but has thrown for less than half the yardage (7,975) of Bradford (19,449) in nine seasons.
The 2023 NFL Draft will take place April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Florida’s Anthony Richardson, Kentucky’s Will Levis, Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud are all expected to be taken in the first round.