The more I think of it, the less envious I am of scouts and general managers when it comes to this time of year. Especially, of course, when it comes to breaking down quarterbacks. You know, the guys that lead the team, the cornerstones, the faces of a franchise.
The reason I bring this up is because I was doing a little research the other day for a feature I’m writing on Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler for our big summer preview magazine. I was interested in how that trio potentially matched up with the other good QB classes of years gone by. The problem is, I couldn’t find any other good QB classes, save for maybe two or three.
When talking about quarterbacks, everyone brings up the 1983 class with John Elway, Jim Kelly, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino, among others. And yes, that is one for which all others will be measured against in our generation and the next. For good reason.
But beyond that, pickings are slim. Look for yourself. Here is a mere sampling of the first five quarterbacks taken by year.
1986 – Jim Everett, Chuck Long, Jack Trudeau, Bubby Brister, Hugh Millen
1989 — Troy Aikman, Mike Elkins, Billy Joe Tolliver, Anthony Dilweg, Erik Wilhelm
1991 – Dan McGwire, Todd Marinovich, Brett Favre, Browning Nagle, Scott Zolak
1993 — Drew Bledsoe, Rick Mirer, Billy Joe Hobert, Mark Brunell, Gino Torretta
2000 – Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger
OK, that’s just a taste. You can find more at www.DraftHistory.com. It’s quite remarkable, really, to see how many blunders there have been through the years. Look at the supposed famed year of 1999 that got people all excited: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown were the big five. Three of them are out of the league and have been for some time.
I don’t need to remind anyone about Ryan Leaf going second overall in 1998 (and many personnel people had him ranked ahead of Peyton Manning), but I will refresh your memory about Jeff George and Andrew Ware going in the first seven picks in 1990. Heath Shuler going with the third overall pick in 1994. Tony Banks going 12th overall in 1996. Jim Druckenmiller? Yep, a first-round pick and the first quarterback chosen in 1997. How about David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey and Josh McCown as the first four off the board in 2002. How many of them will be starting come fall?
The class of 2004, with Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, J.P Losman and Matt Schaub has promise, but I think I’ve shown here that it’s an inexact science. The draft is just that in general, but passers tend to be the extreme.
Reason being, there are simply so many variables involved. Like how he adapts from a college system to a pro system, how he senses and avoids pressure or reads defenses both at the line of scrimmage and from the pocket with a blitzing linebacker bearing down on him. Whether or not he’s accurate on the run. Can he make all the throws?
It’s a tough world, this scouting, and after looking back at the QB track record, I’m glad I’m looking in from a distance.