History tells us that of the five quarterbacks projected to go in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, more than one will be considered a disappointment.
For every success story like Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen, there are multiple signal-callers whose tenure with the team that drafted them will be cut short. After five seasons in the league, ex-Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz is with the Indianapolis Colts, and former 2016 No. 1 pick Jared Goff was traded from the Los Angeles Rams to the Detroit Lions.
Of the five top quarterback prospects coming out in the draft, could there be a bust like JaMarcus Russell, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 by the-then Oakland Raiders? Paxton Lynch only appeared in five games after being taken as the No. 26 overall pick in 2016 by the Denver Broncos.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. spoke to national reporters via conference call on Thursday and shared that he believes the 2021 class of quarterbacks will fall into line with historical statistics.
“I think when you look at the quarterbacks this year, two are going to be good, I think two are going to be bad,” Kiper said. “Out of these five there are going to be two disappointments. One is going to be a complete bust and one is going to be a disappointment, that’s what history tells us.”
Of the 60 quarterbacks who have been drafted in the first round since 2000, only 27 have winning career records, and several not by much. Rex Grossman, the No. 22 overall pick in 2003, retired with a 25-22 record. Even Deshaun Watson through four seasons has a record of 28-25 and Wentz after five years in the league is 35-32-1.
Kiper believes the odds for success depend on where a prospect lands. Consistency and support from a coaching staff makes a huge impact on a quarterback’s development.
Coaching and injuries stunted the development of Sam Darnold, the No 3 pick from 2018. He has already been traded to the Carolina Panthers by the team that drafted him — the New York Jets. In comparison, after a rough start in his rookie season, Josh Allen, who was taken four picks later than Darnold at No. 7, received Pro Bowl honors in 2020 after taking his team to the AFC Championship.
Of the five quarterback prospects, Kiper gives Trevor Lawrence the highest probability for success. The Clemson signal-caller received one of Kiper’s highest ratings by a quarterback since he began his evaluations.
On the other hand, Kiper believes BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones all carry a higher potential risk for failure.
“After Trevor, good luck trying to figure out who the two quarterbacks are who are going to be disappointments or busts,” Kiper said. “All four could be. I would say that when you have 17 starts and you’re coming from the 1-AA level there’s some risk there with Trey Lance.
“Mac Jones only has 17 starts, doesn’t have a tremendous amount of overall natural ability to make things happen with his legs, and if a play breaks down he’s not going to do it. Justin Fields is going to be the fifth quarterback taken. Obviously, the NFL feels that he has more risk. Zach Wilson had one great year at BYU.”
Every player who is drafted carries some risk for failure, and determining who has the highest chance for success is not an exact science. But it is what each team is attempting to do.