Barring an unforeseen trade for an established veteran, the Washington Commanders appear poised to enter the 2022 NFL Draft with quarterback as a major need. If you listen to draft experts out there, it may not be the best timing.
This year's crop of quarterbacks, which includes Liberty's Malik Willis and Pitt's Kenny Pickett, is being widely panned. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer surveyed some NFL talent evaluators after the Senior Bowl and found more than one who thinks the 2022 class doesn't have a single NFL starting quarterback in the mix. Not a superstar, not a star, a starter.
If true, that is a bleak outlook for any team searching for a fix at the sport's most important position. But is it truly possible that an entire draft class, with more than 250 total players selected across seven rounds, could produce zero capable quarterbacks?
That got me thinking about how often quarterback draft classes are complete flops. It turns out that does happen, though it's pretty rare. Looking at the last 10 years, 2013 certainly stands out in that regard. The two best quarterbacks taken were Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel.
That class, in which Manuel (16th overall) was the only signal-caller taken in the first round, was widely slammed going in and the predictions were correct. The 2015 draft class, which saw Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota go No. 1 and No. 2, was also a bad year to draft a quarterback, though more unexpectedly.
That's about it, though. Usually, each draft class has at least one good quarterback in the group. And sometimes the evaluators (and the teams making the picks) are wrong on more than one quarterback in a given year.
Also, if you average it out over 10 years, the overall odds of at least a solid quarterback being available in each draft improve. In the past decade, for instance, 115 total quarterbacks have been drafted and 20 of them made at least one Pro Bowl.
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That's an average of two per year and 17.4% of all quarterbacks drafted. Now, the Pro Bowl is not a perfect measure by any means. It includes some who either were never very good like Winston and Mitchell Trubisky and others who had short-lived peaks like Jared Goff and Robert Griffin III.
Where things can get a bit subjective is determining which quarterbacks taken in the last 10 years would have been worth the 11th overall pick, which the Commanders currently hold. I came up with 17 of them and split them into categories:
True stars: Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert
Above average: Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Kyler Murray
Still worth taking 11th overall: Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill
Naturally, there will be disagreement on who fits into which categories and those on the borderline of being worth the 11th pick. It also does not include quarterbacks from the 2021 class, as it's probably too early to tell on all of them. Certainly, you could advocate for Mac Jones or Trevor Lawrence to be included.
Goff, Garoppolo and Tannehill being good enough to lead well-built teams to the postseason multiple times earns them nod as worth the 11th pick. Wentz was an MVP finalist before he tore his ACL. If the Commanders drafted a quarterback at 11 who was that good in his second year, no one would complain about it.
While Mayfield is probably the most questionable, finding a quarterback who at his best is about league average is not bad value for 11th overall. Sure, it would be ideal to draft a star, but even a middle-of-the-road quarterback would represent a major step forward for the Commanders.
So, what does all of this mean? Basically, there were roughly 17 quarterbacks worth the 11th overall pick in a 10-year span, meaning on average there is more than one per draft class. Of those 17, seven of them were taken after the 11th pick in their respective drafts. Also, of the 20 quarterbacks drafted in the last 10 years who made the Pro Bowl, nine were taken after 11th.
The list of 17 also doesn't take into account a situation like that of Jones and the Patriots. He was picked 15th overall in 2021 and, with the help of a great defense, was good enough to get New England to the playoffs. If the Commanders select a quarterback at 11th and they make the playoffs next year with him under center, that would represent an initial success.
All of this would suggest that odds are somebody in this year's class is going to be fairly good. Maybe it's Willis or Pickett, Matt Corral of Ole Miss, Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati or Carson Strong of Nevada. Maybe the evaluators were wrong just like they were on Wilson, Prescott, Jackson, Carr and Cousins.
Certainly, the Commanders can hope it's not a repeat of 2013.