With the 2022 NFL season over the for the Seattle Seahawks, fans of the team are already looking ahead and debating how to spend the abundance of draft capital the team holds heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. Specifically, the debate about what the Hawks will do at the quarterback position is already raging, just as it did in 2022 following the trade of Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.
It was that trade, obviously, that landed the Seahawks the first round pick that is set to be fifth overall in the April draft, and has already led to debate that the Hawks could look to use that selection to add a potential franchise quarterback. That, of course, has led to the merits of taking a quarterback with the fifth overall selection, as opposed to addressing the other holes on the roster.
With the debate having gone down that path, it has reached the discussion of how risky it is to take a quarterback relative to other positions. Quarterback, as the most difficult position in the NFL, is one of the most likely to bust at the top of the first round, but which carries the greatest upside reward when a franchise quarterback is found. Thus, the question becomes what can one expect from a quarterback taken in the top five? The easiest way to answer that is to simply look at the quarterbacks that have been selected in the top five in recent seasons. Thus, here is a full list of every quarterback taken in the top five since 2013:
- Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars, 1.1 2021)
- Zach Wilson (New York Jets, 1.2 2021)
- Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers, 1.3, 2021)
- Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals, 1.1 2020)
- Tua Tagovailoa (Miami Dolphins, 1.5 2020)
- Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals, 1.1 2019)
- Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns, 1.1 2018)
- Sam Darnold (New York Jets, 1.3 2018)
- Mitch Trubisky (Chicago Bears, 1.2 2017)
- Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams, 1.1 2016)
- Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles, 1.2 2016)
- Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1.1 2015)
- Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans, 1.2 2015)
- Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars, 1.3 2014)
And that’s it, so the question then becomes of those fourteen quarterbacks taken top five, how many of them can truly be called a franchise quarterback? Two? Three? Maybe four if you do a shot of tequila and squint?
In short, there’s more misses than hits when drafting a quarterback early because for the most part the current college game does not prepare quarterbacks to play the position in the NFL, and the odds of finding a franchise quarterback at the top of the draft aren’t great. In fact, over the past decade, there’s been more success picking a first round quarterback with picks six through ten than in the top five. Here are the quarterbacks that have been taken from sixth overall to tenth overall over the last decade:
- Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers, 1.6 2020)
- Daniel Jones (New York Giants, 1.6 2019)
- Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills, 1.7 2018)
- Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals, 1.10 2018)
- Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs, 1.10 2017)
Of course, of that list Jones and Allen struggled early in their careers and Mahomes started just a single game as a rookie, while Herbert is the only one on that list who can be considered to have excelled on the field from the time they arrived in the NFL.
Just to shed some light on what the rest of the first round has looked like for the position over the past decade, here are the other eleven signal callers who have been taken in the first round since 2013:
- Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1.20 2022)
- Justin Fields (Chicago Bears, 1.11 2021)
- Mac Jones (New England Patriots, 1.15 2021)
- Jordan Love (Green Bay Packers, 1.26 2020)
- Dwayne Haskins (Washington Commanders, 1.15 2019)
- Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens, 1.32 2018)
- Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans, 1.12 2017)
- Paxton Lynch (Denver Broncos, 1.26 2016)
- Johnny Manziel (Cleveland Browns, 1.22 2014)
- Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota Vikings, 1.32 2014)
- E.J. Manuel (Buffalo Bills, 1.16 2013)
And that’s it. That is the entire list of the 30 first round quarterbacks taken over the past decade. So, the question again remains, how many of them would one consider a franchise quarterback? Six, maybe seven depending upon the criteria one wishes to set? Whatever the number, the probability of finding The Guy at the position in the first round - even at the top of the first - is low.
That means that it may not make sense for a team with so many holes to address in the offseason, using the fifth overall pick on a position with a one in five or one in six chance of working out well may not be the best allocation of resources.
Especially given that whoever ends up hearing their name called fifth overall will earn a fully-guaranteed, four-year, $34M rookie contract, which is a steal for a Mahomes or a Herbert, but a whole lot of wasted cap space for a Trubisky or Bortles.