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From boon to bust

Success of first-round QBs varies greatly

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Posted: Friday April 13, 2001 2:56 AM
Updated: Friday April 13, 2001 3:32 AM

Journeyman QBs
Rich Gannon Tom Pidgeon/Allsport
Only two of the top-10 rated passers in 2000 were drafted in the first round, and only three were playing for their original teams.
QB  Rating  Rd. 
*Griese, DEN  102.9 
Green, STL  101.8 
Warner, STL  98.3  -- 
*Culpepper, MIN  98.0 
Garcia, SF  97.6  -- 
*Manning, IND  97.6 
Gannon, OAK  92.4 
Grbac, KC  89.9 
Flutie, BUF  86.5  11 
Brooks, NO  85.7 
* Still with original team
Note: Minimum 100 attempts

By Jacob Luft,

Drafting a quarterback in the first round is risky business these days.

Sure-fire No. 1 selection Michael Vick could be another Troy Aikman and lead his team to the Super Bowl. Or, he might be a stiff like Dan McGwire, in which case the toilet bowl is more likely.

Since 1990, there have been 21 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft with decidedly mixed results.

For every Drew Bledsoe, there is a Tommy Maddox. Steve McNair is doing just fine; Heath Shuler is selling real estate. Peyton Manning is a superstar; Ryan Leaf is already working on team No. 2. See the chart below for the most spectacular QB draft busts since 1990.

The problem is particularly acute with quarterbacks who, like Vick, leave college early for the NFL. There have been 10 pre-senior quarterbacks taken in the first round since the NFL began allowing underclassmen to declare for the draft in 1990.

Of the 10, these six definitely needed more college experience before flaming out in the pros: Andre Ware (1990), Todd Marinovich ('91), Dave Brown ('92), Maddox ('92), Shuler ('94) and Leaf ('98). Among the other four -- Jeff George, Bledsoe, Trent Dilfer, Tim Couch -- only Bledsoe and perhaps Couch can say for sure that they made the right decisions. George and Dilfer have had what may be termed as successful careers, but not with their original teams.

Here are some other nuggets on the subject:


  • Among the 31 quarterbacks who led their teams in passing attempts last season, more than half -- 16 -- were not drafted by their current team. Of the top 10-rated passers in the league last year, only three were playing for the team that drafted them -- Brian Griese, Daunte Culpepper and Peyton Manning.

  • There have been 13 different Super Bowl quarterbacks since the modern form of free agency began in 1993. Four of those were drafted in the first round by the teams they took to the Super Bowl -- Jim Kelly (Bills), Steve McNair (Titans), Aikman (Cowboys) and Bledsoe (Patriots). Three others were taken in the first round by other teams -- Steve Young (supplemental draft, Bucs), Kerry Collins (Panthers) and Trent Dilfer (Bucs). John Elway was selected by the Colts but never played for them.

  • Of the 12 quarterbacks who led their teams to the postseason last year, only one left college early for the pros -- Baltimore's Dilfer.

    Couldn't play a lick: QB busts since '90

    Ryan Leaf Jim Druckenmiller
    Year: '98 | Drafted: 2nd Year: '97 | Drafted: 26th
    Career w/Chargers
    Pct.  Yds  TD  INT 
    21  48.0  3,172  13  33 
    Career w/49ers
    Pct.  Yds  TD  INT 
    40.4  239 
    Comment:  Signed five-year, $31.25 million deal out of school, but all he really earned was the nickname "Cryin' Leaf." Now with Bucs after being waived. Comment: Started one game for 49ers before being traded to Miami for a seventh-round pick. Great arm couldn't make up for inability to read defenses.

    Heath Shuler David Klingler
    Year: '94 | Drafted: 3rd Year: '92 | Drafted: 6th
    Career w/Redskins
    Pct.  Yds  TD  INT 
    19  47.7  2,403  13  19 
    Career w/Bengals
    Pct.  Yds  TD  INT 
    31  54.6  3,880  16  21 
    Comment: This Heisman runner-up lost his job to a guy selected 194 picks later in the same draft -- Gus Frerotte. Comment: The Bengals obviously learned nothing from Detroit's Andre Ware debacle.

    Tommy Maddox Dan McGwire
    Year: '92 | Drafted: 25th Year: '91 | Drafted: 16th
    Career w/Broncos
    Pct.  Yds  TD  INT 
    29  54.9  758 
    Career w/Seahawks
    Pct.  Yds  TD  INT 
    12  50.3  745 
    Comment: Also known as Dan Reeves' boy, he never matured as John Elway's heir and is now the XFL's leading passer with the L.A. Xtreme. Comment: At 6-foot-8, he was the tallest QB in league history. Seahawks gave up on him by '93 when they took Rick Mirer in the first round.

    Todd Marinovich Andre Ware
    Year: '91 | Drafted: 24th Year: '90 | Drafted: 7th
    Career w/Raiders
    Pct.  Yds  TD  INT 
    50.7  1,345 
    Career w/Lions
    Pct.  Yds  TD  INT 
    14  51.6  1,112 
    Comment: Issues with drugs and a lack of progress on the field got him cut in 1993. Comment: Heisman winner couldn't feast on weak competition in the pros like he did in college.

    Related information
    2001 NFL Draft Order
    SI's Peter King: An early look at the possible top 10 picks's 2001 NFL Mock Draft
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