This year marks 30 years since the NFL Draft produced a first round chock full of great quarterbacks. In 1983, there were six quarterbacks taken in the first round.
There were the three Hall of Famers: John Elway went first overall to the Baltimore Colts and was traded to the Denver Broncos because he didn’t want to play in Baltimore, Jim Kelly was the 14th overall pick by the Buffalo Bills and Dan Marino was taken 27th overall by the Miami Dolphins.
The class also produced a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, Ken O’Brien, taken 24th overall by the New York Jets and a guy who started a Super Bowl, Tony Eason, the 15th overall selection by the New England Patriots.
And then there was Todd Blackledge, the one bust of the group who went seventh overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The drafting of quarterbacks is obviously an inexact science, but in a year where many talent evaluators believe the first quarterback taken will be Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, there is a chance that this year could be the first draft since 1996 that a quarterback doesn’t go in the first round.
It hasn’t happened often. Besides 1996, the only times QB wasn’t taken in the first round since the NFL and AFL began holding a common draft in 1966 were 1974, 1984 and 1985 and 1988.
In the common draft era, 98 quarterbacks have been taken in the first round. Six of them are Hall of Famers; besides the trio from 1983, there were also Bob Griese (fourth overall in 1967), Terry Bradshaw (first overall in 1970) and Troy Aikman (first overall in 1989).
There have been 47 Super Bowls played. First-round draft picks have won 24 of them. A total of 22 first-round draft picks have made 41 of the 94 starts in Super Bowl history.
So the right quarterback can turn a franchise around for a decade or more. The wrong quarterback can set a franchise back for several years.
Twenty quarterbacks have been taken No. 1 overall, including three Hall of Famers (Bradshaw, Elway and Aikman), multiple Super Bowl winners Jim Plunkett (although he went through two teams and a decade of futility before he got there) and Eli Manning and one of the all-time greats in Peyton Manning.
But the No. 1 overall spot has also produced Jeff George, who started 124 career games and won 46 of them; Tim Couch, who was out of the league within five years; David Carr, now a backup after getting the absolute stuffing knocked out of him with the expansion Houston Texans a decade or so ago; and JaMarcus Russell, who was so bad that the Oakland Raiders gave up on him after just three seasons.
Obviously, a team doesn’t have to hit on a quarterback in the first round in order to be successful.
Joe Montana won four rings after being taken in the third round. Tom Brady has three championships and he was a late sixth-round pick.
But only one undrafted free agent, Kurt Warner, has quarterbacked a team to a Super Bowl championship (sorry to rain on the parade, fans of Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys).
So the most often-used blueprint for franchise success? Find the right quarterback and draft him in the first round.