Redrafting the QBs from the past five years

By | December 20, 2023

(Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports illustration)

You’re now the general manager of the NFL. Congratulations! Your team owner has only one job for you: get the team a franchise quarterback. You can choose from any quarterback who has joined the league in the past five years. (Hey, if we’re already in fantasy land and want to make you a GM, we might as well go to the extreme.) Which way are you going? Here is our draft order, based on both performance and potential. You’re on the clock!

1. Joe Burrow (originally selected in Round 1, pick 1, 2020): The best quarterback of the past five years…for now. Has already taken his team to the Super Bowl. Injuries are a concern, but when he’s on the field he’s as good as they come.

2. Brock Purdy (Round 7, pick 262, 2022): Mr. Irrelevant has become Mr. Franchise for the 49ers. An MVP candidate and an inspiration to QBs everywhere, he’s moving from the back of the draft to the front.

3. Jalen Hurts (Round 2, Pick 53, 2020): Has regressed a bit from his 2022 MVP level, but remains one of the premier dual-threat quarterbacks in the league.

4. Tua Tagovailoa (Round 1, Pick 5, 2020): The most up-and-down QB of this top level; Mike McDaniel seems to have unlocked something in Tagovailoa, but can anyone else do the same?

5. Trevor Lawrence (Round 1, Pick 1, 2021): His toughness is unquestionable, nor is his ability to rally a team. But is his inconsistency against better teams a knock on him, or the Jaguars franchise as a whole?

6. Justin Herbert (Round 1, Pick 6, 2020): He could move considerably higher on this list with a new coaching staff starting in 2024. Flashes of excellence are swept away by the ubiquitous Chargering all around him.

7. CJ Stroud (Round 1, Pick 2, 2023): It all shows that he will be a top-level talent in the coming years, but it is still early.

8. Kyler Murray (Round 1, Pick 1, 2019): Concerns about his size and durability have proven justified, but he still possesses the ability to baffle and torment a defense. Maybe not the solution, but he’s the kind of QB who will do it until the solution presents itself.

9. Anthony Richardson (Round 1, Pick 4, 2023): Still in the “potential” phase of his NFL career. If he develops on the trajectory from earlier this season — and if he stays healthy, that’s not certain — he could quickly move up this list.

10. Justin Fields (Round 1, pick 11, 2021): Worlds of talent, especially speed, in a system that doesn’t play to its strengths, but magnifies its weaknesses. The question is whether he has already reached his ceiling, or whether there is room to grow further.

11. Bryce Young (Round 1, Pick 1, 2023): It’s now clear that Stroud was better suited for the NFL game than Young from the start, but Young is also saddled with a miserable organization. His game-winning drive last week against Atlanta showed he has the skills and feel to succeed in the NFL; The question is: how often can he display such brilliance?

12. Jordan Love (Round 1, pick 26, 2020): Obviously, he’s not the next link in the Favre-Rodgers chain of Packer Immortality. But he has shown bursts of brilliance in his first real run as a starting QB. More data is needed, but this feels like a reasonable place for love.

13. Sam Howell (Round 5, pick 144, 2022): Flourished as one of the few stars in an otherwise barren Commanders squad. It will be fascinating to see if he can get better talent and coaching around him.

14. Daniel Jones (Round 1, Pick 6, 2019): Overrated from the moment of his selection, he managed to significantly expand reliability. But have we seen the extent of his skills yet?

15. Will Levis (Round 2, pick 33, 2023): Disappointing pre-season, impressive work during the season. Will require a reassessment once the NFL defensive coordinators come up with upsets for him, but right now he appears to be a reasonable starter-level QB in the 32-team NFL.

16. Gardner Minshew (Round 6, pick 178, 2019): Minshew is leaning into his hitman status and is on his third team in five years, but still has Indianapolis in position for a playoff berth. It might not get you a Super Bowl, but it will keep you in games, and at this point that’s all you can ask for.

17. Kenny Pickett (Round 1, pick 20, 2022): A great story – the local college hero stays home and joins the local professional team – hasn’t exactly turned out to be a great achievement. Pickett has vacillated between brilliance and injury in his young career, and we’re still not sure if he’s a good quarterback with bad stretches or a bad quarterback with occasional highlights.

18. Aidan O’Connell (Round 4, pick 135, 2023): Took over the Raiders when Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury, only to work his way into the job for the rest of the year. Threw for four touchdowns in the 63-21 beatdown of the Chargers last week, which isn’t bad for a rookie.

19. Mac Jones (Round 1, pick 15, 2021): Like Love, it had an impossible task to replace a legend. Like Love, this didn’t work out. Unlike Love, he didn’t even manage to hold onto his starting job.

20. Desmond Ridder (Round 3, pick 74, 2022): The anti-Minshew. I was given the keys to the Falcons franchise and promptly drove it into a ditch. Ridder’s mistakes are directly responsible for several of the Falcons’ losses this season, and as a result, he has been benched twice this season.

21. Zach Wilson (Round 1, Pick 2, 2021): A huge disappointment considering his high draft position. The floor was the ceiling, as it turned out, and even Aaron Rodgers’ guidance didn’t help this year.

22. Bailey Zappe (Round 4, pick 137, 2022): Hired for New England when Jones faltered. Things didn’t go better.

23. Jake Browning (undrafted, 2019): I now get a great tryout with Cincinnati in support of the annual Burrow. He could set himself up for a strong second act with another team, especially if he leads Cincinnati to the playoffs. However, there is still a long way to go before we get there.

24. Trey Lance (Round 1, Pick 3, 2021): Perhaps the worst quarterback pick of the last five years considering how much San Francisco gave up to acquire him; Brock Purdy saved the 49ers from years of scorn. Lance never really got a chance – he may be brilliant, as far as we know, but he’s languishing deep on the Dallas bench.

25. Tommy DeVito (undrafted, 2023): Tommy Cutlets is better known for his Italian heritage and nickname than for his play on the field. He learns quickly and manages to lead a woeful Giants team to some unexpected victories. His story will make for a good Netflix movie, if not necessarily a playoff run.

More than a dozen other quarterbacks drafted since 2019 have started at least one game, most coming off spot injuries. Some, like Jaren Hall (Minnesota), Dorian Thompson-Robinson (Cleveland), Easton Stick (Chargers) and Malik Willis (Tennessee) still have a potential runway ahead of them in the league, if not necessarily with their current team. Others are already out of the league or buried so deep in the charts that they need a catastrophe or a five-touchdown blowout to see the field. But as long as there are linebackers willing to hit quarterbacks over their knees, there will be room for the Drew Locks, Tyson Bagants and Brett Rypiens of the world. As this season has shown, even franchise QBs are fragile and vulnerable.

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