Forget Lamar and Mahomes: The 2010s Were a Terrible Decade for Drafting an NFL Quarterback
Look beyond the last three drafts, and you'll see nothing but busts
Last year, Kanas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named NFL MVP after leading his team to a 12-4 record and a berth in the AFC Championship game in just his second season in the league. In a case of déjà vu, second-year signal-caller Lamar Jackson is poised to do the same thing or better with the Super Bowl-favorite Baltimore Ravens this season.
Given the recent greatness of 22-year-old Jackson and 24-year-old Mahomes, it’s easy to overlook that, on the whole, this decade has actually been a pretty poor one for drafting an NFL quarterback, at least compared to the decade before.
Sure, in addition to Jackson (2018) and Mahomes (2017), there have been other good quarterbacks drafted this decade, such as Deshaun Watson (2017), Dak Prescott (2016) and Russell Wilson (2012).
But, there have also been plenty of quarterbacks who looked likey would be great for years to come and are either out of the league (Andrew Luck, 2012), relegated to backup status (Robert Griffin, 2012) or hanging on by a thread (Cam Newton, 2011).
There are also a fair number of quarterbacks who have been above-average or even great at times but have also been inconsistent enough that it’s fair to wonder if they’ve actually got the goods. Carson Wentz (2016), Jared Goff (2016), Jimmy Garoppolo (2015), Jameis Winston (2015), Mitchell Trubisky (2017), Nick Foles (2012) and Kirk Cousins (2012) come to mind.
With some quarterbacks from this decade — Sam Darnold (2018), Kyler Murray (2019), Josh Allen (2018), Drew Lock (2019) — it’s still too early to tell if they’ll be any good. And with others — Marcus Mariota (2015), Blake Bortles (2014), Andy Dalton (2011), Case Keenum (2012) — it’s definitely fair to say they won’t.
All of that is basically a long way of saying that, out of all the quarterbacks drafted this decade, there are probably only three that, barring injury, are almost certainly going to be solid starters for the majority of the 2020s: Wilson, Watson and Mahomes.
Why isn’t Jackson’s name there? Look no further than the case of Griffin (who is now his backup in Baltimore), a run-first quarterback who had an offense designed to fit his skill set during his first year as a starter but then unraveled in subsequent seasons once injury problems caught up with him and opposing defensive coordinators had time to adjust.
Will that happen with Jackson? Probably not, but the point is it could, which is why, at least for now, it’s too early to say with absolute certainty he’ll be a great quarterback for the better part of the next decade.
Now contrast this decade’s class of quarterbacks with the QB class of the aughts, many of whom are still playing in the NFL.
Starting for their teams in Week 1 of this season, quarterbacks who were drafted last decade included: Tom Brady (2000), Drew Brees (2001), Eli Manning (2004), Philip Rivers (2004), Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Aaron Rodgers (2005), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2005), Matt Ryan (2008), Joe Flacco (2008) and Matthew Stafford (2009).
The quarterbacks listed directly above have won 13 Super Bowls and at least five (Brady, Brees, Manning, Roethlisberger, Rodgers) are surefire Hall-of-Famers while another two (Ryan and Rivers) have a reasonably good shot at being enshrined in Canton.
The rest of the quarterbacks mentioned here have a pair of Super Bowls between them (Wilson with the Seahawks and Foles with the Eagles) and only one of them, Wilson, looks like an absolute shoe-in for the Hall of Fame at this point.
Obviously, if Mahomes and Jackson’s careers continue on the trajectory they’re currently on, that will change and Super Bowls will be won, passing records broken and votes for the Hall of Fame garnered. But will there be 10 quarterbacks who were drafted this decade starting Week 1 of the 2029 NFL season (assuming there is one)?
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