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Does the first or second pick in the draft mean you get the best quarterback?

History tells us the answer is ... sometimes, and sometimes you just make the biggest mistake

UCLA v USC Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The New York Giants, as The Athletic’s draft analyst Dane Brugler and I discussed on a recent ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, will undoubtedly be asking themselves the quarterback question this offseason.

Given GM Joe Schoen’s admission that with Daniel Jones’ injury and Tyrod Taylor’s impending free agency clouding the 2024 landscape, they probably already are.

Do they need to draft a quarterback? If so, how high? Can Tommy DeVito be QB2 next season, maybe even open as QB1 if Jones isn’t ready to play as he recovers from knee surgery? Do they want to re-sign Tyrod Taylor? If not, what else is going to be out there on the veteran quarterback free agent market?

To the consternation of many Giants fans, the team has likely played itself out of position to draft Caleb Williams of USC or Drake Maye of North Carolina, widely hailed as the top two quarterbacks in the 2024 draft class, unless they are willing to trade up.

Currently, the 4-8 Giants hold the No. 6 overall pick. With the Carolina Panthers, whose pick belongs to the Chicago Bears, at 1-10 and the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots with two victories, the highest the Giants are likely to rise is No. 4. The Giants, though, are in a cluster of seven teams with 4-7 or 4-8 records. So, depending on how things play out they could perhaps drop as low as No. 10 in the overall order by season’s end.

ESPN’s Football Power Index breaks down the chances of where the Giants will land in the draft this way:

Average draft position: 4.8
FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 0.7%
FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 72.7%
FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 97.7%

Reality is, getting the first or second pick in the draft — which is 2024 would give you a 100% chance of getting Williams or Maye if you want one of the two — guarantees you nothing. Except perhaps the opportunity to make a bigger mistake.

Below is a list of 43 quarterbacks selected in the first round since 2010.

Round 1 QBs since 2010

2010

No. 1 — Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams)
No. 25 — Tim Tebow (Denver Broncos)

2011

No. 1 — Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
No. 8 — Jake Locker (Tennessee Titans)
No. 10 — Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville Jaguars)
No. 12 — Christian Ponder (Minnesota Vikings)

2012

No. 1 — Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
No. 2 — Robert Griffin (Washington Redskins)
No. 8 — Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins)
No. 22 — Brandon Weeden (Cleveland Browns)

2013

No. 16 — EJ Manuel (Buffalo Bills)

2014

No. 3 — Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)
No. 22 — Johnny Manziel (Cleveland Browns)
No. 32 — Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota Vikings)

2015

No. 1 — Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
No. 2 — Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)

2016

No. 1 — Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams)
No. 2 — Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)
No. 26 — Paxton Lynch (Denver Broncos)

2017

No. 2 — Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago Bears)
No. 10 — Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)
No. 12 — DeShaun Watson (Houston Texans)

2018

No. 1 — Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)
No. 3 — Sam Darnold (New York Jets)
No. 7 — Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)
No. 10 — Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals)
No. 32 — Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)

2019

No. 1 — Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals)
No. 6 — Daniel Jones (New York Giants)
No. 15 — Dwayne Haskins (Washington)

2020

No. 1 — Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals)
No. 5 — Tua Tagovailoa (Miami Dolphins)
No. 6 — Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers)
No. 26 — Jordan Love (Green Bay Packers)

2021

No. 1 — Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars)
No. 2 — Zach Wilson (New York Jets)
No. 3 — Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers)
No. 11 — Justin Fields (Chicago Bears)
No. 15 — Mac Jones (New England Patriots)

2022

No. 20 — Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh Steelers)

2023

No. 1 — Bryce Young (Carolina Panthers)
No. 2 — C.J. Stroud (Houston Texans)
No. 4 — Anthony Richardson (Indianapolis Colts)

Let’s break those 43 quarterbacks into three generic buckets — successful, unsuccessful and ‘to be determined.’ I did this same exercise back in 2019 when the Giants were in the quarterback market and selected Jones No. 6 overall. At that point in time, only 37.7% of 53 quarterbacks selected in Round 1 from 2000-2018 landed in the ‘successful’ category.

Successful (14)

Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, DeShaun Watson, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Stroud

Unsuccessful (23)

Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Robert Griffin III, Bradon Weeden, EJ Manuel, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Paxton Lynch, Mitchell Trubisky, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Dwayne Haskins, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Mac Jones

To be determined (6)

Jordan Love, Justin Fields, Kenny Pickett, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, Daniel Jones

I know you will quibble about which category I placed a few of these quarterbacks in. This is the Internet and people argue about everything. Who belongs in which category, though, isn’t the point. The point is the generic breakdown of the overall numbers.

I have 14 of the 43 quarterbacks selected falling into the ‘successful’ category. That’s 32.6%. Even if you shuffle a couple of players into different categories, that is still basically one third of quarterbacks taken who have lived up to what they were hoped to be.

One in three. In Round 1. At the most important position in football.

Even if all of the players in the ‘to be determined’ category end up moving into the ‘successful’ category at some point that is still 19 of 43, well under half of the quarterbacks selected.

If you go from the 2019 draft forward, the quarterbacks drafted since the last time I did this, the numbers break down as follows:

Successful (6) — Murray, Burrow, Tagovailoa, Herbert, Lawrence, Stroud
Unsuccessful (4) — Haskins, Wilson, Lance, Mac Jones
To be determined (6) — Fields, Love, Pickett, Richardson, Young, Daniel Jones

Only six clear successes out of 16. And maybe you would argue about Murray and even Herbert.

How about looking at quarterbacks selected in the top three picks from 2010-2023:

Successful (5) — Newton, Luck, Murray, Burrow, Lawrence, Stroud
Unsuccessful (10) — Bradford, Griffin, Bortles, Winston, Mariota, Wentz, Trubisky, Mayfield, Darnold, Wilson
To be determined (1) — Young

Only six quarterbacks out of 16 I would currently judge to have successfully justified their draft position

No matter how you slice these numbers, they aren’t good.

You don’t need the first or second pick to get a top QB

The Bills drafted Josh Allen No. 7 in 2018. Tua Tagovailoa was drafted No. 5 by Miami in 2020. Lamar Jackson was drafted No. 32 by the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. Patrick Mahomes was drafted No. 10 by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017.

Here is something else to consider when you are obsessing over how the Giants are going to get the quarterback you think they need. A list of currently successful NFL quarterbacks drafted beyond Round 1.

Jalen Hurts, Eagles (Round 2 2020, 53rd overall); Dak Prescott, Cowboys (Round 4 2016, 135th overall); Russell Wilson, Broncos (Round 3 2012, 75th overall), Kirk Cousins, Vikings (Round 4 2012, 102nd overall); Brock Purdy, 49ers (Round 7 2022, No. 262 — Mr. Irrelevant).

There are other successful quarterbacks taken beyond Round 1, even though perhaps not as successful as the quarterbacks listed directly above.

Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were taken in Round 2 in 2011. Geno Smith was taken in Round 2 in 2013. Derek Carr and Jimmy Garappolo were Round 2 picks in 2014.

What about the 2024 draft class?

We know that Williams and Maye are the top two, and the best guess this far out from the draft is both will be off the board in the top three picks.

For the rest, beauty appears to be in the eye of the beholder. Some, like The Athletics’s Dane Brugler, feel strongly that Jayden Daniels of LSU is QB3 and could or should land in the top 10. J.J. McCarthy of Michigan, Bo Nix of Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington all have supporters.

Quinn Ewers of Texas, Michael Pratt of Tulane, Carson Beck of Georgia and even Spencer Rattler of South Carolina draw varying degrees of interest. Who enters the draft, how teams rank them and where they feel each quarterback should be selected will be a big part of the draft intrigue.

If history tells us anything, it is that one of Williams or Maye will bust. It also tells us one of more of the quarterbacks who are selected after those two, will end up being excellent NFL players.

It is a matter of picking the one that is right for your team, your system, your coaching staff, your city and supporting that player as well as you possibly can.