Web Analytics
Re-drafting the QBs of the last five years ‣

Re-drafting the QBs of the last five years

(Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports illustration)

(Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports illustration)

You’re now an NFL general manager. Congratulations! Your owner has only one job for you: Get the team a franchise quarterback. You have the choice of any quarterback who joined the league in the last five years. (Hey, if we’re already in fantasyland making you a GM, might as well go all the way.) Which way do you go? Here’s our draft order, based on both performance and potential. You’re on the clock!

1. Joe Burrow (Originally selected Round 1, Pick 1, 2020): The best quarterback of the last five years … for now. Already taken his team to the Super Bowl. Injuries are a concern, but when he’s on the field, he’s as good as it gets.

2. Brock Purdy (Round 7, Pick 262, 2022): Mr. Irrelevant has blossomed into Mr. Franchise for the 49ers. An MVP candidate and an inspiration to journeyman QBs everywhere, he goes from the back of the draft to the very front.

3. Jalen Hurts (Round 2, Pick 53, 2020): Regressed a bit from his MVP-level play of 2022, but remains one of the league’s key dual-threat quarterbacks.

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

5. Trevor Lawrence (Round 1, Pick 1, 2021): His toughness isn’t a question, nor is his ability to rally a team. But is his inconsistency against better teams a knock on him, or the Jaguar franchise as a whole?

6. Justin Herbert (Round 1, Pick 6, 2020): Could move well up this list with a new coaching staff starting in 2024. Flashes of excellence dragged down by the pervasive Chargering all around him.

7. C.J. Stroud (Round 1, Pick 2, 2023): Shows every indication that he’ll be an elite-level talent for years to come, but it’s still early.

8. Kyler Murray (Round 1, Pick 1, 2019): Concerns about his size and durability have proven correct, but he still possesses the ability to perplex and torment a defense. May not be the solution, but he’s the kind of QB who will do until the solution comes along.

9. Anthony Richardson (Round 1, Pick 4, 2023): Still in the “potential” phase of his NFL career. If he develops on the trajectory of earlier this season — and if he stays healthy, no certain thing — he could move up this list with a quickness.

10. Justin Fields (Round 1, Pick 11, 2021): Worlds of talent, especially speed, in a system that doesn’t capitalize on his strengths but magnifies his weaknesses. Question is whether he’s already hit his ceiling, or whether there’s room to grow ahead.

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

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

13. Sam Howell (Round 5, Pick 144, 2022): Flourished as one of the few stars on an otherwise barren Commanders squad. Will be fascinating to watch if he’s able to get some better talent and coaching around him.

14. Daniel Jones (Round 1, Pick 6, 2019): Overvalued from the moment of his selection, he managed to turn reliability into a hefty extension. But have we already seen the extent of his skills?

15. Will Levis (Round 2, Pick 33, 2023): Underwhelming preseason, impressive in-season work. Will require a reassessment once NFL defensive coordinators figure out counterpunches for him, but at the moment he appears to be a reasonable starter-level QB in the 32-team NFL.

16. Gardner Minshew (Round 6, Pick 178, 2019): Leaning into his hired-gun status, Minshew is on his third team in five years, yet still has Indianapolis in position for a playoff berth. Might not win you a Super Bowl, but will keep you in games, and at this point that’s all you can ask.

17. Kenny Pickett (Round 1, Pick 20, 2022): A great story — local college hero stays home and joins the local pro team — hasn’t quite turned out to be a great performance. Pickett has pinballed 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 high points.

18. Aidan O’Connell (Round 4, Pick 135, 2023): Took over the Raiders when Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury, then managed to play 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 ain’t bad for a rookie.

19. Mac Jones (Round 1, Pick 15, 2021): Like Love, had an impossible task in replacing a legend. Like Love, failed to do so. Unlike Love, failed to even hang on to his starting job.

20. Desmond Ridder (Round 3, Pick 74, 2022): The anti-Minshew. 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 he’s been benched twice this season as a result.

21. Zach Wilson (Round 1, Pick 2, 2021): A tremendous disappointment given his high draft position. The floor was the ceiling, as it turned out, and even the tutelage of Aaron Rodgers hasn’t helped this year.

22. Bailey Zappe (Round 4, Pick 137, 2022): Pressed into service for New England when Jones faltered. Didn’t fare any better.

23. Jake Browning (Undrafted, 2019): Getting one hell of a tryout right now with Cincinnati in relief of the out-for-the-year Burrow. Could be setting himself up for a strong second act with another team, especially if he leads Cincinnati to the playoffs. Long way to go before we’re there, though.

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

25. Tommy DeVito (Undrafted, 2023): Better known for his Italian heritage and nickname than his on-field play, Tommy Cutlets is learning fast and managing to lead a woeful Giants team to some unexpected victories. His story will make 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 in spot injury duty. 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 depth charts they’ll need catastrophe or a five-touchdown blowout to see the field. But as long as there are linebackers ready to snap quarterbacks over their knees, there will be a place for the Drew Locks, Tyson Bagents and Brett Rypiens of the world. As this season has shown, even franchise QBs are fragile and vulnerable.