Falcons: Drafting a QB early doesn’t always lead to success

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As we all know by now, in a couple of months, new general manager Terry Fontenot will have to make arguably the most crucial decision in the last 13 years of the franchise. The Falcons have already made it clear they plan on holding onto Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but that doesn’t mean they should pass up on their next franchise quarterback with the fourth overall pick.

It’s unlikely Atlanta will have the opportunity to draft this high again anytime soon, and with so many talented quarterbacks in this class, it may be time to find Ryan’s successor. However, taking a quarterback within the top-ten picks doesn’t always generate positive results. In fact, recently, most gunslingers taken early haven’t panned out the way their respective organizations would have hoped.

I’m going to say it is too early to judge the 2019 and 2020 QB classes. However, I will admit that it looks like Kyler MurrayJoe Burrow, and Justin Herbert are well on their way to becoming fantastic professionals. If the Falcons can find a quarterback like that with the fourth overall pick, they would be fools not to select him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually happen that way.

The 2018 draft featured four quarterbacks inside the top-ten picks — much like we could see this year. So far, it’s been a mixed bag. Josh Allen has turned into a star; Baker Mayfield looks to be trending upwards in Cleveland; however, Sam Darnold has been a bust thus far, and Josh Rosen has hardly shown his worth as a backup.

2017 also consisted of a couple of quarterbacks on the opposite of the spectrum. Mitch Trubisky has flopped with the Bears and appears to be looking for a new home this offseason. Meanwhile, the Chiefs moved up to take Patrick Mahomes with the tenth overall selection, and I don’t need to tell you how that has turned out.

2016 is when it begins to look bleak. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were taken first and second overall — both of whom will be on new teams when next season begins. In 2015, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariotta were selected first and second overall — neither of whom are currently starters in the league. In 2014, Blake Bortles was the only QB taken in the top-ten picks, and he’s currently the third-string quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams. No quarterbacks were selected early in the 2013 draft, but in 2012, three were taken in the top-ten — Andrew Luck (1st), RGII (2nd), and Ryan Tannehill (8th). Luck and RGIII are currently out of the league, and Tannehill failed until he landed in Tennessee with Arthur Smith.

The trend continues into 2011. Cam Newton had some flashes in Carolina, but I’m not sure he was ever worth the first overall pick. However, I know the next two quarterbacks selected — Blaine Gabbert (10th) and Christian Ponder (12th) — certainly weren’t worth the draft capital. 2010 was more of the same, too; Sam Bradford was taken first overall by the Rams and finished his career with just 103 touchdowns in 83 games.

I could go on and on, but the point is: drafting a quarterback is far from an exact science. A couple of Trevor LawrenceJustin FieldsZach Wilson, and Trey Lance may turn out to be studs. But if recent history shows us anything, it’s actually more likely that three of them bust than three of them are starters in the league six years from now.

That’s not to say the Falcons shouldn’t consider taking a quarterback fourth overall. If Fontenot and his team feel that one of these guys is going to be special, they shouldn’t hesitate to select him. However, the past serves as a cautionary tale. The easiest way for this new front office to screw up their most critical decision of the offseason is by taking a quarterback who never ends up developing into a starting-caliber option. 


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