There is a common misconception about the NFL Draft that pops up around this time every year and it's absolutely asinine. The phrase, which I'm sure you've heard, goes like this, "Quarterback X would be a reach in the Top 5, but if you can get him in the 15-20 range, he's a great pick."
This is something that you are likely to hear tonight about Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes. Unfortunately for the folks spreading that useless platitude, it's total nonsense, and history says as much.
Let me be very clear: There is no such thing as a quarterback that would be a good pick at 15 or 25 that would be a bad pick at 5. And, conversely, there is no quarterback that is a bad pick at 5 that would be a good pick at 15 or 25.
If there is a quarterback that years after the draft is considered a good 1st round pick, he is more valuable than every single player in the draft except for other quality quarterbacks.
For the evidence, as they say in football parlance, let's go to the tape:
If we could go back and re-draft, the top 3 picks of that draft would be Big Ben, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. Larry Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer. Sean Taylor was on his way to being one of the greatest safeties ever. But knowing what we know now, the top three teams would go after the three quarterbacks.
Conversely, J.P. Losman, who was taken by Buffalo at 22, wouldn't sniff the first round.
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DeMarcus Ware was taken in the 1st round of this draft. He's 8th all time in sacks and is a future Hall of Famer. But if we re-drafted, he goes 3rd, not 1st or 2nd, because this draft had two quality (and one amazing) long term starting quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith.
Jason Campbell went 25th and was a wasted 1st round pick.
Kevin Jairaj - Raymond Carlin III
Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler all went in the top 11, with Mario Williams going number 1 overall. Jay Cutler, despite all his flaws, has contributed more to winning than any other player in this draft. The Texans, who took Williams happily at number 1, would love to go back and take the mercurial Cutler.
Conversely, Leinart, who was considered a safe, smart pick at number 10 but would've been considered a reach at number 2, actually would've been a bad pick anywhere in the 1st or 2nd rounds.
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JaMarcus Russell is the famous bust of all busts, but he's not the pick that should bother you the most. That pick is Brady Quinn. The Cleveland Browns knew Brady Quinn wasn't that good, that's why they didn't take him 3rd overall. But with him sitting there at 22, and the Browns foolishly believing that there's such a thing as a quarterback who is a good pick at 22 that wouldn't have been a good pick at 3, they took him. 6 of the next 7 picks were Pro Bowlers.
Matt Ryan went 3rd and Joe Flacco went 18th. This draft did produce some really good players, including Chris Johnson and Aqib Talib, but if we did this draft all over, it goes Matt Ryan at 1 and Joe Flacco at 2. And if you go back and read the analysis of the draft, the thesis of this article is proven again and again, with the "experts" cautioning against teams such as the Chiefs "reaching" for Joe Flacco in the Top 5, and imploring them to take the "safer" Glenn Dorsey or Vernon Gholston.
Matt Stafford went first in this draft and would if we did it again. No matter his flaws, he's a franchise quarterback in this league. We also in this draft again saw a team taking a QB in the first round that they'd never consider taking in the Top 5. In 2009, it was Josh Freeman at 17. He wasn't "safe" at 17, and wouldn't have been "safe" at 77.
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Tim Tebow. Yes, Tim Tebow was a 1st round pick. He went 25th overall. Would the Broncos have ever taken him in the Top 5? Of course not. But they thought he could provide "value" or was a "safer" pick at 25. He, of course, was not. Once again, if you make what ends up being a good pick at quarterback, that pick is always worth a top 5 pick. There is no such thing as a "good pick" at quarterback because it was a "value" pick. He's either a star or borderline useless.
This might be the greatest draft ever. JJ Watt, Von Miller, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, A.J. Green and Patrick Peterson all went in the top 11. But who went number 1? And who would go number 1 if we did it again? Cam Newton. Conversely, the 3 other 1st round picks: Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder wouldn't go in the top 200 if we drafted again. The Titans, Jags and Vikings would never have taken any of those players over Julio or Von Miller, but they thought they were good "value" in the 8-12 range, and they passed on JJ Watt, Nick Fairley and Robert Quinn.
The Browns did it again! The same mistake they made in 2007, they made once again in 2012. The Browns had the 3rd pick of the draft and with Luck and RGIII off the board, there wasn't a quarterback they liked enough to "reach" at number 3, so they drafted Trent Richardson. And then at 22, they thought there was good reason to take Brandon Weeden. Once again, there is no possible career arc where Weeden would've been considered a "bad" pick at 3 but a good pick at 22. He's either a franchise quarterback or he's not. The Browns, deep down, knew he wasn't a franchise quarterback, but used their 22nd pick on him anyway.
Getty ImagesMatt Sullivan
Could you ever see a scenario where the Buffalo Bills spent the 1st overall pick on EJ Manuel? Of course not, but, sitting at 16, they convinced themselves that while he'd never be worth a Top 5 pick, he was worth a mid-1st round pick. As you already know, that worked out exactly the way they should have expected it to.
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This draft had a bunch of super-elite players. Odell Beckham, Jr. Kahlil Mack. Jadeveon Clowney just to name a few. But, if we did it over again, who goes number 1? Derek Carr. And, in fact, if you are a Jimmy Garoppolo believer, he goes number 2, and then then OBJ & Mack come off the board. Also, AMAZINGLY, in this draft, the Browns did it again! Deciding that the 8th pick was too high to spend on Johnny Manziel, they took Justin Gilbert, and then eagerly took Manziel at 22 where he had adequate "value." We all know how that worked out.
So what is the moral of the story? Don't believe the nonsense that there is such a thing as a quarterback who is worth a 1st round pick but somehow not worth the 1st overall pick. That player simply does not exist. If you take a quarterback in the first round, and years later we consider that a good pick, we will consider it a good pick if you took him at 1 or 21. And if you take a quarterback in the first round that we consider a bust, that "bust factor" is not diluted if you got him at 13 instead of 3.
Oh yeah, we know one more thing: The Browns are an absolute lock to pass on a QB at 1, and then draft one at 12, having learned nothing from the three times in the past decade that this exact strategy has blown up in their faces.