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There are 25 NFL Drafts, no quarterback went to the first round – Why it may never happen again

It almost seems unthinkable now. The stuff of football legend, a Sasquatch story that people with gray around their temples tell from time to time and they just swear it’s true, no matter what you’ve heard before.

In 1996, no quarterback was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. It was only the fifth time this had happened since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger and it hasn’t happened since.

“I don’t see that happening again — ever,” Broncos general manager George Paton said. “I really don’t know. The game has changed, the offense spread out, the 7-on-7 tournaments in college, in high school, there are just too many quarterbacks that are too sophisticated in that regard compared to there are. a few decades. And, perhaps most importantly, the position has become more important than ever.”

These days, it’s not a question of whether a quarterback will be selected in the first round, but rather how many will be selected in the top 10 picks. In 2021, quarterbacks were selected with the first three draft picks, and five went to the first round.

In 2020, Joe Burrow was the first draft selection and four quarterbacks were chosen in the first round. Three quarterbacks went to the first round in 2019, five in 2018, three in 2017 and so on.

“The position is so important and with an entry-level salary scale, the financial penalty for failing is much less than before. [for a rookie quarterback]“, Bill Polian, former general manager of the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. “As a result, a first-round bet on a talented but underdeveloped prospect is worth the risk.”

So what happened in 1996?

In the 25 drafts since 1996, a quarterback has not been the No. 1 selection on just six occasions. But in that 1996 draft, no callers were taken until Tony Banks was selected with the 42nd pick, by the St. Louis Rams. Only eight quarterbacks were selected that year, only three – Banks, Danny Kanell and Bobby Hoying – before the fourth round.

“When you look at it, it’s pretty simple, maybe no quarterbacks went in the first round, but how many of these guys started for a team?” said the guy who was the No. 1 pick in this draft, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. “Clearly the NFL got it right that year, it turns out they got it right, because I don’t think any of the drafted quarterbacks started more games than Tony. Banks.”

Johnson is right. Banks’ 78 career starts — with St. Louis, Baltimore and Houston — led the way among quarterbacks drafted from 1996. Kanell was the only other quarterback in the group to start at least 24 games. Four of the quarterbacks selected that year — Spence Fischer, Mike Cawley, Jon Stark and Kyle Wachholtz — have never attempted a pass in a regular season game.

“There were no quarterbacks worthy of a first-round pick, none of them doing what myself, Jonathan Ogden, Kevin Hardy, Simeon Rice – the leading players in the draft – were doing and were able to do.” Johnson said. “Keep going around – Eddie George, Terry Glenn, Willie Anderson, Marvin Harrison, Ray Lewis – there were no quarterbacks at that level, capable of leading their teams, so they didn’t draft them.”

Three Hall of Famers were indeed selected in the first round that year – Ogden (No. 4 by the Ravens), Harrison (No. 18 by the Colts) and Lewis (No. 26 by the Ravens) – while Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens was a third-round pick. Rice, selected No. 3 by the Arizona Cardinals, would win Defensive Rookie of the Year that season, while George, selected No. 14 by the Houston Oilers, would win Rookie of the Year. offense of the year.

Why won’t it happen again

History has shown that none of the 1996 quarterbacks made anyone wonder why they weren’t selected in the first round. There is a school of thought that the 2014 draft, however, could or should have been the last first round without a quarterback, but the zeal to find a quarterback has increased almost exponentially since 1996 and is now so increased that teams choose just won’t let that happen again.

“That position is so critical, it’s all there, their talent like every position, but everything is amplified at that position,” San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said during the scouting meeting. “A lot of times you have to project from college to NFL because the game plays a little bit differently. The levels of competition, there’s so many things that come into play. Like every position. But as I have said, the importance of this position makes your decision so critical.”

In 2014, Blake Bortles (#3), Johnny Manziel (#22), and Teddy Bridgewater (#32) were the three quarterbacks selected in the first round. Of the three, Bridgewater, taken with the last pick of the first round, was the only one selected to the Pro Bowl. Derek Carr, selected by the Raiders 36th overall — a second-round pick — is the only quarterback in this draft to throw for more than 18,000 yards.

Several staff executives say the 2013 draft, when EJ Manuel was the only first-round selected passer, the 1997 draft, when Jim Druckenmiller was the only first-round selected quarterback, and the 2007 draft (JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn were the only first-rounders) probably should have joined the 1996 draft in history.

As it stands, only five total drafts since the merger have gone without a first-round quarterback: 1974, 1984, 1985, 1988 and 1996.

This year’s class was initially labeled a down year for QBs, but in their latest mock drafts, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each have three quarterbacks selected in this year’s first round – Kenny Pickett of Pitt, Malik Willis from Liberty and Matt from Mississippi. Corral.

“It’s like the quarterback class this year,” Paton said. “The process is ongoing and the public perception is that the quarterback class is not one to be excited about. But they perform well in the season, they perform well in the Senior Bowl, on pro days. They’ve really done it. all tests other than the hype test.”

The demand for a Franchise Setter is higher than ever and the supply hasn’t grown at the same rate. Teams will repeatedly reach for a quarterback, even early in the first round, and select a passer well above where they might even get him rated in hopes of winning the pitching lottery.

“He definitely rose to prominence,” Johnson said. “But if you can’t throw it under pressure you’re not going to make it, you’re not going to make it, I don’t care how much they push you on the board. And if you’re a GM and you just draft a first-round quarterback because you need him and you don’t really think he’s a first-round pick, you’re probably going to get kicked out of him in the first round.”

These days, scouting combine quarterback practices are televised in prime time and pro day pitches against no defender are the stuff of fire emojis sent from coast to coast. ‘other. It just seems unlikely that a first round will close in a future draft without a quarterback.

“It would be an outlier year, an extremely outlier year,” Paton said. “I just can’t anticipate that happening. Too many teams need it every year, they’re just not going to be without it.”


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