The Browns took Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in 2018. Last month they traded for Deshaun Watson. The deal cost them six draft picks, in Round 1. Watson then signed a new contract with Cleveland for $230 million.
Not every Round 1 quarterback is a dud. Peyton Manning did OK. Eli Manning did OK. Matt Ryan took the Falcons to a Super Bowl and started every game save three over 14 seasons. Donovan McNabb, taken No. 2 overall in 1999, led the Eagles to four consecutive NFC title games. The quarterbacks who went one pick before and after McNabb – Tim Couch and Akili Smith – played their last NFL games in 2003 and 2002, respectively.
There’s no Joe Burrow in this draft. Is there a Josh Allen? He was the third quarterback taken in 2018, behind Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Allen went No. 7 overall. Patrick Mahomes was the 10th pick in 2017, eight spots behind Mitchell Trubisky. Russell Wilson was a third-rounder in 2012, Dak Prescott a fourth-rounder in 2016. Oh, and the Patriots spent the 199th pick of the 2000 draft on Tom Brady.
The top quarterbacks in this class are believed to be Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis. Neither is a lock for NFL stardom, but what QB is? The Falcons aren’t going anywhere until they find their next franchise quarterback. Nothing says they’re required to wait until Bryce Young is available in 2023. This team needs everything but a tight end and a placekicker, but a team without a real quarterback has one need above all else.
We’ve mentioned some, though not nearly all, of the quarterbacks who didn’t justify their draft stations. Mariota, No. 2 behind Jameis Winston in 2015, is yet another. The 2019 MVP – Lamar Jackson – was taken with the final pick of Round 1 in 2018. A bunch of smart people get this stuff wrong all the time.
Back to volume. Nobody expects the Falcons to be any good anytime soon. If they take a quarterback in this Round 1 and he doesn’t pan out, they can try again next year. Yeah, there’d be salary-cap concerns, but let’s worry about that later. If they take a quarterback in this Round 1 and like what they see, theirs becomes a rebuild on roller skates.
They can do it at No. 8. They can trade down and do it later in Round 1. (Aaron Rodgers was the 24th pick in 2005, the year Alex Smith went No. 1.) They shouldn’t wait much longer, though. In baseball, you can’t have too much pitching. In the NFL, you have nothing without a quarterback. Clock’s ticking.