QBs picked 1-2 in NFL often don’t both find success

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 30, 2023

By Rob Maaddi

AP Pro Football Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bryce Young was walking to an interview after being picked first in the NFL draft when he heard C.J. Stroud was selected second.

Young celebrated with a loud scream and a big smile.

The two childhood friends from Southern California became the ninth pair of quarterbacks picked 1-2 overall since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 and the first Black signal-callers. They shared a hug after the Carolina Panthers took Young first and rejoiced when Stroud went next to the Houston Texans.

“C.J. is like a brother to me and hearing him selected was amazing,” Young said. “He is a great player and person and to be going through this process together is surreal.”

History says it’s a longshot that both QBs will have successful careers.

Young and Stroud already have defied the odds getting here so they’re up for the challenge. So is Anthony Richardson, who was chosen at No. 4 by the Indianapolis Colts.

“The city of Houston hasn’t seen a franchise quarterback in a long time,” Stroud said. “I definitely think I can become a franchise quarterback. I got to put in a lot of work.”

Of the previous 16 quarterbacks selected 1-2, only Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl for the team that drafted him. Jim Plunkett was picked No. 1 by the New England Patriots in 1971, but won two Super Bowls for the Raiders years later. Carson Wentz was 11-2 as a starter for the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, but a knee injury forced him to miss that team’s Super Bowl run.

Other QBs in that group have produced wide-ranging results.

Archie Manning was the second pick behind Plunkett. He had a lengthy career mostly with the New Orleans Saints, but was 35-101-3 and never had a winning season.

Drew Bledsoe, the No. 1 pick in 1993 by New England, was a four-time Pro Bowl pick in 14 seasons. He also won a Super Bowl backing up Tom Brady in 2001. Rick Mirer, chosen second in that draft by Seattle, played a decade in the league but was 24-44 as a starter.

The greatest contrast between two players picked 1-2 was Manning and Ryan Leaf in 1998. Manning is a Hall of Famer and Leaf is one of the draft’s all-time biggest busts.

In 1999, the Cleveland Browns took Tim Couch No. 1 and the Philadelphia Eagles selected Donovan McNabb second. Couch lasted five seasons, going 22-37. McNabb was a six-time Pro Bowl pick who helped the Eagles reach the NFC championship game five times with one Super Bowl appearance.

Thirteen years later, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III went 1-2. Luck was on a Hall of Fame path with the Colts until he abruptly retired before the start of the 2019 season. Griffin was the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, but a serious knee injury hindered his career.

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were the first two picks in 2015. They’ve had moderate success and now are backups. Winston is on his second team and Mariota on his fourth.

Jared Goff was picked ahead of Wentz in 2016. He led the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl appearance before he was traded to Detroit for Matthew Stafford. Goff revived his career with the Lions last season and made his third Pro Bowl. Wentz is a free agent seeking his fourth team in four years.

Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson were the first two picks in 2021. Lawrence led the Jacksonville Jaguars to a playoff win in his second season. Wilson lost his starting job with the New York Jets to a future Hall of Famer named Aaron Rodgers.

Young and Stroud have tremendous potential but there’s plenty of question marks.

Young wasn’t a sure-fire No. 1 pick like Lawrence, Joe Burrow and Luck. His slender size is a legitimate concern. Though he dominated at Alabama where he won the 2021 Heisman Trophy, it’s fair to wonder whether he could handle the rigors of the NFL.

“There’s a lot said about the size,” Panthers coach Frank Reich said. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of factors that go into it but we’re coaches, we’re scouts, we watch the tape and when you watch the tape, Bryce Young is the best player.”

Stroud wasn’t even sure he’d be picked in the top 20 because of reports that he scored poorly in the S2 Cognition test came out recently. He spoke candidly in a media tour for Tidal and Lockerverse hours before the draft and cried after he got the call from the Texans.

“I think I’m battle-tested,” Stroud said. “I think God has put a lot of trials and tribulations in my life. It’s not for no reason. It’s to lead people to him and get me ready for what I have to go through. I wear the armor of God and I’m scarred up. But that’s what you want. You want somebody who has been through adversity and somebody who will persevere through issues. I’m not really worried about the talk. People are going to talk good, bad, ugly, sad. I’m just going to continue to be myself and be a man of God.”

The dynamic, dual-threat Richardson has the biggest upside of the three QBs but also the most bust potential. He threw only 393 passes in his career at Florida so he’s raw and needs time to develop.

“I’m willing to work harder than anybody,” Richardson said. “God blessed me with physical abilities that not every quarterback has. People see me, they don’t think I’m a quarterback. I’m not an average quarterback, and I can do things other QBs can’t do. So I definitely take pride in that. And then I’m also willing to learn. I’m willing to be just as good or, if not, better than all these quarterbacks in the draft or all the quarterbacks in the league.”

Time will tell how the 2023 QB draft class will be judged.


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