The top pick in the NFL Draft are so valuable – not as much because they’ll yield a professional team the top prospect from the amateur ranks, but because it gives NFL teams a chance to select the next great quarterback prospect from college.
But as the saying goes: drafting and developing a quarterback is much more of an art than a science. As we all now, for every Jamarcus Russell (picked #1 overall), there’s a Tom Brady (picked 198th overall).
But without the benefit of hindsight, this list is meant to be something like a glorified version of a bar room debate, where you and your friends discuss whether you would’ve selected one quarterback prospect from one year over another. Remember — this isn’t a ranking of how good they are today, but rather how they were viewed as prospects when they in their respective draft class.
Here are the top quarterback prospects coming out of college over the last 10 years ranked, in order of how good of a prospect they were when coming out:
21. Jake Locker (2011)
A ballyhooed homegrown prospect from the state of Washington, with the athleticism to play almost any skill position on the football field, Jake Locker arrived at the University of Washington as something of a savior for a previously moribund football program.
However, despite showing off that athleticism throughout his four-year stint in Tacoma, and despite what was described as a “rocket” for an arm, there were plenty of teams wary of the fact that he completed only 54% of his passes during his college career, including less than 56% his senior year.
20. Mark Sanchez (2009)
Teams didn’t fall in love with Mark Sanchez because of what he did during his lone season at the University of Southern California, but moreso because of what they thought he could become.
While even then-head coach Pete Carroll didn’t think it was the best idea for Sanchez to declare after just one season of starting, he clearly got feedback that NFL teams liked the combination of physical tools, mental processing, and and smooth delivery of his throws.
There were questions as to whether the offensive scheme there made him look better than he really was, and such concerns became a bit more obvious the more time he spent in the NFL.
19. Patrick Mahomes (2017)
It’s quite ironic, and a testament to the inexactness of the scouting process, to see where Patrick Mahomes was viewed while coming out of Texas Tech, versus where he’s ranked among NFL quarterbacks — if not all NFL players — as of today. But there were NFL-types who legitimately thought Mahomes’ gunslinging style would have him become closer to the second coming of Jay Cutler, as opposed to an evolutionary Brett Favre.
Everyone knew he had the arm strength and improvisational ability, but they wondered whether he’d be able to play with discipline and within the context of an offense. Clearly, we’ve gotten an answer to that question.