Ranking the best NFL QBs drafted in the 1st round in the past 10 years

It is an almost certainty that a quarterback will be selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. In fact, USA TODAY Sports' latest mock projects three quarterbacks will be picked on the draft's opening night.

The NFL has gone 20 years since the last time a quarterback did not get picked in the first round. That year was 1996, when Independence Day was the top-grossing film, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was the best-selling album, and Tony Banks was the first quarterback drafted, going in the second round to the St. Louis Rams.

There have been years since then when quarterbacks went in the first round and probably shouldn't have (like, 2007, when JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn were first-round QBs). While it will take a few years before learning the actual first-round merits of North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes or whomever else might get drafted on the draft's opening night this year, the following quarterbacks were worth the selections.

Here are the best quarterbacks drafted in the first round during the past 10 years (2007-2016 drafts), based on overall career accomplishments.

10. Teddy Bridgewater

Draft: 2014, No. 32 overall
Team: Minnesota Vikings

Bridgewater's future is uncertain after he suffered a devastating leg injury during training camp last year. Still, he's earned mention here — especially when you consider the next-best options are Mark Sanchez (2009 draft, No. 5 overall by the New York Jets) and Tim Tebow (2010, No. 25 overall by the Denver Broncos). Entering the lead-up to the 2014 draft, Bridgewater was considered the top quarterback prospect in that class. However, an unimpressive pro-day workout significantly damaged his draft stock. When he fell to the bottom of the first round (after lesser quarterback prospects such as Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel had already been selected), the Vikings pounced. For two years, Minnesota's trade up into the back end of the first round paid massive dividends. In 2015, Bridgewater helped deliver a division title, while at the same time breaking the Green Bay Packers' stranglehold atop the NFC North and bringing promise that the Vikings might be the division's next dominant team. Then, that optimism was dashed last summer.

9. Marcus Mariota

Draft: 2015, No. 2 overall
Team: Tennessee Titans

When Jameis Winston and Mariota went one-two in the 2015 draft, it marked the first time that two Heisman Trophy winners were selected with the top two picks. In two seasons in Tennessee, Mariota has shown glimpses of the familiar high-octane offensive threat that characterized his career at Oregon. Mariota is the centerpiece of a rebuilding project that could ultimately have the Titans rolling with some elite teams. The Titans finished 9-7 last season and just missed their first playoff appearance since 2008 as Mariota suffered a fractured fibula in Week 16. Armed with two first-round picks in this year's draft, the Titans should be able to surround Mariota with more talent on offense.

8. Jameis Winston

Draft: 2015, No. 1 overall
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston is the 20th Heisman Trophy winner — and eighth Heisman-winning quarterback — to become a No. 1 overall selection in the NFL draft. Like Mariota, Winston is a centerpiece of a rebuilding project. The Buccaneers mirrored the Titans in 2016 by finishing at 9-7 (the team's first winning season in six years) yet just missing the playoffs. Winston set a franchise record with 4,090 yards passing, and became the first quarterback in NFL history to open his career with consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons.

7. Ryan Tannehill

Draft: 2012, No. 8 overall
Team: Miami Dolphins

Tannehill — who only was a starter at the position in his final college season after being a receiver almost exclusively for the previous three — was the first quarterback selected in the first round by the Dolphins since the team drafted Dan Marino at No 27 overall in 1983. Tannehill will never be mistaken for Marino, but he did bring stability to a position that had been particularly vexing for Miami. Between the time Marino retired following the 1999 season and when Tannehill assumed control in 2012, 16 different quarterbacks had started at least one game for the Dolphins. As a public service, we've provided that list of the 16 brave QBs that helped bridge the gap between Marino and Tannehill: Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, A.J. Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Moore.

6. Sam Bradford

Draft: 2010, No. 1 overall
Team: St. Louis Rams

Bradford has had an up-and-down NFL existence. He earned offensive rookie of the year honors after setting a rookie record for completions. After four rather pedestrian seasons with the Rams, the team traded Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles. After a 2015 season in which he posted career highs in a number of passing categories, the Eagles dealt Bradford to the Vikings, who were desperate for quarterback help after Bridgewater went down with a season-ending knee injury. While Bradford played well (he led the NFL in completion percentage -- 71.6%) despite joining the team in September, he could not lead the team back to the playoffs. That wasn't all his fault, however, as poor offensive line play contributed to the failure to return to the postseason.

 

5. Joe Flacco

Draft: 2008, No. 18 overall
Team: Baltimore Ravens

While the "is Joe Flacco elite?" debate could go on until the end of days, what we do know is that general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens made a fine selection when they drafted Flacco nine years ago. The Ravens went three of four seasons without a playoff berth in the years leading up to Flacco's arrival (hey, that's a bona fide playoff drought by Baltimore's standards). The team's previous first-round quarterback — Kyle Boller — wasn't exactly up to snuff and the team needed a new direction at the position. Enter Flacco, who has delivered six playoff appearances and ultimate victory in Super Bowl XLVII.

4. Matthew Stafford

Draft: 2009, No. 1 overall
Team: Detroit Lions

The Lions were coming off an 0-16 disaster of a season when they used the first pick of the draft on Stafford, a franchise QB in the making. In addition to posting extravagant passing statistics — he's had one 5,000-yard season and five more 4,000-yard seasons — Stafford has put Detroit in the postseason three times. That's significant because the Lions had gone 11 seasons between playoff appearances. Now all that eludes Stafford is leading the Lions to their first playoff victory since the 1991 season.

3. Matt Ryan

Draft: 2008, No. 3 overall
Team: Atlanta Falcons

This selection has paid off tremendously for Atlanta. Despite the horrific defeat in Super Bowl LI, this is the golden age of Falcons football. Since Ryan has been the team's quarterback, the Falcons have made five playoff appearances in nine seasons. That run included a playoff appearance in Ryan's rookie season and a run of three straight postseason appearances -- previously, Atlanta had never reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

2. Cam Newton

Draft: 2011, No. 1 overall
Team: Carolina Panthers

Newton is the rare Heisman-winning quarterback who's gone on to match that success in the NFL. Newton was the first pick in what will go down as one the all-time greatest NFL draft classes (other notable selections: Von Miller, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, J.J. Watt, Justin Houston, DeMarco Murray, Richard Sherman). During the 2015 season, Newton became just the third Heisman-winning quarterback to start a Super Bowl (joining Roger Staubach and Jim Plunkett). He entered that game as the NFL's MVP after having led the Panthers to a 15-1 regular-season finish and a third consecutive division title (no team previously had repeated as NFC South champions).

1. Andrew Luck

Draft: 2012, No. 1 overall
Team: Indianapolis Colts

Luck also could have been a part of that incredible 2011 draft class. Instead, he opted to remain at Stanford for another season. That year, the Colts -- for the first time since 1998 -- were without the services of Peyton Manning, and a team that had normally been pacing the AFC's playoff field was relegated to a 2-14 finish. This enabled Indianapolis to move on from Manning and get one of the best quarterback prospects to enter the draft in years. Luck immediately returned the Colts to the postseason. In the 2013 playoffs, Luck engineered the second-largest playoff comeback in league history, overcoming a 28-point deficit against the Kansas City Chiefs to win 45-44.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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