There’s been a trend in recent years of the NFL Draft, which is the desire of both fans and teams to pass on a quarterback for another player. This year, some fans of teams like the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals have already decided that their team should draft Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young at the top of the first, and then perhaps wait to take a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence in 2021. Quite frankly, as much as I personally love Chase Young, this idea is problematic and incredibly risky in both the short and long-term. If your team needs a quarterback this year, there is no reason to pass on the 2020 quarterback draft class.
We’ve seen several teams in recent years that need a quarterback on draft day, and then they pass on one to select a talented player at another position. The Los Angeles Rams passed on Matt Ryan in 2008 for Chris Long only to draft Sam Bradford two years later. After Bradford didn’t fulfill the hopes and dreams the Rams front office had with him leading the team, they drafted Jared Goff in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Nine teams passed on Patrick Mahomes and 11 passed on Deshaun Watson in 2017, including the Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, and Chicago Bears. Now, in 2019, all of them still need a quarterback. We can also include the Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers, who now look like they need a new QB. However, seeing how they already had a quarterback at the time, we can excuse them.
The New York Giants drafted Saquon Barkley over Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson in 2018, only to draft Daniel Jones in 2019. After Week 12, the Giants are slotted into the second overall pick and have only won two games this season.
The same can be said for the Denver Broncos, who took Bradley Chubb over Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson. With Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen at quarterback this season, the Broncos have just three wins on the season. As a result, they are currently picking fifth in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Remember. Every team passed on Lamar Jackson. Enough said.
The rationale behind each of these thought processes has been “wait for a quarterback next year.” Despite Barkley’s personal success, the Giants were highly criticized for taking the running back and passing on a top quarterback in 2018. The rationale was that their future QB would be better off with Saquon, or perhaps they could grab Justin Herbert later or sign Teddy Bridgewater. Herbert then responded by staying in school for another year, and Bridgewater is still with the New Orleans Saints.
The value of a franchise quarterback
A franchise quarterback will always boost your team more than any other position. Look at the franchises that have remained dominant over the last decade(s). Tom Brady has been a stalwart presence for the New England Patriots, despite constant turnover at practically every other position on their roster.
Drew Brees has already won a Super Bowl and barely missed multiple other Super Bowl appearances. Peyton Manning turned the Broncos from 8-8 into 13-3 and later Super Bowl champs. The Pittsburgh Steelers are missing what two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger brought to the table. Russell Wilson has led the Seattle Seahawks to a winning record in every season as a starter.
Then look at teams that turned their franchises around with quarterbacks. I’ve already mentioned the Rams with Goff, who helped take the Rams to a Super Bowl in his third season. The Kansas City Chiefs got Mahomes and came one offsides penalty away from a Super Bowl appearance in his second season. The Houston Texans have made the playoffs twice now with Watson, a current MVP candidate. The Cleveland Browns drafted Baker Mayfield and have won more games these past two seasons than they did in the previous four combined. The Buffalo Bills are currently 8-3 with Josh Allen in his second season. The Arizona Cardinals have one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL with Kyler Murray at the quarterback position.
With all of that said, I can agree that it doesn’t always work out. I mentioned Bradford with the Rams in 2010. The 2011 draft with Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, and Blaine Gabbert going before players like JJ Watt, Cameron Jordan, and Cameron Heyward looks bad in hindsight. Then there is the 2015 draft with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota going first and second overall, respectively. These teams needed a quarterback desperately, but they each had other problems that also played a factor in these players’ developments.
The 2020 NFL Draft Quarterback Class
This 2020 quarterback draft class has so much talent available. Joe Burrow is looking like the lock to be the number one pick and certainly is playing like it. Tua Tagovailoa has a history of injuries, but he is expected to make a full recovery from his latest one, and we all know how talented he is. Jordan Love and Herbert are both phenomenal talents who need a bit more development but are still franchise-worthy.
I’m not saying the 2020 quarterback draft class is going to produce MVP-caliber talents like Jackson, Mahomes, Ryan, and Watson are (though I’ve already compared one quarterback to Matt Ryan). I’m saying that by passing on quarterbacks when you need one – and one is available – it is going to harm a team more than help it. Thus, potentially missing out on franchise-changing upside that this 2020 quarterback class possesses.
The risk of passing on a quarterback
I get it, Chase Young is a dominant player and is bound for NFL success with his traits. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are both elite talents that are at or near the top of their position in the country. My love for Trevor Lawrence isn’t a secret if you’ve followed me on Twitter for a while. It’s appealing to have both players on your favorite team.
This isn’t Madden, however. You can’t gamble like that in real life. GMs and coaches can’t bet their jobs and careers on that type of plan. The psychological damage of tanking for multiple seasons isn’t a realistic type of expectation.
As fans, it’s easy just to accept it. These players are competitors through and through, and every single player and coach wants to win as many games as possible. You can’t lure successful players in free agency if your best line is, “We only won two or three games last season, and we’re not going to win many this season, but we have a bright future!”
What if Lawrence and/or Fields get hurt after a team embarks on this path? We already saw Tua Tagovailoa go down with a season-ending injury that has called his draft stock into question. What if either of them pulls a Justin Herbert and returns to school for the next season? Your team passed on a quarterback to have its neck sticking out for another season of poor play, and now the GM and/or coach are likely gone, while the QBs you passed on are successful elsewhere. Now the process starts all over again.
Don’t be like this. If the Bengals end up with the first overall pick, they absolutely need to take a quarterback in this 2020 draft class. If the Dolphins (who currently pick third) have the choice between Young or a quarterback, they have to take a quarterback. Passing on one in this rich of a class could further set back both franchises for years to come.