NFL Draft 2012: History not on Luck and Griffin’s side

If your team is either Indianapolis, who after the release of Peyton Manning are almost guaranteed to draft quarterback Andrew Luck of Standford, or one of the many teams mentioned as suitors for the Rams number two pick to grab Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, the run up to the draft is an exciting time.

But let me temper that excitement for a moment with a walk down memory lane. A look back at the first round of the NFL draft, riddled with big name busts and inexplicable over-reaches, is particularly unkind to the signal callers. And the top ten, where Luck and Griffin are sure to go?

2011: Cam Netwon (#1), Jake Locker (#8), Blaine Gabbert (#10)
Despite Carolina’s 6-10, Newton had stellar rookie season and appears to be the real deal. It’s too early to call on Locker, who barely played, and Gabbert, who played badly.
Verdict? Too early to call. Check back in two years.

2009: Matthew Stafford (#1), Mark Sanchez (#5)
After shortened rookie and sophomore seasons, Stafford helped turned around the perennial doormat Lions and looks to be the real deal. Sanchez has been average enough that Peyton Manning, despite having missed the entire 2011 season due to injury, continues to be floated as a potential replacement.
Verdict? Still too early to say, but one potential superstar and one average QB.

2006: Vince Young (#3), Matt Leinart (#10)
Instead of leading their teams to playoff berths five years into their careers, both are back-ups with teams that didn’t draft them.
Verdict? A pair of busts.

2004: Eli Manning (#1), Philip Rivers (#4)
Manning has a pair of Super Bowl rings. Rivers has four Pro-Bowl appearances and is one of the top gunslingers in the league.
Verdict? A pair of superstars.

2003: Carson Palmer (#1), Byron Leftwich (#7)
After a successful start to his career, Palmer’s performance slowly declined thanks to injury and, let’s be kind and say ‘team chemistry.’ After a brief stint in Jacksonville, Leftwich has been decent back-up for Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
Verdict? Average and a bust.

2002: David Carr (#1), Joey Harrington (#3)
Carr was mauled thanks to a porous Houston offensive line and has spent the last five years backing up on four different teams. Harrington was quickly run out of Detroit and played for four teams in a six year career.
Verdict? A pair of busts.

1999: Tim Couch (#1), Donovan McNabb (#2), Aliki Smith (#3)
Couch was supposed to lead the new Cleveland team back from the grave. That didn’t happen. Cincinnati turned down a trade offer of nine picks from New Orleans (trying to grab Ricky Williams) for the number three spot to draft Smith. That didn’t go so well. McNabb, despite the draft day boos by Philadelphia fans, led the team to multiple playoff appearances and was MVP of the 2004 season.
Verdict? One superstar, two busts.

1998: Peyton Manning (#1), Ryan Leaf (#2)
Manning is a future hall-of-famer. Leaf is a punchline.
Verdict? One superstar, one bust.

1995: Steve McNair (#3), Kerry Collins (#5)
McNair was a three-time Pro-Bowler, a league MVP and one of the most exciting players of his era. Collins has a Super Bowl ring, but has been on half a dozen teams as a journeyman back-up and stop-gap starter.
Verdict? One superstar, one average.

1994: Heath Shuler (#3), Trent Dilfer (#6)
Shuler player for three teams in four years and is better known as a Congressman from North Carolina. Dilfer, like Collins after him, has a Super Bowl ring but bounced among five teams over thirteen seasons.
Verdict? One average, one bust.

1993: Drew Bledsoe (#1), Rick Mirer (#2)
Bledsoe helped turn around the Patriots franchise and is a Hall-of-Fame contender. Mirer had a solid rookie season but struggled in years two and three, getting shipped to Chicago and then bouncing around five teams in six years.
Verdict? One superstar, one bust.

1987: Vinny Testaverde (#1), Kelly Stouffer (#6)
Though never living up to his number one overall status, Testaverde put together a solid 20-year career with eight teams, including a pair of Pro-Bowl season in 1996 and ‘98. Stouffer, not so much.
Verdict? One average, one bust.

1983: John Elway (#1), Todd Blackledge (#7)
Elway has a pair of Super Bowl rings and is among the all-time greats in the history of the game. Blackledge is the trivia question answer as the quarterback drafted in 1983 that wasn’t Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino or Ken O’Brien.
Verdict? One superstar, one bust.

1982: Art Schlichter (#4), Jim McMahon (#5)
Schlichter gambled away his brief and forgettable career. McMahon was a serviceable starter backed by one of the greatest defenses in NFL history.
Verdict? One bust, one average.

1979: Jack Thompson (#3), Phil Simms (#7)
Simms has one Super Bowl MVP, two rings, and is generally considered one of the most underrated players in the history of game. Thompson, known as “The Throwin’ Samoan” in college for his passing proficiency, never translated his game to the NFL.
Verdict? One superstar, one bust.

1971: Jim Plunkett (#1), Archie Manning (#2), Dan Pastorini (#3)
Plunkett turned around a subpar career thanks to a revival with the Raiders that led to two Super Bowl rings. Manning and Pastrorini’s stats aren’t pretty, but the teams they suffered on are at least partly responsible for what might have been a stellar careers.
Verdict? Average trifecta.

1970: Terry Bradshaw (#1), Mike Phipps (#3) F
Bradshaw is one of the most successful and decorated play callers in the history of the game. Phipps played sparingly before getting Wally Pipp’d by Brian Sipe in Cleveland.
Verdict? One superstar, one bust.

1969: Greg Cook (#5), Marty Domres (#9)
Cook’s promising rookie season was marred by an undiagnosed shoulder injury that prematurely ended his career. Domres left San Diego after three unremarkable seasons and logged one solid season filling in for Johnny Unitas in Baltimore.
Verdict? Two busts.

1967: Steve Spurrier (#3), Bob Griese (#4)
Spurrier spent most of his career as a back-up and punter. Hall-of-Famer Griese led the Dolphins to their only Super Bowl win and chalked up two All-Star and six Pro-Bowl appearances in his career.
Verdict? One bust, one superstar.

Ignoring the 2009 and ‘11 drafts for lack of evidence, the numbers for 1967 to 2006 are remarkably consistent. Only once, the 2004 draft that produced Manning and Rivers (and, for the record, another two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger) have two superstar level quarterbacks gone top ten. Of the thirty-one QB’s drafted, the top ten is filled with more landmines than goldmines. 48%, or nearly half, end up never contributing to their team in any significant way.

History and statistics point to either Luck or Griffin failing to meet expectations. The only question is, who will it be?

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