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A Scout’s Take: History shows drafting the first Quarterback is a huge risk

Greg Gabriel weighs in on the topic of the first team drafting a quarterback in the NFL Draft.

NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

If you read the papers, listen to talk radio, or read posts on X, a common theme is that the Chicago Bears should use their first pick, which may be the first overall pick in the 2024 Draft, on a Quarterback. I am not a member of that school of thought because I know just how difficult it is to evaluate the quarterback position. I also know, as do many of you, that the first quarterback taken in a Draft isn't always the best, and history has proven that repeatedly.

All we need to do is look at, say, the last nine Drafts, and we can see that. In 2015, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were the first two players and quarterbacks taken. Neither lived up to expectations, and have played for multiple teams. In fact, that Draft didn't produce a quality quarterback.

In 2016, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went first and second, respectively. Goff has had moderate success, and Wentz has been a bust. The Rams traded up to select Goff, and while he got them to the Playoffs, he just wasn't good enough to get them a Championship. They ended up trading for Matthew Stafford, also a former first-overall pick (2009), to get them a Super Bowl victory.

In 2017, defensive end Myles Garret went first overall to Cleveland, and the first quarterback was Mitch Trubisky to the Bears at two. Trubisky never lived up to expectations and is currently on his third club. It wasn't until the 10th pick that the next quarterback was taken, and that was Patrick Mahomes, who, of course, is one of the better QBs in football and the winner of two Super Bowls. Looking back, Mahomes should have gone first overall.

The 2018 QB class was supposed to be a "great" one, but the top pick has been a journeyman at best. Baker Mayfield was selected by Cleveland first overall and has had flashes, but that is it. The next QB selected was Sam Darnold by the Jets at three. He's been a bust. The best quarterback in that Draft was Josh Allen, and the Bills got him at seven. Josh is in the same category as Mahomes.

The next QB selected in that Draft was Josh Rosen by the Cardinals at ten. He busted after just one season at Arizona. Baltimore waited until the 32nd pick to select Lamar Jackson, and he is always in the League MVP race.

2019 brought us Kyler Murray as the top selection, and he has been mediocre at best. I could go on, but there is no need. The point is, just because a club takes the first quarterback in a Draft, it doesn't mean there will be success for that team in the future.

We can fast forward a bit to the 2021 Draft. During the 2020 College Football season, the two quarterbacks many felt would go first and second were Trevor Lawrence from Clemson and Ohio State's Justin Fields. By the time we got to April and the Draft. Lawrence was still number one, but Fields "fell" to the fourth quarterback. BYU's Zach Wilson moved up to two based on a great Pro Day (always a mistake when you use a Pro Day as an evaluating tool for a QB), and North Dakota State's Trey Lance was third. Lance played all of one game in 2020 and only started one full season, but he had "traits" that fooled the San Francisco 49ers. Both Wilson and Lance have been massive busts.

Going into the 2023 College Football Season, the odds-on favorite to be the first quarterback selected and the first overall pick in the Draft was USC's Caleb Williams. Based on his play at USC in 2022 and for the first half of the 2023 season, he looked like a Patrick Mahomes clone and was anointed by many in the traditional media and social media as a generational player. Now, a few months later, that thought is laughable.

Starting with the Notre Dame game, Williams struggled. His ball placement and decision-making fell off. The magic plays were no longer there, and he played with no confidence. He not only didn't look like a first pick in the Draft type but didn't look or play like a first round pick. He still could go first overall, but there is a lot of risk to taking him based on his latest body of work.

According to the Draft analysts, the next best quarterback is Drake Maye from North Carolina. Maye has had an excellent career at UNC, but he's also had some struggles down the stretch of the 2023 season. The third quarterback on most analyst's lists is LSU's Jayden Daniels. Daniels has had two excellent seasons since transferring to LSU and won the Heisman Trophy for his play in 2023. According to several of my friends working in the League, Daniels just may be the best QB prospect in this Draft.

Yes, opinions vary, which is typical of any Draft, but when the true experts (the NFL evaluators) can't agree on the best QB, doesn't it say it's too much of a risk for the Bears to select one with the first pick?

Of course, and that is why the Bears should stick with Justin Fields and trade that top pick.

If in fact, the Bears used that top pick on a quarterback, they would be saying that we still aren't there and we're starting all over with the rebuild. Drafting a QB at #1 means losing for at least the 2024 season. That doesn't sit well with me and won't sit well with many fans.

Later this week, I will write about what goes into the evaluation of a quarterback, and it is far more involved than many think. The reality is, that with the college season over, the real evaluation of the quarterback class has just begun. What teams will try to find out is what is behind the curtain of each of the top quarterback prospects.