John Tomase

History reveals high risk in Patriots drafting a QB at No. 3

Drafts that produced two or three franchise QBs in the top 15 are very rare.

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The approach sounds cavalier on its face: The Patriots like all three quarterbacks atop this year's draft so much, they'll happily take whichever one is left when they pick at No. 3.

Can three QBs really be so good that all of them are potential franchise saviors? With one recent and one long-ago exception, history says of course not.

If we take the last 20 drafts and focus only on quarterbacks selected in the top 15 picks, we find two drafts with three legitimate QBs, two with two, and the rest with one or none – including one that especially stings locally.

The home run drafts came in 2020 and 2004. Four years ago, the Bengals took Joe Burrow No. 1, followed by Tua Tagovailoa (fifth, Dolphins) and Justin Herbert (sixth, Chargers). All three QBs have already reached the postseason, and Burrow led Cincinnati to last year's Super Bowl.

Nearly two decades before that, Eli Manning (No. 1), Philip Rivers (No. 4), and Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) went early and then went on to excellent careers. Manning and Big Ben each won two Super Bowls, while Rivers made eight Pro Bowls and earned a Comeback Player of the Year award.

Those drafts, unfortunately, are such profound exceptions, it calls into question the wisdom of going QB at No. 3 this year. More typical is a draft the Patriots would like to forget, in 2021, when five of the first 15 picks were quarterbacks.

One of them was Trevor Lawrence, whose performance hasn't really equaled his reputation with Jacksonville, although he did at least win a playoff game (over Herbert) two years ago. The rest of that class is a cautionary tale with a capital C, from Zach Wilson and Trey Lance at picks 2 and 3, to Justin Fields at 11, and of course, Mac Jones at 15.

Wilson lost the locker room with the Jets, Lance flamed out spectacularly after making only four starts in two years with the 49ers, Fields is probably going to be traded by the Bears so they can take USC's Caleb Williams No. 1, and where do we even begin on Jones, who will reportedly be dealt to Jacksonville to back up Lawrence?

Drafting a QB because you're desperate to hit at the position is a recipe for disaster. It's how you end up like the Jets, Titans, or Panthers, each of whom makes multiple appearances on this list. In the last five years alone, the Jets have wasted top-three picks on Wilson and Sam Darnold, who combined to go 25-46.

The Titans have been sneaky terrible hunting QBs in the top 15, from Marcus Mariota to Jake Locker to Vince Young. They won some games with Young, but he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. During the 12 years with those three quarterbacks at the helm, the Titans won exactly one playoff game.

As for the Panthers, they hit paydirt with Cam Newton at No. 1 in 2011, but Bryce Young already looks like a bust after just one season, especially considering that Houston grabbed CJ Stroud at No. 2.

A more typical draft might be 2019, when Kyler Murray went No. 1 to Arizona, followed by Daniel Jones (sixth, Giants) and Dwayne Haskins (15th, Washington). Murray showed flashes, earned a huge contract, and now might be untradeable. He has led the Cardinals to just one winning season in five years. Meanwhile, Daniel Jones no longer looks like the answer in New York, and Haskins was a zero in Washington. Welcome to the world of taking a quarterback because you need one.

The Patriots could always hope this draft turns out like 2017, when the Bears wasted the second pick on Mitch Trubisky, but the Chiefs and Texans struck gold at 10 and 12, respectively, with Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

They can cross their fingers, but that hardly seems like the right way to build a team. The last time they waited for whatever QB landed in their lap, they ended up with Mac Jones, and no one wants to watch that again.

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