New England Patriots

NFL history shows drafting QB top three doesn't lead to instant success

Taking a QB early in the draft is often a good idea, but it rarely leads to success in Year 1.

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The New England Patriots might find their next franchise quarterback with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

But even if they do and this player isn't a bust, fans shouldn't expect an immediate turnaround that leads to the Patriots getting back to the playoffs right away.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was asked Tuesday about his expectations for the upcoming season.

“My hope and expectations are to make the playoffs," Kraft told reporters at the Annual League Meeting in Orlando. "That’s something realistically – we have a new leadership team, we’re going to have a lot of young players we don’t know.

A lot can happen. We might struggle more than I want. But the good news when you’re running any business is, you try to figure out what the key variables are, and then try to put people in place that you think can react and adapt to what has to happen. I really feel we have a good young team. I just hope we don’t struggle."

Robert Kraft discusses any change in expectations for the Patriots this upcoming season, saying that despite his young team, his hopes to make the playoffs remain the goal.

A total of 19 quarterbacks were taken with a top-three pick over the last 20 drafts by teams who originally owned that selection.

For example, the Carolina Panthers chose Bryce Young with the No. 1 pick in 2023, but they traded up to get that selection. They originally owned the No. 9 pick. The Texans selected C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 pick last year, which was their own selection. For this exercise, we are only using examples like Stroud and the Texans.

Did these teams make the playoffs in their new quarterback's rookie campaign? Very rarely, which isn't a huge surprise since most of the teams drafting in the top three with their own pick typically have bad rosters. But it does show that immediate turnarounds are not common, even if the QB you draft turns into a good player.

Here's the full list:

What helped these four teams make the playoffs?

We'll start with the Texans. After taking Stroud, Houston also selected Penn State guard Juice Scruggs in the second round. He started when healthy and played well. The Texans took University of Houston wideout Tank Dell in the third round. He caught 47 passes for 704 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. The Texans also signed tight end Dalton Schultz in free agency last March, and he was a trusted target for Stroud on key third downs.

The Colts drafted Andrew Luck No. 1 overall in 2012 and then spent their next three picks on offensive players to surround him with talent, including tight ends Coby Fleener (second round) and Dwayne Allen (third round), as well as wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (third round). Luck also was helped tremendously by the presence of veteran Reggie Wayne, who was still a legit No. 1 wide receiver at that point in his career. Wayne actually set a career high of 1,355 receiving yards during Luck's rookie season.

When the Falcons took Matt Ryan at No. 3 overall in 2008, they used their other first-rounder (No. 21 overall) on offensive tackle Sam Baker out of USC. He started 61 of his 70 games played for the Falcons in six seasons. Atlanta also got solid production from Louisville wideout Harry Douglas as a third-round pick. The Falcons' most impactful addition that offseason was signing running back Michael Turner in free agency. He set career highs of 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns in Ryan's rookie campaign. Ryan also benefited from Roddy White, who was a top-tier wideout at the time in the midst of six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (2007 through 2012).

The Chargers made the playoffs in 2004 after picking Eli Manning with the No. 1 pick and then trading him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers. However, it was Drew Brees who started at quarterback for the Chargers that season. Rivers' first season as the starter didn't come until 2006, when he led the Chargers to a 14-2 record but lost to the Patriots in a wild AFC Divisional Round game.

What themes can the Patriots copy from the teams who chose a QB with their own top-three pick and made the playoffs the very next season? Do everything possible to surround that quarterback with talent at the skill positions and the offensive line.

The Patriots still have work to do in that regard. They should be all set at running back -- Rhamondre Stevenson and Antonio Gibson form a solid tandem. Tight end is another position of strength with Hunter Henry re-signed. Wide receiver remains an issue, though. Kendrick Bourne and K.J. Osborn are solid, but they aren't a legit No. 1 or No. 2 on a contender. The offensive line needs more depth and high-end talent, too, even with tackle Mike Onwenu re-signed.

🔊 Patriots Talk Podcast: Jerod Mayo preaches patience and talks options for Patriots at No. 3 | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Luckily for the Patriots, they still have the No. 3 and No. 34 overall picks in the draft, plus $50 million in salary cap space, to make meaningful roster upgrades before next season.

In fairness, the Patriots don't need to make the playoffs in 2024 to set a strong foundation for future success. And if they draft a QB at No. 3, that player doesn't need to lead New England to the postseason for his rookie campaign to be successful.

There are reasons to be optimistic about the Patriots improving next season. The defense should be very good, the offense can't be any worse than it was in 2023, etc. But as recent league history shows, even if the team drafts a QB in the first round, expecting a huge turnaround in Year 1 is not realistic.

The real success often comes in Year 2. That's when Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence, for example, started to put it all together and led their teams to the playoffs for the first time.

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