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Best Quarterbacks from Each of the Last 25 NFL Drafts

What Signal-Callers Have Proven It on the Field?

The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off on April 28. Could this draft class surprise by producing several quality starters at quarterback, or will it go down as a weak QB class?

When we look back at previous quarterback classes, the best QB from the class typically represents how the class turned out. In the last 25 NFL Draft, we have seen some of the worst QB classes of all time and some of the best classes ever. Here are the best quarterbacks from the last 25 NFL Drafts.

Best Quarterbacks from Each of the Last 25 NFL Drafts

1. 1997 NFL Draft – Jon Kitna

The 1997 NFL Draft had a weak quarterback class. Through three rounds, only two quarterbacks were selected with one in the first round and another in the second round. Only 11 QBs were taken in the entire draft. For comparison, eight quarterbacks went in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The best quarterback out of the 1997 NFL Draft — Jon Kitna — went undrafted. Kitna played for the Seahawks, Bengals, Lions, and Cowboys from 1997 to 2013. He started for two years in Seattle, three years in Cincinnati, and two years in Detroit. Kitna had 29,745 career passing yards with 169 touchdowns and 165 interceptions.

Kitna was not a great quarterback in the NFL. He was solid for a handful of seasons, but he still was the best QB from the poor 1997 NFL Draft.

2. 1998 NFL Draft – Peyton Manning

The best QB from the 1998 NFL Draft is easy. The No. 1 pick and Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is hands down the best quarterback in this class.

Overall, the 1998 class was not a good quarterback class outside of Manning. Ryan Leaf was taken second overall but ended up being a bust. Leaf was out of the league by 2002. Matt Hasselbeck was the only QB outside of Manning to have a sustained career in the NFL.

Of course, Manning’s 18-year career with nearly 72,000 passing yards and 539 touchdowns is the king of the 1998 NFL Draft class.

3. 1999 NFL Draft – Donovan McNabb

Taken by the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 2 overall, Donovan McNabb took the Eagles franchise to new heights with Andy Reid at his side as Head Coach. During the Super Bowl era, Philadelphia only made a conference championship and Super Bowl once in 1980.

In his first year as a starter, McNabb finished second in MVP voting in 2000 and took the Eagles to the divisional round of the playoffs. The Eagles made four straight NFC Championship games from 2001-04 and lost in Super Bowl XXXIX to the New England Patriots.

The Eagles would never win a Super Bowl with McNabb, but this was the best string of success Philly had seen in the Super Bowl era.

4. 2000 NFL Draft – Tom Brady

This one’s a no-brainer. The GOAT, Tom Brady, tops the 2000 NFL Draft with his historical career. Seven Super Bowls and three MVPs later, Brady is still going at 44.

Brady is the biggest steal in draft history, regardless of sport. He was taken 199th overall in the sixth round in the 2000 NFL draft. And now, Brady is referred to as the greatest of all time in the NFL.

5. 2001 NFL Draft – Drew Brees

The 2001 NFL Draft is another class that features a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Drew Brees was the first pick of the second round at 32nd overall. The 2001 class also features Michael Vick, who was good for a brief period in Atlanta.   

Brees is the clear-cut top QB from the 2001 NFL Draft with his 80,000+ career passing yards, 571 touchdowns, and the highest career completion percentage of all time at 67.7%. Brees goes down as one of the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL history.

6. 2002 NFL Draft – David Carr

This draft class was full of defensive stars with the likes of Ed Reed, Julius Peppers, and Dwight Freeney. When it comes to QBs, this class was full of busts. David Carr was taken No. 1 overall and Joey Harrington was taken by the Lions with the third pick.

Harrington was out of the league by 2008 and Carr was a backup QB by 2007. Josh McCown went in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft. McCown was in the NFL until 2019, but was never a high-quality starter and made a career out of being a backup. David Garrard went in the fourth round and was a starter in Jacksonville for several years.

Overall, Carr did not pan out but was the best among his weak quarterback class. He had a solid stretch for three seasons from 2004-06.

7. 2003 NFL Draft – Tony Romo

The 2003 NFL Draft had a mediocre quarterback class. Among the drafted QBs in 2003, Carson Palmer is the best. Tony Romo went undrafted in 2003 and ended up the best QB in the 2003 NFL Draft. Behind Kurt Warner, Romo could be the second-best undrafted quarterback of all time.

Romo was a four-time Pro Bowler and MVP candidate in 2014. He finished with over 34,000 career passing yards, 248 touchdowns, and 117 interceptions. Romo played in six playoff games in his career, finishing with a 2-4 record.

8. 2004 NFL Draft – Eli Manning

The 2004 NFL Draft features one of the best quarterback classes of all time. It included Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger. These were the first three QBs off the board. It is incredible all three ended up having successful, long-term careers in the NFL.

Among the three quarterbacks, Manning and Roethlisberger are neck and neck. Both won two Super Bowls and made over four Pro Bowls. Manning is a notch above Roethlisberger with his two Super Bowl wins over Brady. Beating Brady not only once but twice in the Super Bowl was extremely impressive. Plus, Manning was the Super Bowl MVP in both of his wins.

9. 2005 NFL Draft – Aaron Rodgers

Some consider Aaron Rodgers the most talented quarterback of all time. Of course, Rodgers is the best QB from the 2005 NFL Draft. The 2005 QB class turned out to be okay. Rodgers is miles above his competition in the 2005 class, which includes Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel, and Kyle Orton.

After signing an extension with Green Bay this offseason, Rodgers is still hunting for his second Super Bowl ring before retiring. Still, he is one of the best QBs of all time with his four MVP awards along with four First-Team All-Pro selections. If he simply had more postseason success throughout his career, a Rodgers vs. Brady debate would be interesting. However, winning Super Bowls like Brady is easier said than done.

10. 2006 NFL Draft – Jay Cutler

The 2006 NFL Draft quarterback class ended up being a disappointing one. It featured highly sought-after prospects like Vince Young and Matt Lienart. However, both had lackluster careers in the NFL.

Jay Cutler was the third QB taken in the 2006 NFL Draft with the No. 11 overall pick. Cutler had the most successful career by far among QBs in the 2006 class. He is the only quarterback to eclipse the 10,000 career passing yard mark with over 35,000 career passing yards.

11. 2007 NFL Draft – Matt Moore

The QB class in 2007 could be the worst of all time. JaMarcus Russell headlined the class and was drafted No. 1 overall by the Raiders. Russell played for three seasons, making him one of the biggest busts in NFL Draft history. Even the best QB in the class — Matt Moore — was a career backup.

After going undrafted, Moore was the only quarterback in the 2007 class to have a long-term career of any kind. He played in the NFL from 2007-19 with over 7,500 passing yards. Moore made a career out of being a backup QB, but most quarterbacks in the 2007 NFL Draft couldn’t even do that.

12. 2008 NFL Draft – Matt Ryan

The 2008 quarterback class is one of the most underrated classes in the last 25 drafts. The best QBs from the class were Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. Both quarterbacks are not show-stoppers like Rodgers in Green Bay, but they have produced in the NFL.

Flacco won a Super Bowl in Baltimore but quickly fell off afterward. Ultimately, Ryan’s career has been much more consistent with longevity. Headed into his 15th season, Ryan will be a full-year starter yet again after being traded to the Indianapolis Colts.

13. 2009 NFL Draft – Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford is easily the best QB from the 2009 NFL Draft. In a weak quarterback class, Stafford has been above his counterparts. After playing in Detroit for 12 seasons, he won a Super Bowl in his first season with the Rams.

Stafford could still have plenty of success ahead of him after signing a four-year extension with the Rams this offseason. One could argue he was the best QB in the postseason last season. Stafford is the only elite quarterback, or even long-term starter, from the 2009 NFL Draft.

14. 2010 NFL Draft – Sam Bradford

The QB class from the 2010 NFL Draft is another disappointing one. Sam Bradford out of Oklahoma had high expectations. After being selected No. 1 overall, Bradford never lived up to the hype. He was a starter for six seasons and was a backup for two seasons. Bradford was out of the NFL after only eight seasons.

Even though Bradford was a big disappointment, the rest of his QB class was no better. Tim Tebow led the Denver Broncos to a memorable 2011 playoff win over the Steelers. Besides that, there are no other noticeable achievements from the 2010 quarterback class.

15. 2011 NFL Draft – Cam Newton

The 2011 NFL Draft had four quarterbacks taken in the top 12. Among the four first-rounders, Cam Newton was the only QB that produced. Andy Dalton also came from the 2011 NFL Draft. Dalton had successful seasons in Cincinnati, but Newton reached higher levels.

Newton was Offensive Rookie of the Year, won an MVP in 2015 along with being First-Team All-Pro, and played in the 2016 Super Bowl vs. Manning and the Broncos. Since then, it has been a sharp decline for Newton. His career seems to be over as a starter after starting for the Pats in 2020 and a brief stint with Carolina in 2021.

16. 2012 NFL Draft – Russell Wilson

This class is referred to as one of the best quarterback classes in NFL history. The 2012 NFL Draft features Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles, and Ryan Tannehill. This is an absolutely loaded QB class. Foles had a miracle Super Bowl run with the Eagles and Cousins and Tannehill have been solid long-term starters.

Wilson is the clear gem. He is still considered one of the best QBs in the NFL and has new life after being traded to Denver. He won a Super Bowl in 2014 with Seattle. Plus, Wilson has made the Pro Bowl in 9 of 10 seasons. Wilson is the best QB from one of the best quarterback classes.

17. 2013 NFL Draft – Geno Smith

After the fantastic 2012 QB class, the 2013 QB class is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The 2013 NFL Draft has one of the worst quarterback classes of all time. First off, only one QB was drafted in the first round. Through three rounds, only three quarterbacks were off the board.

Geno Smith and Mike Glennon — backup quarterbacks — are the best from 2013. Glennon started 13 games in his rookie year and has been a backup since then. Smith managed to start in his first two seasons but has also been a backup since then. Smith’s career is slightly more successful than Glennon’s after starting for two seasons. The 2013 NFL Draft features an underwhelming QB class.

18. 2014 NFL Draft – Derek Carr

Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel were the top QBs taken in 2014; neither had successful careers. Teddy Bridgewater was the last pick of the first round and had his career derailed after a devastating knee injury. In the second round, long-term starters were taken: Dereck Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo has been more successful than Carr in the postseason. Carr has become one of the most underrated starters in the NFL. The Raiders are in the midst of a great offseason after adding Davante Adams and Chandler Jones. Carr could have plenty of success ahead of him.

19. 2015 NFL Draft – Jameis Winston

In 2015, Jameis Winston was taken No. 1 overall and Marcus Mariota was selected at No. 2 overall. Both quarterbacks have not lived up to their high expectations. Winston has at least been a starter for most of his career. Mariota has been a backup since 2019; he has a shot to start in the upcoming season after signing with Atlanta.

Winston has been extremely inconsistent. He was a turnover machine in Tampa Bay. Last season, he was solid but went down with a torn ACL. Winston is the starter in New Orleans going forward after signing an extension. In the 2015 class, Winston has been the only quality starter from the disappointing class.

20. 2016 NFL Draft – Dak Prescott

Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were taken with the top two picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. Both got off to fast starts as Wentz competed for an MVP in his second season and Goff played in a Super Bowl in his third year. Wentz has bounced around from team to team since 2020. Goff could be headed toward being a backup as he struggles in Detroit.

The 2016 NFL Draft is where the best QB from each class becomes unclear. It is too early to say for certain who will be the best. Dak Prescott seems to be the safe option since he has the most favorable situation. Prescott will be the starter in Dallas for years to come and has been the best QB from the 2016 class in the last handful of seasons. Wentz and Goff are headed in the wrong direction while Prescott could still be a quality starter for a long time.

21. 2017 NFL Draft – Patrick Mahomes

At one point, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were elite QBs from the 2017 NFL Draft. Since his off-the-field issues, Watson’s career has been up in the air. Meanwhile, Mahomes has taken the league by storm.

Mahomes will be an elite QB for many years in the NFL. He already has one Super Bowl with plenty of postseason success. Unless Watson has a shocking turnaround with his new team (Cleveland), Mahomes is easily the best quarterback out of the 2017 NFL Draft.

22. 2018 NFL Draft – Josh Allen

This quarterback class had the chance to be one of the best. Four QBs were taken in the top 10 and five were selected in the first round. While there have been major disappointments in the class, such as Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have been amazing.

Both Allen and Jackson have already won an MVP along with playoff wins. These are elite QBs making history early in their careers. Allen and Jackson are in store for huge paydays in the near future. Of the two, Allen has been better in the last two seasons. At this point, Allen is a top 3 quarterback in the NFL and even has an argument to be the best QB in the league.

23. 2019 NFL Draft – Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones were the first quarterbacks taken in the 2019 NFL draft. Murray was good for most of the regular season. Jones is like a Yo-Yo so the Giants don’t know what they have.

Plenty could change in the coming years, but for now, Murray has been the best QB in the class. There has been drama around Murray this offseason. Many have questioned if he’s a good leader and a QB capable of postseason success. Meanwhile, Jones simply needs to find ways to win in New York.

24. 2020 NFL Draft – Justin Herbert

After two seasons in the NFL, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow are elite QBs. Herbert or Burrow has become one of the most interesting debates in the NFL. Both young stars have been brilliant.

It is difficult to go against Burrow who just took the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance — the franchise’s first since 1989. Both quarterbacks are on great teams with plenty of pieces around them. Going forward, Herbert’s potential seems higher than Burrow’s. This debate is truly a coin flip.

25. 2021 NFL Draft – Mac Jones

The QB class from the 2021 NFL Draft has a ton of potential and a lot of questions to answer. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields have immense potential. We haven’t even seen Lance be named a starter yet. Lawrence, Wilson, and Fields are all in tough situations.

Mac Jones played in the playoffs his first season. New England with Bill Belichick at the helm is as good as it gets for a young quarterback. While Jones does not have the most potential, he has the best situation. As of now, picking the best QB from the 2021 class is truly a guessing game.

We have seen every kind of QB class in the last 25 NFL Drafts. Recently, every draft has produced at least a long-term starter. Will the 2022 NFL Draft do the same, or will this class be known for having a weak QB class? Only time will tell.


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