Over the last seven NFL drafts, and especially since the implementation of the NFL rookie scale after the 2010 draft, teams have used their 2nd round picks as much as their first round picks to target potential “quarterbacks of the future”, or at least viable competition for their incumbent starters. 11 quarterbacks (Newton, Locker, Gabbert, Ponder, Luck, Griffin, Tannehill, Weeden, Dalton, Claussen, Kaepernick) were taken in the first two rounds in 2012 and 2011, where 6 quarterbacks (Bradford, Tebow, Stafford, Sanchez, Freeman, Pat White) were taken in the first and second rounds in 2010 and 2009. Since the cap penalties aren’t as crippling as they used to be, General Managers have been willing to roll the dice with both their first and second round choices.
First round quarterbacks have generally been thrust into starting right away on bad teams, and some have never recovered; in fact, it can be argued that Gabbert, Clausen, and Locker should not have been taken in the first two rounds. Second round quarterbacks have generally been lauded as “competition.” Let’s look back at how the second round QBs that were taken since 2001 did in their quarterback competitions, as well as career wise, and how that can be used to gauge Geno Smith’s potential. I’ll be using a success scale, with 10 representing a Drew Brees-like career (due to Brees being arguably the 2nd greatest second round quarterback taken, after Brett Favre) or 1 representing a Brian Brohm-like career (think journeyman and no success).
Quincy Carter, drafted by the Cowboys. Started 34 games (18-36 record), led Dallas to the playoffs in 2003, and started three games for the Jets in 2004, where he completed 60% of his passes. Was named the starter as a rookie, but struggled mightily, and was injured twice during the season. Success Scale: 2, for leading the Cowboys to the playoffs for the first time in years.
Marques Tuisosopo, drafted by the Raiders. 1 career start, primarily a back up for Rich Gannon and Kerry Collins. Success Scale: 1, career back up.
2006Tarvaris Jackson, drafted by the Vikings. Vikings gave up two 3rd round picks to move up and select a guy who former coach Brad Childress called a “diamond in the rough.” Brought in primarily to be a developmental guy behind Brad Johnson. Was named the starter by Week 16 of his rookie season. Was benched two games into his 3rd season, but regained the starting job after Gus Frerotte was injured. Led Vikings to NFC North Title. Was competing against Sage Rosenfels until Brett Favre signed with Minnesota. Relieved Favre in two games, due to injury. Signed with Seattle, and was named starter, where he had his best year statistically. Lost QB competition to Russell Wilson last year. Currently competing with Brady Quinn for the back up quarterback’s job in Seattle. Success Scale: 4, slightly more success than Quincy Carter.
Kellen Clemens, drafted by the Jets, primarily to be the back up to Chad Pennington. Ron Jaworski actually called him the best QB prospect in the draft after the Jets selected him. Started briefly for the Jets when Pennington was hurt in 2007. Backed up Brett Favre and Mark Sanchez, before going to Washington, Houston, and St. Louis as a back up. Success Scale: 1.
Drew Stanton, drafted by the Lions to be the 3rd string QB behind Jon Kitna and Don Orlovsky. Played sparingly when Matt Stafford, Shaun Hill, and Dante Culpepper were hurt. Expected to compete against Carson Palmer in Arizona, according to coach Bruce Arians. Success Scale: 1.John Beck, drafted by the Dolphins to replace Trent Green. Contributed to the Dolphins’ 1-15 record by losing all 5 of his starts. Was named starter for the 2008 season, until Dolphins signed Chad Pennington and drafted Chad Henne. Competed with Rex Grossman in Washington for the starting QB position, but lost. Went to Baltimore and Houston but was cut without playing a snap. Success Scale: 1
Kevin Kolb, drafted by the Eagles to back up Donovan McNabb and AJ Feeley. Started two games in place of an injured McNabb. Was named the starter after McNabb was trade to the Redskins. However, after a concussion sustained after a hit by Clay Matthews in the season opener, he was benched for the rest of the season in favor of Michael Vick. After the season, Kolb was traded to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and a 2nd round pick (that would later become Nick Foles). Kolb was named the starter, but battled numerous injuries and was eventually replaced by Fordham great John Skelton. Kolb lost his starting job to Skelton the following year. Kolb is currently competing with first round pick EJ Manuel in Buffalo. Success: 1
Chad Henne, drafted by the Dolphins to be the back up to Chad Pennington. Henne did not start during his rookie year, but was named the starter after Pennington was lost for the season. In 2010, Henne was named the starter but was replaced after the Dolphins went 4-4 with him at the helm. Henne regained his starting job after Pennington was hurt, but the Dolphins missed the playoffs. Was named the starter in 2011, but was injured and missed the rest of the season. Signed in 2012 with Jacksonville to back up Blaine Gabbert, but took over the starting job after Gabbert was hurt. Currently competing with Gabbert for the starting QB job in Jacksonville. Success: 2, as he is only one of two QBs (the other being Steve Young) to not start a game but throw 4 TDs without an interception.
Brian Brohm, drafted by the Green Bay Packers to be the 3rd string QB behind Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Spent his first season on the practice squad, before being signed by the Bills. Noteworthy career moment is that he’s the QB responsible for Terrell Owens’s 1000th reception. Competed with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards for the starting job in 2010, but was released after the season. Success: 1
Pat White, drafted by the Dolphins to compete with Chad Pennington and Chad Henne. Was used sparingly in the Wildcat (remember that Jet fans?) before a head to head collision with Ike Taylor effectively ended his Dolphins’s career. Was signed by the Washington Redskins this offseason after being out of football for two seasons. Success: 0
Jimmy Clausen, drafted by the Panthers to compete with Matt Moore. Clausen took over for Matt Moore after Moore was hurt, but then was benched after three NFL starts. Competed with first round pick Cam Newton, but lost, and was demoted to third string after the team signed Derek Anderson. Has not seen the field in a regular season game since 2010. Success: 1
Colin Kaepernick, drafted by the 49ers as Alex Smith’s back up. Played sparingly during 2011, but was named the starter last season after Alex Smith suffered a concussion. Led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, and was one completion away from winning the game and Super Bowl MVP. Success: 8
Andy Dalton, drafted by the Bengals to compete with Bruce Gradkowski. Dalton has been the starter for two full seasons, completing 60% of his passes, and leading the Bengals to back to back playoff appearances. Success: 7
What Does This Mean for Geno Smith
Looking at the list, I ask that you ignore that ALOT of the QBs listed on it have been linked to the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins at one point or another (seriously, people wonder why the Brady Bunch has won 10 AFC East titles?). Out of the 12 2nd round quarterbacks taken since 2001, four (Dalton, Kaepernick, Jackson, and Carter) have led their teams to the playoffs. Out of those 4, only Dalton has been able to put together back to back successful seasons (we’ll see what happens with Kaepernick this season).
If you look closer at the teams that drafted these second round QBs, this is what you see: the Cowboys were trying to replace Troy Aikman and weren’t a particularly talented team but Carter learned from offensive genius Sean Payton, the Vikings were lauded as a Super Bowl contender in spite of Tavares Jackson thanks in large part to a young Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor (in one game against the Vikings, the 49ers blitzed their DBs 20 times because they didn’t fear his quartetback play) and a top 10 defense, the Bengals were in dissaray after Carson Palmer demanded a trade but had talent on the defensive line and added AJ Green to pair with Dalton, and the 49ers were viewed as a team on the rise that only needed better than average quarterback play to succeed.
Geno Smith, essentially, is inheriting ALL of those situations; he was brought in to replace Mark Sanchez (not Troy Aikman, but still arguably the 2nd most successful postseason quarterback in team history) and learn from an offensive guru (Marty Morningwheg) on a team in dissaray with talent on the defensive side of the ball, and who has a soft schedule.
Had the Jets drafted Tavon Austin (this draft’s most explosive playmaker), then the parallels would run deeper. Something else to consider; none of the four successful 2nd round quarterbacks had the accolades that Geno Smith had at West Virginia. It’s easy to point out how some QBs shouldn’t go in the first round, but everyone that reads this site can agree; if a QB was going to be taken in the first round this past April, it should’ve been Geno and NOT EJ Manuel. Geno ran the offense primarily out of the spread, but showed athleticism, good ball placement, and great accuracy. With that said, he is competing with a young QB who was the toast of NY just two short seasons ago, and it’s going to be an uphill climb as evidenced by ALL of the second round quarterbacks that have failed. We’ll find out by the third preseason game if it’s really the “3G Era”, or if Moscato Mark is still the man under center.