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With Josh Rosen popping back up in the news after signing with the Minnesota Vikings, it got me thinking. Who are the worst quarterbacks selected with Top 10 picks in the NFL Draft since 2000?
The OutKick staff had a debate on how to rank these players. Should we consider expectations coming into the league? Does it matter if a guy was taken #1 overall vs. #10 overall?
To both of those I ultimately decided no. This is simply a list of the worst NFL quarterbacks taken within the first ten picks of the draft since 2000.
I am not going to include any players from the past three drafts. Although I believe players like Trey Lance and Zach Wilson will likely grace lists like this in the future, I’m willing to allow that it’s still too early to determine their future.
I want to start with who just missed the list. Dishonorable mention, if you will.
Blaine Gabbert, 10th pick in 2011 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars: You can’t be on the list if you managed to hang around the NFL for 10 seasons and that’s exactly what Gabbert did. No, he was never the quarterback the Jags thought they were getting with the #10 pick in the 2011 Draft. But he was at least a serviceable backup. Just not a guy you want starting for long periods of time.
That’s borne out by his career win-loss record of 13-35. He completed just 56% of his career passes and had nearly as many interceptions (47) as touchdown passes (50). And despite appearing in 66 career NFL games, he threw for fewer than 10,000 yards.
Robert Griffin III, 2nd pick in 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins: To be fair, I eliminated RGIII as a potential selection almost immediately. He won Rookie of the Year in 2012 and led Washington to a 9-6 record. That’s enough to be left off.
However, it really went downhill quickly for Griffin, partly due to a gruesome knee injury. Although, not according to his coach at the time.
After throwing 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions in year one, RGIII compiled a 23-25 TD-INT ratio over his next six seasons while bouncing from Washington to Cleveland to Baltimore. And, after winning nine games in his ROY campaign, Griffin would go on to post a 7-20 win-loss record outside of that season.
Blake Bortles, 3rd pick in 2014 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars: Bortles gets a pass because he helped lead Jacksonville to the AFC Championship in 2017 after a 10-6 season. That’s the only playoff appearance the Jags have had since the 2008 season. Granted, it was their incredible defense that did most of the work, but he kept from screwing it up.
That helps cover up the fact that for every game Bortles won as a starting quarterback, he lost two. With a career record of 24-49 and a completion percentage under 60%, Bortles led the league in interceptions in 2015 and tossed double-digit picks in each of his five seasons as the main starter in Jacksonville. He did throw for over 17,000 yards and 103 touchdowns and had more TD passes than interception. He missed the list by quite a bit, but still worth a mention.
Mitchell Trubisky, 2nd pick in 2017 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears: I suppose the story is still being written about Mitch, but I’m comfortable at least mentioning him. He lost the starting quarterback job in Chicago to Nick Foles and then again in Pittsburgh to Kenny Pickett. Like the two men before him, he did have one great season that allows him a pass. Similar to Bortles, Trubisky rode a hot Chicago defense in 2018 and compiled an 11-3 record as a starter, helping the Bears to the playoffs.
Ultimately, Trubisky’s career numbers don’t look that bad — he’s a winner overall (31-24 career record), has almost 12,000 career passing yards and has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions. But anyone who watches football knows that Trubisky is not a great football player. And Top 10 picks in the NFL Draft should be great football players.
Now, on to the list!
5. Joey Harrington, 3rd pick in 2002 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions
Ah, Joey Harrington. Remember him? Probably, since he managed to start in the NFL for six seasons. That almost kept him from making the list, but his numbers are so bad. Harrington started 76 NFL games and lost 50 of them. He threw more interceptions in his career (85) than touchdown passes (79). Harrington led the league in INTs in 2003. He never sniffed the playoffs — in fact, his best season was a 5-6 record with the Miami Dolphins in 2006.
In only one of his six seasons did he surpass 3,000 passing yards and he crested the mark by 46 yards. He threw for fewer than 15,000 career yards despite appearing in 81 NFL games. His career QB rating was 69.4. He also fumbled 25 times for good measure. Harrington was bad. Just not as bad as the rest of these guys.
4. Matt Leinart, 10th pick in 2006 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals
I don’t think people bring up Leinart enough in this conversation. He washed out VERY quickly. Yes, his first two seasons were marred by injury. But he didn’t play well even when he was healthy. He also battled to stay the starter with a clearly washed Kurt Warner. The Cardinals let him go when his rookie contract expired and he started one more game over two years with the Texans and Raiders.
His career numbers are not pretty. In his six seasons, he started just 18 games and went 8-10. He threw only 15 touchdown passes in his entire career against 21 interceptions. He threw for 4,065 yards in his career. Jay Cutler, who was taken with the very next pick in that draft, threw for 4,526 yards … in 2008 alone. It’s actually kinda funny to compare Cutler’s 2008 in Denver with Leinart’s career.
Cutler won 8 games in 2008 — same as Leinart, but he did it in two fewer games. ’08 Cutler threw for more yards, touchdowns (25) and fewer interceptions (18). It’s funny because it’s not as if Cutler is some Hall of Fame quarterback. But the Cardinals would have been much better off with him than with Leinart. After all, Cutler did more in one season than Leinart did in his career.
3. Jake Locker, 8th pick in 2011 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans
The 2011 NFL Draft was a REALLY bad quarterback draft (after Cam Newtown at #1 overall). Not only did one player from that draft make the list and another receive dishonorable mention, but the Minnesota Vikings drafted Christian Ponder with the 12th pick. Obviously, he’s not Top 10 so he doesn’t get the privilege of gracing this list, but still.
Locker is the only one who actually makes the list, though. It was close between him and Leinart for this spot, but Locker actually flamed out quicker — unlike Leinart, after Locker’s rookie contract expired, his career ended. He did not start during his rookie campaign but did start 11 games in 2012, going 4-7. He battled injuries throughout his career, but Zach Mettenberger also beat him out for a starting spot in 2014.
When all was said and done, Locker retired with a 9-14 career record. He failed to reach 5,000 career passing yards but did have slightly more touchdowns (27) than interceptions (22). When he retired after 2014, he cited that he lost passion for playing football. Any guy drafted in the Top 10 who loses interest in four seasons belongs on the list of WOATs.
2. JaMarcus Russell, 1st pick in 2007 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders
Let the debate begin! I understand almost all lists of this sort lead with JaMarcus Russell. And, there’s good reason for that. Russell was the #1 pick in the draft and he was out of the league after just three seasons. That’s brutal.
He started just 25 games and had a career record of 7-18. He threw more interceptions (23) than touchdowns (18). His career passer rating was 65.2. He competed just 52% of his passes. He basically ate himself out of the league.
All of that is understood. But I promised not to take draft position or previous expectations into account. This is just about who was worse in the NFL. And, to me, there is one who is worse.
1. Josh Rosen, 10th pick in 2018 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals
I totally get it. Josh Rosen is still in the league and JaMarcus Russell flamed out, so how can he be worse? My answer to that: have you ever watched Josh Rosen play football? He is undoubtedly the least-talented QB take in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft in the past 25 years, at minimum. Russell had off-the-field problems that contributed to his decline. Other guys on the list had injuries.
Josh Rosen is just simply bad at football. The Arizona Cardinals used a Top 10 pick on him and CUT HIM AFTER ONE SEASON. That is unheard of. Yes, he’s technically still bouncing around practice squads, but he has started 16 games in his “five-year” NFL “career.” I put “five-year” in quotes because he did not play in 2020 and he likely won’t sniff the field in 2022. Despite being “in the league” the past three seasons, he has attempted a grand total of 19 passes.
Rosen has a 3-13 career record. He has thrown almost twice as many interceptions (21) as touchdowns (12). He doesn’t even have 3,000 career yards, a number everyone else on the list has reached. His passer rating (61.1) is the worst of anyone on the page. Rosen has been sacked 61 times, which means he takes five sacks for every touchdown pass he throws. He averages 119 yards passing per game.
There is no debate for me. Josh Rosen is not only the worst Top 10-drafted quarterback I’ve ever seen, but likely the worst first-day selected quarterback I’ve ever seen.
Good luck, Minnesota.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ