Comparing stats & salary to other QBs drafted first overall recently, it’s clear Jacksonville’s signal-caller is more than justifying his selection relative to his counterparts.
Evaluating college quarterbacks is far from an exact science, but the allure of taking a franchise-changing superstar is always there for NFL teams drafting first overall.
Quarterbacks have been the first pick in seven of the last 10 NFL Drafts, and those decisions backfired on those teams more often than not, setting back some franchises years on the field. But when teams hit on these pivotal selections, they tend to contend for championships for a long time.
It sure seems like the Jacksonville Jaguars hit it big when they took Trevor Lawrence first overall in 2021. After the disastrous Urban Meyer rookie season, Lawrence and the Jags won the AFC South at 9-8 and then won a playoff game for the first time since 2017. Last year, Jacksonville won as many games as in the previous three years combined.
Fast-forward to Sunday’s 24-21 win in Houston, and you’ll see Lawrence threw for 364 yards and a touchdown to improve the Jags’ record to 8-3 with a legit chance at the AFC’s top seed. The 24-year-old is in the league’s top 10 in QBR, passing yards, and yards per attempt, more than justifying Jacksonville taking Lawrence ahead of Zach Wilson and Trey Lance in the same draft he was selected.
The above statement alone makes it seem as if the Jags got a significant return on investment on Lawrence through his first three seasons, but how does he stack up against top-drafted QBs over the last decade? Let’s dive into the numbers over the players’ first three seasons, including some of the traditional counting numbers along with QBR and dollars spent on the player per win.
|Yards Per Attempt
|Total Team Wins
|Dollars Spent Per Team Win
|Bryce Young, Carolina, 2023
|Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville, 2021
|Joe Burrow, Cincinnati, 2020
|Kyler Murray, Arizona, 2019
|Baker Mayfield, Cleveland, 2018
|Jared Goff, St. Louis/Los Angeles, 2016
|Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay, 2015
Whew. That’s a lot to digest. Let’s go QB by QB with some context, nuance, and who teams could’ve chosen first overall that would’ve been better for that particular franchise.
- Bryce Young was put in a particularly bad position in Carolina with little offensive talent and a head coach in Frank Reich, who was fired Monday after just 11 games on the job. The dollars spent per team win looks bad, but quarterbacks’ salaries go way down in Years 2 and 3 because rookie signing bonuses for top picks are so high. But Young will always be compared to second-overall pick CJ Stroud, who’s thriving in Year 1 in Houston.
- Lawrence led the league in interceptions in his first season while dealing with the ill-fated Meyer saga for 13 games, so there’s definitely still hope for Young. He bounced back by finishing seventh in MVP voting last year and has been solid in 2023, but the jury is still out on whether he’s a superstar QB like Burrow. The money spent per win will go down as this season progresses, but Jacksonville made the right choice, considering Wilson and Lance were the next players selected.
- Joe Burrow, to date, is the best QB taken No. 1 overall in the last decade by far. After suffering a season-ending injury 10 games into his career, he led Cincinnati to the Super Bowl in Year 2 and finished fourth in MVP voting in Year 3, where he was a win away from another Super Bowl appearance. In fairness, the QBs in the 2020 draft were especially excellent, with Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert also selected in the top 10.
- Injuries have sidetracked Kyler Murray’s career, but he was off to a tremendous start. He made the Pro Bowl in Years 2 and 3 after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Arizona had no good alternatives if it was set on taking a QB. Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins were the only other first-round QBs in 2019, but the Cardinals are probably wondering how things would’ve changed had they taken 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa, who instead went second to San Francisco. Arizona is 29-47-1 since drafting Kyler, while the Niners are thriving with Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy.
- The Browns have been through a lot since they took Mayfield five years ago. He finally showed promise in Year 3, leading Cleveland to its first playoff win in 18 years. But a subpar 2021 led the Browns to acquire Deshaun Watson before the 2022 season, and Baker went 2-8 starting for the Rams and Panthers last season. Mayfield’s had a solid comeback season with Tampa Bay this year, but Cleveland will always wonder how different things would’ve been had it taken Josh Allen, who went seventh to Buffalo instead.
- While most will remember Jared Goff’s Rams tenure for being traded in 2021 for Matthew Stafford the offseason before they won the Super Bowl, Goff may have had the most successful first few years on this list aside from Burrow. After a disastrous rookie season where he got benched, and Jeff Fisher was fired as head coach, the Rams made the playoffs in Year 2 and the Super Bowl in Year 3, with Goff running a strong ship at QB. Goff’s second act with Detroit is going quite well, as we discussed here at Boardroom last week.
- Jameis Winston was never really able to figure things out in Tampa Bay or during his career, showing flashes of brilliance but not displaying the consistency needed to thrive. He had just one winning season with the Bucs, who wisely ditched Winston for Tom Brady, but Tampa probably just had some bad luck drafting in a class that wasn’t very strong in hindsight.
While it’s still unclear whether Lawrence is a Burrow-level superstar or just a solid starter like Goff, Jacksonville appears to have its franchise quarterback in-house.
For now, the Jaguars are an outside Super Bowl contender, and Lawrence is a big reason why. Considering how much trouble teams have with drafting quarterbacks high in drafts, things could’ve turned out a hell of a lot worse.
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