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The NFL Draft began in 1936, and since then, there have only been four instances in which five different quarterbacks came off the board in the first round. All four occasions, however, have come in the past 45 years, and two have come in the last six years alone. The 2024 class is now shaping up to be the fifth.

USC star Caleb Williams is the consensus top prospect in this year's class, widely expected to go No. 1 overall. But beyond Williams, all of North Carolina's Drake Maye, LSU's Jayden Daniels and Michigan's J.J. McCarthy are popular first-round, if not top-10, projections. And that's not accounting for Washington's Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon's Bo Nix, who have also been forecast as potential Day 1 picks.

Let's suppose, for a moment, that at least five do become first-round picks on April 25. It's certainly not an unreasonable expectation, with at least seven organizations up front about their potential search for help under center. What can the other abundant quarterback classes teach us about 2024's anticipated crop? Let's review:

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes a pick acquired via trade

For more draft content, check out our latest prospect rankings and mock drafts, as well as our new weekly podcast, "With the First Pick," featuring former Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.




Trevor Lawrence




Zach Wilson




Trey Lance




Justin Fields


Ohio State


Mac Jones






Baker Mayfield




Sam Darnold




Josh Allen




Josh Rosen




Lamar Jackson






Tim Couch




Donovan McNabb




Akili Smith




Daunte Culpepper




Cade McNown






John Elway




Todd Blackledge


Penn State


Jim Kelly




Tony Eason




Ken O'Brien


UC Davis


Dan Marino




Strictly considering this sample size of first-round quarterback classes, here are the conclusions we can draw:

1. Multiple QB picks will likely be acquired via trade


All four of the five-quarterback classes featured at least one pick that didn't belong to its original team, and three of the four -- as well as each of the last two -- featured multiple traded picks. Here's a summary of those trades:

  • 2021: 49ers traded with Dolphins (No. 12 to No. 3 for Trey Lance)
  • 2021: Bears traded with Giants (No. 20 to No. 11 for Justin Fields)
  • 2018: Jets traded with Colts (No. 6 to No. 3 for Sam Darnold)
  • 2018: Bills traded with Buccaneers (No. 12 to No. 7 for Josh Allen)
  • 2018: Ravens traded with Eagles (No. 52 to No. 32 for Lamar Jackson)
  • 1999: Vikings traded with Washington (acquiring No. 11 for Daunte Culpepper)
  • 1999: Bears traded with Washington (No. 7 to No. 12 for Cade McNown)
  • 1983: Bills traded with Browns (acquiring No. 14 for Jim Kelly)

The top pick in the 1983 draft, future Hall of Famer John Elway, could also be included with an asterisk here; refusing to play for the Colts, who relocated from Baltimore to Indianapolis a year later, Elway was traded to the Broncos days after the draft.

All that said, odds are multiple teams destined to land a 2024 quarterback will move around to do so -- and likely upward. The Vikings have set the table for a blockbuster move up by already acquiring an additional first-rounder as trade ammo. But history suggests they won't be alone if they decide to act again: All but one of the trades listed above was a move to earlier in the first round, with the lone exception being the Bears' deal that netted McNown. Three of the last four trades that netted first-round quarterbacks, meanwhile, involved moves inside the top 10. We're bound to see another this month.

2. Veteran QBs won't stop a team from trading up

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We tend to overvalue veteran passers who aren't among the NFL's few "untouchable" stars at the position, underrating the possibility that a team with an established starter will spend premium resources on a potential replacement.

  • In December 2020, less than a year after Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance, coach Kyle Shanahan endorsed the vet as his starter for the coming season. Three months later, with Garoppolo secured on a $137.5 million contract, the 49ers traded up for the pick that netted them Lance.
  • In 2017, Ravens coach John Harbaugh urged fans to "stick with" former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco, who was under contract for another four years at the time. Months later, facing pressure to make the playoffs in 2018, Baltimore moved back into the first round for Jackson.
  • In 1998, the Vikings got a career year from Randall Cunningham, who threw 34 touchdowns and led a 15-1 finish, as well as a trip to the NFC Championship game. They also employed respected vet Brad Johnson as the No. 2. Months later, they dealt Johnson for the No. 11 pick that landed Culpepper.

These are but a few examples of a tried-and-true reality: It doesn't matter how much a team is paying its current starter, or how much it celebrates said quarterback publicly. If there's a real path to an upgrade and/or a higher-upside long-term option, it will be explored.

Just because we have obvious rebuilding suitors for top QBs this year (i.e. the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Washington Commanders) doesn't mean we should discount clubs with tentative veteran starters like the Las Vegas Raiders (current front-runner: Gardner Minshew), or even "stable" franchises like the Los Angeles Rams (Matthew Stafford), New Orleans Saints (Derek Carr) or Seattle Seahawks (Geno Smith) from also pursuing a splashy addition at the position.

3. At least one QB pick will become an MVP type


If you wanna stretch it even further, you might even say "borderline Hall of Famer." Now this might not seem surprising considering there are five different quarterbacks in each example; you'd hope that one of them hits! But recent history shows it's far more likely to set your franchise back a half-decade when spending a Day 1 pick on a signal-caller. Yet every one of our five quarterback classes has produced one, if not multiple, MVP winners or candidates -- both official and otherwise.

The 1983 class, widely known for its unprecedented output of star quarterbacks, is the outlier: Elway didn't benefit the team that drafted him, but he retired as an all-time great after 16 seasons and two Super Bowl titles with Denver, Kelly secured his own Hall of Fame induction with four Super Bowl appearances over 11 seasons and Marino owned the record books while guiding 10 playoff appearances as the face of the Dolphins.

But the other classes have also produced their own icons: McNabb (1999) is still the most accomplished passer in Eagles history, Culpepper (1999) briefly shined for the Vikings and both Allen (2018) and Jackson (2018) are among today's most dynamic dual threats. As for the most recent crop, 2021, Lawrence has flirted with MVP production in Jacksonville, and Fields has flashed elite traits despite a poor setup that precipitated his relocation to the Steelers this offseason.

All in all, it's safe to anticipate at least one of this year's top prospects will prove well worth the investment. Teams had just better be sure they're picking the right one, or supporting whichever quarterback they take, because ...

4. Multiple QB picks will be total misfires

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If not immediately, then over time. This is the unfortunate reality of using a first-round pick on a quarterback -- or any position, for that matter. Prospects are just that -- prospects. And time and again, even the most hyped products of college football fail to take off at the pro level, for a multitude of reasons. The more quarterbacks that go early, then, the more likely you are to end up with a dud.

Every single class offers evidence: Two years into his career, Wilson (2021) was already being replaced in New York -- and by a nearly 40-year-old Aaron Rodgers, no less. Lance (2021) played just eight games in two seasons for the 49ers before being traded. Fields (2021), while electric on the ground, is still unproven as a passer and has also been dealt. And Jones (2021) is now backing up Lawrence with the Jaguars after an injury- and turnover-riddled run in New England.

Mayfield (2018) brought moxie to Cleveland but lasted just four seasons, totaling 83 turnovers in 60 games. Darnold (2018) fell victim to a hapless Jets supporting cast and was traded three years in. And Rosen (2018) made it just one year in Arizona, folding behind a porous line. Couch (1999) played a single full season for Cleveland, throwing 67 picks in 62 games. Smith (1999) threw five career touchdowns and was out of the league after four years. And McNown (1999) made just 15 starts in two years.

Even in the vaunted class of 1983, Blackledge spent most of his Chiefs career coming off the bench. Both Eason and O'Brien had high points, but the former suffered a lopsided Super Bowl loss and started just 49 games in New England, while O'Brien finished with a 50-59-1 mark as the Jets' QB1.

Poor circumstances are a steady factor in all of the disappointing first-round quarterback picks here. So if you're a team hoping to avoid the next Day 1 bust, you'd be wise to ensure you're affording your top pick at least competent protection and weapons. Easier said than done, sure, but vital nonetheless.