What fifth QB taken in each NFL Draft can tell us about Mac Jones

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Bean: What the 'fifth QB' draft history can tell us about Mac Jones originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots selected a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, but what does taking the fifth one off the board get you? They’re going to find out. 

Well, they’re going to find out again. Mac Jones actually marks the fourth time since 2006 in which the Patriots have gotten the fifth QB in the draft. Nobody else has done it more than twice in that span. 

While this is obviously the highest Bill Belichick has drafted a QB for the Patriots, Jones was passed over by four (arguably more if you count the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings, the latter of whom reportedly would have taken Justin Fields at No. 14) QB-needy teams in the draft.

So let’s go back to that first question: What does drafting the fifth quarterback get you? Here are the 15 prior to Jones, with round and overall pick for perspective: 

The Patriots have selected the fifth QB off the board three times since 2006.

Of that group, only one was a first-round pick: Lamar Jackson, who’s in the best-case scenario realm given that he’s already got an NFL MVP to his name. In fact, 2021 marks just the third time in history that the fifth QB went in the first round. The first such occurrence was Ken O’Brien in 1983; that draft had six QBs go in the first. 

Most of the time over the last 15 years, the fifth QB went in the first three rounds, a list that looks like this: 

Off that, there’s two questions: How many of those picks were worth it and how many of them were better than the QBs selected ahead of them? 

Lamar Jackson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Andy Dalton were unequivocally worth it. Jalen Hurts seems like he’ll be. I would say Jacoby Brissett was too, but the Patriots obviously disagreed. The Brock Osweiler pick was a success for the Denver Broncos, even if his career fell apart quickly upon going to Houston.

Drew Stanton and Tarvaris Jackson didn’t stick as starters. Davis Webb was waived by the New York Giants after a season. Will Grier is still a backup for the Carolina Panthers. Kevin O’Connell was probably the biggest dud of the group. 

So that leaves us with Lamar Jackson, Garoppolo and Dalton as the biggest success stories, but are they better than the QBs taken before them? 

Patriots Talk Podcast: Matt Cassel on the Mac Jones vs. Cam Newton quarterback competition | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

The QBs who went ahead of Jackson in 2018 were Baker Mayfield (first overall), Sam Darnold (third), Josh Allen (seventh) and Josh Rosen (10th). Jackson has had the best career of any of them, though the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills would probably stick with their guys over Jackson. At any rate, Jackson is the ideal scenario for a QB taken after the top guys. 

The 2014 draft saw Blake Bortles (third overall), Johnny Manziel (22nd), Teddy Bridgewater (32nd) and Derek Carr (36th) go ahead of Garoppolo. Bortles was serviceable over the course of his rookie deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Manziel fizzled out after two seasons and Bridgewater and Derek Carr became solid starters. Carr is the best player of this group. Garoppolo is somewhere in the Bridgewater range.

Curran: Belichick's '01 transcripts offer insight into what Jones must do

Dalton got selected after Cam Newton (first overall), Jake Locker (eighth), Blaine Gabbert (10th) and Christian Ponder (12th) in 2011. He’s a great example of the fifth guy being better than most of the QBs taken before him. Of that group, only Cam Newton had a better career.

The moral of the story? Taking the fifth QB usually means you’re not getting a great player. Every QB group varies, though, and the 2021 class was considered deep. Jones obviously doesn’t have the talent of a Lamar Jackson, but the Patriots can at least pray he has a similar impact.