All first-round prospects are “boom or bust”

Mike Florio
·4 min read
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We have officially reached the lull between free agency and the draft.

We realize that. For example, our stories on Saturday included an item about a Tom Brady rookie card that went for $2.25 million and the impact of Michael Strahan’s April Fool Day gag on a dental practice.

Another story that has caught some traction this weekend goes like this: BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is a “boom or bust” prospect. Yes, he is. They all are. Every first-round rookie represents a potential “boom or a bust” outcome.

The fact that this acknowledgement of the obvious becomes news in some circles shows how warped the pre-draft process has become. The fact that there will be busts gets lost and overlooked in the weeks before every draft. The reason is simple: The draft is about selling hope. There’s no hope to sell if the fundamental truth is told that roughly half the guys selected in round one — with the clear presumption that they will be a boom — will become a bust.

Also, if draft analysts are too transparent regarding the fact that some players will boom and some will bust, the next question becomes this, “Which ones will boom and which ones will bust?” The answer would be, “We don’t know.” And then comes the next question, a rhetorical one: “Well then why are we paying attention to you?”

It’s impossible to not pay attention to history. And history tells us that, indeed, every prospect became a boom or a bust.

In 2020, four quarterbacks were selected in the first round. Joe Burrow, despite a torn ACL, and Justin Herbert panned out. The jury is out on Tua Tagovailoa and Jordan Love. Both could become regarded as busts, in time.

In 2019, the first-round had three quarterbacks: Kyler Murray (boom), Daniel Jones (undetermined), and Dwayne Haskins (bust).

In 2018, five quarterbacks went in the first round: Baker Mayfield (currently trending boom), Sam Darnold (trending bust), Josh Allen (boom), Josh Rosen (bust), and Lamar Jackson (boom).

In 2017, three first-round quarterbacks came off the board: Mitch Trubisky (bust), Patrick Mahomes (boom), and Deshaun Watson (boom that could turn bust for non-football reasons).

In 2016, it was Jared Goof (mini-boom then mega-bust), Carson Wentz (mini-boom then bust, which the Colts hope becomes a mini-bust), and Paxton Lynch (mega-bust then mega-bust).

In 2015, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were on track to boom before they busted.

In 2014, another trio landed in round one: Blake Bortles (bust), Johnny Manziel (bust-among-busts), and Teddy Bridgewater (injury-related bust).

I could keep going backward. And the busts will keep going forward. Even though the success rate when it comes to quarterbacks seems to be improving, every first-round quarterback presents a “boom or bust” proposition to the team that takes him. That’s the truth, as to Wilson and Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones and Justin Fields and Trey Lance, each of whom could go in the top 10 this year. History tells us that it’s “boom or bust” for all of them.

Maybe it’s newsworthy when one analyst is willing to say it as to one prospect because, typically, no one ever says it as to any of them. Ultimately, no one knows who will boom and who will bust. It’s smarter and safer (both from a credibility and a business standpoint) to regard all of the first-round quarterback as potential booms, and then to blame the team who drafts him if he busts.

Of course, a player’s first organization, coaching staff, and/or supporting cast can indeed make someone who could have been a boom elsewhere becoming a bust. That influence on the fate of a first-round quarterback continues to be overlooked when it comes to pegging boom and busts.

But, yes, busts will happen. And, yes, all of the first-round quarterbacks in 2021 are “boom or bust” prospects. And, no, you won’t hear very much about that dynamic between now and the locking in of the first-round picks in 25 days.

All first-round prospects are “boom or bust” originally appeared on Pro Football Talk