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Top quarterbacks aren’t always premier picks, as NFL’s championship weekend reaffirms with Chiefs, Ravens, 49ers and Lions

NEW YORK — Patrick Mahomes was the Chiefs’ No. 10 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Lamar Jackson barely squeaked into the 2018 first round to the Ravens at pick No. 32.

The 49ers’ Brock Purdy was 2022’s Mr. Irrelevant, pick No. 262 in the seventh round. Jared Goff, 2016’s No. 1 overall selection, only joined the Lions through a 2021 trade.

There is no singular way to find a quarterback. An NFL team doesn’t need a top-5 pick to get their man — just ask the Green Bay Packers, who picked Jordan Love No. 26 overall in 2020.

It just takes sharp evaluation, creativity, scheme and patience to find the right player and fit. That’s not easy, but it’s what the NFL’s four championship weekend representatives did.

And the Giants and Jets both could learn from it. They hold the Nos. 6 and 10 picks in April’s draft, respectively, with frequent problems plaguing them at the sport’s most important position.

The Jets, of course, swung and missed on Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 draft. Those flawed evaluations are killers. Just ask the Carolina Panthers, who took Bryce Young No. 1 in 2022 over the Houston TexansC.J. Stroud at No. 2.

Then the Jets compounded their mistake by trading for a then-39-year-old Aaron Rodgers and handing him the keys to their kingdom. That locked them in quarterback hell when Rodgers got hurt four plays into last season, and it puts them in QB purgatory for the foreseeable future.

Granted, the Jets didn’t have an asset like Matthew Stafford to trade for a different quarterback last offseason, like the Lions did to acquire Goff from the L.A. Rams in 2021.

Still, there is something so different about the Lions’ process — in identifying a talented 26-year-old Goff as a developing and talented asset with upside — from the Jets’ desperate attempt at a quick fix.

The Jets gave up this year’s second-round pick in that deal, too. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys were in this year’s playoffs with Dak Prescott, a 2016 fourth-round pick. The Philadelphia Eagles were in the Super Bowl last year and the postseason this year with Jalen Hurts, a 2020 second-round pick.

Something a lot of these quarterbacks have in common is that their teams were already competitive when they were drafted. And in many of the situations, they were able to sit and learn early behind entrenched starters.

Mahomes waited his turn for a year behind Alex Smith. Purdy and Jackson bided their time for more than half a season behind Jimmy Garoppolo and Joe Flacco, respectively. Love developed behind Rodgers for two years until taking the reins in Year 3. Hurts was Carson Wentz’s backup until late in his rookie year.

Goff, of course, had five years and a Super Bowl berth under his belt in Los Angeles before joining Detroit. The Lions were not a good team in his first season, however. They were turning over, 3-13-1 in that first 2021 season, and now have completely turned the tide in year three.

That’s where the Giants come in.

They paid Daniel Jones, the franchise’s 2018 No. 6 overall pick, after he led them to a playoff berth and wild-card victory in 2022. But a second neck injury, a torn ACL and subpar 2023 play create more questions than answers for this offseason.

The Giants theoretically have the opportunity to draft a young quarterback in April, start Jones in Week 1 and build up to the rookie’s takeover late in the year or in 2025.

Their roster, however, is not formidable enough yet to guarantee a sustainable product that will win games with Jones or support the transition to the kid. So GM Joe Schoen has to think creatively.

Acquiring the Seahawks’ second-round pick (No. 47 overall) in the Leonard Williams trade was a good start. Schoen now holds picks No. 6, 39 and 47 in the top 50.

He has the flexibility to move up from No. 6 to get his QB or to select a top wide receiver or tackle early and keep QB in play on day two.

Schoen obviously knows that sometimes teams do find their franchise QBs with those premier draft picks.

Look at the Bills’ trade up for Josh Allen at No. 7 overall in 2018, the same year the Giants’ Dave Gettleman wouldn’t take phone calls on the No. 2 pick and selected Saquon Barkley.

The Chiefs traded up for Mahomes. The Ravens, by contrast, passed on Jackson earlier in the 2018 first round and fell back into him. And it doesn’t just require talent. It’s also about the coaching and scheme: the vision and execution of Andy Reid. The evolution of Jackson from Greg Roman to Todd Monken.

While the Jets had no proper plan at backup quarterback behind Rodgers, the Browns’ Kevin Stefanski was making the playoffs after signing Flacco off the street. The Colts’ Shane Steichen ran a capable offense with Gardner Minshew when Anthony Richardson went down.

Good teams pivot, get creative and find a way. Bad teams don’t.

This hasn’t even touched on the quarterback trade market, either. League-wide, are the Arizona Cardinals really sticking with Kyler Murray? Where are the Chicago Bears going to deal Justin Fields?

It’s all part of the puzzle for NFL teams to figure out at quarterback. They just have to remember there’s no one way to do it.