Was the 2013 NFL draft QB class the worst ever?

The quarterback draft class of 2013 hasn’t officially been pronounced dead yet, but it’s on serious life support.

With the retirement of EJ Manuel, the class’ top overall QB selection (16th overall) that year, we can pretty much say that 2013 was not a good year to be needing a passer in the draft. (In fact, it was just a bad year to need a QB in general; I mean, look at this free-agency class at the position — yuck.)

Monday also delivered more 2013 QB draft news in the form of Geno Smith signing with the Seattle Seahawks. He was the second quarterback drafted in that class, 39th overall, after being mentioned as an early season possibility for the No. 1 overall pick. Can you imagine that happening now?

Smith is one of the few barely left starting from the crop. First, he must make the roster. Second, he must be prepared to sit and watch Russell Wilson, who has never missed an NFL game. It will be Smith’s fourth team in as many years. And he has been — gulp — one of the better quarterbacks from that draft class.


Just how bad was this group?

There were 11 quarterbacks drafted in 2013. Five of them started games in the NFL. Only three — Manuel, Smith and Mike Glennon — started more than seven regular-season contests. As of Tuesday, only four remain on NFL rosters: Smith in Seattle; Matt Barkley with the Buffalo Bills; and Glennon and Landry Jones, both fighting for roster spots with the Oakland Raiders.

The 2013 group’s combined statistics so far in the league: 1,643-of-2,766 passing (59.4 percent) for 18,655 yards, 103 TDs and 98 interceptions. Even if we add in the undrafted Matt McGloin, who emerged as a surprise rookie starter for the Raiders that season, there’s little doubting how brutal this group has been.

For perspective, last year’s QB draft class already has accumulated 12,143 yards, 71 TDs and 58 INTs in one NFL season and could pass the 2013 group in those numbers by about Week 6 this coming season. The 2017 QB draft class already has 4,360 more yards, 49 more TD passes and only one more INT than the 2013 class did.

What did we think of the 2013 QBs at the time?

Smith was off to a scorching start for West Virginia in his final college season, following two good statistical years there. In his first five games of 2012, Smith completed 166 of 204 passes (81.4 percent) for 1,996 yards, 24 TDs and zero interceptions. People were losing their minds and anointing him the obvious No. 1 overall pick favorite.

But he and the Mountaineers struggled down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games (with wins over a brutal Kansas team and a sub-.500 Iowa State club). Smith especially played poorly against Kansas State, and the more scouts dug in on him the less they were impressed.

Manuel wasn’t considered a major NFL draft prospect until late in his junior season when he led a bowl-game comeback over Notre Dame, and he built on that with a solid senior season. The Seminoles won the ACC championship and beat a good Northern Illinois team in the Orange Bowl for a 12-2 record. Manuel put up solid numbers (3,392 pass yards, 68 percent completions, 23 TDs, 10 INTs; 310 rush yards, four TDs). His size, athleticism, arm and experience in FSU’s pro-style offense made Manuel’s appeal grow as the process went on.

The Buffalo Bills are quarterback Matt Barkley's sixth NFL team. (AP Photo)
The Buffalo Bills are quarterback Matt Barkley's sixth NFL team. (AP Photo)

But the player many thought would be the favorite to be picked first overall entering the 2012 college football season was Barkley. He returned to school for his senior season and was built up to lofty levels. After a solid start, Barkley struggled against Stanford and suffered a late-season shoulder injury that knocked him out of the team’s bowl game. Even still there was talk Barkley — despite great physical traits — could be the second or third QB off the board.

There was also the consistent Glennon, the productive Jones and the intriguing Ryan Nassib and Tyler Wilson. Still, few were calling this an excellent group entering the draft, and no one knew for sure which passer would be drafted first.

The results were surprising at the time, with one quarterback drafted in the first round (Manuel) and only two drafted in the first 72 selections (Smith). It appeared that most teams had figured out this class was not special. Barkley lasted until Round 4 (98th overall). And whatever intrigue there was for Nassib, it was quickly dissipated when his former college coach, Doug Marrone, felt it was better to take Manuel at No. 16 overall than to wait on Nassib, who went in Round 4, 12 picks after Barkley.

New coaches were left hanging for QB talent

This was a big disappointment for the nine new NFL head coaches that offseason, a number of whom — Andy Reid, Bruce Arians, Chip Kelly, Marc Trestman, Mike McCoy among them — who were hired for their offensive acumen and QB-developing chops. A year after Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson emerged as rookie playmakers, and two years following the Cam Newton-Andy Dalton-Colin Kaepernick draft, teams were more willing than ever to throw their talented, young quarterbacks into the mix early.

But the 2013 class wasn’t going to bear much fruit. In either the short or long terms.

Smith started every game his rookie season, Manuel started 10 games for the Bills and Glennon never looked better than he did starting 13 games as a rookie for a bad Bucs team (19 TDs, nine INTs). Those three players would start a combined 32 games over the following five NFL seasons. Barkley has one more NFL start (seven) than he’s had NFL teams (six). Smith is now on his fourth team in four years. Glennon went from Chicago Bears starter to on the bench in four games despite being given $18.5 million guaranteed in the 2017 offseason; he’s been on two rosters since then.

Worst QB draft class ever?

What can we say? It was a brutal year for QB draft prospects and not a very good draft overall. Sometimes that’s the way it is. It was the worst QB draft class in at least a decade — and perhaps ever?

The 2007 QB crop, led by JaMarcus Russell going first overall to the Raiders, was one of the worst ever. (Others in that 2007 group: Brady Quinn, Kevin Kolb, John Beck, Drew Stanton, Trent Edwards, Troy Smith, Tyler Thigpen and undrafted Matt Moore.)

The 1997 class (Jim Druckenmiller, Jake Plummer, Danny Wuerffel, Koy Detmer, et al, plus undrafted Jon Kitna) was by no means memorable. But the class prior in 1996 (Tony Banks, Bobby Hoying, Jeff Lewis, Danny Kanell) was worse. If you want to go way back, the 1976 QB class gives us some bad memories: Richard Todd, Mike Kruczek, Jeb Blount, plus undrafted Gary Danielson.

And yet, if we take the 30,000-foot view on this one ... is the 2013 the worst of the bunch? Maybe. It might not be a surprise then that only Reid remains with the same team from that offseason hiring cycle. The need for quarterbacks is an every-year reality. But it’s also a fact that not every year produces the supply to meet the demand.

Rest quietly, QB class of 2013. The pain and suffering is almost over.

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