In terms of quarterbacks, the second round has provided more players like Quincy Carter and Kellen Clemens than Brees or Cunningham. Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb, chosen 36th overall in 2007, is a valued trade commodity, but he's hardly proven.
The infrequency of finding a starting quarterback in the second round -- wasn't Carolina's Jimmy Clausen supposed to be the most pro-ready prospect in last year's quarterback class? -- has to be frightening to the multitude of general managers of quarterback-needy teams.
There are only a few prospects seen as first-round worthy. Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert are viewed as the top two, with some personnel evaluators pegging them more as mid-round talent that will go much higher. Opinions on the rest of the prospects vary widely.
"What it boils down to is that need. If you need that guy, you have to over-draft them if you want them," said former Falcons general manager Ken Herock, who was one of the few men in Atlanta's organization who wanted to draft Favre out of Southern Mississippi in 1991 and used his authority to do so with the 33rd pick. "There always have been and there will be guys in this draft who are over-drafted."
Ryan Mallett, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, and Christian Ponder make up the next wave of quarterback prospects who could find themselves selected in the first or second rounds. However, few NFL personnel evaluators interviewed think any of them are worthy of being taken in the first round.
Ultimately, some might be, although the recent projections of five or six quarterbacks going in the first round is being privately pooh-poohed as pre-draft misinformation.
Even so, most of the group figures to be off the board by the end of the second round. A team like the Dolphins, which doesn't have a second-round choice (that could be a blessing after whiffs in the round on Pat White and John Beck, and maybe incumbent Chad Henne), might be left to reach for a quarterback with pick No. 15.
Are any of the guys from this crop potential franchise quarterbacks? Maybe, but history doesn't lend toward optimism. Brees, selected in 2001, is the last second-rounder to make a name for himself. He was the second quarterback taken after Michael Vick went No. 1 overall to Atlanta.
Since then: Clemens, Tarvaris Jackson, Kolb, Beck, Drew Stanton, Brian Brohm, Henne, White, and Clausen have been the second-rounders. Note: After Brees was picked, two other quarterbacks went in the second round of the '01 draft (Dallas took Carter, and Oakland selected Marques Tuiasosopo).
"It's like centers in basketball: God's only put a few of those guys who can play that position in the NFL on the earth," said Rams general manager Billy Devaney, who selected Sam Bradford, the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year, with the first overall pick a year ago. "It's the one position on the team that is so darn hard to find. If you think you have a chance to draft one, you better take him early. History shows if you haven't taken him in the first round -- early -- it might not work. It's traditional supply and demand, and there's rarely a great supply walking the earth."
There are a variety of reasons for the failure of second-round quarterbacks -- namely they're not good enough, which is why they weren't drafted higher. There's also typically an "It" chromosome that's absent, according to Esiason, a second-round pick by the Bengals in 1984.
"You're the leader of the franchise; you're the guy that's going to make the difference. A lot of guys don't want to accept that role," Esiason said. "Drew Brees, before a game, you see him doing his chant in the middle of his team. A lot of guys don't want to do that. Some guys are woefully insecure. That's not who you want playing quarterback for you.
"There's a common thread between the good and great ones, and it runs through players from Dan Marino to Josh Freeman. All of us possessed the want to put on that uniform and be 'The Guy' and accept what being 'The Guy' brings. All the negatives and positives and fighting through all of it."
Carolina, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington, Minnesota, and Miami all need quarterbacks. They're all picking in the top 15. Carolina is widely projected to select Newton No. 1 overall, and Gabbert isn't expected to fall past Tennessee at No. 8. Those other teams, the ones with needs at other positions, can roll the dice by taking a quarterback early or hoping a worthy signal-caller is still there in the second round.
They can succeed or fail either way.
"Once you get into that second round, you can hit occasionally, but there haven't been many of them," Herock said. "This year, there could be a Favre or a Brees -- could be."
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.