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NFL draft: Carson Wentz tops ranking of recent first-round QBs

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On April 26, a handful of teams will likely attempt to solve their quarterback problems in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. As the draft nears and the hype builds around a crop of QB prospects -- most notably, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson -- I thought I'd try to put things in context with a look back at first-round QBs selected in recent years.

Below is my ranking -- encompassing both past performance and future potential -- of the 12 quarterbacks who have been drafted in the first round from 2013 through '17. The careers of the players taken in that five-year span -- chosen to reflect the maximum length of a rookie contract for a first-rounder -- show the wide range of outcomes that can be expected, even in the first round.

1
Carson Wentz
QB
Eagles

Drafted: No. 2 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016.

After seeing Wentz dazzle at North Dakota's pro day two years ago, I was shocked the Browns didn't draft him. Instead, Cleveland shipped the No. 2 overall pick to the Eagles, who ended up with a star, while the Browns' decades-long QB search continues. Wentz likely would have won the MVP award last season had he not suffered a torn ACL in Week 14 against the Rams. In his second pro campaign, Wentz threw for 33 touchdowns against seven picks with a passer rating of 101.9 while pushing the eventual Super Bowl champs to an 11-2 start. He's smart, athletic, accurate and has a great rapport with his teammates. You can't ask for much more out of a first-round QB.

Career stats: 29 games | 29 starts (18-11) | 61.5 pct | 7,078 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 49 pass TD | 21 INT | 88.8 passer rating

2
Jameis Winston
QB
Buccaneers

Drafted: No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015.

Generally speaking, Winston is the most polished pocket passer on this list. A lack of consistency and erratic ball security are the two main factors keeping him from sustained excellence in the NFL. One week, he'll throw for 375 yards, and you'll get excited. And then the next week, he'll put up 150 yards with a handful of turnovers. I think Winston just has to learn to not take as many chances and to force the ball less. I'd also like to see him be a bigger running threat. That said, he was further hampered by the lack of a real rushing attack in Tampa. If some semblance of a ground game can be assembled, the other pieces are in place -- including one of the best receivers in the NFL in Mike Evans, plus DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard -- for Winston to really break out in 2018.

Career stats: 45 games | 45 starts (18-27) | 60.8 pct | 11,636 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 69 pass TD | 44 INT | 87.2 passer rating

3
Marcus Mariota
QB
Titans

Drafted: No. 2 overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2015.

Last season, I think a lot of people expected Mariota to continue building off a mostly positive 2016. But while he showed flashes in a handful of game-winning moments, the Titans QB kind of leveled off, throwing half as many touchdown passes as he did in '16 (13, down from 26) and almost twice as many picks (15, up from nine). Maybe a deficiency at receiver was a factor; either way, with Mike Vrabel taking over at coach and bringing in a new staff, Mariota has a chance to resume his upward climb. He's a tremendous athlete with a ton of talent who is still really learning to play the game.

Career stats: 42 games | 42 starts (20-22) | 61.8 pct | 9,476 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 58 pass TD | 34 INT | 88.6 passer rating

4
Blake Bortles
QB
Jaguars

Drafted: No. 3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.

Bortles has been the target of plenty of criticism over the years, but don't forget that he is the only player on this list with multiple playoff wins -- and he nearly reached Super Bowl LII. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is a wonderful coach, and I think Bortles will continue to make strides under his tutelage. I just see something in Bortles, a smart guy who had to really learn the position after spending his college years on a run-centric UCF team. Losing receiver Allen Robinson to the Bears via free agency is tough. Still, he should take another step forward in 2018 and put doubts about his quarterbacking ability to rest.

Career stats: 62 games | 61 starts (21-40) | 59.1 pct | 14,928 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 90 pass TD | 64 INT | 80.8 passer rating

5
Jared Goff
QB
Rams

Drafted: No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Rams in 2016.

The epic leap Goff made from Year 1 to Year 2 illustrates just how important factors like coaching, scheme and the rest of the roster are to the success of a young quarterback. As a rookie, Goff racked up a ghastly 0-7 record with a 5:7 TD-to-INT ratio. Last season, in Sean McVay's first year at the helm in Los Angeles, Goff went 11-4 with a 28:7 TD-to-INT ratio and a 100.5 passer rating. McVay is one of the great offensive minds in football -- he's just REALLY impressive as a coach. His ability to make anyone better reminds me of Tom Landry. Looking ahead, trade acquisition Brandin Cooks further brightens Goff's prospects. And, of course, there's still dynamic running back Todd Gurley, whom McVay also unlocked in 2017, to help carry the offense. Goff is safely back on track after a rough start to his NFL career.

Career stats: 22 games | 22 starts (11-11) | 59.8 pct | 4,893 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 33 pass TD | 14 INT | 89.4 passer rating

6
Deshaun Watson
QB
Texans

Drafted: No. 12 overall by the Houston Texans in 2017.

Watson was the front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year before tearing his ACL in November. The last time we saw him in game action, Watson threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns (while chipping in 67 yards on the ground) in a Week 8 thriller against the Seahawks. He also holds the record for most touchdown passes in a player's first seven career games (19). Basically, he's an athletic QB who runs and throws well and has succeeded at every level. Texans coach Bill O'Brien will keep Watson on the right track, especially after a full offseason of working with him. You always worry a little bit about an injury as serious as an ACL tear, but modern medicine is amazing and, as with Wentz, I expect Watson to be his old self when he returns.

Career stats: 7 games | 6 starts (3-3) | 61.8 pct | 1,699 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 19 pass TD | 8 INT | 103.0 passer rating

7
Mitch Trubisky
QB
Bears

Drafted: No. 2 overall by the Chicago Bears in 2017.

Trubisky only started 13 games in college (at North Carolina), so there's still some seasoning that needs to be done. But he runs well and helped Chicago close out 2017 with a 2-2 record despite a complete lack of healthy receiving talent. The Bears are hoping new coach Matt Nagy can install an offense that capitalizes on Trubisky's athleticism and impressive arm strength. While we haven't seen what Nagy can do as a head coach yet, I think he's something special. Plus, Chicago really beefed up the offense, adding receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton to a group that already included promising running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Trubisky should thrive in Year 2.

Career stats: 12 games | 12 starts (4-8) | 59.4 pct | 2,139 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 7 pass TD | 7 INT | 77.5 passer rating

8
Teddy Bridgewater
QB
Jets

Drafted: No. 32 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2014.

Bridgewater showed plenty of promise in his first two years as a starter in the NFL. Unfortunately, he might never be able to fulfill his potential after a horrific knee injury basically wiped out Years 3 and 4 of his career. He's hard to rank here, because we just don't know yet whether he'll be as effective as he was before that knee injury. On one hand, ultimately, he did not become a franchise quarterback for the Vikings. On the other hand, Minnesota did win with him. Now he's a veteran at a crossroads, having signed on with the New York Jets, who also inked Josh McCown and will likely draft a QB third overall this year. Bridgewater's a tremendous young man and I hope he does well -- I just don't know what to expect at this point.

Career stats: 30 games | 28 starts (17-11) | 64.7 pct | 6,150 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 28 pass TD | 22 INT | 86.3 passer rating

9
Patrick Mahomes
QB
Chiefs

Drafted: No. 10 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017.

Mahomes is long on potential and short on experience, with just one NFL start to his name. He has all the attributes you need to be good: He's smart and athletic with an incredible arm, and he's in a system that's quarterback-friendly. When I was in Chiefs camp last year, I saw him roll right on one pass, outside the right hashmark, and throw the ball completely over to the left hashmark about 50 yards downfield. Whenever you see a guy who can do that, it's worth taking note. He's got some serious assets in Kansas City, with Sammy Watkins joining Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. And the Chiefs are obviously bullish about his 2018 outlook, having traded Alex Smith -- who won 51 games, including playoffs, in five years with them -- to Washington this offseason. Mahomes should be good eventually -- you just don't know when that will be.

Career stats: 1 game | 1 start (1-0) | 62.9 pct | 284 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 0 pass TD | 1 INT | 76.4 passer rating

10
Paxton Lynch
QB
Broncos

Drafted: No. 26 overall by the Denver Broncos in 2016.

The Broncos look like they're moving on from Lynch just two years into his career, with veteran Case Keenum coming aboard and the realistic possibility that Denver will take a quarterback fifth overall in the draft. I think Lynch was overdrafted, a miscalculated selection at a position of need, and he simply didn't turn out. Yes, he's been injured, but you have to look at the whole picture with him, and it isn't encouraging. No one really recruited him coming out of high school. And when you consider Lynch's last game of his college career against Auburn -- he was 16 of 37 for 106 yards and a pick in the Birmingham Bowl -- it's clear there were things to be concerned about.

Career stats: 5 games | 4 starts (1-3) | 61.7 pct | 792 pass yds | 6.2 ypa | 4 pass TD | 4 INT | 76.7 passer rating

11
EJ Manuel
QB
Raiders

Drafted: No. 16 overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2013.

In a bad year for quarterbacks, Manuel was, like Lynch, overdrafted and ultimately fizzled out in Buffalo. He now seems destined for a career as a backup. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz -- who was on the coaching staff in Buffalo during Manuel's time there -- told me nobody works harder than Manuel. He has athletic ability and he's smart, and he's a very nice person. He just struggles with accuracy to the point where he's not a viable starter.

Career stats: 30 games | 18 starts (6-12) | 58.1 pct | 3,767 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 20 pass TD | 16 INT | 77.1 passer rating

12
Johnny Manziel
QB

Drafted: No. 22 overall by the Browns in 2014.

Manziel has been out of the NFL for two years and out of school for four. Problems with substance abuse and maturity -- as well as an allegation of domestic violence that eventually was conditionally dismissed -- caused things to go sideways in Cleveland, which was not in the best shape, organizationally speaking, when he entered the league. The former Heisman Trophy winner still has excellent ability, based on what he showed working out at Texas A&M's pro day -- he's the kind of guy who can make plays with his feet and his arm. Additionally, he has great on-field leadership potential. I don't think he's lost any of his throwing ability or playmaking savvy. If he can stay out of trouble and sign on somewhere -- and I think someone will take a chance and bring him in -- he can still be a factor.

Career stats: 15 games | 8 starts (2-6) | 57.0 pct | 1,675 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 7 pass TD | 7 INT | 74.4 passer rating

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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