All first-round prospects are “boom or bust”

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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.

34 responses to “All first-round prospects are “boom or bust”

  1. I guess it is also that time of year where we state the other obvious: For a QB to be a “boom” instead of a bust they need to succeed at the most important stat- wins. That instantly excludes a certain 4 win “QB” in Houston and a certain 5’8″, 7 win “QB” in Arizona. Both definitely fall into the bust category.

  2. If Goff is 2-1 in the playoffs and Jackson is 1-3, and Mayfield is 1-1 the playoffs with 3 years of mediocrity, then they can’t be “booms”. Maybe undecided, but claiming one way or the other, especially when comparing games that actually matter, they can’t be booms. These are guys that are 2-3 years in the league. By your logic Rodgers would be a bust…

  3. Funny they are making these declarations to early. We have never seen a QB have a good rookie year and then flame out when the league gets some more film on him. Or we have never seen a QB struggle year one only to become great after. Jury is out on Burrow and Herbert as much as it is on Tua.

  4. In spite of hard work, talent and attitude, where you land has a lot to do with a QBs success. If Tom Brady had been drafted by Cleveland, in 5 years he would have been in law school or selling commercial real estate. Same for a lot of others.

  5. It’s not as simple as boom or bust, there is a middle ground too. Winston, Mariota, and Trubisky all fell short of expectations but they’ll all be able to have ten plus year careers if they want. That’s not a bust, Ryan Leaf and Jamarcus Russell are busts

  6. I agree that the organization is in some cases more responsible for the “boom or bust” than the player. Does Mahommes become the Mahommes we see now without that coaching staff and Alex Smith? We all saw what a poorly performing OL can do to a star QB during the Superbowl. Now take that train of thought and explain the Sam Darnold situation, is he really that bad or was it bad coaching (Gase), OL play and so-so receivers? The point being we must consider the big picture. Cleveland burnt through how many QBs over the years that might have been HOFers if on another well coached team.

  7. People often forget that HOF quarterbacks often have a rough rookie season. Yes Herbert and Burrow had impressive rookie seasons, but what were their record again? Tua, while not as physically gifted as them, is in the best position to succeed. Give him time, give him weapons and let’s see what he can do. Aikman won 3 championships AFTER having a rough rookie season.

  8. You need to give them a couple years to really find out what you have. Peyton Manning went 3-13 and threw 28 picks his rookie season, he turned out ok.

  9. If Tom Brady had been drafted by Cleveland, in 5 years he would have been in law school or selling commercial real estate.
    ————————–
    he wouldn’t have 7 rings for sure, but brady would get the job anywhere he went and he would ultimately W-I-N and W-I-N a lot anywhere he went. brady is a force, a magnet for those who want to win. at every level he had to take a back seat to some one with more “talent” but yous can not keep W-I-N-N-E-R-S down forever.

  10. Wouldn’t touch fields. Don’t like osu qbs. Herbert and Murray are the only young qbs that look promising. That’s it. I keep reading Lamar is going backwards very quickly, and it’s because of his passing and pocket presence.

  11. With college games Tape and no combine this year I would only be confident taking 1 qb in the 1st round of the draft….
    Mac Jones.,.
    Against an ALL SEC schedule of 10+ games, to show the accuracy like that in real can time consistently and even running up the score each week against the best corners and safeties in college football AND to play big in big games… Can’t get much better of an audition than that…

    I may study up and possibly consider Lawrence if Jones was off the board but the rest played no one and I wouldn’t even chance them until the 3rd round…
    Wilson and Fields may pan out but I would be very much OK with some other team taking that risk!…

  12. In many cases, the first rounders should be the easiest to choose. There’s generally a consensus of the majority of the first round guys. You can pull up 5 Moch drafts online, close your eyes and pick a first rounder. But look at how often Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals has failed with his first rounders. Many of which aren’t even in the NFL. He has never selected a single 1st rounder who has lived up to its billing. Considering Isaiah simmons isn’t even an ideal fit for their defense, you can likely add his name to the list.

  13. In 2016, it was Jared Goof (mini-boom then mega-bust)

    —————

    Not sure if this was a typo 🤔

  14. No they are not. “Boom or bust” does not mean successful or unsuccessful which is the way Mike Florio is trying to define it. Boom is someone who exceeds expectations. Bust is someone who fails to meet expectations. Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield are neither Booms or Busts. They are playing up to the level of a 1st round drafted QB. They are no Patrick Mahoomes and they are not Josh Rosen. They are legitimate starting NFL QBs which is why they were drafted in the 1st round of NFL.

  15. If Mitchell Trubisky is a bust, then Daniel Jones can absolutely be labeled a bust, in permanent marker, all caps. Trubisky may not have been the answer in Chicago but he at least had some moments. A comeback win or two, a 6 TD pass game. What is the signature moment of the alleged “Danny Dimes” Era? If not him desperately lobbing jump balls to a sea of defenders in the end zone or fumbling (again) to kill a drive, it has to be his glorious would-be 90 yard TD run that ended with… him being open-field tackled by the turf monster at the 10 yard line. Danny never disappoints, always comedy gold!

  16. xenu says:
    April 4, 2021 at 1:31 pm
    You need to give them a couple years to really find out what you have. Peyton Manning went 3-13 and threw 28 picks his rookie season, he turned out ok.

    ———

    He also has 9 one-and -dones

  17. Jared Goff has been one of the winningest QB’s since he’s been in the league and has led his team to a super bowl. His career is far from over. He obviously had a falling out with his coach, and was forced to move on, but so did Tom Brady. Goff has been a huge boom.

  18. I think we see teams give up wayyyy to early on high 1st round picks if they produce inside the first two to at the longest three years. If a guy doesn’t produce inside that time window teams are looking to replace that guy either in FA or the draft whichever makes more sense for them at the time.

    Particularly QB, LT, CB and ILB take longer to master than you’re other positions. Probably 5 years to master and 3 to start excelling at. Look at Garrett Bolles and AZ LT DJ Humphries both of whom posted PFF grades in the high 60s low 70a their first few years in the league and now are elite top 3-5 NFL LTs. Once AZ signed one of the best OL Coach’s in the game Humphries play improved dramatically n with an elite 89.5 overall grade he graded as a top 3 OT in 2020.Look at QBs like Josh Allen, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Ryan Tannehill , Baker Mayfield, I mean whether it’s coaching or whatever reason a ton of QBs have turned their caeeers around after drastic starts. Jim Plunkett and Alex Smith are two more notorious late bloomers. Some times teams just need to be a bit more patient with guys.

  19. “I keep reading Lamar is going backwards very quickly, and it’s because of his passing and pocket presence.”
    ———————-
    Agreed, but I believe half of that is coaching. Most of the play calls: If no receiver is open, run.
    Do you think they could manage to call a little play-action, or take a more cerebral approach to screen passes as opposed to making them obvious? The D has just as much of a book on the OC as they do on Lamar.

  20. Players who go in a playoff team have it easy. See aRodgers Wilson, Patrick Mahoms. Players who go early in draft go to bad teams and have relatively tough task. I would rate Mayfield and STaffird higher than these so called top 10 QB any day

  21. This is a silly exercise anyway. QBs need a good compete team and good coaches to succeed. Forget that, just talk offensive line. How did chiefs and their QB do in Super Bowl without regular OL? How did Rodgers do without his LT and RB ( injured) in championship game? Brady was saved by defense in same game after throwing three interceptions.

  22. While that may be true, all positions drafted outside of qb in the first round could turn out to be decent players and go on to lengthy careers even if they didn’t live up to the first round draft status. Meanwhile a bust qb just sucks and most times will not be on any team for any length of time and disappear from the NFL in a short amount of time.

  23. It’s a matter of simple math. 23 qbs have been drafted in the first round since 2014. There are 32 teams. Throw in guys like Derek Carr and Dak Prescott who were drafted in later rounds, plus established veterans, and the fact of the matter is a significant number of these guys will have to be below average starting qbs at best. The math dictates it.

  24. How could the jury be out on Tua when he was benched multiple times during the season due to poor play??

  25. In my mind there are 3 booms in the last 5 yrs of QBs. I’m disregarding Watson for obvious reasons. One wait and see in Kyler Murray. The booms are Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. That’s it in my view. Kyler could turn into a boom, but he has too many weapons to fail.

  26. nhpats2011 says:
    April 4, 2021 at 4:48 pm
    xenu says:
    April 4, 2021 at 1:31 pm
    You need to give them a couple years to really find out what you have. Peyton Manning went 3-13 and threw 28 picks his rookie season, he turned out ok.

    ———
    ***********************************************************
    When Peyton Manning got injured, the Colts went 2-14. They had been winning 12-14 games every year when he was under center. That was a horrible roster he was carrying on his back all those years, making them look much better than they were. Just like when Brady left New England and they missed the playoffs entirely for the first time in years, and Tampa Bay hadn’t won a playoff game in 18 years prior to last season when Brady led them to the championship. Manning performed miracles every year, every week. Then he went to Denver and broke all time records and won another super bowl. Sorry if you missed one of the greatest careers in NFL history. It was awesome.

    He also has 9 one-and -dones

  27. In that entire list, only two QBs have taken their team to a Super Bowl.

    Mahomes and Goff.

    Call the likes of 4-12 Watson “booms” if you will, but facts are facts.

  28. Well done article!!! These talking heads go on TV and spit foolishness about these quarterbacks when nobody knows how they will plan out.

  29. hahahaha how is the jury out on Tua. The guy played in 9 games, threw for 1800 yards, 11/5 with 3 RTDs and a near 90 rating. I’m not a Dolphins fan but come on, the Fins had ONE winning season in 11 years prior to 2020. Herbert balled out but the Chargers went 7-9. Somehow this guy is a potential bust though lol.

  30. Jared Goof, mega bust? The guy went to two pro bowls, led his team to the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 years, and went to the super bowl. I’m not saying the guy is an all pro but “mega bust” is way too harsh, considering were only calling Dwayne Haskins, Josh Rosen, and Blake Bortles a normal “bust”

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