Not every quarterback can be Cam Newton. (ZUMAPRESS.com)
With T.J. Yates taking over the Houston QB job, five of the 12 quarterbacks selected in the 2011 NFL Draft already hold starting jobs (seven have gotten game action altogether). Tennessee's Jake Locker and Kansas City's Ricky Stanzi could push the starter number higher this week.
Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert have combined for 44 starts this season -- and have been successful enough that the 2011 QB draft class is well ahead of the pace of most first-year classes. It could even become one of the league's all-time greatest classes when all is said and done.
But not every new crop of quarterbacks has taken the league by storm. Let's take a look back at some of the worst QB draft classes since the AFL-NFL merger prior to the 1970 season:
• 1972: The 1970 NFL Draft produced Terry Bradshaw; 1971 brought Jim Plunkett, Joe Theismann, Archie Manning, Ken Anderson and others into the league. The most successful QB to come from the '72 class? Brian Sipe.
Sipe won the NFL's MVP in 1980 and wound up starting 111 games over a 10-year career, all in Cleveland. Only one of the other 18 QBs taken in the 1972 draft started more than 10 career games (14th-overall pick John Reaves), and the top QB selected, Jerry Tagge, was out of the NFL by 1974.
• 1974: Not a single quarterback was selected until Dallas took Danny White with the 53rd overall pick in the third round. White then spent two seasons in the World Football League before becoming the Cowboys' punter -- and Roger Staubach's backup until 1980. He went on to start 91 games over the next eight seasons. The rest of this year's QB class included relative unknowns like David Jaynes, Kim McQuilken, Gary Marangi and Mike Boryla.
• 1976: Apparently, if you were a QB, you wanted to get drafted in an odd-numbered year. The '76 class followed the footsteps of '72 and '74, producing one so-so talent -- in this case, Richard Todd, the No. 6 overall pick by the Jets, who started through 1984 -- and a host of also-rans.
A tip of the cap here to Mike Kruczek, the second quarterback taken this year. He went 6-0 as a rookie in relief of an injured Terry Bradshaw ... then never won another game in the NFL.
• 1988: The first quarterback taken in this class was Tom Tupa, who started 13 games between 1989-91, then went on to make the Pro Bowl as a punter 1999.
From a QB standpoint the best of the 1988 bunch was Chris Chandler. He was selected in the third round (No. 76 oveall) by Indianapolis and threw for nearly 30,000 yards over a lengthy NFL career. He has the distinction of being the only quarterback in NFL history to achieve both a perfect passer rating (he did so three times) and a 0.0 rating (Dec. 19, 2004 vs. Arizona).
Stan Humphries, taken 79 spots after Chandler, helped the Chargers to the Super Bowl in the 1994 season, but the rest of this 13-man class combined for less than 5,000 yards passing.
• 1991: If not for one Brett Favre, this might have gone as the most disappointing QB class in NFL history. Favre was actually the third quarterback to come off the board, after Dan McGwire (five NFL starts) and Todd Marinovich (eight starts, out of the league by '93). The next best performer after Favre from the '91 group was Craig Erickson (7,625 yards passing, 41 touchdowns), who didn't get his start until 1992, when he was drafted for the second time.
• 1996: In terms of pure expectations, '96 was far less of a letdown than, say, the 1992 draft -- that year produced colossal bust David Klingler, plus Tommy Maddox, Jeff Blake and Brad Johnson. Still, the top QB in this class was Tony Banks, an underwhelming performer in St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington and Houston. Bobby Hoying, Danny Kanell and Jeff Lewis were the only other QBs selected to see any NFL action.
• 2002: This class to the art of the "bust" to an entirely new level. The No. 1 overall pick was David Carr by Houston, then Joey Harrington went No. 3 to Detroit and Patrick Ramsey No. 32 to Washington.
• 2007: You could make a case for 2006, which produced Jay Cutler but also unleashed on the NFL Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Kellen Clemens, Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Brodie Croyle and Bruce Gradkowski.
Still, 2007 deserves a spot here, if for no other reason than that JaMarcus Russell was the top pick. The Browns then took Brady Quinn 21 spots later -- and at least he's still in the league. Kevin Kolb may still bring some respectability to this class, but as it stands right now, its leading passer is Trent Edwards (6,019 yards).“He told me I didn’t have to worry about sanctions,” Dunn said. “Nothing worse is going to happen.”