Clockwise, from top left: Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy...

Clockwise, from top left: Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy and Drake Maye

How far back should we go to find an NFL draft with so much buzz and anticipation over so many quarterbacks in the first round as this current one is touting?

To 2004 when Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger were all top 11 picks?

Maybe 1983 when three future Hall of Famers — John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino — were selected among six in the first round?

Quit digging so deep into history, folks. It was just three short years ago that the NFL was so smitten with the incoming class of potential passers that three went in the first three picks and five in the top 15 of the 2021 draft. It included Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones and Justin Fields. They were supposed to be the incoming generation that would fill the vacancies left by some of the all-time greats and Super Bowl champs — Tom Brady, Drew Brees, the Mannings, etc. — as they transitioned out of the league.


Of that class of first-rounders, only first overall pick Trevor Lawrence remains with the team that selected him, and even he hasn’t blossomed the way many predicted he would when he arrived as the near-perfect prospect.

“That was an example of a draft where we had all these guys go and it hasn't always worked out,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said last week in the most polite of terms imaginable regarding that influx of so-called talent. “In fact,” he added, perhaps realizing how badly he had undersold the bad, “it hasn't been good at all.”

A lesson learned? Hardly.

Teams will try again, starting Thursday night, when a new slate of quarterbacks will be the darlings of Draft Day. This year’s crop will include two Heisman Trophy winners and a national championship winner (Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and J.J. McCarthy, respectively), plus Drake Maye from North Carolina, all of whom could potentially go with the top four selections. Throw in Bo Nix of Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington and the quarterback-starved league could add six at that position in the first few hours of the draft.

One of them may even become a Giant.

“It's a good quarterback class, and I think it's deep,” Giants general manager Joe Schoen said. “You look at some of the guys and the amount of games some of these guys have started and played, it's impressive. Really haven't seen a class like that with some of the quarterbacks that have started and played as many games as they have at a high level.”

While all of them will flash that unmistakable smile of hope as they hold up their new jersey and don that new baseball cap and bear hug The Commish, the reality is that only one or two will work out . . . if any of them do. And when it comes to figuring out who that will be, well, the NFL hasn’t had a lot of success in that area.

Even recent drafts like the 2018 class that produced stud quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen (when Schoen and Giants coach Brian Daboll were part of the process in Buffalo) were dotted with the disappointments of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and first overall pick Baker Mayfield.

The only quarterback drafted in the last decade who has won a Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes, was taken with the 10th overall pick, long after the Bears took Mitchell Trubisky second overall. The last first-round pick to win a title as a starting quarterback before Mahomes was Matthew Stafford, who went first overall in 2009, and he had to be traded from the Lions to the Rams in order to do so. Joe Flacco, taken in 2008, was the last pre-Mahomes first-rounder to win a Super Bowl with the team that actually selected him.

“It would be hard to point to the results and say we've made progress, as sad as that is,” Jeremiah said of mastering the vagaries in evaluating the most critical position in the sport. “I think it comes down to does he have the traits and the makeup and all those things? That's the questions there. Different styles, that's not something to get carried away with. To me, it's more a focus of do we have the right play-caller, the right offensive line to protect him, and do we have some guys he can get the ball to? I think that seems to be what's going to lead to these guys being a success or not, more so than even just how good the player at the quarterback position might be.”

Where this class eventually ranks is, in all reality, more a guess than a prediction. Every two decades or so, however, there does seem to be that rare convergence of power players who come into the NFL as they did in 1983 and 2004. Maybe the class of 2024 is right on schedule to follow that trend.

Maybe 20 years after a huge draft-day trade to get their two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback in Eli Manning the Giants will be able to engineer a similar maneuver and find another one for themselves.

But in the same week in which the last great potential savior of New York football was unceremoniously kicked out, with Wilson, 2021’s second overall pick, traded for a late-late-late-round shuffle of picks to the Broncos after three lackluster and unproductive seasons as one of the Jets’ all-time busts, here’s a friendly reminder to the Giants:

When it comes to quarterbacks and drafting, there is no such thing as a sure thing.


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