Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots chose to go bold in the 2014 NFL Draft. Despite having needs on the offensive line and at linebacker, New England used the 62nd overall pick on Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who immediately became the supposed heir apparent to an aging Tom Brady.
As we now know, Garoppolo didn’t replace Brady, who is still going strong at 44 years old, albeit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New England eventually traded Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, and he’s been an above-average starter when healthy. After injuries derailed his 2018 season, the EIU product led the 49ers to Super Bowl 54 in February 2020 and a wild-card berth two seasons later.
Four quarterbacks, including three in the first round, were selected ahead of Garoppolo in 2014. Of that group, who have had the best careers? For this list, we are only ranking players based on their on-field achievements and numbers. We did not consider any off-field issues.
Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, the best players stack up as follows:
4. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns (22nd overall)
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner entered the NFL with high expectations and plenty of character concerns. On the field, Manziel completed 57% of his passes for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. An electric dual-threat college quarterback, the Texas A&M product rushed for 259 yards and a touchdown in two NFL seasons.
Manziel’s lack of statistics and NFL longevity — the Browns cut him in 2016 — doomed him to last place on this list regardless of his off-field transgressions.
3. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (3rd overall)
This is one of those instances where it doesn’t feel right to call Bortles the second-worst quarterback among the four on our list. Forget the memes and the jokes for a second. There were times in Jacksonville where the UCF legend looked like a legitimately dangerous NFL quarterback.
Although he only went 24-49 as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback, Bortles completed 59.3% of his passes for 17,649 yards, 103 touchdowns, and 75 interceptions. He ranks second among quarterbacks on this list in all three categories.
However, Bortles’ lack of action in recent years — he’s primarily been an emergency quarterback who has thrown two total passes since the start of the 20219 season — dooms him to third place. Considering that he’ll play all of the 2022 season at 30 years old and has shown no desire to retire, he has a chance to still leap into second.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings (32nd overall)
Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in 2014, enters the 2022 season with a 66.5 completion percentage, 14,437 yards, 71 touchdowns, and 43 interceptions. He deserves immense credit for making it back to the NFL from a devastating knee injury suffered in the 2016 preseason.
Bridgewater is still only 29, and he’s had a fine career, one that shouldn’t end anytime soon. For the sake of this list, though, what he’s done isn’t enough to earn a higher spot.
1. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders (36th overall)
In the same way that it’s easy to predict Manziel would rank last, Carr should have been an obvious choice for first overall. The Fresno State product ended the 2021 regular season having completed 65% of his passes for 31,700 yards, 193 touchdowns, and 85 interceptions in eight seasons.
Carr helped lead the Raiders to two playoff appearances in his first eight seasons, a number that looks far better after reaching the 2021 NFL Postseason. He’s the best quarterback from this class and still has a bright future ahead of him.
In theory, Garoppolo can still catch Carr if he can stay healthy and maybe, just maybe, win a Super Bowl as a starting quarterback.