The 2016 NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Quarterbacks

When the Los Angeles Rams acquired the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft via a trade with the Tennessee Titans, the top two quarterback prospects were theirs for the taking. Within the community of NFL experts, the debate as to which quarterback would be selected number one overall began. The choice was between Jared Goff, the “safe pick,” and Carson Wentz, the wild card who practically out of nowhere.

The Rams chose Goff and as usual per that time of year, most pertinent debates on the topic fizzled down to the sensible conclusion that four year’s time would tell who was the better pick between Goff and Wentz. That time has now come. But we really know for sure who’s the best NFL quarterback to come out of the 2016 draft? 

The 2016 NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Quarterbacks

The Starting Gate

For the sake of inclusion and completion, the below is a list of every quarterback drafted in 2016:

  1. First Round: First pick overall, Jared Goff Cal (Rams) 
  2. First Round: Second pick overall, Carson Wentz N. Dakota State (Philadelphia Eagles
  3. First Round: 26th pick overall, Paxton Lynch Memphis (Denver Broncos
  4. Second Round: 51st pick overall, Christian Hackenberg Penn State (New York Jets
  5. Third Round: 91st pick overall, Jacoby Brissett N.C. State (New England Patriots
  6. Third Round: 93rd pick overall, Cody Kessler USC (Cleveland Browns
  7. Fourth Round: 100th pick overall, Connor Cook Michigan State (then the Oakland Raiders
  8. Fourth Round: 135th pick overall, Dak Prescott Mississippi (Dallas Cowboys
  9. Fourth Round: 139th pick overall, Cardale Jones Ohio State (Buffalo Bills
  10. Fifth Round: 162nd pick overall, Kevin Hogan  Stanford (Kansas City Chiefs
  11. Sixth Round: 187th pick overall, Nate Sudfield Indiana (Washington Redskins
  12. Sixth Round: 191st pick overall, Jake Rudock Michigan (Detroit Lions
  13. Sixth Round: 201st pick overall, Brandon Allen Arkansas (Jacksonville Jaguars
  14. Sixth Round: 207th pick overall, Jeff Driskel Louisiana Tech (San Francisco 49ers
  15. Seventh Round: 223rd pick overall, Brandon Doughty Western Kentucky (Miami Dolphins

Those Who Failed or Fell Way Behind

It’s at least mildly surprising that only six of the 15 quarterbacks listed above are no longer on an NFL roster (Doughty, Hogan, Jones, Cook, Kessler and Hackenberg). Christian Hackenberg is in fact listed as ‘retired’ and reportedly seeking a big league pitching career. Cook received a fair enough shot to succeed with the Raiders before the Lions cut him last off-season. The widely known Cardale Jones out of Ohio State University never amounted to anything at the pro level.

Jacoby Brissett, originally drafted by the Patriots, has been handed the keys to the Indianapolis Colts for nearly two full seasons (2017 and 2019). Head coach Frank Reich says that Brissett has taken his demotion well since the arrival of ex-San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. A career stat line that includes a 12-20-0 win-loss record, 6,442 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions doesn’t scream Pro Bowl worthy, but Brissett has seen moderate success at the NFL level. 

The Best Quarterback of the 2016 NFL Draft Race Could Have Been Better

The 2016 quarterback draft class might someday be described as a classic three-horse race that lacked the flair and moxie of the 1983 NFL draft class, which included John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

Two favorites, Goff and Wentz, were joined by then mild long shot Dak Prescott. All three are continuing to battle for the title of the best quarterback of the 2016 draft class. 

Jared Goff by the Numbers

Passing Table – * Denotes Pro Bowl Selection
Year G GS QBrec Cmp Att Yds TD Int 1D Y/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk
2016 7 7 0-7-0 112 205 1089 5 7 48 5.3 9.7 155.6 63.6 26
2017* 15 15 11-4-0 296 477 3804 28 7 177 8.0 12.9 253.6 100.5 25
2018* 16 16 13-3-0 364 561 4688 32 12 268 8.4 12.9 293.0 101.1 33
2019 16 16 9-7-0 394 626 4638 22 16 220 7.4 11.8 289.9 86.5 22
Total 54 54 33-21-0 1166 1869 14219 87 42 713 7.6 12.2 263.3 91.9 106
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/15/2020.

Of course, it’s easy to throw out Goff’s rookie season. He was neither ready nor equipped with proper learning tools to be set up to succeed. That said, it will remain significant for comparison purposes to better get a sense of his direction. The 2019 season appears to be a drop-off but it likely provided his best learning experience as he moves forward. 

Carson Wentz by the Numbers

Passing Table – * Denotes Pro Bowl Selection
Year G GS QBrec Cmp Att Yds TD Int 1D Y/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk
2016 16 16 7-9-0 379 607 3782 16 14 192 6.2 10.0 236.4 79.3 33
2017* 13 13 11-2-0 265 440 3296 33 7 161 7.5 12.4 253.5 101.9 28
2018 11 11 5-6-0 279 401 3074 21 7 159 7.7 11.0 279.5 102.2 31
2019 16 16 9-7-0 388 607 4039 27 7 213 6.7 10.4 252.4 93.1 37
Total 56 56 32-24-0 1311 2055 14191 97 35 725 6.9 10.8 253.4 92.7 129
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2020.

Note that the interceptions column remained steady at seven, even when the passing attempts increased again. This is huge because Wentz still has yet to be rewarded with a great group of receivers, or even the best receiving corps in his division. Imagine the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants swapping their starting receivers back in 2016, or if the Eagles make a trade in the 2017 NFL Draft and get running back Dalvin Cook. Sure, they won the Super Bowl that season anyway, but Philly could be setup even better long term under those two scenarios. 

Dak Prescott by the Numbers

Passing Table – * Denotes Pro Bowl Selection
Year G GS QBrec Cmp Att Yds TD Int 1D Lng Y/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk
2016* 16 16 13-3-0 311 459 3667 23 4 185 83 8.0 11.8 229.2 104.9 25
2017 16 16 9-7-0 308 490 3324 22 13 162 81 6.8 10.8 207.8 86.6 32
2018* 16 16 10-6-0 356 526 3885 22 8 206 90 7.4 10.9 242.8 96.9 56
2019 16 16 8-8-0 388 596 4902 30 11 229 62 8.2 12.6 306.4 99.7 23
Total 64 64 40-24-0 1363 2071 15778 97 36 782 90 7.6 11.6 246.5 97.0 136
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2020.

Paraphrasing the late coach Dennis Green, Dak Prescott is who we think he is. Prescott is a solid starting quarterback, of course, but he will never be as good as Tony Romo was in his prime. Prescott’s numbers fall in line with the other two (especially Wentz’s) but it is likely he’s already peaked. With the new coaching staff in place, he’s likely to be even more careful and calculated. He should continue winning but his numbers may be affected going forward.  

The Last Word

Ultimately, it could come down to the eye test. And in looking at Goff, Wentz and Prescott, Wentz is the standout talent because he provides more of the total package. He’s simply done more of everything a bit better than the other two while in the NFL. This includes thinking on the fly, which is extremely important because the importance of an instinctive and mobile quarterback is becoming more prevalent every season.

However, traveling further down the road, the Rams may see better numbers from Goff. He’s a better fit in his system and has a head coach who knows how to get his offense to put up numbers. Behind a solid offensive line Goff should continue to thrive.

Of course, the Rams having a good offensive line and the whole offense continuing to thrive is not a given. Additionally, numbers aren’t everything and Carson Wentz has probably not yet reached his ceiling. But how many Wentz-type quarterbacks have lengthy careers at an optimum-level? It’s possible that the most talented quarterback to come out of the 2016 NFL draft doesn’t end up being the quarterback with the best NFL career.

Main Photo

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