When Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were selected with the top two picks in this year's draft, it marked the third time in five years that quarterbacks went 1-2. But unlike the first two times, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles didn't take players who were superstars in college.
Andrew Luck was the presumptive first overall pick for years before the Indianapolis Colts finally got him at the top of the 2012 NFL Draft, and he was followed by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Three years later it was a pair of Heisman winners at the top of the 2015 NFL Draft when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.
But neither Goff nor Wentz was ever close to winning a Heisman Trophy. Goff endured a 14-23 record as a starter at Cal, keeping him off the national radar, and Wentz was hidden from the spotlight at North Dakota State, even as he led the Bison to back-to-back championships.
The Denver Broncos were the final team to draft a quarterback in the first round, when they grabbed Memphis' Paxton Lynch at No. 26. Memphis belongs to the American, a non-power conference, and similar to Goff and Wentz, he didn't have much name recognition before the draft.
The benefit for this trio is that they won't face the intense pressures and expectations that college stars like Johnny Manziel and Winston did immediately after they were drafted. However, all three teams made trades to move up -- the Rams and Eagles in particular traded away significant draft capital -- in order to take players they expect to be the faces of their franchises for years to come.
So what counts as success for Goff, Wentz and Lynch in their first year in the league?
Jared Goff: Learning on the job
The Rams made a huge investment in Goff by trading up from No. 15 to No. 1 two weeks before the first round even began.
Being the No. 1 pick is already a world of pressure, but the expectations for Goff are only elevated by the fact that the Rams sent away their first-round pick in 2017 and a handful of second-day selections. If he isn't good, it isn't just a bad pick for Los Angeles, it's one that will set the franchise back significantly.
Yet, his rookie season will be one without too many unfair expectations, says Joe McAtee of SB Nation's Rams blog, Turf Show Times:
The more I think about it, he can't really fail on 2016 as a gauge alone.
If Goff puts up impressive numbers, it'll justify some sense of "success" on his individual performance. If the Rams are able to put up a winning record and get to the playoffs, it'll be impossible not to assign much of the reason why to Goff. And if he struggles and the Rams put up Fisherball's regular 7-win season or worse, there are too many other factors to blame or worry about.
The real success for Goff is to avoid a Sam Bradford/RGIII path. If going into the 2020 season he's still the coveted cornerpiece for the franchise, that's success.
The Rams have been stuck in neutral during the Jeff Fisher era. But consistently finishing in the bottom half of the NFC West standings has allowed the team to add plenty of talent, and that means Goff is headed to a team set up to win in the long run.
Los Angeles has one of the NFL's best defensive players in Aaron Donald, and a 21-year-old star at running back in Todd Gurley. What held the Rams back in 2015 was the league's worst passing offense, but Goff isn't the instant fix. The team will also need to add tools around him better than Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick and Pharoh Cooper.
Unlike the other first-round rookies, the reins are firmly in Goff's hands in Year 1, and that means he can make things happen right away in Los Angeles.
Carson Wentz: Patience ... at first
If Goff wasn't a national star at Cal, Wentz certainly didn't draw national attention at North Dakota State. While Goff didn't earn many wins during his collegiate career, Wentz did nothing but rack up victories during back-to-back national FCS championship campaigns.
His blend of size, athleticism, intelligence and knack for winning convinced the Eagles to take the leap and trade up from No. 8 to No. 2 a week before the draft, despite the fact that they had already signed starter Sam Bradford to a $35 million extension and handed backup Chase Daniel $21 million just months earlier.
Although going from the FCS to the NFL is no small task, the few quarterbacks who have made the jump have all been successes. Wentz joins Joe Flacco, Phil Simms, Doug Williams, Steve McNair and Dan Pastorini as the only six FCS passers since 1970 to get selected in the first round. If Wentz doesn't make the Super Bowl in his career, he'd be the first of that group of six to not get there.
Philadelphia fans shouldn't expect that to happen any time soon, though.
The Eagles will almost certainly rely on Bradford at quarterback in 2016, and if it's a good year for the oft-injured former No. 1 pick, Bradford may keep his hold on the job in 2017 too. The expectation is that Wentz will have time to learn from the sideline and ease into the fire. Via Brandon Lee Gowton of SB Nation's Eagles blog, Bleeding Green Nation:
Success is obviously a relative term but the general idea is that Wentz needs to make it so that the Eagles are realistically in the mix for championship contention each year. Like how they were when they had Donovan McNabb. Also like McNabb, the success doesn't have to be immediate.
No one is really expecting Wentz to even play all that much as a rookie. I'd say by Year 3 he needs to show that he's at least capable of taking the Birds to the playoffs. From there it's about being able to win in the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl.
Not only does Wentz need some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL, the Eagles need some time to rebuild the team around him. Former head coach Chip Kelly made a ton of changes to the franchise when given personnel control, and almost none of those moves worked out well for the team.
Philadelphia has already distanced itself from Kelly's decisions by trading away Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray. But it'll likely take some time to restock the roster with talent and that means Eagles fans should temper their expectations for Wentz in his first years in the NFL.
Paxton Lynch: More of a luxury pick
It's difficult to imagine any passer could walk into a better situation than Lynch has. The reigning Super Bowl champions had the NFL's No. 1 defense in 2015 and the unit choked the life out of the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers in the playoffs en route to the Lombardi Trophy.
Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset with another ring, but make no mistake about it: Quarterback was one of the biggest weaknesses for the Broncos last season. Unfortunately for Denver, which gave up a third-round pick to move up five spots in the draft, Lynch is probably not the instant fix for the 2016 season.
The likely starter for the Broncos is Mark Sanchez, a 29-year-old veteran with 72 career starts, no matter how poorly you think he played in them. Like Wentz transitioning from the FCS to the NFL, Lynch didn't play elite competition in college and was taken in the first round for his big potential. Per Tim Lynch of SB Nation's Broncos blog, Mile High Report:
For this Paxton Lynch pick to be considered a success for the Broncos the team will need to compete in the playoffs in most years. That's provided he continues to have the kind of team around him that Elway has assembled. If not, then it will come down to his stats and finishing among the Top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL in most years.
As with the other two first-round quarterbacks, the expectations for Lynch aren't too high in his rookie year. If he gets any playing time at all, the responsibility will be on the Broncos' defense and running game to lead the way, just like they did when Brock Osweiler was in the starting lineup during the back half of the 2015 regular season.
Eventually the Broncos will want more from Lynch and they hope he develops into a franchise quarterback, but he doesn't carry the weight of being a top-two pick and Denver is a team that can afford to be patient with his development.
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The 2016 NFL Draft featured unprecedented trades in the weeks before the first round even began, and even Lynch was acquired after a swap of picks. Yet the low profiles each of the three rookie quarterbacks managed to carry in college means there isn't a burden of success right away.
If they don't become the faces of their respective franchises, the picks will be failures. However, Goff, Wentz and Lynch don't need to ascend to those roles as rookies.