March 2021 update: Check out our new rankings for the 2016 QB draft class.
2019: This week, we’re looking back at the 2016 NFL Draft. You can also check out our list of the top 10 players, how we evaluate the offensive linemen now, six guys who are under the most pressure, five breakout candidates, and the biggest steals from that draft class.
Conventional thought is that it takes three years to properly judge the quality of a draft pick. The Philadelphia Eagles must agree, because that’s how long it took them to decide Carson Wentz was worth a mammoth extension.
Wentz was the first of the quarterbacks taken in the 2016 NFL Draft to cash in big. He signed a four-year, $128 million extension with the Eagles in early June that will keep him under contract through the 2024 season.
Next up is probably going to be Dak Prescott, who is nearing a long-term deal with the Dallas Cowboys. And the No. 1 pick in 2016, Jared Goff, should get locked up by the Los Angeles Rams — although, he may need to wait until next offseason.
All three look like franchise quarterbacks and each will get (or already got) a lucrative deal to stay put. As for the other 12 quarterbacks from that draft class, the story is much different.
With three years’ worth of NFL action to judge, now is as good a time as any to rank the 15 quarterbacks who were drafted in 2016.
Tier I: The franchise quarterbacks
The three quarterbacks in this tier have been to the Pro Bowl and are worth lofty investments. Each comes with reason for concern too, though.
Wentz finished his second season on injured reserve after suffering an ACL tear. The Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl in his absence. He then struggled with a back injury in 2018 that caused another premature end to his season. The Eagles again caught fire immediately following his departure — except this time, Nick Foles couldn’t recreate his earlier postseason magic and Philadelphia lost in the Divisional Round.
Goff led his team to Super Bowl 53, but it’s worth questioning how much credit he deserves for the Rams’ offensive success. Sean McVay has earned Coach of the Year honors since taking over in LA and does a lot of Goff’s job for him by communicating with the quarterback over the headset as long as he possibly can before the snap. Goff is also surrounded by one of the most talented offensive casts in the NFL, including 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley.
Prescott has thrived in large part because of his supporting talent as well. His best season was as a rookie when his offensive line was one of the NFL’s most elite units and Ezekiel Elliott provided a league-best 108.7 rushing yards per game. His play dropped off when the help around him lagged in 2017, although he bounced back with a better season in 2018 when forced to take on an even bigger role. Still, he was middle of the pack in passing yards (15th), touchdowns (16th), passer rating (14th), and PFF ranking (20th).
No player from the entire 2016 NFL Draft has exceeded expectations more than Prescott, and — based on raw numbers — he could be considered the best of the class so far. But Goff was easily the best of the three players during the 2018 season and looked like an MVP candidate early in the year until Patrick Mahomes pulled away.
The way Wentz played in 2017 deserves special recognition, though. He was the easy choice for MVP that season before his knee injury and he’s still the biggest difference-maker of the trio when healthy. That makes him the choice for the top spot.
Tier II: A quarterback worth grooming
Brissett was tossed into the fire in the first month of his rookie season. Tom Brady was serving his Deflategate suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a shoulder injury, forcing the Patriots to turn to the third-string rookie for two games.
While he didn’t throw any touchdown passes, he showed enough to convince the Colts that he was worth acquiring in a trade when Andrew Luck was out of action. In his one season as a starter in Indianapolis, Brissett threw 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He only won four games, but he was stuck behind an offensive line that allowed him to be sacked an NFL-most 52 times.
His performance was strong enough to interest other NFL teams. The Colts reportedly turned down multiple trade offers they received for Brissett, proving just how much they value having him on the depth chart behind Luck. He may never become a full-time NFL starter, but there seems to be optimism around the league that it’s still very much a possibility.
Tier III: The solid NFL backups
The Bengals won just one of the five games that Jeff Driskel started in 2018 and he was one of PFF’s three lowest-graded passers (with Josh Rosen and Ryan Tannehill). It’d be surprising if being a full-time starter is in his future. Even the Bengals seem to think so, as evidenced by their trade up for Ryan Finley in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
But you could do much worse than Driskel as a No. 2 quarterback. He threw six touchdowns with two interceptions and added two rushing touchdowns in his limited time as a starter.
The same could be said for the pair of quarterbacks now battling to back up Carson Wentz.
Sudfeld never saw action in his one year in Washington and only threw 25 passes in his first two seasons in Philadelphia. That’s a small sample size, but Sudfeld completed 20 of those attempts and his 22-yard touchdown pass in 2018 upped his career passer rating to 106. That’s reason enough to give him a slight edge over Kessler.
In eight starts with the Browns and four with the Jaguars, Kessler has been efficient and mostly good at avoiding disaster. He has eight touchdown passes, five interceptions, and an 83.7 passer rating. However, the offenses he’s led struggled to score points and that’s why he has a 2-10 record as a starter. He’s shown he’s a solid backup who can start in a pinch. Nothing more, nothing less.
Tier IV: Hey, at least they still have a job
Does it really matter how the players in this tier are ranked? All five quarterbacks are no longer with the team that drafted them, and just keeping a job when September rolls around is going to be tough for each.
Jones, Rudock, and Allen all spent the 2018 season on the practice squad, which at least means that teams consider them worth grooming for the future. Jones hasn’t thrown a pass since his rookie season in Buffalo, and was traded in 2017 to the Chargers. Rudock spent his first three seasons career in Detroit, but has only thrown five passes and joined the Dolphins in January. Allen was scooped up by the Rams two years ago and still hasn’t thrown a pass in the NFL.
The clear choice for fifth out of five in this tier is Lynch, though. The first-round pick started four games during his time with the Broncos, but his uninspiring play them to give up on him before his third season. He’ll be remembered as a colossal bust who could’ve easily been the Cowboys’ problem instead if Jerry Jones had his way. While no team wanted to sign Lynch in 2018, the Seahawks scooped him up in January, which at least keeps him from the bottom tier.
Tier V: Lol nope
Cook joined the bottom tier when he was waived by the Lions during OTAs. His career never got back on track after he was tossed into the fire during his rookie season. Cook became the first quarterback of the Super Bowl era to make his first ever start in a playoff game and, unsurprisingly, it was a disaster. He threw three interceptions in a 27-14 loss, and was pushed out of Oakland by EJ Manuel and AJ McCarron. He bounced between a few rosters in the last year, but now he’s on the open market.
Cook has a better chance at getting another NFL contract than the other two, at least.
If Hackenberg hadn’t been drafted in the second round by the Jets, his career might’ve looked more like Doughty’s. The latter was drafted by the Dolphins in the seventh round and spent his first two seasons on Miami’s practice squad. His NFL career ended there.
Hackenberg at least got to be on the active roster in New York for two seasons before the Jets moved on. He bounced around in 2018 from the Raiders to the Eagles to the Bengals. But he didn’t get a chance to see a football field again until he joined the AAF’s Memphis Express. Even that didn’t work out well for Hackenberg and he was benched before the league folded.
The only thing keeping Hackenberg from the last spot is that he had multiple jobs. Sorry, Mr. Doughty.
In hindsight, the 2016 draft class had three gems at quarterback and not a whole lot else. That’s still better than some other classes, though.
The only quarterbacks from the 2013 NFL Draft who remain in the league are Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, and Matt Barkley — three players who have their work cut out for them just to earn backup roles. There are just two quarterbacks each from the 2014 and 2015 drafts who are penciled in as starters for the upcoming season.
The Eagles, Rams, and Cowboys can all be thankful that they landed a franchise quarterback in 2016 instead.