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We are mere days away from the 2024 NFL Draft and, as is the case for most drafts, the conversation is fixated on the quarterback position. Three are expected to be taken within the first three picks (Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye), which would mark just the fourth time in history that's happened. In fact, there's the potential for quarterbacks to be four of the first five picks, if not come off the board consecutively (adding in J.J. McCarthy), which would be an NFL record.

While quarterbacks are the kingmakers in the NFL, making this important investment in the first round doesn't come without plenty of risk. Just ask the decision-makers from the 2021 NFL Draft. That was another year dominated by quarterbacks as Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance were taken with the first three picks -- followed by Justin Fields (No. 11) and Mac Jones (No. 15) -- later in the opening round. 

In the moment, each of those teams felt like they uncovered a key piece to their rebuild, but fast forward a few years and just one of those players is currently with the organization that drafted him. So, while we will almost certainly see QBs fly off the board Thursday night, let's revisit the 2021 draft and the downfall of most of its quarterbacks to use as a cautionary tale. 

Trevor Lawrence
JAC • QB • #16
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Draft position: No. 1 overall
Drafted team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Current team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence is far and away the most successful quarterback from his class, as the former No. 1 overall pick is the lone player who remains with the franchise that drafted him. That said, his first three seasons in the league have been a bit of a rollercoaster. In his rookie season, he was saddled with the burden of having Urban Meyer as his head coach, which proved to be a distraction on and off the field. 

After hiring Doug Pederson after his rookie campaign, Lawrence did bounce back with his best season in the league thus far, notching a 95.2 passer rating in 2022 while being named to the Pro Bowl and taking the Jaguars to the playoffs. There, Lawrence initially melted down with four total interceptions to the Chargers in the wild-card round, but L.A. blew a 27-point lead as Jacksonville rallied. Last season, Lawrence dealt with an injury and the Jaguars struggled mightily down the stretch. The club lost five of its last six games to fall out of playoff position.

So, even considering Lawrence as the most successful quarterback of his class, he still is a work in progress who is 20-30 in the regular season as a starter. And if you want to eliminate that Urban Meyer rookie year, he's 17-16.

Zach Wilson
DEN • QB • #4
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Draft position: No. 2 overall
Drafted team: New York Jets
Current team: Denver Broncos

New York's struggles at finding a QB in the NFL Draft continued here with Wilson. Almost instantly it was clear that the BYU product wasn't up for the task of being a Day 1 starter, as the Jets were 1-5 in his first six starts before he suffered an injury that sidelined him for four games, further derailing his development. Wilson finished 3-10 as the Jets starter in his rookie season. A mix of injuries and poor play continued to plague Wilson his sophomore year, and he eventually found himself as the third-string quarterback behind Mike White and Joe Flacco

By that point, it was beyond clear Wilson was not a viable option for the Jets at that particular moment, which forced the franchise to go into the following offseason and strike a blockbuster trade for Aaron Rodgers. Wilson was earmarked to develop behind Rodgers for however long the Packers quarterback was going to be with the franchise, but Rodgers suffered a torn Achilles just four plays into his Jets tenure, which brought Wilson back into the fold as the starter. Wilson went 5-7 as the starter last season and was inactive for the bulk of the second half of the year. 

This offseason, the Jets allowed Wilson to seek a trade. The club has since sent him (along with a 2024 seventh-rounder) to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a 2024 sixth-round pick. The Jets also gained partial salary relief of $5.5 million. 

Trey Lance
DAL • QB • #19
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Draft position: No. 3 overall
Drafted team: San Francisco 49ers
Current team: Dallas Cowboys

Lance may be the biggest flop of the bunch while at the same time being the biggest mystery. The San Francisco 49ers traded a monumental haul to move up to No. 3 for the opportunity to select Lance and it blew up in their face, while the Miami Dolphins were able to take that haul and turn it into the likes of Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill and Bradley Chubb. Lance was viewed as an upgrade over the oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo because he'd give Kyle Shanahan a dynamic dual-threat quarterback. He had spot appearances as a rookie, but a knee injury prevented the Niners from getting a longer look at him as the starter with Garoppolo also sidelined with an injury. 

Entering 2022, Lance was named the starter over Garoppolo but suffered a season-ending ankle injury against the Seahawks in Week 2. The combination of Lance and Garoppolo both suffering injuries that season paved the way for Brock Purdy to become the starter going forward. Heading into last season, Lance was listed as the third-string quarterback behind Purdy and Darnold before he was traded to the Cowboys in late August. 

Out of the teams that moved on from their 2021 first-round quarterbacks, the 49ers did the best for themselves all things considered. They traded Lance for a fourth-round pick (highest return of any of the QBs) and got $6.3 million in salary cap relief (highest).

Justin Fields
PIT • QB • #2
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Draft position: No. 11 overall
Drafted team: Chicago Bears
Current team: Pittsburgh Steelers

If we were to rank the quarterbacks by success, Fields would land at No. 2 behind Lawrence from this first-round class. While raw, Fields showed some flashes of elite play, particularly with his rushing ability. That said, his development as a passer left little to be desired. In his first-ever start (Week 3 vs. Cleveland), Fields completed just six of his 20 pass attempts. While he did improve on those passing totals as the season went along, that was a needed area of improvement going forward into Year 2, and it never seemed to reach the heights that the Bears brass needed it to. In his second season in the league, Fields completed 60.4% of his passes and rushed for 1,143 yards, but the Bears were 3-12 in his 15 starts. 

Despite owning the No. 1 overall pick a year ago, the club decided to stick with Fields instead of taking either Bryce Young (No. 1 overall to Panthers) or C.J. Stroud (No. 2 overall to Texans), trading the selection away to Carolina. While there was some improvement, Field largely plateaued in his third season and the Bears were again faced with the No. 1 overall pick (via the Panthers). That has them on the doorstep of taking USC's Caleb Williams with that selection. The club has since traded Fields to the Steelers in exchange for a sixth-round pick.

Mac Jones
JAC • QB • #10
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Draft position: No. 15 overall
Drafted team: New England Patriots
Current team: Jacksonville Jaguars

For a minute, it looked as if New England was going to land on its feet in the post-Tom Brady era with Jones at the helm. After a lackluster season with Cam Newton, the Patriots drafted Jones with the 15th pick. He beat out Newton throughout training camp to earn the Week 1 job and went 10-7 as the starter in the regular season, which sent the team to the postseason. That year, Jones completed 67.6% of his passes, was a Pro Bowl alternate, and finished second for Offensive Rookie of the Year. All in all, it looked like the arrow was pointing up. 

Then, in Jones' sophomore season in 2022, the Patriots lost offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to a head coaching opportunity with the Raiders. Bill Belichick then installed Joe Judge and Matt Patricia to run the offense in what is still looked at as one of the more befuddling decisions of the legendary coach's tenure. Neither had a substantial history of coaching offense, which led to the unit struggling and Jones' development went off the rails. An ankle injury then opened the door for then-rookie Bailey Zappe to play and the team played marginally better with him under center. During a "Monday Night Football" matchup against Chicago, Jone was benched for Zappe, further sending him spiraling. 

Last year, the team hired Bill O'Brien to run the offense as its OC, but it seemed like Jones was already broken by that point. He started the year as QB1 but was benched multiple times throughout the year in place of Zappe before being sent to the bench for the remainder of the season after Week 12.

This offseason, Jones was traded to his hometown Jaguars in exchange for a sixth-round pick.