Late-round quarterback steals have created some of the lasting storylines of NFL draft lore, tales of intrigue and redemption, of falls and fortitude.
Each round seems to have numerous success stories, none more famous than Tom Brady’s legendary sixth-round selection by the New England Patriots in 2000. But the sixth round also produced Rodney Peete (1989, played 16 NFL seasons), Super Bowl quarterbacks Mark Rypien and Stan Humphries, and most recently, Tyrod Taylor, who shined last season for the Buffalo Bills in his first year as starter. The fourth round has given us guys like Joe Theismann and Rich Gannon, more recently Kirk Cousins, and if Cowboys fan have their dreams come true, maybe Dak Prescott carries his phenomenal first preseason into a lengthy career.
Even the seventh round has been fruitful, producing Ryan Fitzpatrick, a Class of ’05 Harvard product who is still slinging it for the New York Jets.
But the fifth round? Might as well be a quagmire for quarterbacks, quicksand even. You get stuck there, you ain’t coming out.
The list of impact fifth-round quarterbacks is fingernail thick, and pinky at that. Maybe the last one to make a difference was Mark Brunell, way back in 1993, and that only happened when the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars came along two years later.
There have been 17 quarterbacks selected in the fifth round during the last decade, and the list is a veritable who’s-that of NFL QBs. Rhett Bomar ring a bell? Jonathan Crompton? Nathan Enderle? Improbably, outside of the last three drafts, the only fifth-round pick to remain in the NFL from that time is Josh Johnson, a University of San Diego product from the 2008 draft who will back up Joe Flacco for the Ravens, his 10th team.
Only the last two fifth-round quarterbacks, both hailing from the Pac-12, provide at least a ray of hope.
In 2015, the Green Bay Packers used the 147th pick on Brett Hundley, the multidimensional prospect out of UCLA who’d started since his redshirt freshman year; this year, Kansas City used the 162nd pick on Kevin Hogan, who also debuted in 2012, albeit for Stanford, which he led to a program-record 36 career wins and three Pac-12 titles.
Last year, Hundley was the talk of the preseason, leading the league in passing, and he progressed to the point that just last month, Green Bay assistant coach Alex Van Pelt told reporters that he could see Hundley becoming a “solid starter” in the NFL. Hundley has been hampered by injury this preseason but he expects to be Aaron Rodgers’ No. 2 once the regular season starts.
Hogan, meanwhile, had high hopes of his own after being thrown into the Chiefs’ backup competition with fellow late-round picks Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray. Alex Smith’s former understudy, Chase Daniel, left Kansas City to sign with Philadelphia, leaving a void for one of the three to fill.
Only it would soon become four when Nick Foles signed with the Chiefs on Aug. 4 to be Smith’s backup, and now Hogan appears to be on the outside looking in. He completed 2 of 6 throws for 21 yards and an interception in the team’s first preseason game and did not appear in the team’s second game against St. Louis on Aug. 20. Benjamin Allbright of CBS Sports surmised that the Chiefs may use Hogan as their practice squad quarterback in early August.
Unlike Hundley, who slid in the NFL draft because of concerns about his ability to transition from Noel Mazzone’s spread offense at UCLA to the pro-style offenses of the NFL, Hogan entered the league well prepared after his tutelage from Stanford’s David Shaw. Shaw, who helped develop Andrew Luck into the No. 1 pick in 2012, told reporters at Pac-12 Media Day in July that he thought the Cardinal system would benefit Hogan in the NFL.
“If you think about the branches of the West Coast offense, where of course it starts with Bill Walsh and Sid Gillman and then goes from Bill now down to Mike Holmgren, and on Mike Holmgren’s staff was Andy Reid and Jon Gruden,” Shaw said. “I worked for Jon Gruden. Most of our offense is directly down from the Jon Gruden line, whereas Andy Reid has got his own line, so it’s really, really similar, but just some different nuances, and a lot of it is familiar to Kevin.”