The first round of the NFL Draft is a microcosm of the NFL at large -- it's all about the quarterbacks. Of course, there is Hall of Fame talent at other positions all throughout Day 1 of the draft, but it's the signal-callers who really get the juices flowing and truly engulf the process, especially when there are generational talents atop the board.
Here, we'll be taking a look at the best of the best quarterbacks who have gone in the first round since 2000. For context, there have been 66 total quarterbacks selected in the opening round of the draft since 2000 and it's truly a mixed bag. That said, we are looking at the cream of the crop, which is a who's who list of all-time greats.
Before we get started with the ranking, here is who just missed the cut: Andrew Luck (2012), Joe Burrow (2020), Justin Herbert (2020), Deshaun Watson (2017), Robert Griffin III (2012), Joe Flacco (2008), Carson Palmer (2003) and Michael Vick (2001).
- Draft selection: No. 10 overall, Kansas City Chiefs (2017)
- Career: Kansas City Chiefs (2017-present)
There's a case for Aaron Rodgers here because his career is a bit more of a finished product, but let's not overthink this. Patrick Mahomes has the ability to not only be a Hall of Fame player but is on track to rival being the greatest quarterback of all time. Already, the former first-round pick has two Super Bowl rings on his hand, two Super Bowl MVPs, two regular-season MVPs, and two 5,000-yard passing seasons. And he's only 27! Mahomes has Kansas City positioned to be in contention for the foreseeable future to continue building on what is already an impressive résumé. He's the DREAM SCENARIO of a player you trade up in the first round for as the Chiefs did back in 2017.
- Draft selection: No. 24 overall, Green Bay Packers (2005)
- Career: Green Bay Packers (2005-present)
Rodgers is a clear-cut future Hall of Famer who may still have one more Super Bowl run in him (possibly in New York?). He's one of the most gifted quarterbacks in league history, ranks ninth all time in passing yards, eighth in completions, and fifth in passing touchdowns heading into 2023. Rodgers proved to be one of the more memorable draft day drops, falling to the Packers at No. 24 overall after his hometown San Francisco 49ers opted for Alex Smith instead at No. 1. The Super Bowl XLV champion certainly proved the Niners wrong there and has enjoyed one of the more productive careers in NFL history.
- Draft selection: No. 11 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers (2004)
- Career: Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-2021)
Had it not been for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger likely has more than his two Super Bowl titles, but that's nothing to scoff at either. Big Ben was an instant impact player for the Steelers, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 while going 13-0 as a starter in the regular season and helping Pittsburgh to an AFC Championship appearance. He'd eventually lead them to victories in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII and was 165-81-1 as the team's starter. He leads the franchise in every meaningful passing category -- yards, touchdowns, fourth-quarter comebacks, game-winning drives, etc. During a draft where there was much drama surrounding Eli Manning and Philip Rivers -- who we'll get to next -- Rothlisberger had the better career.
4. Eli Manning
There will be a debate about whether or not Manning is a Hall of Famer because of his .500 regular-season record, but his two Super Bowl runs with New York have him vaulting up this list. When the moment called for it, Manning was able to rise to the occasion, stunning the then-undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in 2007 and fending off New England again in 2011 during Super Bowl XLVI. That 2011 run saw Manning pass for the most yards in a single postseason by a quarterback in NFL history and was also a four-time Pro Bowler. His No. 10 is retired by the Giants and is a member of the franchise's Ring of Honor.
*Rights were traded to New York on draft night
5. Philip Rivers
- Draft selection: No. 4 overall, New York Giants (2004)*
- Career: San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (2004-2019), Indianapolis Colts (2020)
Rivers' lack of postseason success (5-7 playoff record and zero Super Bowl appearances) is what has him just below Manning, but he had a career that most would envy. He's sixth all time in passing yards and passing touchdowns, and seventh in completions. He's also a Chargers legend. Rivers is the franchise leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns, fourth-quarter comebacks, and game-winning drives, all ahead of Hall of Famer Dan Fouts. His 123 career regular-season wins are also the most in franchise history.
*Rights were traded to San Diego on draft night
6. Cam Newton
- Draft selection: No. 1 overall, Carolina Panthers (2011)
- Career: Carolina Panthers (2011-2019, 2021), New England Patriots (2020)
At his peak, Cam Newton was like no other in NFL history. After a stellar career at Auburn, he was the No. 1 pick by the Panthers and took the league by storm. In Year 1, he threw for over 4,000 yards and added 706 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on the ground in what was one of the most impressive rookie seasons of all time. He'd later follow that up with an MVP season in 2015 where he'd also lead Carolina to a Super Bowl 50 appearance. Newton is No. 2 all time for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history and his 75 rushing scores is heads and shoulder above any other quarterback (Steve Young is No. 2 all time with 43).
- Draft selection: No. 1 overall, Detroit Lions (2009)
- Career: Detroit Lions (2009-2020), Los Angeles Rams (2021-present)
The Lombardi Trophy that Stafford was able to put on his résumé in 2021 in his first season with the Rams was a tremendous feather in his cap. His encore, however, was riddled with injuries, which has been the case throughout his career, which does cap him a bit. However, no one is denying Stafford's elite ability as he's inching toward passing Eli Manning to creep into the top 10 on the all-time passing yards and passing touchdowns list. Before L.A., Stafford led the Lions for 12 seasons and enjoyed personal statistical success even as the franchise struggled to build around him. He's 89-101-1 as a starter in the regular season.
8. Matt Ryan
- Draft selection: No. 3 overall, Atlanta Falcons (2008)
- Career: Atlanta Falcons (2008-2021), Indianapolis Colts (2022)
Matt Ryan has quietly enjoyed one of the most productive NFL careers of all time. He's No. 7 all time in passing yards, No. 9 all time in passing touchdowns, and No. 5 in completions. He arrived in Atlanta and stabilized a Falcons organization that had lost Michael Vick and quickly turned them into a reputable club. The team had double-digit win seasons in four of Ryan's first five seasons. He then turned in an MVP-winning campaign in 2016 where he threw for just under 5,000 yards, 38 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. His 117.1 passer rating also led the NFL. Ryan also lead Atlanta to a Super Bowl appearance but came up short of a Lombardi Trophy after the Falcons famously gave up a 25-point lead. There's an argument to be made that a Super Bowl victory has Ryan higher on the list.
- Draft selection: No. 32 overall, Baltimore Ravens (2018)
- Career: Baltimore Ravens (2018-present)
It's admittedly hard to try and project players who have been in the league for a short time, so these last two picks from the 2018 NFL Draft are a bit tricky to rank. That said, we don't want to diminish what they've already accomplished and where they project to be.
In the case of Lamar Jackson, we could be looking at the best scrambling quarterback of all time. In just 70 career games, he has 4,437 rushing yards, which is fifth all time. For further context, Michael Vick has 6,109 rushing yards (the most all time) and accomplished that in 143 career games, so Jackson is well on his way to reaching those heights. He already has the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season and is the only QB with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons. That ability to utilize his legs helped him win the 2019 NFL MVP unanimously. While we can marvel at his rushing ability, don't sleep on his arm either as he led the NFL in passing touchdowns during that MVP run in 2019. Jackson -- whose future in Baltimore is up in the air -- does need to have more playoff success before being considered any higher, but he was a tremendous find for the Ravens at the end of the first round in 2018.
10. Josh Allen
- Draft selection: No. 7 overall, Buffalo Bills (2018)
- Career: Buffalo Bills (2018-present)
Josh Allen has the makings of a future MVP and savior to the Bills franchise. He possesses a rare combination of passing and running ability that has him considered one of the top quarterbacks in the league today. Allen has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons and has top-three MVP finishes in two of those campaigns. He's 52-24 as Buffalo's starter in the regular season and 4-4 in the playoffs with one AFC Championship appearance. He's certainly capable of one day finding himself much higher on this list (and we are projecting here a bit), but he'll have to get the Bills over the hump.