NFL Draft History: 1st Round Quarterbacks, 2001-2002

With 5 QBs coming off the board in the first 12 picks of the 1999 draft, and the results of those picks 2 years later swaying towards the negative, there was quite a bit of apprehension.

The league had just witnessed the 2000 Ravens, which brought about 2 philosophical shifts. 1) They won with a great defense and mediocre QB, and 2) Defensive football had changed, and QB play had to find new ways to beat it.

West Coast offenses were spreading like wildfire, and QB mobility was becoming much more of a premium attribute. Of the 6 new head coaches hired in 2001, 4 were defensive-minded coaches (Gregg Williams, Butch Davis, Herm Edwards, Marty Schottenheimer) and 1 was a West Coast offense disciple (Marty Mornhinweg). It seemed clear, even though Ravens coach Brian Billick was an offensive-minded coach, that teams were trying to capture the Ravens defensive magic. And if that failed, find a way to run around it.

If you’d like to see how we got here from 1990, press the Shiny Red Button below.

Note: Before we get started, I want to be clear that I won’t be offering any opinions of Vick’s legal troubles. As it affected the timeline of his career, it will obviously come up, but only in the context of missed years and the road back to the league. I get that animal abuse is a heavy subject to just gloss over, and believe me, as a dog lover and pit bull dad, I would love to get into my real feelings. But similar to the questions surrounding Steve McNair‘s death, that’s a topic for a different site, ideally one with enough space to fully examine all the circumstances from that matter. If anyone reading this has written something like that, I’d be happy to link to it here.


1st Overall – Michael Vick

One of the lesser-known stories about the beginning of Vick’s career is how he came into the league and ended up with the Falcons. Of course, it was big news at the time, but the arc of all the stories surrounding his college and NFL careers served to bury the beginnings under many loud ups and downs.

As a redshirt freshman in 1999, Vick burst onto the scene by leading Virginia Tech to an 11-0 record and a chance at a National Championship. The Hokies spent the season running up impressive point totals, but they hadn’t faced an opponent even close to the level of their Sugar Bowl foe, Florida State. Vick delivered an impressive performance, both throwing and rushing for a TD, and led his team to 22 unanswered points to take a 29-28 lead in the 3rd quarter. But it fell apart from there, and Florida State won 46-29. Vick earned Big East Offensive Player of the Year and took 3rd in Heisman voting. But despite his obvious capabilities, NFL rules required players to be out of high school for 3 years, so Vick had another year to go.

The 2000 season was a bit less remarkable for Vick, who still finished 6th in Heisman voting. A November showdown with Miami gave him his first regular season loss and took them out of National Championship consideration. Virginia Tech completed another 11-1 season, leaving Vick with a 22-2 college record. But it was time for Vick to take on the next level.

Vick Version One: Falcons

Before the draft, Vick allegedly made it clear to the team with the 1st pick, the San Diego Chargers, that he wanted to stay close to home. The only team in the area with a top 10 pick, and therefore enough draft capital to move up, was the Falcons. The Chargers dragged it out until the night before the draft, at which point they took a meager deal from the only team they could get it from. The 1st overall pick for picks 5 and 67, plus a 2002 2nd round pick (which became pick 48), and WR/KR Tim Dwight. The Chargers came out of the draft with LaDainian Tomlinson at pick 5 and got their QB in Drew Brees with the 1st pick of the 2nd round.

michel vick in atlanta falcons football uniform
Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Vick played limited time in his rookie year, but took over for good in 2002 and quickly showed why the hype was warranted. Nearly 3,000 yards and 16 TDs passing plus 777 yards and 8 TDs rushing got him to his first Pro Bowl, and their 9-6-1 record got him to his first playoffs and first playoff win with a wildcard victory over the Packers.

The hype was at maximum in 2003, but quickly shattered when Vick’s fibula shattered in a preseason game. He missed nearly all of the season and the Falcons moved on from coach Dan Reeves before the end of the season. When Jim Mora took over in 2004, Vick’s game grew at a rapid pace over the next 3 seasons, earning 2 more Pro Bowls along the way. Despite the team’s 7-9 record in 2006, Vick threw a career-high 20 TDs while rushing for over 1,000 yards and 8.4 yards per carry. And then it all fell apart.

On April 15, 2007, police raided a Virginia property owned by Vick that had evidence of illegal dogfighting. On July 17th, he was charged alongside 3 other men, all of whom turned on him and took plea deals over the next month. On August 23rd, Vick accepted a plea agreement admitting his involvement, and the next day Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him indefinitely. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison, after which there was no guarantee he would ever be allowed to play again, or that any team would want him.

Vick Version Two: Eagles

After completing his sentence, Vick began the process of trying to get back into the NFL. Teams were concerned for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the uncertainty of his reinstatement. Even though he was technically eligible to be reinstated, league rules put nearly all power in the hands of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

On July 20, 2009, Vick was released from federal custody, and a week later on July 27, he was conditionally reinstated by Goodell. Finally, on August 13, he signed a 2 year contract with the Eagles, and a new phase of his career began.

He played sparingly in 2009 after being fully reinstated a few weeks into the season, but in 2010, Vick brought back the flashes from his early career. Over 12 games, he threw for over 3,000 yards with a 21-6 T/I, plus 676 yards and 9 TDs on the ground, earning him Comeback Player of the Year, a Pro Bowl bid, and he finished 2nd in Offensive Player of Year.

He struggled through injuries over the next 3 seasons in Philly, then spent uninspiring years with the Jets and Steelers. After spending 2016 as a free agent, Vick officially retired in 2017. He finished his bittersweet career with 4 Pro Bowls, the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year, and an unheard of 7.0 yards per carry, a number that remains the highest in NFL history (minimum 750 carries). On a scale of 1 to was he worth the top overall pick + legal issues, I’ll give him a 3.

Other Notable QBs from 2001 Draft

  • Drew Brees (2nd Round, Pick 32)
    • Note: The Houston Texans were not created yet, so there were only 31 teams between the reestablished Cleveland Browns in 1999 and the Texans expansion in 2002, meaning pick 32 in 2001 was not yet the last pick of the 1st round.
  • Quincy Carter (2nd around, Pick 53)
  • Chris Weinke (4th Round, Pick 106)


1st Overall – David Carr

Despite watching the newly-established Browns draft a QB with the 1st overall pick before establishing a line to protect him or weapons for him to utilize, the expansion Houston Texans used the 1st pick of the 2002 draft and their entire franchise of David Carr.

As a 2-year starter at Fresno St., Carr the Elder (youngest brother Derek Carr was an early 2nd round pick, also out of Fresno St., in 2014) had a mediocre junior year, but exploded as a senior with 4,300 yards and 42 TDs, earning him the 2001 WAC Offensive Player of the Year and a 5th place finish in Heisman voting.

After joining the Texans, he played all but 4 games in the first 5 years of the franchise. He had his best year in 2004, throwing for over 3,500 yards and 16 TDs while leading the Texans to a 7-9 record, their best finish during his tenure.

Unfortunately, his time also included league-leading sack numbers. In 5 years with the Texans, he was sacked 249 times and led the league in the category 3 times.

Over the next 6 years in the league, he spent time as a backup and spot starter with the Panthers, Giants, 49ers, then back to the Giants, where he won a Super Bowl ring as the backup for the 2011 team despite not taking a single snap. He played one more year with the Giants, then retired after the 2012 season. On a scale of 1 to how pristine did his uniform look on the sideline as a backup after 5 years of getting pummeled into the dirt, he gets an almost perfect 9.5.

3rd Overall – Joey Harrington

Despite playing most of 4 years with the Lions after they picked him with the 3rd overall pick, Harrington is generally viewed as a bust. He’s also often viewed as an example of a QB being forced into action before he’s ready, as he took over as the Lions starter in just the 3rd game of his rookie year.

Similar to Carr, Harrington didn’t get much of a shot in college until his junior year. After a solid junior season, he came back in 2001 and threw 23 TDs with just 5 picks, while leading Oregon to an 11-1 record, Fiesta Bowl victory, and finishing 2nd in the nation inf the final AP poll. He finished the year as the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and finished 4th in Heisman voting.

The Lions were coming off a 2001 season that had 3 different starting QBs as Charlie Batch, Ty Detmer, and Mike McMahon carried them to a dismal 2-14 finish. With the 3rd overall pick, they were desperate to find a franchise QB, and felt Harrington would quickly fill that hole. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much there for him to work with, as the team had been reeling on offense ever since the abrupt Barry Sanders retirement several years earlier.

After improving on their 2001 finish by going 3-13 in Harrington’s rookie year, they went out and got him a WR, drafting Charles Rogers with the 2nd overall pick in 2003. The 2003 season improved to 5-11 under new head coach Steve Mariucci, and the team used the 7th overall pick in 2004 on WR Roy Williams. In 2004, they went 6-10, so obviously they needed to use the 10th overall pick in 2005 on WR Mike Williams.

If you’ve ever heard jokes about Matt Millen‘s tenure as a GM, the above paragraph is why.

In Harrington’s final season with the Lions in 2005, those 3 receivers, all top-10 picks, combined for 88 catches for 1,234 yards and 10 TDs. In other words, it took 3 years and a ton of draft capital to have 3 WRs combine for one statistically good season.

After the 2005 season, the Lions traded Harrington to the Dolphins for a 5th round pick. He started 2006 as Miami’s backup for Daunte Culpepper. When Culpepper hurt his shoulder 4 games in, Harrington got the nod and outside of a shaky first 3 games, Harrington led the Dolphins on a 5-game winning streak that culminated in a Thanksgiving Day revenge win in Detroit. He then led Miami to 3 straight losses and was pulled, having played his last snap in Miami.

In 2007, he went to Atlanta on a 2-year deal to backup Michael Vick. But when Vick’s legal issues ended his 2007 (and eventually 2008) season, Harrington was thrown into the starting job to start the year. He started 10 games for the Falcons, but was cut before the 2008 season. After a couple on-again, off-again years with the Saints, Harrington finally retired from a career of really high ups and really low downs. On a scale of 1 to how he thinks his career went, Joey Blue Skies gets a 8.

32nd Overall – Patrick Ramsey

It’s not something I consciously do, but when I start researching a player and put their name in the googlemachine, somewhere my brain is tracking how many letters I have to put in before Google guesses correctly.

For the record, I got all the way to the M before Patrick Ramsey came up as an option. That’s not a great sign.

Ramsey was a 3-year starter at Tulane, throwing 20+ TDs every year and reducing his interception total each season. So he had that going for him.

His arm strength was unquestionable, having been the top prep javelin thrower in high school and taking bronze at the 1997 Junior Pan Am Games in Cuba. The Olympics could’ve been in his future, but Ramsey was dedicated to football.

After being selected by the Football Team with the final pick of the 1st round, Ramsey went to the bench behind starter Shane Matthews and journeyman backup Danny Wuerfful. Both Matthews and Wuerfful were former Florida Gators QBs who played college ball under the Football Team’s new HC Steve Spurrier and his Fun ‘N Gun offense.

Matthews suffered a shoulder injury in week 3, so after a week 4 bye, Wuerfful took over in week 5. He lasted just a single drive before suffering a shoulder injury of his own. Ramsey entered and led 3 TD drives, throwing 2 of them, as the Football Team routed the Titans 31-14.

Finally, in week 6, Ramsey got his first NFL start, and after his relief performance a week earlier, there was real excitement around DC. Then he went out against the Saints and threw 4 interceptions. The next week he barely threw at all during a beatdown by the Packers. By the time week 8 came around, Shane Matthews was healthy again, and Ramsey headed back to the bench.

He made other spot starts through his rookie year, but it was clear that Spurrier wanted him to take more time to learn the offense and be ready for the next season.

In 2003, Ramsey and the team started out hot, winning 3 of their first 4 with Ramsey running the offense. Then things started to crumble; in Ramsey’s case, almost literally.

Not only did NFL defenses figure out the Fun ‘N Gun offense at an alarming rate, but around midseason, an old fracture in his right foot became too bothersome for him to play. In week 12, he was replaced by Tim Hasselbeck and went for surgery on his foot. What was actually a decent season for a first year starter ended prematurely.

That season was the end for the Spurrier experiment, and the team’s rehiring of legendary coach Joe Gibbs was the beginning of the end for Ramsey. Gibbs went out and got Mark Brunell, sending Ramsey back to the bench.

He got several starts late 2004 when Brunell struggled, and was named the starter for 2005, but an injury in week 1 put Brunell back in and he never gave the job back.

In 2006, the team used their 1st round pick on Jason Campbell to be Brunell’s successor, and shipped Ramsey to the Jets. He spent a year as Chad Pennington’s backup, then a couple years backing up Jay Cutler in Denver, where he would take his last NFL snap.

After very brief stints with Tennessee and Detroit in 2009, and even briefer stints with New Orleans, Jacksonville, Miami, and Minnesota in 2010, Ramsey retired. On a scale of 1 to another career ruined by the Fun ‘N Gun, I’ll give him a 7.

Other Notable QBs from 2002 Draft

Up Next: It’s a big one, with 2003 bringing Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, and Rex Grossman; then 2004 has the eli manning and philip rivers drama, plus Big Ben Roethlisberger and J.P. Losman

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