The 2015 NFL draft wasn’t all that unique for Big Ten quarterbacks. Only one signal-caller – Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian – was taken, in the seventh round. He was the first conference QB drafted since 2012.
The B1G simply hasn’t experienced a lot of success at the position. It hasn’t had a first-round QB in 20 years (1995 - Penn State’s Kerry Collins) and has only had more than two quarterbacks selected just three times, dating to 1936.
Next year figures to be entirely different.
Three QBs have a chance to become first-round picks -- Michigan State’s Connor Cook, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg -- and others such as Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld could also be selected at some point. In other words, the 2016 draft could end up being the greatest quarterback class that the Big Ten has ever produced.
To see how next year’s class might stack up, we decided to pore over every B1G draft class since 1936 to find the other most memorable groups. Here’s what we came up with:
5. 1944 NFL draft class
Who: Northwestern’s Otto Graham (first round, fourth overall)
Why it made the list: Yes, this class consists of just one player. And, yes, there are other one-QB classes that have produced Hall of Famers, such as 1967 (Purdue's Bob Griese) and 1957 (Purdue's Len Dawson). But Graham gets the nod here because he was the first Big Ten quarterback to be taken in the first round. That’s memorable, even if he never signed a contract with the NFL’s Detroit Lions and instead opted for the AAFC’s Cleveland Browns.
How they fared: He played for 10 seasons and helped the Browns make 10 appearances in the championship game – and won seven of them (four AAFC, three NFL). He was an All-Pro in nine of 10 seasons. He was so accurate, he was nicknamed “Automatic Otto.”
4. 1995 NFL draft class
Who: Penn State’s Kerry Collins (first round, fifth overall), Michigan’s Todd Collins (second round, 45th overall)
Why it made the list: Only 12 draft classes have included a first-round quarterback and only five of those classes had more than one selected. So, simply by process of elimination, this is one of the B1G’s better classes. Plus, the fact Todd was a second-rounder and both players competed for a combined 33 seasons (Kerry 17, Todd 16) made this an easy choice.
How they fared: Kerry Collins started at least three games in 16 of 17 seasons and finished his career with 40,922 yards. (He currently ranks 12th all-time in career passing yards, surprisingly ahead of Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.) Outside of the 1997 season with the Buffalo Bills, Todd was a career backup. Still, he played until he was 39 years old.
3. 1959/1990 NFL draft classes
Who: 1959 – Iowa’s Randy Duncan (first round, first overall), Michigan’s Bob Ptacek (eighth round, 87th overall); 1990 – Illinois’ Jeff George (first round, first overall)
Why they made the list: These were the only two classes in which a B1G quarterback went off the board as the first overall pick. Granted, neither class was exactly brimming with QBs,but these classes deserve some recognition for doing what no other classes were able to do.
How they fared: Duncan declined to sign his NFL contract because he didn’t want to play for the worst team in the league. He instead opted to play in the CFL before heading to the NFL for just one season. Ptacek did the opposite; he played one season for the Browns before they traded him to the CFL for Jim Marshall. As for George's career, he threw for more than 25,000 yards and 150 TDs. But he didn’t meet expectations for the team that drafted him, the Indianapolis Colts, who offered him the biggest rookie contract in NFL history. He went 14-35 in Indianapolis.
2. 2000 NFL draft class
Who: Michigan’s Tom Brady (sixth round, 199th overall)
Why it made the list: There are other notable non-first-rounders to make an impact -- such as Russell Wilson (third) and Drew Brees (second) – but none are quite the hidden gem that the sixth-round pick Brady was. He’s on the short list of best NFL quarterbacks ever and, because he was picked so late, his name has become synonymous with the late-round sleeper. Every team dreams of finding a Brady on Day 3 of the draft.
How it fared: Brady is currently fifth all-time in both passing yards (53,258) and passing TDs (392), with Brees just ahead of him. Brady has made 10 Pro Bowls, won four Super Bowls, became a three-time Super Bowl MVP and a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He also made the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.
1. 1986 NFL draft class
Who: Purdue’s Jim Everett (first round, third overall), Iowa’s Chuck Long (first round, 12th overall), Illinois’ Jack Trudeau (second round, 47th overall), Indiana’s Steve Bradley (12th round, 316th overall)
Why it made the list: Without a doubt, to date, this is the best QB draft class that the Big Ten has produced. Everett, Long and Trudeau were the first three QBs off the board and, as a whole, no B1G draft class produced more QBs. (The 2004 class also produced four, but the first Big Ten QB came off the board in the fifth round.)
How it fared: Everett was really the only quarterback here to experience success. He made one Pro Bowl (1990) and had three consecutive seasons throwing for at least 3,950 yards. He’s also No. 24 on the NFL’s all-time passing list (34,837 yards). Trudeau played for 10 seasons and was the Colts’ offensive MVP in 1989, but George supplanted him the next season. Long played for eight seasons but had a largely forgettable career. Bradley played in only one career NFL game.