Quarterback Draft Class Retrospective: 1998

The legendary John Dutton

One feature I’ve wanted to run for a while on here is a Quarterback retrospective series, analysing past Quarterback draft classes by taking a look at who was selected in what spot as well as finding out what became of these signal callers in the NFL. As the most important position in the league QB’s are valued on a different scale to other players, and consequently at least one is almost always selected in the first five picks of the draft. Obviously the draft goes back much farther than 1998 but I chose that year as an ideal place to start due to a few players from that years class still playing in the league including the  number one overall pick from that year, Peyton Manning. Starting with Mr. Manning, lets get underway..

Peyton Manning – 1st overall pick (1st round) – Indianapolis Colts

Manning needs no introduction, and the fact that he’s enjoying his finest ever start to the season at age 37 is nothing short of remarkable. I won’t bore you with the statistics proving his greatness so far this year, but if you do want to take a look at them head over to Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column. The Colts famously were torn between Manning and Ryan Leaf, who I’ll discuss more in a minute, when making this selection; Indy clearly made the right choice on this one. When you list some of Manning’s achievements you get a sense for just how great he has been since he entered the league 15 years ago: 12 time Pro Bowler, six time Associated Press (AP) first team all-pro, four time AP Most Valuable Player (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009), AP Comeback Player of the Year (2012), seven time AP AFC Offensive Player of the Year and multiple Indianapolis Colts career records. There’s nothing I can say about Peyton that hasn’t already been said; I’ll just finish this section by saying enjoy him while he’s still playing, because there may never be another Quarterback like him.

Ryan Leaf – 2nd overall pick (1st round) – San Diego Chargers

From an all-time great to an all-time bust, Leaf’s name is more commonly associated with JaMarcus Russell’s than Manning’s which is more of an indictment of his career as any statistic I could throw your way. Leaf is currently serving a seven year jail term for drug possession and burglary, so his sad tale extends much farther than the boundaries of the football field. While Manning’s character is immaculate Leaf obviously never had the mental capacity to deal with the pressures of being a star NFL QB. His physical talents were never in doubt, hence his selection as such a high draft choice, but unfortunately for all involved he was out of the NFL within four seasons and the Chargers would have to wait three more years to find their Quarterback of the future, when they selected Drew Brees in 2001.

Charlie Batch – 60th overall pick (2nd round) – Detroit Lions

After two Quarterbacks were taken with the first two selections of the draft there was a gap of 58 picks before another was drafted, when Batch was selected by the Lions. One fun fact with regards to Batch is that he actually has more Superbowl rings (two) than Manning (one), although both came when he was backing up Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Batch was given the opportunity to start in Detroit but due to a combination of factors including his inability to stay healthy he never truly excelled in the role and was discarded after Joey Harrington was drafted in the first round by the organisation in 2001. However once Batch landed in Pittsburgh he was able to cement a role as one of the NFL’s more reliable reserve QB’s and his ability to step up whenever Roethlisberger was absent led to him enjoying a ten year run with the Steelers. Now 38 and without a team Batch’s career is likely over, but his final statistics are impressive for someone who spent almost his entire career as a back-up. A final Quarterback rating of 77.2 is serviceable enough and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 61-52 also demonstrates Batch’s ability not to let his team down when called upon.

Jonathan Quinn – 86th overall pick (3rd round) – Jacksonville Jaguars

While Batch was able to fashion a role as a successful back-up in the league for a decade, Quinn fell short of the required standard when given the opportunity and was out of the league by 2005. He started two games in his rookie year with the Jaguars but struggled, most rookie QB’s do in fairness, completing just 53 percent of his passes for a Quarterback rating of 62.4. Quinn would have to wait until 2001 to see game time in the NFL again, but in his one start that season the Jaguars lost 20-7 to Pittsburgh and despite throwing no interceptions Quinn also didn’t throw a touchdown pass and was sacked five times. Released following that season he wound up in Kansas City for two years, where he didn’t throw a single regular season pass, before playing the 2004 season for Chicago. Quinn actually saw the most NFL action of his career that year, playing in five games including three starts. However he threw just one touchdown and three picks as the Bears lost all five games he appeared in. His performances that year weren’t enough to earn him another NFL contract but since his playing career finished Quinn has become a successful college head coach and is currently in charge of the  MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers. Quinn only ever won one game as a stater in the NFL, and unfortunately that came way back in the final game of his rookie season.

Brian Griese – 91st overall pick (3rd round) – Denver Broncos

Griese was selected by the defending Superbowl champion Broncos, who would go on to defend their title in 1998 year in John Elway’s swansong season. Griese had pedigree thanks to his father Bob, who was the Quarterback on the famous Miami Dolphins team that went unbeaten in 1971. Griese became the Broncos starter following Elway’s retirement and in 2000 was named to the Pro Bowl after an excellent season in which he threw just four interceptions compared to 17 touchdowns in ten starts and posted a passer rating of 102.9. After one forgettable season in Miami as Jay Fiedler’s back-up Griese signed for Tamp Bay where he led the team to all five of its victories that season in just ten starts, posting a TD-to-INT ratio of 20-12 and a QB rating of 97.5. A less successful season followed but that didn’t stop Chicago from signing Griese to a five year contract in 2006 (which in hindsight seems ridiculous as that deal would’ve only expired two years ago). However he was unable to win the Quarterback job off of the maddeningly inconsistent Rex Grossman and before the 2008 season was traded back to the Buccaneers for an undisclosed draft pick, where he performed poorly in five games before retiring at the end of that year. Compared to most third round picks Griese enjoyed a productive career and won’t be too disappointed with his final body of work in the NFL.

John Dutton – 172nd overall pick (6th round) – Miami Dolphins

No, I don’t know who John Dutton is either. However after doing some digging it transpires that Dutton still actually plays football, albeit in the Arena Football League at the tender age of 38. Who knew! Dutton actually never played in an NFL game despite bouncing around between the Dolphins (who released him during his first training camp), the Atlanta Falcons and the Cleveland Browns. Fun John Dutton fact: he appeared on the cover of EA Sports first ever Arena League video game, ‘Arena Football 2006’.

Matt Hasselbeck – 187th overall pick (6th round compensatory selection) – Green Bay Packers

Back to a more familiar name, Hasselbeck is best known for his nine year run as the Seattle Seahawks starting Quarterback between 2001 and 2010. During his time in Seattle Hasselbeck led the Seahawks to Superbowl XL, where they lost 21-10 to Pittsburgh (who’s back-up QB at the time was Charlie Batch). In Green Bay Hasselbeck was stuck behind Brett Favre in the pecking order, which led to his trade to Seattle in 2001. In his first full-time season as a starter with the Seahawks in 2003 Hasselbeck earned a spot in the Pro Bowl, however his “we want the ball, and we’re gonna score” proclamation upon winning the overtime coin toss in a play-off game in Green Bay turned out to be one of the all-time backfires when he proceeded to throw a game losing pick-six to the Packers Al Harris. Hasselbeck ended up with three appearances in the Pro Bowl and his 2005 season was deemed All-Pro worthy by the AP. He leads the Seahawks all-time passing yardage charts and finished his career with a completion percentage of 60.4, a very solid mark. Perhaps even more impressive is his play-off TD-to-INT ratio of 18-9. Hasselbeck was just three selections away from being a seventh round pick, so he should go down as one of the better late round Quarterback selections in modern NFL history.

Moses Moreno – 232nd overall pick (7th round compensatory selection) – Chicago Bears

Moreno wins the award for best name on this list hands down, although his NFL career was less exciting. He did manage to start three games in the league during his brief three year stint in the NFL but he completed less than half of his attempted passes while throwing only one touchdown. However the world is a better place for names like his, and hopefully someone who reads this will follow Moreno’s parents lead and use alliteration when naming their children.

The 1998 Quarterback draft class will always be associated with Manning, and rightly so. However it shouldn’t go unnoticed that both Griese and Hasselbeck were solid starters in the league for multiple years, Hasselbeck probably more so, while Batch also forged a nice career for himself with Pittsburgh. Leaf was clearly a huge bust and that drags the overall standard of the class down but with just two players selected in the first round I’d say this QB class performed above expectations thanks to the significant contributions from the latter round selections.

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