Quarterback Draft Class Retrospective: 1999

Donovan McNabb enjoyed a successful NFL career unlike some of the other quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 1999 NFL draft

Following on from my earlier post featuring the 1998 draft class which produced some notable quarterbacks (hello Peyton Manning) and some more obscure signal callers here is my review of the following years class in 1999. The last draft before the turn of the century included five first round selections at the position, including the first three picks of the draft, and in total 13 quarterbacks were selected that year. For more information on each individual player and to find out how they fared during their NFL careers keep it right here.

Tim Couch, 1st round (1st overall selection), Cleveland Browns

Unfortunately for the Browns and Couch this pick never worked out as the University of Kentucky star was drafted first overall by the expansion Cleveland franchise. Although he was pressed into action in just his second week in the league Couch never truly settled in as an above average quarterback, and it could justifiably be reasoned that his selection has haunted the Browns ever since. The former All-American passer lasted just five seasons in Cleveland and following his release in 2004 despite a number of try-outs he never again made it onto a regular season NFL roster, a staggering fall for someone with such high pedigree. Couch registered underwhelming yet consistent statistics during his stint with the Browns, with a career completion percentage of 59.8 and passer rating of 75.1 well below the expectations set for someone drafted so high. Couch threw more touchdowns than interceptions over the course of a season just twice in his career, in his rookie year (15 TDs/13 INTs) and his final season in the NFL (7/6). To add insult to injury Couch also received a six game drug related ban from the league in 2006 – when he wasn’t even registered to a team.

Donovan McNabb, 1st round (2nd overall selection), Philadelphia Eagles

Andy Reid struck gold with McNabb, who would go on to break almost every single Eagles passing record before he left the team in 2010. Although he never won a title the Syracuse product led Philly to four NFC championship games and one Superbowl appearance. A dual threat at the position, McNabb was a throwback for Eagles fans to the days of Randall Cunningham and earlier this year his number 5 was retired by the franchise. One of McNabb’s most impressive feats was becoming the first QB in league history to throw more than 30 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions in a single season, which he accomplished during the teams run to Superbowl XXXIX in 2004. Less successful stints with Washington and Minnesota followed after his time with Philadelphia came to an end, but they remain just a small stain on a decorated career.

Akili Smith, 1st round (3rd overall selection), Cincinnati Bengals

Much like Couch, Smith wound up becoming a monumental bust for the Bengals and by missing on a QB with such a high draft choice the move set the team back years in their development. In hindsight Smith was a risky selection for Cincinnati due to the fact he’d had just one productive year at college, his senior season at Oregon where he won Pac-12 player of the year honours. Smith started just 17 games during his four years in the NFL, all with the Bengals, and his final passer rating of just 52.8 best exemplifies just how bad he was. While neither Couch or Smith inhabited ideal situations for a young quarterback they clearly had major flaws that weren’t picked up during the draft process. Still, it would have been interesting to see if McNabb could have succeeded where Couch and Smith failed, and vice versa.

Daunte Culpepper, 1st round (11th overall selection), Minnesota Vikings

Culpepper’s NFL career far more closely resembled McNabb’s than either Smith or Couch’s, yet he still didn’t quite his the heights that #5 did in terms of wins and play-off success. One of Culpepper’s main attributes was his outstanding size. During his playing days he stood 6 foot 4 inches tall (he probably still does) and weighed in at 255 pounds (he probably still doesn’t). He also possessed good speed for a quarterback, enabling him to rush for 2,652 yards and 34 touchdowns during his career. His overall passer rating of 87.8 actually ranks 14th all-time in the NFL, although having played in an era where passing is easier than ever before that record loses some of its luster, not to mention the fact that he had Randy Moss to throw to while playing for the Vikings. However his accomplishments are still impressive, and in 2004 he set an NFL season yardage record for a quarterback (passing and rushing) although that record has since been broken. Following an acrimonious end to his time with the Vikings Culpepper suffered several severe knee injuries and struggled during stints with Miami and Oakland amongst others, resulting in a sad end to a career which contained an almighty peak and a couple of play-off appearances.

Cade McNown, 1st round (12th overall selection), Chicago Bears

McNown had a miserable NFL career, playing in just two seasons for the Bears before he was traded to Miami and later San Francisco before retiring. In 15 starts he threw 19 interceptions and just 16 touchdowns with a mediocre 67.7 passer rating. Of the top 12 selections in the 1999 draft eight would play in the Pro Bowl during their career; Couch, Smith, McNown and linebacker Chris Claiborne were the only four who didn’t.

Shaun King, 2nd round (50th overall selection), Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The one thing King has which the five men drafted ahead of him don’t is a Superbowl ring, earned while playing for Tampa Bay in 2002 (although King himself didn’t suit up for the game). He enjoyed mild success during his time with Tampa, starting all 16 games in 2000 and recording a respectable 75.8 passer rating while throwing 18 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions. However he would start just three games over the remainder of his career, including two for Arizona in 2004 – his last season in the NFL.

Brock Huard, 3rd round (77th overall selection), Seattle Seahawks

Probably less famous than his brother Damon, Brock Huard never really made much of an impact in the NFL. Huard saw action in parts of three NFL seasons including four starts (all in 2000), with his four year spell in Seattle briefly interrupted by a two year stint with the Colts. His final stats actually read quite well; four touchdowns, two interceptions and a QB rating of 80.3. However he saw such limited playing time that those stats can be mostly rendered meaningless.

Joe Germaine, 4th round (101st overall selection), St. Louis Rams

I’ll admit I’d never heard of Germaine until I started researching this article, and the most interesting thing I learned about him is that he took two years out of college to complete a Mormon mission. His NFL career was slightly less interesting, although he did pick up a Superbowl ring as Kurt Warner’s back-up on the victorious Rams team in 1999. Germaine only ever threw 16 passes in the NFL, all in his rookie season, completing 9 of them including a solitary touchdown. He did however also throw two picks that season. Germaine also served time with the Chiefs and Bengals before he was out of the NFL by the start of the 2003 season, before going on to enjoy a productive career in Arena League Football.

Aaron Brooks, 4th round (131st overall selection), Green Bay Packers

Although Brooks never played a down for the Packers, he was stuck behind both Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck on the depth chart, he enjoyed a successful NFL career largely thanks to a six year stint with New Orleans. During his time in the big easy Brooks set several franchise marks including career and single season touchdown passing records (both since broken by Drew Brees). Unfortunately for Brooks and the Saints his only play-off win came in his first season with the team, against the then defending Superbowl champion Rams. A short lived spell in Oakland followed his release from the Saints in 2005, but all told for a late fourth round pick Brooks delivered fantastic value considering some of the busts further up this list and a career passer rating of 78.5 represents a very respectable career.

Kevin Daft, 5th round (151st overall selection), Tennessee Titans

Kevin, who it should be said has a frankly ridiculous or some might Daft name (sorry), failed to make an impact upon the NFL and bounced around several practice squads including Tennessee, San Diego, San Francisco, Atlanta and eventually Tennessee once more. He did however set an NFL Europe record by throwing for 30 touchdowns in the 2002 season. Taken just 20 spots after Brooks, Daft’s career is more representative of the kind of career you expect from a quarterback taken so late on in the draft process.

Michael Bishop, 7th round (227th overall selection), New England Patriots

Did you know actor Jamie Foxx is Bishop’s cousin? Thank me later for that. Bishop actually had a very distinguished college career with Kansas State, breaking several school records and earning All-American recognition. However his time in the NFL with New England was short lived and after two seasons spent backing up Drew Bledsoe he was released. Bishop was able to become a success in both Arena League Football and the Canadian Football League following his brief NFL career, which in the grand scheme of things means he’s been successful in every phase of his football life with the exception of the NFL, better than most seventh round picks manage.

Chris Greisen, 7th round (239th overall selection), Arizona Cardinals

Greisen’s career has followed a fascinating path, beginning with a three year term as the Cardinals third string QB. Appearing in just five games Greisen threw just 16 passes, including one touchdown, during his original stint in the NFL. After he was released he became one of the stars of Arena League Football, a common career path for quarterbacks from this draft class it would seem, where he was voted AFL offensive player of the year in both 2007 and 2010. Greisen also set since-broken AFL records for single season passing yards and touchdown passes. Despite having been out of the NFL since 2001 Greisen was amazingly picked up by the Dallas Cowboys nine years later in 2010, spending a week on the active roster before being released. After once again going back to the AFL Greisen was signed again by the Cowboys in 2011, this time to their practice squad, before being released last year. With his NFL career now seemingly over Griesen is a great example of persistence, and the fact that he was on an NFL roster as recently as three years ago when the likes of Couch and Smith were long gone from the league is a testament to his work ethic and determination.

Scott Covington, 7th round (245th overall selection), Cincinnati Bengals

Covington was the second quarterback taken in this draft by the Bengals, and I’m pretty sure the Bengals didn’t envision him lasting longer in the NFL than first-rounder Akili Smith. However Covington himself didn’t pull up any trees in the pro’s and unlike some of the other late round selections on this list he failed to make a career for himself after his release in the CFL, AFL or any other-FL’s.

Notable undrafted free-agent quarterbacks: Anthony Wright

So there you have it, an in depth look at the 1999 quarterback draft class featuring a fair few busts but also a couple of late round gems and a borderline hall-of-famer in McNabb. I’ll be back later in the week with a new episode of the American Football Focus podcast, but you can let me know what you think of the class of ’99 before then by leaving a comment or tweeting me @fredjstanley.


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