A few things are considered NFL draft certainties: The commissioner will get booed, Mel Kiper Jr. will call some team’s pick “a reach,” and a quarterback from the Pac-12 / Pac-10 / Pac-8 will get drafted.
The last of those three did not happen this year. For only the third time in the past 52 NFL drafts not a single quarterback from the Pac-12 / Pac-10 / Pac-8 was drafted. Since 1969, back when quarterbacks were not the vital weapon they are today, only twice previously did a conference quarterback not hear his named called in an NFL draft.
This is a conference that gave the NFL such stars as John Elway, Aaron Rodgers, Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman, Andrew Luck, Joe Kapp and budding star Justin Herbert. (It also gave the league busts such as Ryan Leaf, Matt Leinart, Todd Marinovich and Akili Smith, but we’ll ignore those.) Since 1950, 35 Pac-12 / Pac-10 / Pa-8 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round, and 11 of them were the No. 1 overall pick, the most of any conference. Thirteen times in the past 33 NFL drafts at least three Pac-12 quarterbacks were drafted, and in 1989 and 1991, four quarterbacks from the conference were drafted.
The Pac-12 and its earlier versions were always at the forefront of the passing game, dazzling opponents from other conferences that were married to the ground game. Those quarterbacks were valued at the pro level.
But this year? zilch.
Sounds like a damning statement for the Pac-12, doesn’t it? However, you could argue that getting shutout at the most important position this year might not be another condemnation of the faltering football conference.
Ten of the conference’s 12 starting quarterbacks from the 2021 season will be playing college football in 2022. The only two Pac-12 starters available for the 2022 draft were Cal’s Chase Garbers and Oregon’s Anthony Brown Jr. Neither was drafted, but Garbers signed as a free agent with the Raiders and Brown signed with the Ravens.
Otherwise, all the starters from last year will be back in 2022, although not all of them remain in the Pac-12. USC’s Jaxson Dart and Kedon Slovis, who shared the starting job at USC last season, transferred to Mississippi and Pittsburgh, respectively, and Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels transferred to LSU. Washington State’s Jayden de Laura stayed within the conference, transferring to Arizona.
But the first-team and second-team all-Pac-12 quarterbacks in 2021 – Utah’s Cameron Rushing and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson – are returning for 2022, USC added a future pro in Caleb Williams, and Washington State acquired a player with big -time potential in Cameron Ward. Stanford’s Tanner McKee also has pro possibilities.
It suggests the 2023 NFL draft might be kinder to Pac-12 quarterbacks.
Scroll to Continue
Well, maybe not.
Pro Football Network lists its top 10 quarterback prospects for the 2023 NFL draft, and Ward is the only Pac-12 player on the list, and he is No. 10. And Ward is still an unproven commodity, since he has never played in an FBS game, having spent last season at Incarnate Word. Pro Football Network called Ward “the darkhorse for the biggest riser.”
SI.com lists its top 25 quarterbacks for the 2023 draft, and the highest Pac-12 quarterback in that ranking is McKee at No. 12, followed by de Laura at No. 23 and Thompson-Robinson at No. 25.
The Sporting News does not include a Pac-12 quarterback among its top-10 prospects for the 2023 draft either, although the former Pac-12 QB Slovis is No. 9.
Considering only nine quarterbacks were taken in this year’s draft and just 10 the year before, this does not paint a rosy picture for the 2023 draft hopes of Pac-12 quarterbacks. Add to the fact that the only Pac-12 quarterback drafted last year was a third-round pick from Davis Mills of Stanford, and you have the makings of some sad quarterback draft numbers for the conference that ruled at this position for years.
Cover photo of Justin Herbert, the offensive MVP of this year’s Pro Bowl, is by Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports
Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @ jakecurtis53
Find Cal Sports Report on Facebook by searching: @ si.calsportsreport or going to https://www.facebook.com/si.calsportsrepor