The San Francisco 49ers moved up to No. 3 in this year’s draft to presumably select their quarterback of the future.
Every situation is different, so we can’t glean much from the history of quarterbacks going No. 3 overall, but it’s interesting to look at the pending selection from a historical perspective.
In all, 17 quarterbacks have been taken third overall. San Francisco has taken three of those 17 and looks like they’ll make it No. 4 on April 29.
The 17 previous selections are a mixed bag with some Hall of Famers, colossal busts and everything in between.
Here’s a quick look at every signal caller ever drafted No. 3 overall.
1948, Bobby Layne, Chicago Bears
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Layne started only one game for Chicago his rookie season. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career, mostly with Detroit. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, a two-time First-Team All-Pro, and won three NFL championships.
1951, Y.A. Tittle, San Francisco 49ers
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This is a good omen for the 49ers. Tittle is the first of three 49ers picks on this list and he spent 10 of his 14 NFL seasons with San Francisco. He went to seven Pro Bowls and earned three First-Team All-Pro nods during his Hall-of-Fame career.
1953, Jack Scarbath, Washington Football Team
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Scarbath started only 10 games for Washington in two seasons with the team and went 3-7 as a starter. He also started one game for Pittsburgh in his third and final season. Scarbath threw 18 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in his career.
1957, John Brodie, San Francisco 49ers
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This is another good omen for the 49ers. Brodie isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his No. 12 is retired by the 49ers. He played all 17 of his seasons in San Francisco, went to a pair of Pro Bowls, was once a First-Team All-Pro, and was the NFL MVP in 1970.
1967, Steve Spurrier, San Francisco 49ers
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The third of the 49ers’ three QBs at No. 3 in the draft didn’t pan out as well. Spurrier started 26 games across nine seasons in San Francisco and went 13-12-1 with 33 touchdowns and 48 picks. He went 0-12 as the Buccaneers starter in 1976 – his final season.
1970, Mike Phipps, Cleveland Browns
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Phipps had seven relatively unproductive years in Cleveland, although he did go 17-8-2 as a starter across 27 starts between 1972 and 1973. The problem for him was that he went 7-17 in his other 24 starts for the Browns. He found some success with the Bears, going 14-6 in 20 starters over five years with Chicago.
1971, Dan Pastorini, Houston Oilers
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Pastorini’s career wasn’t bad, but it was unremarkable for the No. 3 pick in the draft. He went 56-61 as a starter, but did earn a Pro Bowl trip in 1975 when he guided the Oilers to a 10-4 record. He took Houston to the AFC conference championship game in 1975 and went 3-2 in five career playoff starts.
1979, Jack Thompson, Cincinnati Bengals
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Thompson was a disaster for the Bengals. He went 1-4 as a starter in four seasons. For his career he went 4-17 as a starter with 33 touchdowns against 45 interceptions.
1986, Jim Everett, Houston Oilers
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The Oilers traded Everett to the Rams because of a contract dispute, so that’s not a great start. He had an okay career with 153 starts, 203 touchdowns, 175 interceptions and a Pro Bowl berth in 1990. However, he won only 64 of his 153 starts and went 2-3 in three playoff trips. Everett and the Rams were blown out by the 49ers 30-3 in the 1989 NFC championship.
1994, Heath Shuler, Washington Football Team
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Shuler was with Washington for three year and New Orleans for one. He started just 22 games in his four-year career and earned a dismal 54.3 passer rating.
1995, Steve McNair, Houston Oilers
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McNair had one of the best careers on this list. He went to three Pro Bowls and was the co-MVP with Peyton Manning in 2003. The Alcorn State alum went to the playoffs five times and went to the Super Bowl with the Titans in 1999. In 13 seasons he went 91-62 in 153 starts and was an early version of the athletic quarterbacks that’ve been popularized in the modern NFL.
1999, Akili Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
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Smith began a string of really bad QBs taken No. 3 overall. He started only 17 games for Cincinnati and won three of them over his four seasons. He managed a 52.8 passer rating in his career.
2002, Joey Harrington, Detroit Lions
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There are worse careers on this list than Harrington’s, but his still wasn’t good. He won only 26 of his 76 starts, and his best year was in 2004 when he went 6-10, completed 56.0 percent of his throws for 3,047 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He wound up playing for the Dolphins and Falcons for a year each after four unsuccessful seasons with the Lions.
2006, Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
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Young started off with a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie while looking like the next big thing under center in the NFL thanks to his electric playmaking ability and knack for dramatics. He led the NFL with four fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives in 2006. He earned another Pro Bowl nod in 2009 after he went 8-2 as a starter. He did go 31-19 as a stater, but after a three-start year with the Eagles in 2011, he was out of the NFL.
2008, Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
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Ryan is fascinating. He won an MVP in 2016, was a four-time Pro Bowler, a First-Team All-Pro and the 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year. He’s also been to the playoffs six times and was a blown 28-3 lead from winning a Super Bowl. Ryan has Hall-of-Fame numbers, but a 4-6 playoff record including that bad loss in the Super Bowl, and the Falcons’ knack for late-game blunders have marred an otherwise very good career.
2014, Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
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It looked like a breakout might be coming for Bortles after he tossed 35 touchdowns in his second season. That breakout never came. He’s now 24-49 as a starter and appears poised for a career as a journeyman veteran presence.
2018, Sam Darnold, New York Jets
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It’s been rocky for Darnold out of the gate. He’s 13-25 as a starter and may be out of New York before his rookie deal is up. Perhaps it’s a product of the coaching staff and talent around him, but Darnold is on the fast track to being another bust on this list.
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