Quarterbacks Pittsburgh could’ve taken instead of Landry Jones

We’ve heard a lot of criticism about the Steelers developing a backup quarterback, someone who is capable of backing up Ben Roethlisberger. In 2013, the Steelers attempted to start that process, selecting Landry Jones in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, with the 115th overall selection.

Several seasons later, many fans feel as though the pick used on Landry Jones was a wasted one.

In the same draft, five quarterbacks were chosen ahead of Jones, and four other quarterbacks were selected after.

Here’s how those picks turned out, and why Landry Jones may have been one of the better choices of this quarterback class.

EJ Manuel

The top quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL Draft was the only player taken at the position in the first round.

Since being drafted, Manuel has appeared in 24 games with 16 starts. Manuel has a 6-10 record as a starter, with a career completion rate of 59%, 78.3 QB rating, and 19 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.

Manuel would miss 5 games to injury in 2013, then lose his job to Kyle Orton the following year, after posting a 2-2 record. The Bills brought in former Ravens 2011 6th round pick, Tyrod Taylor, to start over Manuel in 2015.

Of course, the Steelers wouldn’t have blown a first round draft pick for Manuel (instead taking Jarvis Jones with the very next selection) but had they, it’s likely he wouldn’t have been very effective; at least not for the asking price.

Geno Smith

Another draft day drama case, Geno was expected to go in the first round, but instead fell to the second round, before the New York Jets called his name.

Smith would start all 16 games for the Jets his rookie year, posting an 8-8 record with a 55.8% completion rate, and throwing 12 touchdowns to 21 interceptions, for a 66.5 QB rating.

The following season, Smith would eventually be benched in favor of Michael Vick, after throwing multiple interceptions through the month of October. Smith has a lifetime 57.9% completion rate, with a 27:36 TD:INT ratio, and 71.9 QB rating.

The Steelers made a wiser decision in the second round, when 9 picks later they selected Le’Veon Bell.

I wouldn’t trade that choice for the world.

Mike Glennon

Glennon is another hot topic of trade discussion, as the backup has shown poise at times, but has been stuck with an otherwise dismal Tampa Bay team. He’s 5-13 lifetime as a starter, with a 58.8% completion rate, having thrown for 4,025 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Glennon was off the board with the 73rd overall pick, before the Steelers chose Markus Wheaton several picks later.

Matt Barkley

This USC product fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 4th round. He appeared in 4 games total, completing 60% of his passes (49 attempts) with no touchdowns and 4 picks.

Barkley bounced from Philadelphia to Arizona in 2015, and is currently the 3rd string QB with the Chicago Bears.

Ryan Nassib

Taken five picks ahead of Landry Jones, Nassib has seen limited action, appearing in 5 games and only attempting 10 passes in his career (completing all but one of them).

He also has one career touchdown.

That may sound promising, if Nassib hasn’t had poor preseason statistics as well. The Giants QB completed 41.3% of his passes on 75 attempts this preseason, for 3 touchdowns and 3 picks. In 2015, he completed 52.4% of his passes with a 2:3 ratio.

This pretty much gives Nassib an incomplete, as he doesn’t see much time behind Eli Manning, who hasn’t missed a game since 2004 (his rookie season).

Brad Sorenson

Another quarterback would not be taken after Jones until Sorenson in the 7th round. Sorenson, from Southern Utah, would never play a single snap in the NFL, bouncing from the Chargers in 2013, Titans in 2014, Chargers in 2014 and 2015, and most recently, the Minnesota Vikings (who released him in September, when they traded for Sam Bradford).

Zach Dysert

Dysert was the next QB taken, by the Denver Broncos. He too would never play a snap in the NFL.

After playing with the Broncos for two seasons, Dysert would never make another active roster, and is now with his sixth team, the Arizona Cardinals.

B.J. Daniels

Daniels, current a free agent, is an interesting prospect who played quarterback at South Florida before converting to wide receiver. He too has bounced around the league, moving from the 49ers (who drafted him) to the Seahawks, Texans, Giants and most recently, the Bears, who released him as part of the final roster cuts.

Sean Renfree

Selected six picks before Mr. Irrelevant (the last pick in the draft) Renfree saw his very first time under center in 2015, attempting only 7 passes, completing 3 of them, with one interception and no touchdowns (a 42.9% completion rate).

Renfree was little-used in the 2016 preseason, playing in only 2 games and attempting only 19 passes. In 2015’s exhibition games, he had a 72.2% completion rate on 36 attempts (1:0 TD:INT) 61.4% in 2014 on 44 attempts (1:0) and 52.0% in 2013 on 25 tries (0:0).

He appears to be the “best” of the bunch following Jones, but has otherwise seen little time on the field, while also having a knock on him for taking sacks, of which he’s been taken down 11 times in 4 years of preseason play (10 games).

Landry Jones

Jones’ 2015 preseason is heavily skewed by a 4 interception performance against the Philadelphia Eagles (a team the Steelers also struggled with in the regular season) but the Steelers backup still completed 69.5% of his passes, including 90.6, 90.8 and 120.8 QB ratings in the other 3 games.

In regular season games, Jones has a 57.1% completion rate for 513 yards, 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

It should be noted that one of those 4 interceptions was on a ill-fated trick field goal attempt last season, against the Seahawks. (Jones is not the usual holder for field goals, and was snuffed out by the Seattle special teams unit.)

Final Comparison

Below is a chart of all regular season statistics from quarterbacks taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.


*Sorenson, Dysert, and Daniels do not have any regular season pass attempts.

Of those drafted, nearly all of the quarterbacks poll within a 60% completion rate (Nassib’s 10 attempts withstanding).

Of those with 50 or more attempts, only Glennon has more touchdowns than interceptions, and thus the best QB rating. Jones has the best yards-per-average, and least sacks (though he’s played less games as well) but on average, is not sacked anywhere near as much as his peers.

The jury is still out on Landry Jones, but considering the alternatives from the same draft, it’s not as if the Steelers “missed” on which quarterback they took that year. Granted, you could argue that Pittsburgh should’ve used the spot to take another position, and with other fine picks being made throughout the draft, it’s a valid point.

However, for example, Antonio Brown was also passed on until the sixth round: hindsight will always be 20/20 when making post-draft comparisons.

In this scenario, I feel the Steelers did alright for themselves, after seeing how those other picks turned out.

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