10 Recent NFL Quarterback BUSTS Who Would Have Been GREAT On Another Team

Total Pro Sports

It’s not always fair to label an NFL quarterback who failed to live up to expectations as a “bust.”

Sometimes, the player is let down by their coaches, teammates and front office. And unfortunately, there are only so many Steve Youngs and Jim Plunketts. That is, guys who went from bust on one team to superstar on another.

There is no shortage of recent highly-touted NFL quarterbacks who have failed to reach their ceilings thus far. But what if these guys wound up on a team that better suited their skill sets? Here are 10 recent NFL quarterback draft busts who would have been great on another team

Trey Lance: Atlanta Falcons

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – SEPTEMBER 24: Quarterback Trey Lance #15 of the Dallas Cowboys on the sidelines during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on September 24, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Cowboys 28-16. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers gave up a king’s ransom to the Miami Dolphins in 2021 so they could move up into the No. 3 spot for a top QB.

With Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson off the board, it was either North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Alabama’s Mac Jones. The 49ers bet on upside and decided to go with the dual-threat standout in Lance over the safer option in Jones.

But as we all know, Lance never got his chance to shine on the west coast. He saw limited action as a rookie in 2021 backing up Jimmy Garoppolo. He opened 2022 as the starter but unfortunately suffered a season-ending ankle fracture in Week 2.

Garoppolo suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 13, forcing the 49ers to turn to third-stringer Brock Purdy. And the rest, as they say, is history. Purdy won all of his starts and led San Fran to its third NFC Championship Game appearance in four years.

The 49ers subsequently shipped Lance to the Dallas Cowboys for the low price of a 2024 fourth-round pick.

To this day, we remain convinced that Lance would have been a star in Atlanta. The Falcons never got the chance to draft Lance, as they used the subsequent pick at No. 4 overall on Kyle Pitts.

Lance would have learned behind former MVP Matt Ryan for one year before getting the starting duties in 2022. Imagine this dual-threat QB working under one of the game’s best offensive-minded coaches in Arthur Smith, with Drake London, Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson as his main weapons.

It’s not too late for Lance to shed his bust label. But he would have been an established star by now if he landed in Atlanta instead of San Fran.

Mitch Trubisky: San Francisco 49ers

HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 01: Mitch Trubisky #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts a pass during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears infamously traded up to the No. 2 spot via the 49ers in the 2017 NFL Draft so they could take Mitch Trubisky. As we all know, it was a move the Bears would come to forever regret.

Chicago passed on the league’s current No. 1 player in Patrick Mahomes, who went 10th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. Even if you exclude QBs, Chicago also took Trubisky over the likes of TJ Watt, Marshon Lattimore, Christian McCaffrey, Haason Reddick, Marlon Humphrey and Tre’Davious White. Big yikes!

Trubisky simply never put it together in Chicago, hitting 20 TD passes just once and never even hitting 3,3000 yards passing. BUT…what if he landed with the 49ers in the 2017 NFL Draft instead?

Trubisky would be working behind one of the game’s all-time great offensive-minded head coaches and QB gurus in Kyle Shanahan. He’d be complemented by a prolific ground game and o-line, with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle as his main weapons.

Seeing what Shanahan did with the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens and now Brock Purdy, who’s to say he wouldn’t have turned Trubisky into something special?

Zach Wilson: New England Patriots

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 15: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets celebrates after a win over the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on October 15, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

After the Jacksonville Jaguars used the top selection on Trevor Lawrence, the New York Jets snagged BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall. In typical Jets fashion, however, they found a way to ruin an ultra-talented Wilson the same way they did for Mark Sanchez and Sam Darnold. Yippee.

Wilson has struggled with accuracy and ball control throughout his career. The Jets didn’t supply him with the right offensive coaches nor a half-decent o-line. He can’t take all of the blame for his shortcomings up to this point.

Now imagine if Wilson landed with the New England Patriots instead. No coach has better stressed and preached ball security and smart decision-making like Bill Belichick.

Wilson has higher upside than fellow 2021 draft bust Mac Jones and would have probably fared much better in the Pats’ run-heavy, ball-control offense. Having Josh McDaniels as his OC in his rookie year would have done wonders for Wilson, too.

But alas, Wilson landed with the Patriots’ archrivals and flopped instead. Way to go, Jets!

Daniel Jones: Pittsburgh Steelers

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 08: Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants leaves the field after an injury against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)

Everyone knew it was a huge reach by the New York Giants to take Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall in 2019. He was widely projected to be a late first or early second-rounder, but yet the Giants didn’t even wanna trade down for the Duke product. It just made no sense.

And now here we are, and sure enough, the Giants have one of the biggest draft busts in franchise history. Not that Jones can be entirely at fault. Having three head coaches in four years, zero stud pass-catchers and a woeful offensive line certainly haven’t helped matters.

Hindsight is 20/20, but you just wonder if Jones would have fared better if he wasn’t thrown into the fire as a rookie in 2019 to replace a struggling Eli Manning.

What if Jones went to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who used their No. 10 pick on another future bust in Devin Bush? Jones would have been able to learn behind future Hall of Famers in head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before taking over the offense in 2020.

With Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth as his weapons, Jones would have been in great position to succeed.

The Steelers would have been patient with Danny Dimes before giving him the keys in the post-Big Ben era. Jones would have been perfectly set up for long-term greatness in Steel City. It’s a shame he had to land with the dysfunctional Giants instead.

Drew Lock: New Orleans Saints

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 02: Drew Lock #2 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to throw the ball during the second quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on October 02, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The 2019 NFL Draft class for quarterbacks turned out to be mediocre at best. Of course, none of the QB prospects that year were all that highly-touted outside of Kyler Murray.

That said, some scouts and analysts saw something in Missouri’s Drew Lock — believing that he would be a late first or early second-round pick. Sure enough, the Denver Broncos selected Lock 42nd overall.

Lock showed promise as a rookie by winning four of five starts and tossing seven TDs against just three interceptions. But after a woeful sophomore year that saw him toss a league-leading 15 interceptions in just 13 games, Lock was moved to second-stringer duties in 2021 behind Teddy Bridgewater.

Then in the 2022 offseason, the Broncos sent Lock to the Seattle Seahawks as part of the blockbuster trade that brought Russell Wilson over to Mile High City. And with that, Lock’s hope of being a regular starter in this league was done for.

One can argue that the Broncos’ rushed Lock’s development a bit. Playing under a defense-first head coach in Vic Fangio wasn’t ideal for Lock, to say the least. And looking back, we can’t help but wonder what could have been if the Saints picked him up.

Drew Brees remained New Orleans’ starter in 2019 and 2020. Though he missed time in both those years to injury, the Saints managed to go 8-and-1 without Brees. The Sean Payton effect, ladies and gentlemen.

If Lock went to New Orleans, he would have learned behind the brief all-time passing yards and passing touchdowns leader in Brees and another future Hall of Famer in Payton. Lock could have then succeeded an offense featuring Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara plus a top-five offensive line.

Maybe Lock would have broken out under a QB guru like Payton. We’ll never know for sure…

Josh Rosen: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

CLEVELAND, OHIO – AUGUST 21: Quarterback Josh Rosen #19 of the Cleveland Browns scrambles out of the pocket during the third quarter of a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 21, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Eagles defeated the Browns 21-20. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Arizona drafted Rosen 10th overall in 2018, put him in no position to succeed then dumped him to the Miami Dolphins after using the top selection of 2019 on Kyler Murray. Rosen has since bounced around the league as a backup and practice squad member, never getting a fair chance to establish himself as a starter.

Now, what if the Bucs pulled the plug on Jameis Winston in 2018 or 2019 and moved forward with Rosen? He’d have superstars Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his lead targets, a top-tier o-line and the quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians as his head coach.

If Winston could throw for 5,000 yards in Arians’ offense, who knows what Rosen could have accomplished? The Bucs obviously have no regrets with how things played out, having won the 2020 Tom Brady sweepstakes and Super Bowl 55 and all.

But for Rosen…we just can’t help but think he would have been a shining star in the Sunshine State. It’s just too bad nobody ever gave him the chance to flourish in the NFL.

Mac Jones: Indianapolis Colts

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 22: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots calls for a two point attempt after throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

The Patriots drafted the Alabama product 15th overall in 2021. For one year, at least, it looked like they had their successor to Tom Brady.

Jones earned a Pro Bowl nod in his rookie year and led the Patriots back to the postseason with a 10-and-7 record. But Jones’ play has crumbled mightily ever since Josh McDaniels left for the Las Vegas Raiders’ coaching gig in 2022.

Not Jones’ fault that Belichick gave him a woeful supporting cast, an atrocious offensive line and assigned Matt freaking Patricia and Joe freaking Judge to be the co-offensive play-callers in 2022. That move right there broke Jones forever.

If only there was a time machine back to 2021. The Colts don’t trade for Carson Wentz, and they instead move up to snag Jones ahead of the Patriots in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Think about this: Joens would have had 2021 rushing champ Jonathan Taylor, 1,000-yard wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and arguably the league’s best o-line to work with — plus an offense-first head coach in Frank Reich.

Now we’re talking. A pure pocket passer like Jones would have flourished in Reich’s pass-happy offense with a superstar running back at his disposal. And then the Colts wouldn’t have made another ill-fated trade for Matt Ryan in 2022. Oh, the humanity.

Sam Darnold: Buffalo Bills

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 08: Sam Darnold #14 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to a game against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Darnold was part of the hyped-up 2018 NFL QB draft class that produced two stars in Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen…and several busts.

The Jets traded up via the Colts to take Darnold third overall in 2018. But you remember what we said about Zach Wilson flopping with the Jets? Same deal with Darnold. Bad coaching. Little talent to work with. A horrible offensive line. You get the hint by now.

Unfortunately, a two-year stint with the Carolina Panthers did nothing to revive Darnold’s career, and it looks like he’ll be a career clipboard holder from here.

Josh Allen wound up going to the Bills at No. 7 overall, and we know how that panned out for both sides. Now, what if Darnold landed with the Bills instead of Allen?

Darnold would have worked under a top-tier head coach in Sean McDermott and a proven offensive mastermind assistant in Brian Daboll. Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox, Devin Singletary, Gabe Davis, Cole Beasley et al as his go-to weapons? Darnold would have been well-suited to go off there compared to the little talent he had in New York and Carolina.

Unfortunately for Darnold, he got stuck in the mud while his 2018 draft counterpart got to enjoy success in Western New York.

Justin Fields: New York Jets

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – OCTOBER 22: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears walks the field before the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Soldier Field on October 22, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Man, what if the Jets took Fields instead of Zach Wilson? Who knows how different life would have played out for the several 2021 QB draftees who have flopped thus far…

Fields has been held back by a horrendous Chicago Bears’ coaching staff in Windy City. Now imagine if he went to Gotham instead of Wilson.

Fields would be working under an actual-qualified head coach in Robert Saleh, with Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson as his weapons.

Because Fields would be complemented by a championship-level defense — something he could only dream of in Chicago — the Ohio State product wouldn’t have to carry all the weight. He could flourish as a dual-threat game manager on a defense-first team, the way Alex Smith did in Kansas City.

Fields might be a star outside of Chicago one day. But if he was with the Jets from the get-go? Perhaps he’d be the star of New York football by now. And the Aaron Rodgers trade would have never occurred!

Baker Mayfield: Denver Broncos

TAMPA, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 22: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts to a play in the fourth quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

We still feel bad for Mayfield, because he could have been the long-term guy in Cleveland if the Browns didn’t give up on him so quickly. How has the Deshaun Watson traded worked out for them again?

If only Mayfield landed with a team that fully trusted him from day one. And in hindsight, the Broncos probably wish they found a way to land Mayfield instead of taking future injury-prone star Bradley Chubb fifth overall in 2018.

Denver has been stuck in QB purgatory since Peyton Manning’s 2016 retirement. What if they landed Mayfield and supplied him with that supporting cast consisting of Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Courtland Sutton, Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams?

The Browns failed Mayfield and let him down. Denver would have been all-in on Mayfield and would have tailored their offense to his strengths, something Cleveland selfishly refused to do.

With a strong running game and a top-10 defense in the three-year Vic Fangio era, all the Broncos needed was half-decent QB play. Mayfield would have provided that and then some.

Anyone got a DeLorean Time Machine handy to make this happen?

Which other recent QB draft busts would have been great on another team?

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