14 African American Quarterbacks have been selected in the 1st round of an NFL Draft. There used to be a time black QB’s were stereotyped as only being athletic, and overlooked as a pure thrower. However, over the years, that way of thinking has digressed into what is now a non-color barrier at the Quarterback position.
In 2012, Baylor’s Heisman trophy winner, Robert Griffin III is set to likely become the Washington Redskins 2nd overall pick and franchise QB. On April 26th, RG3 will become the 15th African American Quarterback selected in the 1st round of an NFL draft. The dynamic that my be under the radar is, NFL fans are witnessing the greatest African American QB prospect ever.
In 1968, Tennessee State University’s, Eldridge Dickey became the first African American QB selected in the 1st round by an AFL or NFL team. Oakland made Dickey the 25th overall pick in the 68′ draft, yet never allowed him to play the QB position. Dickey, an ambidextrous thrower could shoot a ball 60 + yards down the field, effortlessly with his left and right hand. His athleticism was undeniable, which of course prompted the Raiders to make Dickey a Wide Receiver. Even after a strong training camp performance at the Quarterback position, the Raiders moved Dickey to WR, and the reason is still unknown today. Some speculate the obvious, and believe the stereotype of black QB’s at the time, forced the decision. Then there are some that say, outside of the strong arm, Dickey had choppy mechanics. Whatever the reason may be, Dickey never had an opportunity to play a regular season game as a QB.
In 1978, Grambling State’s, Doug Williams became the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17th overall pick and wasn’t asked to switch positions. Williams is best known for becoming the first black QB to become Super MVP and champion with the Washington Redskins in 1988. As a prospect coming out of Grambling State, Williams was touted a strong armed QB, but had a bit of an elongated throwing motion. He gets tagged “one-hit wonder” often, however, he broke barriers for the Quarterback position.
In 1990, Andre Ware became the highest drafted African American QB out of Houston, at that time. The Detroit Lions thought they found a guy who could revolutionize the position, however, Ware ended up becoming one of the leagues biggest draft busts. At Houston, Ware broke 26 passing records on a team that rarely ran the football. In my opinion, Ware’s stats were inflated due to the pass happy offense, and weak conference. That opinion could have been verified by Ware’s successor at Houston, David Klingler, who wasted no time to break a lot of Ware’s records. While Ware was a dynamic prospect, at the time, he was vastly overrated.
Steve McNair was drafted 3rd overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 1995 NFL Draft. Before deciding to attend Alcorn State, McNair was courted by several colleges that all wanted him to play defensive back. Determined to play QB, McNair chose to play for a historically black college, Alcorn State where McNair knew he would have a chance to play QB. By his junior season, McNair established himself as a legit QB prospect. The strong arm was obvious, added by great athleticism, yet people still questioned if he’ll be able to translate that talent on the professional level. McNair wasted no time to prove doubters wrong, and went on to have a great career.
The 1999 NFL Draft included 3 African American Quarterbacks selected in the 1st round – Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, and Daunte Culpepper. McNabb created an uproar among Philadelphia Eagles fans when they selected him 2nd overall. The Quarterback made strides in the throwing department his senior season at Syracuse, and made his rise in the draft during the 1999 Senior Bowl. Donovan was a strong armed, athletic QB, who’s accuracy and footwork wasn’t great. However, the upside was there, which caught Eagles head coach, Andy Reid’s attention. Akili Smith was taken one pick after McNabb, as teams where in awe of his arm strength. Smith wasn’t a clean prospect, and the Cincinnati Bengals suffered for their decision to pick him 3rd overall. Daunte Culpepper was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings 11th overall. Culpepper was an athletic QB, with a strong arm. However, questions arose with his smallish hands, footwork, and mechanics.
From 1999 to 2011, 7 African American Quarterback were selected in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Most, unfortunately have not had great careers. Byron Leftwich was drafted 7th overall in the 2007 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Leftwhich was touted as a great pocket passer, however his decision making and mechanics would fall apart outside the pocket. That aspect hurt him in the NFL, later being replaced by David Garrard. In 2006, Vince Young was selected 3rd overall, with red flags all over the place. There was questions about his character, he had average arm strength, poor mechanics and decision making. Vince Young had success on the NFL level, however, his character overshadowed the talent that wasn’t even great to begin with. JaMarcus Russell continued this trend of character flawed QB prospects, however, his rocket arm and ability to make every throw awed the Oakland Raiders. Russell was drafted number 1 overall in the 2007 NFL draft, and became one of the top 5 biggest bust the league has seen. In 2009, Josh Freeman was selected 17th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The jury is still out on him as an NFL player, however, as a prospect Freeman wasn’t great. In a year of few quality QB prospects, the Bucs took a chance on Freeman who was inconsistent at Kansas State. Another inconsistent QB on the NFL level, Jason Campbell was selected 25th overall by the Washington Redskins in 2005. The biggest concern about Jason coming out of Auburn was his inability to handle the speed of the game. He had a lot of talent around him at Auburn, which overshadowed that aspect.
Another Auburn QB prospect, Cam Newton was drafted 1st overall in 2011 by the Carolina Panthers. Scouts felt Cam had character flaws, poor field vision, inconsistent mechanics, and was labeled a one-year wonder. Newton did nothing but prove doubters wrong by having one of the best rookie seasons by any NFL QB.
Before those Quarterbacks (2002-2011) was Michael Vick, who became the first African American Quarterback selected number 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft. Vick was maybe the cleanest African American QB prospect the league had seen. There wasn’t many red flags about Vick. He had a rocket arm, accurate, athletic, could make throws inside and outside the pocket. The only negatives was his inconsistent throwing mechanics and at times, Vick tried to force throws.
So is Robert Griffin III a better pro prospect than Mike Vick? Yes, he is.
RG3 is the cleanest African American Quarterback prospect ever. From a mental standpoint, RG3 is exceptionally smart, and is a leader of men. His mechanics are better than Vick’s coming out of Virginia Tech. While Vick may have the better lateral movement and a tad stronger arm, RG3’s athleticism isn’t too far off, and his accuracy exceeds Michael’s.
There aren’t many negatives to RG3’s game. His anticipation on throws may be his biggest flaw, however, most collegiate Quarterbacks don’t have great anticipation until they’re in the NFL. The media has done a great job of noticing RG3’s skill-set and because of his clean sheet, I often forget Rg3 is even African American. Thanks to the many African American QB’s drafted years prior to RG3, each Quarterback had a hand in relinquishing the sentiment that black QB’s are run first athletes.
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