After one of the worst seasons in Falcons history, Atlanta drafted Matt Ryan with the third overall selection in 2008. Since there was no other worthy quarterback on the roster, Ryan was thrust into the starting job Week 1 and performed better than most anticipated. In fact, on Ryan’s very first NFL pass, he connected with Michael Jenkins for a 62-yard touchdown against the eventual 0-16 Detroit Lions.
Ryan’s success was unexpected at the time but has now become commonplace in the NFL. During an appearance on FS1’s Speak For Yourself, Mark Sanchez, the former first-round pick of the New York Jets in 2009, discussed how expectations for quarterbacks shifted in 2008.
“Before 2008, that’s our line of demarcation, it was totally normal to get your first-round quarterback and sit his [expletive] the entire year,” said Sanchez. “That was what you did, because you know why? He had to learn. There are too many things he’s not prepared for.”
I agree with Mark Sanchez on this one.
Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco (more Matt than Flacco imo) set the standard for rookie quarterbacks in 2008. pic.twitter.com/d9B4XDPJTj
— Miles Garrett (@MilesGarrettTV) September 29, 2021
Along with the Falcons drafting Ryan in 2008, the Baltimore Ravens used their first-round draft pick for QB Joe Flacco, who also started all 16 games his first year in the NFL. When looking at the 17 quarterbacks selected in the first round from the years 2000 to 2007, only one opened up as day-one starter, and that was simply due to being drafted by an expansion team.
Even Jamarcus Russell, drafted number one overall a year before Matt Ryan, didn’t start an NFL game until Week 17 and was inactive the first 12 weeks of the season. The Falcons also followed this same practice when they drafted Michael Vick in 2001 with the number one overall pick. Vick certainly played some throughput the season, but was mainly the understudy of Chris Chandler during his rookie year.
Since the 2008 draft, 41 quarterbacks have been taken in the first round. Of those 41 players, 18 were day-one starters.
“You don’t know what the locker room’s like, you don’t know what the road trips are like, you got to get into a routine, you have to learn how to watch film,” continued Sanchez.
“But what happened in 2008 — Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan busted on the scene. Where’d they go? Playoffs, rookie year. 2009, what do they do? Stafford Sanchez. Boom, you got to play them. That’s what happened last year , this is the new move. Now, the rule is, you got to play them. You picked him in the first round, paying him all that money.”
Ryan’s early success in Atlanta changed our expectations of first-round quarterbacks for good.
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