The first round of the NFL draft turns into a QB bonanza with a record-setting 6 taken in the top 12

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Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates after being chosen by the Chicago Bears with the first overall pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Quarterbacks went off the draft board at a record-setting pace.

Thursday night was the fourth time in the common draft era starting in 1967 that QBs went with the top three picks, with three more going in the top 12. It was the fewest number of picks for six QBs to be drafted.

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This marked the first time five quarterbacks were drafted in the top 10 and matched the famed 1983 class with six first-rounders in all as teams throughout the league went in search of a big-time passer who can turn the fortunes of a franchise.

“I wasn’t shocked,” said Bo Nix, who was the last QB off the board at No. 12 to Denver. "I think the six of us, we’re all capable of playing at the next level. It’s going to be fun to watch everybody and see how they develop. I wasn’t shocked at all because I think this class of quarterbacks was very strong.”

The draft started in predictable fashion with Caleb Williams going first to Chicago, Jayden Daniels second to Washington and Drake Maye third to New England, marking the second time in the past four drafts that QBs went 1-2-3.

But in a note of caution, two of those highly drafted quarterbacks in 2021 have already been busts for their teams, with the New York Jets trading No. 2 pick Zach Wilson earlier this week to Denver as part of a late-round draft pick swap and San Francisco dealing No. 3 pick Trey Lance last August to Dallas for a fourth-rounder.

Two other first-round quarterbacks from that draft have also been dealt away, with Chicago trading No. 11 pick Justin Fields to Pittsburgh and New England dealing No. 15 pick Mac Jones earlier this offseason.

Those failures didn't deter teams from using premium picks on quarterbacks. Atlanta pulled off the biggest shocker by taking Washington's Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth pick less than two months after signing Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million deal in free agency.

"If we see a player that we believe can be a franchise quarterback at any point, whether it’s this draft, next draft, whether it’s a player we can trade for, whatever it is, you have to bring that player in because we’re talking about the next four to five years plus when we’re talking about guys that we’re drafting,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said.

Minnesota then traded up one spot to take Michigan's J.J. McCarthy with the 10th pick, unwilling to take the chance of missing out on their target.

“We knew we weren’t the only ones that had identified him as a quarterback we wanted to select,” coach Kevin O’Connell said. “You start thinking about the what-if.”

Denver completed the haul by taking Nix with the 12th pick.

The only other time six quarterbacks were taken in the entire first round came in 1983 in a draft that produced Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, along with less-productive quarterbacks like Ken O'Brien, Tony Eason and Todd Blackledge.

But the QBs came off the board much faster this time around. Marino had to wait until the 27th pick to be taken by Miami 41 years ago.

This draft is the eighth in the past nine years with at least three QBs taken in the first round, which matches the number of times that happened in the first 38 years of the common draft era.



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