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Inside the Numbers: When 1 & 2 Were QBs...and Then Dueled as Rookies

Jets' & Jaguars' Top Draft Picks Next Week May Well Square Off at MetLife in '21 Regular Season


It's too soon to say definitively whom Jacksonville and Jets are taking with the first two picks of the 2021 NFL Draft this coming Thursday.

But as new Jaguars coach Urban Meyer has said, the Jags taking Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is "certainly the direction we're headed." And while Jets GM Joe Douglas hasn't endorsed any rumors of a specific signal-caller, he has said that taking a QB at No. 2 is "a fair assessment."

We also know that the Jets are hosting the Jaguars at MetLife Stadium in the coming season, and in a few weeks we'll know exactly when that game is on the schedule. And again, it's too soon to say definitively if Jets HC Robert Saleh and Meyer will start their rookie top picks against each other, but that would, too, be a fair assessment of where the two teams are headed.

Which brings us to this week's ITN (Inside the Numbers) question: How many times have teams taken QBs with the top two picks of the draft and then those QBs started against each other as rookies in the ensuing regular season?

The answer: Since the start of the NFL Common Draft in 1967, it's happened three times:

1993 — Seattle and Rick Mirer (No. 2 pick) at New England and Drew Bledsoe (No. 1 pick)
Bill Parcells had just taken over the Patriots reins, inherited the top pick of the draft, and needed a franchise QB. He debated whether to take Washington State's Bledsoe or Notre Dame's Mirer and went with the right call, Bledsoe, who got the Pats to the Super Bowl after the '96 season, played nine seasons in red, white and blue and 14 seasons in the NFL.

None of that was apparent in the third game of Bledsoe's career, when he and New England fell behind Mirer and Seattle, 17-0, and lost, 17-14, on Sept. 19, 1993. The QBs' passing lines in that game:

Table inside Article
QB Att Cmp Yds TD Int Sax
Mirer 16 12 117 1 1 4
Bledsoe 44 20 238 1 2 2

1998 — San Diego and Ryan Leaf (No. 2) at Indianapolis and Peyton Manning (No. 1)
Manning bypassed the chance to be drafted by Parcells and the Jets in '97 to play his senior season at Tennessee, then won the draft argument by being taken by the Colts ahead of Leaf, like Bledsoe out of Washington State. How right that decision was became apparent in the coming years as Peyton played in four Super Bowls, won two and was elected to thePro Football Hall of Fame's Class of '21 in February. Leaf, meanwhile, washed out of the NFL after three seasons.

Their first meeting gave little hint of what was to come as the Manning Colts edged the Leaf Chargers, 17-12, on Oct. 4, 1998, with the two rookies compiling almost identical passing lines:

Table inside Article
QB Att Cmp Yds TD Int Sax
Leaf 23 12 160 0 1 4
Manning 23 12 137 1 1 0

2015 — Tennessee and Marcus Mariota (No. 2) at Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston (No. 1)
It didn't take long for the NFL to match the top two picks in the '15 draft against each other as the Titans traveled to Central Florida to play the Buccaneers on opening day, Sept. 13, 2015. Mariota did wonders with a conservative game plan, throwing four TD passes in only 15 attempts to lead Tennessee to the 42-14 victory.

Table inside Article
QB Att Cmp Yds TD Int Sax
Mariota 15 13 209 4 0 2
Winston 33 16 210 2 2 4

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