With Arch Manning opinions running wild, what does history actually tell us about 5-star QBs?
I’ll only bet on one thing when it comes to Arch Manning: The next Manning quarterback will enter his career with higher expectations than any player in college football history.
Of course, there’s no real way to quantify that. Even using NIL earnings as a barometer is unfair because obviously, that era began in 2021.
What will I not bet on with Manning? That he’s destined to do what his famous uncles and grandpa did. As hard as it is to strip Arch of his last name when it comes to outlining expectations, dare I say, maybe we should? Or perhaps it’s not that expectations should be tempered; it’s that context should be provided.
Lucky for you, you came to the right place.
There’s context that’s needed when it comes to setting expectations for a 5-star quarterback. Success isn’t always imminent. Staying at the same school is less common than you’d think and becoming a high-end NFL starter is even more rare than you’d assume. I promise.
What do I mean by that?
From 2014-19, 14 quarterbacks signed as 5-star recruits (I cut it off at 2019 because that’s the latest draft-eligible year). Here’s a quick breakdown of that (rankings based on 247sports composite):
- 10 of 14 transferred at least once
- 7 of 14 were drafted (4 are still in college)
- 5 of 14 were picked in the 1st round of the NFL Draft
Pretty small sample size? Yeah. Let’s bump it out to the entire 2010s decade of 5-star quarterbacks (2010-19):
- 14 of 21 (67%) transferred at least once
- 10 of 21 (48%) were drafted as a QB (excluding someone who switched positions like Braxton Miller)
- 6 of 21 (29%) were picked in the 1st round of the NFL Draft
- 2 of 21 (10%) made a Pro Bowl (Kyler Murray and Jameis Winston)
- 0 of 21 won a start in an NFL playoff game
OK, that’s significant.
Two out of every 3 of the 5-star quarterbacks in the 2010s decade transferred, less than half were drafted at quarterback, less than 1/3 were picked in the 1st round and only 2 made a Pro Bowl. Oh, and none has won a start in an NFL playoff game. I’d guess that Kyler Murray eventually will win a playoff game and join that list, but that’s not a given, and neither is Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence.
I know what you’re thinking, skeptic. “That’s still not a big enough sample size. Those guys are all too young to use the NFL stuff against them.”
Fine, skeptic. You win. I’ll just make this a 21st century metric so you stop giving me the “well, actually” treatment.
In the 21st century, there were 64 quarterback recruits who signed as 5-stars. Apparently the talent evaluators were a bit more liberal with the 5-star association with quarterbacks in the 2000s (43) compared to the 2010s (21). Here’s the breakdown of those 64 QBs who signed as 5-stars in the 21st century:
- 31 of 64 (48%) were drafted as a QB
- 13 of 64 (20%) were drafted in the 1st round
- 4 of 64 (6%) won an NFL playoff game
Only 3 of the 64 5-star quarterbacks in the 21st century checked all of these boxes:
- Stayed at the same school
- Drafted in 1st round
- Won an NFL playoff game
The list of 5-star quarterbacks who checked all of those boxes in the 21st century were Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez. That’s it.
(You can’t even include Cam Newton on that list because, well, a few stolen laptops prevented him from staying at Florida.)
Among those 3 quarterbacks, Stafford, who just won his first NFL playoff game (and Super Bowl) this past season in Year 13, is the only one who still had a starting job at age 28.
Why do I bring all of this up? Think about what the expectations will be for Arch Manning. If he fails to check 1 of those boxes — stay at the same school, get drafted in the 1st round, win an NFL playoff game and have a starting job at age 28 — he’ll be labeled a “bust.”
Why? Even though their careers came before the recruitment era, Peyton and Eli Manning would’ve checked all of those boxes (we can assume they would’ve been 5-star recruits). I think we forget just how big of an outlier the Mannings were. Their linear path to success has us believing that Arch should follow a similar path when, in reality, Stafford is essentially the only other 5-star quarterback who did that in the 21st century.
That context is worth remembering with the youngest Manning. Will it be? Of course not. Texas is desperate, and that’s only going to be magnified in 2025 when the Longhorns are expected to join the SEC … in what would be Manning’s pre-draft season. The fact that the Manning family is such a mainstay in the sports media landscape will only add to this, no matter what Arch’s career entails.
Even if Arch has a standout college career as a multi-year, all-conference player who gets drafted in Round 1, he’ll still have people waiting to dub him a “bust” if he’s anything short of a top-end NFL starter in his late-20s. They’ll say he’s overhyped if he’s anything less than Peyton 2.0 when in reality, the hope should probably be more like Stafford 2.0. History tells us that would be a massive success story for a 5-star quarterback.
I caught myself doing a 180 on saying the expectation should be that he’s Vince Young 2.0 for Texas. That lacks context. Young played in the pre-Playoff era in a time when Texas had a top-10 defense that played a massive part in the Longhorns knocking off USC for a national title. I doubt Steve Sarkisian’s defense will be at that level at any point while Arch is in Austin. Young also didn’t have to play in a 16-team super conference like the one Arch will theoretically start against in his pre-draft season of 2025.
But hey, who needs context and nuance? That likely won’t be applied to the career of the next Manning quarterback.
Instead, just bet on the skeptics moving the goal posts to places that no 5-star quarterbacks in the 21st century have ever reached.