NFL Draft: Round-by-Round QB Study
by Scott Kacsmar
"You can get a quarterback later in the draft."
That phrase is once again chic among NFL analysts thanks to Russell Wilson, a little quarterback out of the slightly obscure third round, winning a Super Bowl. Like Tom Brady before him, Wilson has involuntarily resized expectations for quarterbacks drafted in later rounds. Often when one of those players slides, it was the product of an abnormal situation. Wilson's career projection was absurdly high, yet he fell in the draft due to his height. It takes a special kind of player -- sometimes a smattering of good luck as well -- to prove the league wrong by playing like a top pick.
Wilson is the only quarterback since 1978 to be drafted after the second round and start all 16 games in his rookie year. Based on how well he's played so far, there's no reason not to believe Wilson will go down as the best third-round quarterback since Joe Montana (1979).
Whether it's Montana, Brady or Wilson, none of these hidden gems should do anything to change the expectations of what the NFL draft produces by round. We have all seen the draft value graphs that resemble exponential decay. Things start off high, but by the third round value is very hard to find and anything later than that is a real triumph.
For future drafts, Wilson may have broken the height discrimination against quarterbacks, but history still shows he will be an outlier. It's true you can get a quarterback later in the draft, but he's more likely to turn out to be Curtis Painter, Mike McMahon, B.J. Symons or that guy from The Bachelor than the next Wilson or Brady. If you want a franchise quarterback, the top of the draft is still the first place to look.
Fortunately, that's where teams are looking with 23 of them currently having a top 40 pick on the roster. That number should increase this week unless you believe certain draftniks who are trying to push Teddy Bridgewater into the third round. Then when Bridgewater, long considered the best quarterback in this class, does get drafted much lower than expected and goes on to have a good career, someone will have the nerve to go on TV one day and say "see, you can get a franchise quarterback later in the draft."
It's better to draft a guy early than to miss on him entirely. If you're sure about a player, pull the trigger, but we know sure things and the NFL draft do not go together. The following data confirms that.
The 20-Year Quarterback Draft Study (1994-2013)
I collected data for all 237 quarterbacks* drafted in the NFL from 1994 to 2013 (20 drafts). The 1994 draft is a pivotal one since it's the first of the salary cap era and features the current seven-round format. This still presents the common problem in draft studies of including active players with incomplete career data, but I think that's okay for this. In theory, the NFL quarterback climate should always consist of some old veterans with huge career numbers, some guys in their prime (best rate stats), mediocre compilers, unproven youngsters and a few guys destined for the clipboard or Cleveland. Here we also have plenty of averages and rate stats to consider instead of just focusing on raw totals.
*In my draft database, Pat White and Joe Webb are quarterbacks and Webb's 2013 season (converted to wide receiver) is excluded from his career numbers. Brad Smith, Reggie McNeal and Isaiah Stanback were considered wide receivers. Steve Bellisari (2002) was converted to safety.
This is not meant to be a earth-shattering discovery, but our first discovery is quarterbacks drafted in the first three rounds get far more opportunities to play than their rounds brethren from round four and later. That fact alone has a significant impact on all of the data to come. The higher picks cost more (resources and money), so teams must put them to use. Sometimes it backfires like the Redskins getting less out of Heath Shuler (No. 3 overall pick in 1994) than they eventually did with Gus Frerotte (seventh-rounder in that same class). That's a tough switch for any coach to make even if today's top picks are more economical.
|NFL Draft: Quarterback Games (GP) and Games Started (GS) for 1994-2013|
|Round||#QB||1+GS||0 GP||GP||GS||Record||Pct.||PO GS||PO Record||Pct.|
Teams use the first and last rounds to draft the most quarterbacks, though that's the difference in wanting a starter versus a backup/project. That's reflected well in the number of starts by round with the first round blowing all others away. All 49 quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 1994 have started at least one regular-season game (1+ GS). Everyone but Jim Druckenmiller (one fortunate start for the 49ers) has started at least 10 games.
In the first two rounds, 69 out of 71 quarterbacks have started at least one game. Brock Osweiler still has plenty of time to do that, though it may never happen in Denver if Peyton Manning feels like playing out his contract. Pat White never completed a pass in Miami and was the third straight second-round pick the Dolphins used on a quarterback in 2007-09. White did at least see the field as a gimmicky Wildcat player. In the first three rounds, Giovanni Carmazzi and David Greene are the only two quarterbacks (out of 95) to never play a regular-season game (0 GP).
Eventually you get to the last three rounds and those quarterbacks are about as likely to never see the field as they are to start a game. In rounds 6-7, 43.0 percent of the quarterbacks have played zero games. The sixth round having the best cumulative win-loss record (in games started) can be explained in two words: Tom Brady. "Mo Lewis" is another acceptable answer, since we'll never know if Brady would have had the opportunity without Drew Bledsoe's injury. Not many teams are dying to start the sixth-round pick.
The late-round quarterbacks rarely get opportunities, but when they come around, have they taken advantage like Brady has? Here are the passing stats for the average quarterback by round:
|Average Quarterback's Passing Stats by Round (1994-2013)|
For a lot of these numbers, we see a general pattern where the first round is the best and the numbers taper off as you advance a round with the fifth round being the worst (more on that later). But then the numbers go back up in the sixth round (again, strong Brady factor) and down for the final round.
I collected rushing data too, but it was not worthy of a table. The first-round quarterbacks again have the best production, shocking no one. Great athletes are always going high in the draft and players like Cam Newton, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III have certainly boosted those rushing stats.
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Speaking of rushing, I was able to collect Total DYAR (rushing and passing) for every quarterback's career. I also calculated a weighted average for passing DVOA, much like in this postseason article. Citing the average DYAR or especially average DVOA of a sixth-round quarterback can be more misleading than other metrics. It's not so problematic for the earlier rounds since most of those quarterbacks play. Without playing, the quarterback really has no DYAR/DVOA, which of course can have a negative value for poor performance. So giving him a "0" and using that in the average would not be fair. Not even Andrew Luck (-0.5% DVOA) has a 0.0% DVOA in his early career, thanks in part to the "Gee, do I have to do everything around here?" factor that defines the current Colts offense.
Technically, a quarterback who never throws a pass does not have a completion percentage either, but we can still calculate his round's completion percentage with him omitted. We have to omit him from DVOA too; it's not like we can just use replacement level (roughly -13.3% DVOA) since we're weighing things by number of plays, and these quarterbacks have none. On a small sample size, which is expected of a poor, late-round quarterback, the DVOA can be frighteningly bad.
For example, Joe Hamilton was a seventh-round pick in 2000. He had one career dropback on which he was strip-sacked on fourth-and-8 in the red zone. Granted, it was at the two-minute warning with Tampa Bay leading 27-7, but his passing DVOA is -2,167.2%. This does get weighed based on the number of plays (one in this case), but players like that are why we need to take a different approach for the following table.
The solution was to weigh all players in the round equally. This can raise eyebrows for the early rounds where the first pick has much different expectations than the 32nd pick, but they were not the problem since almost everyone plays. In the later rounds, it's really just a marginal difference at best in value, so that should not be a problem. To get the average passing DVOA by round, I weighed each round's quarterbacks with at least one pass play equally to get the average DVOA.
For example, the sixth round has 39 quarterbacks, but only 23 had a dropback and calculated DVOA. I multiplied each quarterback's DVOA by 1/23 and the sum was the sixth round's DVOA (-24.71%). That feels much better than the 2.07% DVOA that was calculated without the weights. That would have been the highest of any round, proving that Brady was skewing the results too significantly.
|Total DYAR and Passing DVOA by Round|
|Round||#QB||AVG Total DYAR||Total DYAR/Game||AVG PASS DVOA|
This makes the seventh round look really terrible, but it's hard to disagree with that conclusion. The closest thing to a notable quarterback with a positive DVOA was Steve Matthews, who only had 44 pass plays in his career. If we used replacement level (-13.3% DVOA) for the 21 quarterbacks without a dropback, then the seventh round's new DVOA would be -68.21%. I'll stick with the triple-digit number, but this may be a case where DYAR is more telling. The first-round quarterback is averaging nearly 1,975 Total DYAR, or roughly two very good seasons. The rest of the rounds combined average 1,627 Total DYAR.
While the average first-round quarterback's DVOA (-10.07%) would put him just above Brian Hoyer in 2013, there's no denying where most of the best quarterbacks of the last 20 seasons come from. Here's a weighted career passing DVOA leaderboard of the top 25 quarterbacks to debut in the NFL since 1994 (also included Total DYAR):
|Leaders in Weighted Passing DVOA (1994-2013)|
|Rk||Quarterback||Round||Total DYAR||PASS DVOA|
|Only includes QBs who debuted since 1994 (min. 1,000 passes)|
The cream really rose to the top here and 13 of the top 20 quarterbacks were first-round picks, not counting Brees who would be a first-rounder in the current draft (he went 32nd overall). We'll stick to drafted players for the rest of this article, but four undrafted guys cracked the list with a surprising appearance from Jay Fiedler.
Finally, I also collected the Weighted Career Approximate Value (AV) from Pro-Football-Reference for every draft pick along with the number of Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selections.
|NFL Draft: QB AV, Pro Bowls & All-Pro Selections (1994-2013)|
|Round||#QB||AVG CarAV||CarAV/G||Pro Bowlers||Pct.||Total PB||PB/QB||AP1 QBs|
For the umpteenth time, the first round provides the best results. We'll spend the second half of our draft study by going over some of the drafting dynamics in each round.
Once upon a time, the NFL believed a highly drafted quarterback needed to sit on the bench and learn before taking reign. That instant control was reserved for the saviors drafted first overall like Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning. This has changed a lot since Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco had so much success in 2008 as Week 1 starters. Prior to that, Manning, Rick Mirer (1993) and David Carr (2002) were the only three quarterbacks to start all 16 games as rookies. Since 2008, it's happened nine times with several more rookie quarterbacks starting in Week 1 only to miss some starts due to injury.
Since the 2011 CBA introduced a rookie wage scale, you would think teams might show more caution in when they threw the rookie to the wolves now that he's not such a financial burden. Instead it's been the opposite and the league has loaded up on these first-round quarterbacks. Eight were drafted in the first round in 2011-12 alone. Would potential duds like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder have been drafted in the top 12 in 2011 had there not been a rookie wage scale? That's hard to say, but we know those teams can move on much easier in today's game. The Jaguars have already traded Gabbert to San Francisco and should be a team targeting a quarterback early in the 2014 draft.
For any team finding a very good quarterback these days, the contract extension will be massive no matter which round he was found. That's the market and for as much of a bargain as Russell Wilson has been so far, you can bet on him commanding a deal around $100 million in the near future. But it is nice to know that teams no longer have to cough up ridiculous money up front for someone unproven like Sam Bradford.
Now I am not a fan of doing bust/success rates with the draft due to the subjective and difficult nature of that process. What I will provide is a tier format of how I view these quarterbacks in May 2014.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 49 First-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The Undecided||The Mediocre||The Ugly||The Winning Ugly|
|Peyton Manning||Sam Bradford||Byron Leftiwch||Josh Freeman||Trent Dilfer|
|Aaron Rodgers||Ryan Tannehill||Kerry Collins||Matt Leinart||Vince Young|
|Ben Roethlisberger||Jake Locker||Jason Campbell||Patrick Ramsey||Tim Tebow|
|Philip Rivers||EJ Manuel||Joey Harrington||Mark Sanchez|
|Matt Ryan||Christian Ponder||Rex Grossman|
|Andrew Luck||Cade McNown|
|Eli Manning||Tim Couch|
|Steve McNair||Kyle Boller|
|Chad Pennington||David Carr|
|Matthew Stafford||Brandon Weeden|
|Donovan McNabb||J.P. Losman|
|Carson Palmer||Brady Quinn|
|Daunte Culpepper||Heath Shuler|
|Cam Newton||Blaine Gabbert|
|Robert Griffin||Akili Smith|
|Joe Flacco||Jim Druckenmiller|
|Jay Cutler||JaMarcus Russell|
|Michael Vick||Ryan Leaf|
Considering Alex Smith could realistically fit into any category here, the number of good is just about equal to the ugly and that scares many people away from drafting a first-round quarterback. However, can anyone find another spot where the odds of landing a quarterback are this good? Those names at the top of the good list are why you take the chance over and over. There are a handful of potential Hall of Famers listed.
It's been the least utilized round for getting a quarterback with only 22 selections since 1994.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 22 Second-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The Undecided||The Failed Replacements||The Ugly||The Drowned Dolphins|
|Drew Brees||Charlie Batch (AVG)||Shaun King||Quincy Carter||John Beck|
|Colin Kaepernick||Geno Smith||Marques Tuiasosopo||Tarvaris Jackson||Chad Henne|
|Andy Dalton||Brock Osweiler||Brian Brohm||Tony Banks||Pat White|
|Jake Plummer||Todd Collins||Jimmy Clausen|
|Kordell Stewart||Kevin Kolb|
As noted earlier, Drew Brees was drafted 32nd in 2001, which was the last season with 31 teams in the league. Colin Kaepernick (36th) went one pick after Andy Dalton in 2011. In theory, the best picks here are likely to be high in the round since the bad teams are getting their second crack at the draft and are usually the teams most in need of a quarterback. Brett Favre predates this study, but he was the 33rd pick in 1991 and would really boost the numbers here. Calling Kordell Stewart "good" makes you think I forgot about 1998-00, but his 1997 and 2001 seasons were quite impressive up until the AFC Championship failures at home.
What stands out here, besides Miami's horrific 2007-09 run, are all the failed replacement plans. I feel like Osweiler will one day be added to the group, because these plans almost never work. Todd Collins did not admirably replace Jim Kelly in Buffalo. Kevin Kolb might have made Philadelphia fans miss Donovan McNabb. Kellen Clemens was not good insurance for Chad "I'm hurt every other season" Pennington. Drew Stanton has done nothing in the NFL. Brian Brohm was a downright bizarre pick that must have been insurance in case Aaron Rodgers failed. Marques Tuiasosopo was not Rich Gannon's successor in Oakland. Shaun King probably had his best moments as a rookie in Tampa Bay when Trent Dilfer was injured in 1999, but he was not the long-term answer.
That's too many wasted picks by teams who should have been building pieces around the quarterback they still had at the time. That's why I despised the Osweiler pick and just imagine if John Elway chose Russell Wilson instead. The Seahawks probably are never a 2012-13 juggernaut and the Broncos might have a championship now, but one decision set the league on a much different course. That's the power of the draft.
At this point we start to see teams not necessarily target starters or even future starters.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 24 Third-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The Lovie Situation||The Backup||The Ugly||The "Why, Belichick?"|
|Russell Wilson||Mike Glennon||Chris Redman||Andrew Walter||Ryan Mallett|
|Matt Schaub||Josh McCown||Dave Ragone||Kevin O'Connell|
|Nick Foles||Charlie Whitehurst|
|Brian Griese||Jonathan Quinn|
Setting last year aside, Matt Schaub's had a good career and it's even better given what a third-round pick usually does. He was never drafted to be the starter in Atlanta, but after the Falcons went 5-11 in 2003 due to a serious Michael Vick injury in the preseason, a capable pocket passer was needed. Schaub probably made himself a lot of money by attacking the putrid secondary of the 2005 Patriots, so he can thank Vick for his lack of durability, just as Nick Foles can in Philadelphia. If Foles can come anywhere near repeating his 2013 success, that 2012 third round where he went 13 picks after Wilson will go down as one of the best ever.
Brian Griese failed to replace John Elway in Denver, but he'll always have the 2000 season when he made the Pro Bowl with 19 touchdowns to four interceptions. He ended up switching teams four times, but had a solid career in retrospect.
This season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will likely start a third-round quarterback, but will it be the gigantic Mike Glennon in his sophomore season or does Josh McCown get a chance to prove his ridiculous 2013 numbers in Chicago weren't a fluke? Given it's now a Lovie Smith team, they'll probably both play and lead a subpar offense.
Chris Redman had a brief, but respectable (by Baltimore standards) starting stint with the Ravens in 2002 and he was really solid as a backup and spot starter with the Falcons. Unlike his "Ugly" counterparts, including "Clipboard Jesus" (Charlie Whitehurst) and "Captain Checkdown" (Trent Edwards), he held his own when he played.
Good talent can still be found in the third round, so I am not a fan of getting a backup quarterback here. I especially hate it when your team has Tom Brady, who was still expected to play many more years in 2008 (Kevin O'Connell) and 2011 (Ryan Mallett). O'Connell and Mallett have combined to throw 10 passes, so it's no stretch to say the Patriots have made two of the very worst third-round selections. For the cherry on top, in 2008 Mario Manningham went off the board one pick after the Patriots drafted O'Connell. Cue the Super Bowl XLVI ending.
Now we start to scrape the barrel for quality and scramble to remember just who some of these guys were. Believe it or not, one was projected to go No. 8 overall to Buffalo last season.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 28 Fourth-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The 2013 Rookies||The Ugly||The Fun|
|David Garrard||Landry Jones||Danny Kanell||Rob Johnson|
|Kyle Orton||Tyler Wilson||Stefan LeFors||Seneca Wallace|
|Aaron Brooks||Ryan Nassib||Pat Barnes||Kirk Cousins|
|Matt Barkley||Rohan Davey||Sage Rosenfels|
Last year I wrote that David Garrard was the best fourth-round quarterback since Rich Gannon (1987). Obviously there's not much competition for that title. Aaron Brooks and Kyle Orton could put up some numbers, but would make baffling mistakes as well. Orton may have never caught on in Chicago if Grossman wasn't so brittle.
Based on what we saw from the 2013 rookies last year (preseason included), it's only a matter of time before they slide over to the "Ugly" pile, headlined by Danny Kanell from those lousy Giants offenses of the mid-90's. Stephen McGee actually did not play that poorly with Dallas, but he also hasn't played since 2011.
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There's a lot of NFC East here with Kirk Cousins being part of a "Fun" four-pack I threw together. Cousins has had a few big games in relief of Griffin, but any trade stock he was trying to grow probably crashed with two miserable games to end 2013. Rob Johnson had solid passing stats except for his unmatched ability to hold onto the ball and take sacks (career sack rate: 14.8 percent). While not a sack -- don't worry, he coughed it up three plays later -- the Sage Rosenfels "Rosencopter" holds a special place in NFL lore.
How to explain Seneca Wallace? It's as if someone in Seattle opened up a R&D lab, started with him as a prototype, and the finished product was Russell Wilson several years later.
Remember all those horrible fifth-round stats from earlier? They even took me by surprise, because I am used to referring to this as "Mark Brunell's Round." The file I started with years ago went back to 1990 and Brunell was drafted in 1993 as the first of the notable Favre backups in Green Bay. So after removing his stats from the fifth round, it's a barren wasteland of terrible quarterback play. Teams should just wait for the last two rounds to get a backup.
The tiers would just be levels of who sucks more, so instead I will post the stats for each player and you can argue over who is the best: John Skelton, Troy Smith or T.J. Yates? (Ingle Martin shows up with all zeroes because he did actually see the field... but only to kneel at the end of the game.)
|2003||Brian St. Pierre||33||15||45.5||185||5.61||2||3||45.6||0||-150||-88.8%|
|2008||John David Booty||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||0||-||-|
Craig Nall took his garbage-time opportunities in Green Bay very seriously.
By now every team is just looking for a backup. Since 2002, some may be holding out hope they snatched the next Tom Brady, but that's so unrealistic. It should be noted that Brady was not the only notable sixth-rounder from the 2000 draft. Marc Bulger went 31 picks ahead of Brady to the Saints, but eventually wound up in St. Louis where he was able to find instant success in 2002 with the remnants of the Greatest Show on Turf. Mike Martz might not have known much about protecting his quarterbacks, but he knew how to design big plays. Mike Holmgren was another great offensive mind who brought Matt Hasselbeck (another Favre backup) over to Seattle to start in 2001. Those three are really where the sixth-round's success ends, but it took the right coaches in the right places at the right times to get things started.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 39 Sixth-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Good||The One-Year Wonders||The Ugly and the Forgotten|
|Tom Brady||Derek Anderson||Andre Woodson||Jim Sorgi|
|Marc Bulger||Jim Miller||Andy Hall||Joe Webb|
|Matt Hasselbeck||Chuck Clements||Brooks Bollinger|
|Colt Brennan||Bruce Gradkowski|
|Dan LeFevour||Craig Whelihan|
|JaJuan Seider||Curtis Painter|
|Jeff Smoker||Tony Pike|
|Jerry Colquitt||J.T. O'Sullivan|
|John Dutton||Tyrod Taylor|
|Josh Booty||Ryan Lindley|
|Josh Harris||Keith Null|
|Josh Heupel||Rusty Smith|
|Mike Cawley||Spergon Wynn|
|Mike Teel||Jordan Palmer|
|Spence Fischer||Tom Brandstater|
|Todd Husak||Drew Henson|
|Kliff Kingsbury||Mike Cherry|
Derek Anderson's remembered as a one-year wonder now, but it was really a half-season wonder that took advantage of an easy schedule and two big receiving targets (Kellen Winslow Jr. and Braylon Edwards) in 2007. He was not very good in the second half of that season. Jim Miller rode the Bears defense in 2001 in one of the most unlikely 13-3 seasons any team has ever had.
A total of 25 quarterbacks have been drafted in the sixth round since 2001 (post-Brady). Even after combining all 25 careers, the comparison to Brady is a joke. Given that only three quality starters have come from the sixth round in 20 years, it may be that way for a long time.
We have reached the end. Our 47 seventh-round quarterbacks are about as good as 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves. You've been warned.
|Tiers In My Eyes: 47 Seventh-Round Quarterbacks|
|The Notable||The Recent||The B.J.'s||The Ugly and the Forgotten|
|Matt Cassel||Sean Renfree||B.J. Coleman||Casey Bramlet||Glenn Foley|
|Gus Frerotte||Zac Dysert||B.J. Daniels||D.J. Shockley||Tony Graziani|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick||Chandler Harnish||B.J. Symons||James Kilian||Ken Dorsey|
|Matt Flynn||Brad Sorensen||Jeff Kelly||Matt Mauck|
|Tim Rattay||John Walsh||Moses Moreno|
|Koy Detmer||Jon Stark||Jarious Jackson|
|Kyle Wachholtz||Greg McElroy|
|Ronnie McAda||Gibran Hamdan|
|Sean Canfield||Chris Greisen|
|Seth Burford||John Navarre|
|Tony Corbin||Levi Brown|
|Wes Pate||Bradlee Van Pelt|
|Zac Robinson||Scott Covington|
|Jay Walker||Cody Pickett|
|Steve Matthews||Wally Richardson|
|Michael Bishop||Joe Hamilton|
|Tyler Thigpen||Alex Brink|
There's really not a "Good" to be found here, but we do have a few guys who did not completely struggle or have a career of irrelevance, which is likely the outcome for the seven guys in the second and third columns.
Matt Cassel has put up the best seasons out of anyone on this list. Matt Flynn looks somewhat competent as long as he's in a Packers uniform. Koy Detmer's fascinating if only because he played 103 games with just eight starts. The only other quarterbacks to play 100-plus games with no more than 10 starts are Gary Kubiak (119/5) and Jeff Rutledge (117/10). Being a holder still beats never seeing the field.
It's the toughest position in the game, so just getting to play quarterback in the NFL is a major accomplishment. Even some of the guys I may have put down here had a few moments of brilliance. But to do it with any level of consistency? That's tough to find.
After studying 20 drafts featuring 237 quarterbacks, I only pegged 34 (14.3 percent) players as good starters. That's a lot of ugliness, but when it comes to a quarterback, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you have to take what you can get until you find better. Very few drafts have an Elway, Manning or Luck as the top prize or a Montana, Brady or Wilson hidden deep inside.
63 comments, Last at 19 Oct 2016, 9:59pm
#1 by speedegg // May 05, 2014 - 4:56pm
What? No mention of the Great One...Jake Delhomme? The quarterback that Coach Fox said he could win without a highly drafted QB. HAhahahaha!!!
And no mention of Steve Young?
I kid, I kid. Great article. That buries the concept of "getting a QB late" and might refute the notion the NFL is a passing league. How can it be a passing league if you need a elite/near-elite QB?
#16 by speedegg // May 05, 2014 - 10:27pm
um, thanks. That comment was in jest.
I mentioned Delhomme because I was curious if he might make the top 25 QBs (along with UDFA Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia, and Jay Fiedler), the Delhomme link is broken to FO stats in premium content (no big deal), and it goes with the point that it's hard to find a good QB deep in the draft.
Next time I'll be more succinct when making a joke.
#3 by MilkmanDanimal // May 05, 2014 - 5:02pm
Nice article. Yes, you can find good QBs in late rounds, but I could probably also find a $20 bill if I spend enough time digging through the garbage dump. So, next year, 8 of 32 starters will be #1 overall picks (Manning x2, Palmer, Newton, Luck, Stafford, Bradford, Alex Smith), with possibly a ninth depending on the Michael Vick situation, but, sure, Tom Savage is the next big thing, draftniks.
#4 by Theo // May 05, 2014 - 5:40pm
It's baffling to see that the 2001/2002 Miami Hurricanes had Ken Dorsey as the Quarterback.
Even from the top of my head I can name Portis, Shockey, Winslow, Andre Johnson, McKinney, William Joseph, DJ Williams, Vilma, Buchanan and Ed Reed from the 2001 team and were replaced by Antrell Role, Sean Taylor... Vince Wilfork was on that generation also.
To think they were quarterbacked by Glenn Dorsey is puzzling, can anyone explain why he one of the lesser QBs was on one of the best teams?
#6 by RickD // May 05, 2014 - 5:48pm
That's really not all that unusual. Most of the best QBs have not come from the best college teams - even if one restricts "best QB" to "best college QB". It's rare that a Cam Newton leads his team to the title with a high level of QB play. Usually college football comes down to whoever has the greatest mass of strength, speed, and talent.
And look at those names above! Those guys didn't need an elite QB to win games.
#7 by dmstorm22 // May 05, 2014 - 5:52pm
The backups on the '01 team were probably top-10 in the country good. You had Willis McGahee (and maybe Frank Gore?) backing up Portis. Winslow behind Shockey. Some speed demons behind Andre.
Honestly, no idea how they didn't recruit a better QB, but I have the same thoughts about Alabama recently. It just didn't matter at the college level. Though I guess it did for Miami. A better QB, and they win the '02 title - although the Buckeyes had an even worse QB in Craig Krenzel.
#30 by Thomas_beardown // May 06, 2014 - 1:22pm
College QBing is a different set of skills than NFL QBing. You don't need to read the defense nearly as much. You need nearly as much arm strength. If you can accurately deliver a ball up to 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and do what your coach says, then you can easily be carried by good teammates. See: Mathews, Shane.
Also, having any kind of scrambling ability gets exaggerated at the collegiate level where defenders are slower and more prone to making mistakes.
#37 by Kibbles // May 06, 2014 - 2:59pm
Also, remember that just because someone was a bad pro QB doesn't mean he was a bad college QB. Ken Dorsey was a Heisman Trophy finalist in college. Jason White won the Heisman with Oklahoma in 2003, but then went undrafted entirely in 2005 and retired without ever making a team. Danny Wuerffel was one of the most dominant QBs the college game had ever seen. Colt McCoy, Colt Brennan, David Greene... history is littered with guys who were fantastic college QBs who simply weren't cut out for the NFL game. It's not necessarily a knock on the QBs themselves, college football is just different than the NFL. Hell, Ricky Williams was an All Pro in the NFL, but just a pretty good RB in the CFL. They're two different games, and each calls for different strengths. Some of those strengths transfer. Some don't. In college, you can have a weak arm and still be an elite QB, because defensive backs lack the requisite closing speed. In the NFL, you can't.
#56 by cjfarls // May 09, 2014 - 4:56pm
Also remember that bad NFL QB does not mean bad college QB, even if the skill-set required was the same.
He could've been the 3rd best QB in college as a senior... top 2% of all college QBs... and that could mean he'd be maybe only top-40 (a.k.a. BAD) in the NFL (if you assume good NFL QBs have roughly 10 year careers on average and are roughly evenly distributed per year).
#5 by RickD // May 05, 2014 - 5:45pm
You should feel free to utter the word "outlier" and throw out the Brady data. His inclusion only serves to distort all of your 6th round data. Or if you really feel ambitious, include the data, but at a greatly diminished rate relative to the other data.
Or what you might do is simply compare the results with Brady and without. That would give you a clear picture of the effect his unique career is having on this analysis.
#8 by RickD // May 05, 2014 - 5:57pm
"O'Connell and Mallett have combined to throw 10 passes, so it's no stretch to say the Patriots have made two of the very worst third-round selections."
Because Brady has been healthy for the past five seasons, these were bad picks? And if he'd had another lost season like 2008, then what?
Back-up QBs are insurance policies. There has never been any pretense that any of Brady's backups were challenging him for playing time. OTOH, you want somebody on the bench who can do a little more than toss up ducks. Given the return on the Matt Cassell trade (and how other backup QBs have turned into valuable assets), I don't see how I can agree with your argument. Why are these two worse than the 15 listed as "the ugly"?
#9 by dmstorm22 // May 05, 2014 - 6:05pm
My guess is Scott's point is that if you have a proven, veteran, really good QB, picking a QB in the 3rd round is a bad use of resources.
No other QB in 'The Ugly' group fitst that description. Charlie Whitehurst was drafted by a team that was about to start Philip Rivers for the first time, so that comes the closest. I guess the Croyle pick matches the description as Trent Green was entrenched in that job, but he was entering his year 36 season (Brady was entering year 34 season in 2011).
The rest were all picked by teams that didn't have a Rivers (let alone Brady) caliber player at QB.
#12 by Scott Kacsmar // May 05, 2014 - 7:49pm
Yes, if I know I have a QB1, then I'm never wasting a top 100 pick on a backup unless I know the QB1's going to retire (could say DEN-Griese in 1998 counts).
I wouldn't read into the tier placements as one group being worse than the other (focus on the titles), but O'Connell and Mallett were bad picks. Osweiler was worse. Druckenmiller and Tommy Maddox were on another level.
Brady could have been frequently injured the last five years and I'd still hate those 3rd-round picks. Cassel having a surprisingly good year in 2008 wasn't really a favorable result for the Patriots. Nothing worse than the type of season that team had: not bad enough to get a good draft pick, but not good enough to make the playoffs. Would have been better off with a lousy record and higher draft pick when Brady returned. I'm not suggesting any team should try tanking, but most teams wouldn't naturally go 11-5 and you rarely ever expect that type of record without your QB.
For most teams with a top QB, it becomes a lost season when they're severely injured. If it's a minor injury where the backup only needs to start a few games, then why would you not want a veteran with some starting experience to handle that? That's the type I would sign as my backup QB. No projects. I'd never waste a premium pick on a backup plan, because more often than not that plan will fail. Most teams can't find one good QB, let alone two.
Ride your QB until he's done. Then join the hunt most teams are constantly on. I see no shame in going with stop-gap veterans until you find the next great QB to draft with a high pick. Teams like the Raiders, Cardinals, Chiefs and Vikings have done this for decades. They've had a lot of bad draft luck where they just didn't have the high pick in the few years a really good QB was available.
#23 by dryheat // May 06, 2014 - 9:36am
Just because you are willing give up on a season because your quarterback got hurt doesn't mean it's the right strategy. You must have really hated the Aaron Rodgers pick.
I guess it's the Colts strategy vs. the Patriots strategy. Spend peanuts at the backup position on Dagwood Bumstead, assume complete health from an aging quarterback who drops back 600 times a year, and guarantee that if he gets hurt you're going to suck. And "guarantee" is chosen very carefully. A team isn't going to suck by default if the starting QB gets hurt, but the GM can guarantee it does by ignoring the position.
Meanwhile, the 11-5 Patriots of Matt Cassel* had a decent chance to advance to the Super Bowl had the tiebreaker at the top of the AFC East swung the other way. They closed the season exceptionally strong (admittedly against a fairly soft schedule)as Cassel got more experience. They were as good as any other team that year -- including the Champion Steelers.
I think as a fan, and a GM, I'd rather build my team so it can win 11 games after a QB injury than ensuring it will be in the hunt for a #1 pick. The Colts were fortunate that Luck came out that year. Most draft classes, this one, for example, don't have that sure-fire QB prospect in it.
*Note that the fact that Cassel was a 7th round pick and not a 3rd round pick is irrelevant to all this. The point is to find a competent backup, not ignore the backup position because you can't win if your starter goes down. I think a 3rd round pick for a quarterback that has been identified as a competent backup that can win games is a good investment, or at least an acceptable one.
#26 by Scott Kacsmar // May 06, 2014 - 12:09pm
"I guess it's the Colts strategy vs. the Patriots strategy."
Which really was no different in the draft. This gets blown out of proportion. The Colts used sixth-round picks to get Jim Sorgi (2004) and Curtis Painter (2009). How is that any different than the Patriots using a 7th-round pick on Matt Cassel (2005) or the Packers using a 7th-round pick on Matt Flynn (2008)? This is also similar to the 49ers using an 8th-round pick on Elvis Grbac (1993).
The Colts were just more QB dependent because they didn't have a coach like Belichick or McCarthy to get through those tough times and develop another player in their system. Their QB was the system, so naturally it all fell apart without him. And those guys like Cassel and Flynn haven't looked so hot when they weren't in NE/GB, so they'll always get the system QB tag (or in Cassel's case, he only does well against bad teams/defenses). Grbac fared better in KC, but he wasn't a 66% completions guy like the SF system made him out to be.
Really, just look at Flynn in SEA/OAK/BUF. Did GB really add a "competent backup" when the guy looks like a turd in any other system? The most credit belongs to the coaching and players around him.
It sucks to have a season like the 2011 Colts or 2007 Falcons, but it's usually worth it for the long term. Andrew Luck won't be at the top of every draft, but the Falcons were able to quickly move on from Vick/Petrino and get Ryan/Smith in 2008. The Ravens had that off year in 2007 and moved on to Harbaugh/Flacco. Sometimes you just have to take out the trash and start fresh. If one lousy season is the path to a new era of success, then so be it. It's no coincidence most of the greatest teams in NFL history got started after a period of ineptitude.
#29 by Thomas_beardown // May 06, 2014 - 1:18pm
Weren't the 90s Packers famous for drafting QBs in the mid-rounds to backup Favre then flipping them for higher picks? If Favre hadn't been the ironman, having Hasselbeck or Aaron Brooks for 4 games or so is a better backup strategy than Seneca Wallace or Curtis Painter.
I also haven't figured out why the Colts let Sorgi leave when he always looked competent when he played and well Painter didn't.
#45 by Scott Kacsmar // May 06, 2014 - 4:54pm
I'm glad you said 90's Packers, because I might snap the next time someone tries to tell me how smart the Matt Flynn pick was. "OH YEAH? SO DID THEY GET SUPER SMART HOURS AFTER USING A SECOND-ROUND PICK ON BRIAN BROHM?!!?"
Aaron Brooks was one of them, but I have zero memory of that guy in a GB uniform. Wonder who he impressed to end up in New Orleans.
Sorgi was on the 2009 Colts, but I think he was hurt, hence the Curtis Painter games at the end of the year.
#38 by justanothersteve // May 06, 2014 - 3:26pm
The Packers originally took a flyer on Flynn after drafting Brian Brohm in the second round in 2008. Flynn just happened to be a better QB. (Damned with faint praise as even Trent Edwards was better in Buffalo than Brohm.) I thought Flynn also looked good in Seattle. He just got beat out by Russell Wilson. And looking bad in Oakland or Buffalo happens to a lot of QBs. Not saying Flynn is great. But I think he's better than many other teams' backup QB.
Ron Wolf used to regularly draft a QB while he was the Packers GM, but I think Aaron Brooks in the fourth was the highest pick used. Brunnel was a five, Hass a six, and Detmer was something like a nine (when the draft went more than seven rounds). He also drafted some real nobodies like McAda and Kyle Wachholtz. Nobody cared they didn't work out because Holmgren was a really good QB coach.
#32 by Toner // May 06, 2014 - 1:46pm
"[As] a GM, I'd rather build my team so it can win 11 games after a QB injury than ensuring it will be in the hunt for a #1 pick"
Building a team so it can win 11 games with your starting QB is nearly impossible - only 3 teams have over/under win totals of 11 games next season - trying to do it with your backup QB is a fool's errand.
#36 by dryheat // May 06, 2014 - 2:58pm
I think that, as a GM, if you construct a team that is a realistic Super Bowl contender, you shouldn't leave yourself in a position where an injury to a single player kills your season. Obtaining a viable backup QB, whether it costs a 3rd round pick, 6th round pick, or throwing money on a free agent is crucial. The attitude that "If Brady/Manning/Rodgers gets hurt, we're screwed anyway, so I may as well find a minimum salary JAG as a back up" shouldn't enter your head. Build your team so that injury doesn't screw you.
#42 by duh // May 06, 2014 - 4:17pm
Yes, but that costs money and I think plainly that isn't a place The Patriot want to spend their salary cap dollars. Using the draft picks lets them secure a backup for a low cost thus allowing them to spend money elsewhere. You can argue it isn't a good strategy choice but to not include the salary cap implications I think misses one of the tradeoffs being made.
#43 by Scott Kacsmar // May 06, 2014 - 4:27pm
Bears spent $840,000 on Josh McCown last year. A backup doesn't have to cost that much. Michael Vick getting $5M with the Jets sounds more like a "he's going to have a chance to compete as the starter" deal. That's not what I'm suggesting.
#47 by duh // May 07, 2014 - 1:06am
Well sure ... if you want to count on flukes I suppose that too is a strategy.
Josh McCown had started 2 games in the last 5 years, he'd played in a grand total of 6 games over the last 5 years. In his two starts he had one game his team lost 35 - 21 after trailing 35- 10 in the 4th quarter an another game his team won when he threw for 160 yards and the opposing QB was Joe Webb.
I mean I'm happy for the guy and I wish him well but really?
Were the guys below who are all making significant money, some REALLY significant brought in to 'compete for starting jobs?'
Kyle Orton: Signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract. The deal included a $5 million signing bonus. 2014: $3.25 million, 2015-2016: $3.5 million ("Dummy Years"), 2017: Free Agent
Matt Moore: 3/8/2013: Signed a two-year, $8 million contract. The deal contains $4 million guaranteed -- a $3 million signing bonus and Moore's first-year base salary. 2014: $4 million, 2
Matt Hasselback 3/18/2013: Signed a two-year, $7.25 million contract. The deal included a $3 million signing bonus. Another $750,000 is available through incentives. 2014: $1.75 million (+ $500,000 roster bonus), 2015: Free Agent
Shaun Hill 3/26/2014: Signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract. The deal contains $500,000 guaranteed. Another $500,000 is available through incentives
#48 by Scott Kacsmar // May 07, 2014 - 10:35am
I'm counting on my QB to stay healthy, and I'm not going to bother spending a premium draft pick on a guy that ideally never sees the field. Backups at other positions have value since they can still play every week. A backup QB holds a clipboard and poses stoically with earbuds for 3 hours on game day.
You're worried about cost, but you're also forgetting this is the top position in the game, so the market demands a higher price. You hate doing it, but you pay for health and car insurance, right? The old "in case shi+ happens" cost. Well the backup QB is the same thing. Throw a couple million at best to a veteran in case he has to start some games.
#40 by Scott Kacsmar // May 06, 2014 - 4:01pm
These are the Super Bowl winners who needed to start a backup QB:
2010 Packers - Matt Flynn was a 7th-round draft pick, 0-1 as starter, also lost game Rodgers was injured (@DET).
2009 Saints - Veteran Mark Brunell started the meaningless Week 17 finale (lost).
2005 Steelers - Veteran backups Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch did a poor job filling in 4 games for Ben Roethlisberger (2-2). Also want to note Roethlisberger started all 19 games in 2008, but veteran FA Byron Leftwich had to finish multiple games for him.
2002 Buccaneers - Brad Johnson missed 3 games. Veterans Rob Johnson (2-0) and Shaun King (0-1 in his 4th season with the team) held the fort down, or more like lived off the TB defense.
2001 Patriots - Mo Lewis, Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady.
2000 Ravens - Veteran Trent Dilfer replaced Tony Banks and lived off that defense.
1999 Rams - Rodney Harrison, Trent Green, Kurt Warner. Definitely can't say the 1999 Rams and 2001 Patriots had SB aspirations. In hindsight, Warner/Brady are better QBs than Green/Bledsoe.
1998 Broncos - Veteran Bubby Brister went 4-0 as a starter on a loaded team while Elway missed a few games.
1993 Cowboys - Troy Aikman missed two games. Veteran Bernie Kosar (0-1) and UFA rookie Jason Garrett (1-0) filled in on the Dallas machine.
1990 Giants - That 3rd-round pick for Jeff Hostetler in 1984 finally paid off. 2-0 in reg. season after Phil Simms was injured, 3-0 in playoffs. #Norwood
1988-89 49ers - Steve Young, acquired via trade, started 3 games in each season for Montana.
1987 Redskins - Rubbert during the replacement games. Doug Williams bailed out Jay Schroeder multiple times that year and finally took the job late in the season.
1985 Bears - Veteran Steve Fuller went 4-1 for Jim McMahon, but who wouldn't with that defense?
1984 49ers - Veteran Matt Cavanaugh won a start in place of Montana.
1980, 1983 Raiders - Dan Pastorini broke his leg after 5 games and veteran Jim Plunkett took over in 1980. The Raiders drafted Marc Wilson in the 1st round in 1980, but it was Plunkett's job and Wilson made 3 starts (2-1) in relief in 1983.
1976 Raiders - 8th-round pick Mike Rae went 2-0 in relief of Ken Stabler.
1974 Steelers - Messy situation with Joe Gilliam, an 11th-round pick in 1972, beating out Bradshaw, only for Bradshaw to regain it. Terry Hanratty also started a game and completed 3/26 passes on the season. Not a team built on passing at this stage.
1972/73 Dolphins - Earl Morrall, the greatest backup QB ever, kept Miami undefeated when Bob Griese missed time.
1971 Cowboys - Landry finally stuck with Staubach as the full-time starter over Craig Morton.
1970 Colts - Morrall at it again with a 1-0 record as starter for Unitas and was the QB at the end of the SB V win. Morrall was league MVP when he had to replace Unitas in 1968.
1969 Chiefs - Might be the most unknown one of them all, but Len Dawson only started 7 games in 1969. Mike Livingston (6-0), a 2nd-round pick in 1968, and Jacky Lee (0-1) started the other half of games. Another team who won with dominant defense and little from the passing game.
1966-67 Packers - Two starts by 36-year-old veteran Zeke Bratkowski (1-1) in 1967 and one start (1-0) in 1966 for Bart Starr.
More often than not, it was a veteran backup who started. Only Livingston, Gilliam, Rae, Wilson, Hostetler, Garrett, Warner, Brady and Flynn should count as a "home-grown" replacement with practically zero NFL experience to speak of. Their level of successful contributions also varies. A lot of incredible defense to lean on.
#49 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // May 07, 2014 - 11:44am
One correction for the 2010 Packers: Matt Flynn didn't start the loss against Detroit, he came in for a concussed Aaron Rodgers just before halftime. He started the next week at New England, and lost that game (though he played very well).
#41 by dmstorm22 // May 06, 2014 - 4:07pm
I think every team would love to build their team to go 11-5 without their starting QB. But in the modern NFL, unless you have one of the 5 best coaches ever and a team that went 16-0 with that same QB, the only way that happens is if your backup happens to be really good himself (Brady, Warner).
Scott's point still holds. The Pats did spend peanuts on their backup (a 7th round pick), just like the Colts with Sorgi and Painter. Cassel happened to play pretty well that year. The 3rd rounds picks they spen on QBs were wasted completely.
Also, the idea that the 2008 Patriots could ahve won the Super Bowl is comical. I mean, sure worse teams have won teh Super Bowl in recent years, but that team lost to every good team it played apart from a blizzard game where teh Cardinals had no intention of playing. You mention the 2008 Steelers, who of course beat New England 38-13 in Foxboro.
In the end, it is different ways of looking at team building.
#52 by dryheat // May 07, 2014 - 1:42pm
The Patriots and Steelers were about even in 2008, and every playoff team was about the same level. Yes, the Steelers beat the Patriots in that comedy of errors game. I believe in sample sizes > 1. Credit to the Steelers...they deserved the title (obviously). I simply remember that those playoffs were about impossible to handicap, with no team head and shoulders above any other, and had the Patriots gotten in would have been right there in that mass. Reasonable minds may disagree, I guess.
#53 by dmstorm22 // May 07, 2014 - 5:38pm
Excluding the "hey any team can win in the playoffs" reasoning, the Patriots showed through the season they fattened on a pathetic schedule to 11 wins, and lost basically every game against a good team. They got spanked in San Diego, split with Miami, lost to Pittsburgh badly, and lost to the Colts.
That team would honetly have been a more surprising winner than either Giants team. Maybe not statistically, but there's little to believe they were as good as Pittsburgh, let alone Baltimore or Tennessee in the AFC alone.
#58 by cjfarls // May 09, 2014 - 5:25pm
I think thats too harsh on Osweiler, but really only because he's an almost unique case.
He was an extra young underclassman coming out early because his college coach was leaving. He is/was a prospect that has all the physical tools of an elite QB, but played mentally/technically like a sophmore in college (which he was). No one expected him to be ready in year 1, and everyone that saw him play said if he played early, he'd suck.
Picking him was a bet on his ability to develop on the bench over a number of years, guessing that if he'd been in a regular situation and playing in college, he could be a much higher pick in future years (which DEN hoped not to be in position to ever have with Manning at QB). Using the same pick on Russel Wilson didn't have the same logic, as Wilson was more pro-ready, older, etc...
Remember at the time, no one also knew whether Peyton was going to be the same QB as pre-injury... he easily coulda been done for his career. Many thought he had maybe 2-3 years left at most, which just happened to coincide with how long Os was expected to need to be ready to play at an NFL level.
Basically, its a unique situation for a unique player. Given the circumstance, there is/was defintiely a sound logic behind it. Was it better than having grabbed Lavonte David (a player many thought woulda been good with that pick?)... probably not, but hindsight on particularly players is always 20-20, and Danny Trevathon (picked up later for what would've essentially been the same roster spot) certainly takes the sting out of missing on David, not to mention if Osweiler does eventually pan out.
#13 by Scott Kacsmar // May 05, 2014 - 7:52pm
I still don't know what Seattle was thinking with the Clipboard Jesus trade. Whitehurst didn't even serve his purpose in San Diego. When Rivers was hurt against the Colts in the 2007 playoffs, was it Whitehurst to the rescue off the bench? No, it was UFA Billy Volek. To a lesser degree, same thing with 2008 Patriots. So Brady did suffer a serious injury in Week 1. At least they drafted Kevin O'Connell in the third round. But wait, they went with the 7th-rounder from 2005 after he looked bad in the preseason. O'Connell served no purpose.
#28 by Insancipitory // May 06, 2014 - 12:32pm
But it worked. People forget, Hasslebeck was injured and couldn't play vs the Rams. It was Clipboard Jesus that legitimately won that game to send the Seahawks to the playoffs to face the visiting 2009 super bowl Champions and become legend.
#10 by ChicagoRaider // May 05, 2014 - 6:29pm
Saving an article for the UDFAs? Or just just couldn't bring yourself to do a selection of those that actually played a significant number of games? Some of us root for the real underdogs of the world: people who were never supposed to have a job of any kind.
#11 by Scott Kacsmar // May 05, 2014 - 7:31pm
There could be a follow-up piece that includes UFA's, but I don't think they'll ever be the focal point. There are just too many of them trying to make it in the NFL. We don't have an exact number like we have with the draft.
I'm sure the success rate of UFA QB's is even lower than the 7th round. Think of all those guys that are on preseason rosters every year. Probably can list dozens right there.
In addition to Warner, Romo, Garcia and Fiedler, you can highlight (in the last 20 years) Delhomme and Kitna. Two guys I like who never really won a starting job: Shaun Hill and BIlly Volek. After that it gets pretty shady. Start talking about guys like Damon Huard and Jamie Martin. Hell, last year's Case Keenum was better than most of the guys you could name.
#25 by Karl Cuba // May 06, 2014 - 10:21am
I can't work out whether it's relevant that Delhomme, Kitna and Warner each played in NFL Europe, which have them a chance to get some playing time in a pro system after college.
Brad Johnson was an NFLE alumnus too and would have been an UDFA in 94 as he was taken in the ninth round.
#17 by joshuacbennett // May 05, 2014 - 11:12pm
The results are a lot harder to interpret because of the varying number of QBs picked by round. it would be better if they were instead divided into deciles based on draft position and analyzed this way. The trends would be a lot clearer and it would also answer more interesting questions such as whether the draft is a continuum of declining value or whether there are cliffs where value drops precipitiously.
#21 by nath // May 06, 2014 - 3:45am
I'd really like to see the first round divided up even more finely than it is now, to see how results change from a QB picked at the very top, to one, say, in the first half of the first round, to one in the second half of the round.
#22 by Scott Kacsmar // May 06, 2014 - 4:37am
We have 49 1st-rounders.
No. 1: 12
Top 3: 21
Top 5: 24 (so basically half)
Top 10: 30
Top 12: 35
Bottom half*: 14 (28.6%)
*We know the average number of teams is less than 32 since 1994, so everyone from Manuel (16) to Ramsey (32) can be considered bottom half, which leaves a lot to be desired:
16 EJ Manuel
17 Josh Freeman
18 Chad Pennington
18 Joe Flacco
19 Kyle Boller
22 Rex Grossman
22 Brandon Weeden
22 J.P. Losman
22 Brady Quinn
24 Aaron Rodgers
25 Jason Campbell
25 Tim Tebow
26 Jim Druckenmiller
32 Patrick Ramsey
Rodgers is on a HOF path, Flacco's had a good run and Pennington was good every other season. The other 11? My eyes hurt.
Most teams drafting late in the round will not have a need at QB, but trades definitely seem to have happened here. Only Rodgers and Druckenmiller went to a team coming off a playoff appearance. The Ravens had a good team in 2008 and had an off-year in 2007, so Flacco had pieces in place. Could say the same for Pennington since the Jets made the playoffs in 2001 (year before he started). In 1999 they lost Testaverde in Week 1 and finished 8-8. Then the Groh year was fun, but 9-7. Packers were 13-3 and a play away from the SB before Rodgers took over for Favre in 2008.
So yeah, the three successes walked into good situations. Doesn't guarantee anything, since the same could be said for Boller (running game/DEF) and Druckenmiller (late stages of SF dynasty). They just didn't play well.
But maybe it's too often a reach when a QB goes late first round or his fall in the draft is a red flag worth noting. Of course Dan Marino blows this out of the water, but it's absurd he was the 6th QB taken in 1983. Want a guy to slide to your team? Start a drug rumor.
Here's the list of 17 second half of the 1st round (pick 14+) QBs drafted from 1966-93:
1966 1 16 Randy Johnson
1967 1 25 Don Horn
1972 1 14 John Reaves
1977 1 27 Tommy Kramer
1977 1 19 Steve Pisarkiewicz
1978 1 17 Doug Williams
1979 1 23 Steve Fuller
1980 1 28 Mark Malone
1980 1 15 Marc Wilson
1983 1 27 Dan Marino
1983 1 24 Ken O'Brien
1983 1 15 Tony Eason
1983 1 14 Jim Kelly
1987 1 26 Jim Harbaugh
1991 1 24 Todd Marinovich
1991 1 16 Dan McGwire
1992 1 25 Tommy Maddox
That's not pretty either. Out of 31 picks, we're talking 3 studs (Marino, Rodgers, Kelly), some of the weaker Super Bowl starters (Flacco/Williams/Eason/Grossman) and guys with very limited success (O'Brien, Maddox, Harbaugh).
#18 by whateverdude // May 05, 2014 - 11:52pm
How about Gino Torretta? Another average Miami quarterback surrounded by great talent, yet he somehow won the ultimate individual accolade (Heisman). I guess perhaps the Miami coaches viewed them as safe choices who wouldn't screw things up.
#19 by Tim Wilson // May 06, 2014 - 12:51am
I agree that it's not a good personnel strategy to rely on finding a QB in the late rounds (or even the middle rounds). But that does not mean you necessarily have to draft your QB early. The other routes are trade and free agency.
In fact, you could argue that this hyper-competitive market for QBs in the draft inflates QB prospect value (Gabbert, Ponder, etc.), so that you often have to significantly overpay to get a strong QB prospect early in the draft.
Now, I understand that the free agent/trade markets are fairly unpredictable, and you don't have total control over what becomes available to you. But I could say very similar things about the draft.
Looking at three of the top offenses last year, the Broncos and Saints acquired their QBs via free agency, and the Bears acquired theirs via trade. I know those situations have not necessarily been the norm, but I'm trying to point out that the automatic conclusion from the data in this article does not have to be: "You need to draft a QB early to 1) have a good quarterback, and 2) succeed as an NFL franchise." That would only be the conclusion if the draft were the only means of player acquisition, which of course it's not.
It'd be interesting to see the percentages on how "successful" teams over the past 20 years (successful = playoff teams, I'd probably say) acquired their quarterbacks. Of course, trades are a bit easier now, and free agency is a bit harder, so the numbers from more than a few years ago might not be very representative of today's NFL. I'd still be curious, though.
#20 by Scott Kacsmar // May 06, 2014 - 1:40am
Closest thing I've already done to that is this QB market study of 1989, 1999 and 2013:
I would be interested in expanding this for more seasons. Obviously some of the slots would remain the same for an extended period of time like Elway in DEN (1983-98), Marino in MIA (1983-99), Peyton in IND (1998-2011), Favre in GB (1992-2007), etc.
After updating for 2014, prior to the draft of course, I see 20 of the 32 starters drafted by their team. Can say 22 if you count the Eli-Rivers draft trade, which I think you should. The other 10 are one UFA (Romo), 4 trades (Schaub/Cutler/Smith/Palmer), and 5 free agents (Peyton/Brees/Hoyer/Henne/Fitzpatrick).
Peyton hitting FA was obviously a very unusual situation. So was Brees to an extent with Rivers waiting while he broke out. Kaepernick's fast emergence also made Smith a trade asset in SF. The Cutler trade was a shocking one since he was only in Denver for three years. McDaniels really blew up that Cutler-to-Marshall combo in a hurry.
CLE/JAC/HOU are three teams I really think should draft a QB high in this draft to boost those numbers.
#27 by Thomas_beardown // May 06, 2014 - 12:15pm
The Bears had to use 2 first round picks to get Cutler, the Packers only had to use one to get Rodgers.
So if you offer a king's ransom, you can trade for a QB. I bet right now if you offered something close to a league average QB and 2 first round picks there are a number of QBs you could get around the league.
There is also total value to consider. When you draft a 22 year old QB, you're expecting to get 10 years of QBing out of the deal. When you sign a 37 year old Peyton Manning, you're expecting 3, maybe 4 years.
#35 by Tim Wilson // May 06, 2014 - 2:10pm
Yes, but the Bears were able to get a few years of NFL tape on Cutler before giving up those 2 first rounders. Drafting a first round QB is a much less certain proposition than acquiring an NFL veteran QB via trade. The Packers used one first round pick on Rodgers, but the Jags used one first-round pick on Gabbert also. I'd rather have Cutler for his trade price than Gabbert for his draft price.
Trade/FA acquisition has the value of being a more certain undertaking than draft prospect projection, which history has shown is tremendously difficult.
The "duration of performance" value thing you mention is certainly true, but you're paying market price for performance after that rookie deal. The biggest value is really getting first crack at locking up the player internally, I guess, so you've got an advantage versus the rest of the market.
#57 by cjfarls // May 09, 2014 - 5:17pm
Flaw in this thinking however is that QBs with even the potential of Cutler after 3 years (even with all his flawss visible too) are just not available unless the Front Office is a complete mess (see Josh McDaniels).
If its a decent (say top-15), young QB... probably not available for even 2 1st rounders.
#31 by fmtemike // May 06, 2014 - 1:30pm
Interesting that of the 4 UFAs in the top 25, one played in CFL and two (Warner and Fiedler--three if you include Delhomme who spent two years there) in Europe. Makes a case for a developmental league...esp if you look at other low draft picks it helped, eg Brad Johnson
#33 by ChrisS // May 06, 2014 - 1:52pm
Why are the TD's in the second table not whole numbers? I think the total DYAR by game and passing DVOA Table shows the decline in performance by round (except the 6th round, Genuflect) pretty well and better than the other tables.
#50 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // May 07, 2014 - 11:49am
You're not willing to put Dan Orlovsky into or near the "reasonable backup" tier? (I know you didn't do tiers for the fifth round). I think being close to replacement level for the 2008 Lions and 2011 Colts is mildly impressive. He also deserves the "fun" category for the self-inflicted safety.
#54 by jefeweiss // May 08, 2014 - 2:03pm
This is something that I have spent more time thinking about than I care to admit. To be candid, I begin with the thesis that NFL teams quarterback evaluation is focused on things that are tangential to NFL success. In fact, I think that there is a 50/50 chance that the best potential NFL quarterback in a given college class doesn't ever start a game in the NFL. That is to say that there is a quarterback out there who given the same opportunity in practice and games then a first round pick would be much more successful.
I think much of the analysis for this article is attempting to judge quality of quarterbacks in a way that is biased by number of starts or attempts. This can lead to the conclusion that teams know how to draft quarterbacks because quarterbacks that are drafted highly tend to make more starts. This somewhat begs the question.
I would propose a completely different way of looking at the problem, which would be to compare quarterbacks game by game in order of the number of the game started. So all the first games started for each quarterback who ever started a game would be compared to the average first game started for all quarterbacks, then all the second games started would be compared to the average second game started for all quarterbacks, and so on and so on. These numbers could then be somehow combined for each quarterback and then compared by draft round. This would be closer to comparing apples to apples.
It might also be possible to compare quarterbacks by first 100 attempts, second 100 attempts, etc, which might provide a more even result than doing it by game.
This would control somewhat for the problem that first round quarterbacks get many more starts and are more likely to eventually succeed. It still leaves the likely insurmountable obstacle that first round quarterbacks are likely to get a much greater investment in practice time and coaching.